It’s truly wonderful when nature gives us a new lease of life. And that’s exactly what you can expect in the Maldives, one of the most beautiful tropical archipelagos and among the most extraordinary places on the planet. The Maldives are made up of 1,200 islands that form 26 dreamy atolls. These are truly timeless places, where you can spend the days swinging on undholi, swings of varying sizes that dotted across the landscape and give a sense of rhythm to the stillness. Enjoy them while looking out at the truly captivating sea. The world keeps turning, but here, everything stops, just for you to enjoy the watercolour-like scenery. The sea here is all shades of green and blue, turning a wonderful shade of pink in the evenings like you’ve never seen before
This wonderful corner of the earth boasts fine, white, sandy beaches, palm trees and a dreamy, warm sun. And this is exactly what awaits you on Malé and Kaafu atolls, where the sea teems with brightly coloured fish and amazing coral. It’s a true diving and snorkelling paradise. Ari, Baa, Rashdoo, Faafu, Lhaviyani, Shaviyani and Noonu are all atolls you should get to know, where you’ll feel a bit like Robinson Crusoe on a desert island. Relax, yes, but also discover and explore the beautiful caves of Vaadhoo or ride the waves on a surfboard at Gaafaru Falhu.
These are just some of the numerous experiences you can enjoy with Costa on some of the Maldives’ many atolls! Costa Cruises can take you to extraordinary places, with crystal clear waters and wonderful places to relax. Here is our selection of the most beautiful atolls.
The Maldives: The Most Beautiful Atolls
Excursions and activities in the Maldives
Diving at Vaadhoo Caves
Surfing on Gaafaru Falhu Atoll
North Malé Atoll offers some of the most beautiful diving spots in the entire archipelago and a wonderful reef with rich marine fauna, easy to admire for those who like to snorkel as well as dive.
A diver's paradise, you’ll find an ideal environment here in the passes, or wide corridors that connect the open sea to the atolls’ large lagoons, thus separating the reef from the lagoon. You can also visit the area with Costa, who can take you directly to the heart of the Maldives’ beauty.
Both the northern and southern atolls offer wonderful natural landscapes, such as Helengeli Thila and its rich marine fauna. These atolls offer beautiful sites for diving on either side of the Vaadhoo Kandu, the channel that flows between one atoll and the next. North of North Malé is Gaafaru Falhu, with its amazing underwater wrecks. On the North Malé Atoll you’ll also find some of the most exciting surf breaks in the Maldives, such as Thulusdhoo, to name just one. There are also places named after the local marine species, such as Manta Point or Shark Point, an excellent insight into the amazing experiences that lie in store for you.
Malé, the small but bustling Maldives capital is located in this atoll. It's a densely populated city, full of goings-on and harmonious contrasts, where modern architecture sits alongside more traditional, colourful dwellings, surrounded by a natural, enchanting landscape. Let Costa escort you here so that you can discover this very intriguing place. One of the best places to visit is the Old Friday Mosque, which is the oldest in the Maldives (built in 1656) and has a fascinating structure made of coral stone featuring an imposing white and blue minaret, or’munnaaru.’
In addition to institutions such as the National Art Gallery and National Museum, it’s also worth visiting most characteristic places in the ‘heart of the Maldives,’ which was originally founded by the Portuguese. We recommend visiting the fish or spice markets to really immerse yourself in the atmosphere and get acquainted with the local inhabitants. And after such a busy day, it might just be the perfect time to return to the beach...
Hulhumale, very close to Malé, is a recently constructed artificial island to offer visitors more beaches, space and vegetation surrounding a large lagoon. Beneath the surface of the water, you’ll find a world of hidden treasures to discover. This rich marine life is owed to the infinite flow of nutrient-rich water and monsoon currents, which carry numerous small sea creatures to the area that provide abundant nourishment. Make sure to stop by and admire them.
Ari Atoll is about thirty kilometres wide, almost a hundred kilometres long and encompasses 105 islands, of which only 18 are inhabited. The reef here is really at its best, with a wide variety of fish, sharks, moray eels, stingrays and turtles. In the wide canals between the islands, nourishment-rich waters flow from the open sea, allowing divers to feast their eyes on the local beauty. South Ari Atoll, known as Alifu Daalu, is a marine protected area where you can spot whale sharks at any time of the year along the outermost part of the reef. Many islands in the south have a reef just metres from the beach, ideal spots to dive underwater to marvel at the flora and fauna. North Ari Atoll, also called Alifu Alifu, is also as a great spot to watch out for hammerhead sharks, but you might need to dive a little deeper.
The northern area of this atoll also includes Thoddoo atols, a long island with very fertile soil. This is the main watermelon harvesting hub in the Maldives. Thoddoo has been inhabited since ancient times: a Roman coin from 90BC was even found in a Buddhist temple here.
