These are the best times to visit the Maldives
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Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Oct. 12, 2019.
Situated more than 600 miles southwest of Asia in the heart of the Indian Ocean, the Republic of Maldives consists of 26 natural atolls surrounding over 1,000 white-sand islands. The islands are framed by turquoise seas and lagoons, making it the perfect place to snorkel, dive and simply escape everyday life.
Because of its location among important maritime trading routes, the Maldives maintains a rich culture influenced by Arabs, North Africans, Sri Lankans and Indians. The blend of customs, religions and cultures forms an unmistakably Maldivian culture, which was shaped when Islam was introduced to the region during the 12th century.
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But what the Maldives is best known for is its luxury resorts with overwater bungalows and impossibly clear blue waters. In November, Marriott debuted its five-star JW Marriott Maldives Resort and Spa (with rooms available from 70,000 points per night on off-peak dates). Hilton also expanded its presence in the Maldives when it opened the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi and SAii Lagoon Maldives, a Curio Collection resort, last summer, available from 120,000 and 85,000 points, respectively, for a standard-room reward.
Whether you intend to spend your time sipping cocktails, scuba diving or simply learning about a new and exciting culture, here’s our definitive guide to some of the best times to visit the Maldives.
When to find the best weather in the Maldives
The Maldives is often warm and sunny throughout the year, but its climate is split into a wet season and a dry season. During the dry season, from November through April, temperatures hover in the mid- to upper 80s. Average precipitation is lowest from January through March, but even during the dry season, an afternoon rain is possible.
During the wet season, from May through October, some islands may experience upward of nine inches of precipitation in a single month. Although this sounds like enough to ruin a vacation, most rain comes from fast-moving afternoon storms, allowing visitors to enjoy sunshine and warm temperatures the rest of the day.
In the southern atolls, the wet and dry seasons become slightly less pronounced. Rainfall is fairly consistent (and on the higher side) throughout the year.
When to travel to the Maldives to avoid the crowds
The wet season generally tends to be the slow season. There might be slightly less sunshine this time of year and rates tend to be lower and the crowds thinner.
Even during the wet season, it’s not uncommon for there to be multiple sunny days in a row — especially toward the beginning and end of the season (May and October or November) — so don’t let the season deter you.
When to visit the Maldives for water sports
Thanks to the Maldives’ geographic location, it’s a popular destination for water-fueled adventure.
The surf season runs from mid-February through November, which is when the largest swells can be found. If you’re looking to canoe or kayak offshore, you may want to avoid visiting during surf season. Waters are calmer during December and January.
A number of remote islands and an abundance of marine life make diving and snorkeling popular in the Maldives. Diving is great year-round, but visibility increases slightly during the dry season — specifically, January through April.
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When to visit the Maldives for events
The Maldives, which is largely a Muslim country, has a number of religious holidays and events throughout the year. Many are based on the Islamic lunar calendar, which differs from the Gregorian calendar many of us are familiar with. If there’s a specific religious event you’d like to experience in the Maldives, be sure to check the exact date before booking travel.
For Maldivians, Independence Day is one of the most important days of the year. The holiday is usually celebrated on July 26, which is when the country gained its independence from Britain in 1965. During Independence Day, there are festivities, parades and performances across all the islands. The capital city, Malé, is one of the best places to experience the holiday.
Republic Day, which occurs in November, celebrates the establishment of the Republic of Maldives in 1968. Festivities include marching bands, parades, speeches, ceremonies and children walking the streets wearing their best clothes — a true display of the country’s culture, heritage and pride.
Huravee Day, which signifies the day Sultan Hassan Izzuddeen freed the country from the occupation of South India in 1752, is celebrated with dancing and traditional meals. The celebration date is based on the Islamic lunar calendar, so it varies annually. In 2020, Huravee Day was celebrated on Jan. 28. In 2021, the holiday will fall on Jan. 16.
Since the Maldives is a Muslim country, Ramadan is an extremely significant holiday. The actual date varies with the Islamic calendar (it takes place on the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar). The holiday is usually celebrated for about a month in the spring. During Ramadan, locals fast during the day, but restaurants and resorts operate as normal. Many restaurants do offer special meals for Iftar — the evening meal breaking each daily fast — which often comprise local foods and juices not typically served the rest of the year.
When to visit the Maldives to see bioluminescence
In oceans and bays around the world, bioluminescent plankton illuminate the water, almost like an aquatic imitation of the aurora borealis. While many animals on both land and sea emit a bioluminescent light (think: fireflies and jellyfish), the plankton often appear at the water’s surface, giving it a bluish glow.
One of the most popular places to view the plankton is off of Vaadhoo Island in the Raa Atoll, although it’s possible to see the phenomenon in any of the atolls. Your best bet is to visit between June and October, which is when the plankton are typically present.
Bioluminescence can only be seen in turbulent water, such as in the waves on the shoreline or wake from a boat. It can also appear after stirring the water with your foot or hand.
Cheapest time to visit the Maldives
Flights to Malé are generally cheapest in the late fall and winter, although the exact months vary depending on where you are flying from.
According to Skyscanner.com, flights from Miami, New York City and Chicago are cheapest in February. Average airfare from New York is $642, $710 from Chicago and $739 from Miami.
Flights from the West Coast — Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles — are cheapest in November. Los Angeles is the cheapest city to fly out of overall, with the average cost of airfare around $385. From Seattle and San Francisco, expect to pay around $710 and $700, respectively.
Lodging prices vary, depending on exactly where you’re staying, but it’s a safe bet to say the wet season — specifically, May through August — is the cheapest time to stay in the Maldives. According to travel search site Kayak, average hotel prices are at their lowest in May, when you can expect to pay $369 per night. Prices peak at around $705 per night in December. With the exception of November, when prices are in the mid-$500 range, expect to pay in the mid-$600 range the rest of the year.
Like travel to many tropical destinations, deciding when to book a trip to the Maldives requires prioritizing weather, prices and crowds. Your best bet is to book on the early or late end of the wet season to avoid crowds, find reasonable prices and increase the chances of maximum sunshine. Regardless of when you decide to go, an experience in the Maldives is bound to be unforgettable.
Featured photo by ishan seefromthesky/Unsplash.
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