Rashdoo,the main island of this atoll, is a picturesque town that still carries some evidence of its Buddhist past (before the advent of Islam). While Fenfushi, to the south, has some extraordinary coral sculptures and is known for another masterpiece: a mosque built by Sultan Al-Haj Ali at the end of the 1600s. You can even find history in timeless places!
Baa Atoll is one of the most important and naturalistic atolls in the Maldives, and wasn’t declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2011 for nothing. The credit surely goes to the extraordinary Hanifaru Huraa, a bay full of plankton that is the ideal habitat for whale sharks and manta rays, which reproduce in large quantities here.
The seabed in this atoll is crowded with millions of colourful fish, turtles, whale sharks, grey sharks, coral, sponge, anemones and many other life forms. Snorkelling in this particular reef can be one of the most engaging experiences a person can have in their lifetime.
Although there is nothing comparable to the beauty of Mother Nature, these islands also bear testament to the genius and hard work of humankind, such as the colourful handcrafted objects made in Thulhaahdhoo, the only island in the Maldives where lacquer is processed, as well as feyli, a traditional garment made in Eydhafushi that is very popular with the locals.
Rashdoo Atoll is a small atoll surrounded by a circular lagoon that is between 27 and 37 metres deep. To the north and west you’ll find a single coral reef, while a second reef is located to the east.
Rasdhoo is both the name of the main island, the only actual inhabited one, and the name of the beautiful capital town that preserves interesting evidence of its Buddhist past before the advent of Islam, together with a number of shops and tourist attractions.
Another spot worth visiting is Kuramathi, one of the largest places in the entire Maldives. It is located on the outer side of the atoll. The south side overlooks the reef, while the north offers beautiful beaches overlooking the surrounding lagoon. A long, thin strip of sand extends to the west side. Strolling along it, surrounded by turquoise waters on all sides, is an experience that is not to be missed.
Faafu Atoll is one of the least populated places in the Maldives and is therefore one of the most inviting for those who love a bit of quiet. Imagine the joy you’ll feel as you lay eyes on its beauty while flying over head in a seaplane, the most comfortable way to reach it. Six islands make up this atoll, but only one of them houses a resort built in the characteristic tropical style, with palm-leaf roofs and wide, open spaces that create the appearance of expansive horizons. This place truly offers the perfect combination of comfort and nature, capturing the true essence of the perfect holiday. The island also boasts some lush vegetation and is surrounded by an extensive lagoon. The reef is easily accessible from the beach. A world that you can enjoy in true freedom as you walk barefoot on fine, white sand. A place to dream. A refuge for the soul.
Nilandhoo is the name given to the island capital of this atoll. It’s a fishermen’s village where the locals live a simple life and follow ancient rhythms. The island is home to the Aasaari Miskiiy, a mosque built at the time of Sultan Mohammed Ibn Abdullah’s rule (12th century) using pre-Islamic construction stones. It is incredible to pause and imagine the rich history of these places, which at first glance seem almost untouched, as their natural beauty is so extraordinary that it overshadows everything else.
50 islands form the Lhaviyani Atoll, but only less than half of them are inhabited, those located along the outermost edge of the atoll. Welcome to a magical and peaceful world. Numerous islands and reefs, separated from Kanifushi Island by narrow canals, characterise the western side.
The tourist village of Kuredu in the northernmost area of the atoll boasts 26 different diving points, where you can go and explore the exciting outer barrier, made up of rocky, steep walls, beautiful caves and amazing colours. While the shallow waters, just a few metres from the coral reefs, offerdreamy scenes for those who are less accustomed to diving. The eastern side offers a few reefs, the largest of which is located between the islands of Aligau and Selhlhifushi, it is 30km long and is extraordinarily beautiful. Naifaru, the main island, is famous for its mother-of-pearl artefacts, a local craft that is in high demand among visitors. Half of the atoll’s inhabitants live here. Fishing is one of the main activities in this community, and one of most important tuna processing hubs is the island of Felivaru. It is important to note that fish are caught using traditional methods that respect the marine environment. Lhaviyani is home to Kanuhura beach, one of the most beautiful and relaxing around here.
Shaviyani Atoll is part of the northern atolls, which are the least frequented and therefore the ideal place to go if you’re looking to explore the Maldvies’ oldest and most traditional side, but also its slightly wilder one. A quick fact: for administrative purposes, the Maldivian atolls are referred to using letters of the alphabet. Shaviyani is the third atoll from the northern most point of the Maldives and its atollo code is therefore the letter C, i.e., the third letter of the alphabet.
This distant atoll consists of 16 islands, each with a beach more beautiful than the next, along with wonderful unspoiled sandstone, essential for the breeding of turtles, which lay their eggs on pure sand after swimming in the enchanting sea.
The current capital is the island of Milandhoo, while previously it was Funadhoo, which remains an important destination for those curious about ancient artefacts. On the island, you can visit the ruins of an ancient mosque and a series of thirtheenth-century tombstones. While inside the main mosque on the island of Kanditheemu, the oldest, Maldivian Thaana text is guarded. The eastern part overlooks the Indian Ocean, including the wide Noomara Canal.
The Noonu Atoll is made up of 71 islands, but only 13 of them are inhabited, the largest of which is Manadhoo, the capital and a hub of activity in the atoll.
Agriculture is well developed on the island of Landhoo, to the east of the atoll, but the island is also important from a historical point of view, as it houses the remains of a hawitta, i.e. an ancient artificial mound probably created by the Redin people, that is, tall, blond men who are believed to have been the founding fathers of the Maldives. The island of Maafaru is an important fishing hub, while Kendhikulhudhoo Island is very long (just like its name) and is the centre for the atoll’s trading activities.
The Noonu Atoll stands out due to the limited number of resorts present, all of which are greatly luxurious, a clear sign of the beauty of this particular area and its exclusivity. The atmosphere is idyllic. There are only two experiences comparable to this: feeling like you’re in a film or living in a dreamworld. But the turquoise lagoons, coral reef and highly elegant locations are wonderfully concrete and tangible.
Excursions and Activities in the Maldives
The sweet joy of doing nothing is best enjoyed in the Maldives, a truly unique place in the world. Nevertheless, these atolls offer such beauty and magic that you’ll probably find it hard to do nothing at all. Costa excursions to the Maldives offer a continuous opportunity to explore. The simplest activity, and the one that comes most naturally, is snorkelling, but those who want to explore a little deeper will find plenty of opportunities to take diving lessons in water that’s so warm you won’t even need a wetsuit.
Morning? Afternoon? Or maybe even a day trip? Costa has thought of everything so that you can experience these exciting places as you wish, while relaxing at wonderful resorts such as the Centara Ras Fushi Resort, Paradise Island Resort, Bandos Island Resort and many others. Some locations can even be reached via a Dhoni, a typical Maldivian boat, giving an old-timely touch to your trip. For more adventurous guests wanting to explore the Maldives' beautiful seabed, you can also book a tour aboard a one-of-a-kind submarine. A great way to get up close and admire the region's marine flora and fauna. On board the world's largest tourist submarine, with a comfortable and modern cabin, you can admire the wonders of the Maldives. The submarine dives to a depth of about 40 metres, with a 25-metre stop-off so that you can admire a colourful variety of coral and tropical fish in true comfort.
Diving at Vaadhoo Caves
Diving and admiring sea life is one of the main reasons to come to the Maldives. Each of these atolls offers its own special features in this regard. But there are also some even more special places. Vaadhoo Beach, for example, is known all over the world because it’s able to create real magic at night. Here, the sea water transforms the shore into a fluorescent sky full of stars, thanks to plankton, microorganisms that light up the water with their luminescence. A real sight to behold. But Vaadhoo also boasts other attractions, such as its equally famous caves, located on the north side, outside the atoll.
The reef is quickly immersed in water, alternating with caves and headlands. Snorkelers and divers should make sure not to miss the Vaadhoo Caves. Costa can take you on a excursion to this marvellous place, where you can discover a series of small caves and a much larger cave that’s great for swimming and admiring the coral, gorgonias, jackfish and spotted eagle ray as it glides through the water, as well as other underwater inhabitants, such as squirrel and soldier fish. A tour that you’re destined to remember forever.
Surfing on Gaafaru Falhu Atoll
The thrill of surfing a wave while standing on a surfboard is a truly thrilling experience that you can't simply recreate anywhere because you really need the right conditions. The Maldives is a prime spot to make the most of this fantastic opportunity. In recent years, surfing has become increasing popular among the Maldivian atolls. The southwest monsoon (May-November period) is the best time to try your hand at it because the weather creates the best waves, but March, April and June are also great months for beautiful rides on the waves.
The best breaks are found on coral reefs where the barrier breaks to create the perfect wave. Among the most magical places to surf is Gaafaru Falhu Atoll, which is an island atoll. Join a Costa trip to this special place and try surfing firsthand. For those who are more skilled at the art of surfing, the excitement of surfing waves on these extraordinary waters will be intense. While for newcomers, it’s a great place to try your hand at surfing the waves. Maybe it’ll be the start a new passion, or maybe you’ll discover that you’re actually an amazing surfing champion. By the way, surfing is becoming an Olympic sport in 2020...
Visit Maldives with Costa Cruises
Visiting the Maldives is an unforgettable experience that you won’t be able to stop talking about. Thanks to Costa, you can enjoy everything it has to offer. Relaxing on the beach, diving in the sea, numerous activities and all the unexpected and amazing things that make holidays some of the best times of our lives.