Surfing in The Maldives
A slightly mellower version of Indonesia’s waves. Also a lot of right-handers!
With some of the clearest water in the world, pristine white-sand beaches, blue lagoons with world-class waves and diving – This is surfing in The Maldives.
The Maldives are the lowest and flattest country in the world, perched atop one of the most impressive mountain ranges in existence. Except these mountains have coral peaks, not snow… and they average 1.5m in height. Located South-West of India, this tropical nation consists of 26 pancake-flat atolls with over 1,192 coral islands, spread along a 2200km North to South vertical line in the Indian Ocean – making it one of the world’s most geographically dispersed countries. Surfing in The Maldives should be on every surfer’s bucket list.
Best time for surfing in The Maldives
The surf season starts in March and ends in November, however May to October is when the bulk of the swell arrives and high season begins. High season for honeymooners and cruisers is over Christmas. However the north, central and southern atolls have their peak periods. The southern atolls have a shorter prime season on the shoulder of the peak season (March/April and Oct/Nov) – this will bring clear skies and light winds. The central and northern atolls have consistent waves from April to October. The northern atolls have the most crowds due to the number of land-camps available, but these tend to thin on big days.
Visas, culture and other good things to know
30-day visas are awarded free-of-charge on arrival.
The Maldives is a Muslim country. Appropriate dress codes apply when out in public however on some northern islands where surf tourism is popular, it is more relaxed.
There is no alcohol on the islands although boat charters offer alcohol and for some of the land-camps by cokes, there is a barge that comes that you can drink onboard ($5USD a beer).
During Ramadan, no restaurants will be open during the day and you should not eat or drink in public out of respect (hard to do when you pop on the island for an ice cream!). Traveling as a solo female is fine. I found the locals to be friendly, although down south where tourism is less, I did feel a little uncomfortable being a solo blonde female walking the sandy streets.
Everything also has to be imported to the Maldives so it is expensive ($35USD for sunscreen at Malé airport – avoid the airport pharmacy at all costs!).
Bring all your needed supplies – Read our detailed surf trip packing list so you don’t forget anything!
Surfing the Maldives on a budget?
Surfing in the Maldives on a budget is possible, kind-of. But not as cheap as Indonesia. A surfing land-camp in the Malé Atolls will be your best option. Either on Himmafushi island where Jails is (across from Sultans), or Thulusdhoo island where cokes is (and easy access across to surf chickens). Expect to pay around $50 – $85 USD a night. Some include 3 meals a day and boat trips to other nearby waves – see list of recommended hotels in section below.
Arriving late Malé airport
Most flights arrive to Malé Airport (Ibrahim Nasir International Airport), late at night making it customary to stay one night before leaving on your surf charter or seaplane, the next morning. Note Malé airport is not in Malé city!
If your flight is arriving late to Malé airport, don’t stress. You have a few options for a cheap hotel or a place to stay. The airport itself is located on Hulhule Island, a short boat ride away from Malé city. Hotels on Hulhule Island are expensive (expect to pay around $200USD), but on neighboring Hulhumale island which is attached to Hulhule, there are some affordable options. Take a taxi or have your accommodation arrange your pick-up.
Cheap hotel Malé airport options:
- Express Inn at Hulhumale – $36 USD a night – breakfast included
Rivers Beach & Spa – $35 USD a night
- G 10 Beach Inn – $35 USD a night – Breakfast included
- Elite Beach Inn – $37 USD a night – Breakfast included
- Also look on Airbnb – some options here too – Use this link to get $55AUD in travel credit when you sign up
Getting a SIM card at Malé International Airport
This is super easy. In arrivals, turn right and walk 50m. There are two shops on your right. Both offer data-only sims for 7 or 14 days. I got a 14-day 17GB package for $32USD with Ooredoo. Just put the SIM in your (unlocked) mobile phone and you’re good to go.
The Maldives accepts US dollars and their own currency Maldivian Rufiyaa. For tourists, most things are quoted and expected in USD. There are two ATMs at the airport that will give you Maldivian Rufiyaa, plus a currency exchange (all open late at night). If you are not in a luxury all-inclusive resort, get yourself some local currency to pay for things like the ferry, water, snacks etc. On some boats/resorts, they will only accept USD so check with who you booked with.
At the time of writing 1USD = 15.67 Maldivian Rupee, 1 British pound = 212.4 Maldivian Rupee, 1 Australian dollar = 118.49 Maldivian Rupee.
The traditional cuisine of Maldivians is based on three staple items: coconuts, fish (mainly tuna) and starches. Tastes comprise of Arabic, Indian, Sri Lanka and Oriental influence. If you are on a surf boat charter all your food will be catered for, as with many of the resorts (I recomend bringing extra snacks like nuts). If you are at a cheaper surf hostel, expect cheap white bread, chicken and plastic cheese – I struggled! Eating in the capital Malé will be a very different experience with local dishes such as tuna curry crepes (Riha folhi), falafel, curries and various wraps. The curries are delicious as were the desserts.
Travel Insurance (& a discount!)
If something goes wrong in a remote part of the Maldives you will need to get airlifted either to the capital Malé or nearby Colombo in Sri Lanka. Make sure you are covered by travel insurance. We recommend World Nomads and have sorted all Still Stoked readers a 5% discount with code STOKED5 when using this link (sadly not available to US or Canadian residents, or with any other offer). World Nomads offer comprehensive travel insurance, in plain English, and cover all the activities you could need including surfing, scuba diving, and ocean sports. You can also purchase after you have left the country. Check it out and get a fast quote here.
Saying that, I needed 7 stitches from a nasty fin chop when we were remote and down south. The Maldives have free medical for citizens and as such, their hospital on the tiny island I went to was stacked and super clean. It cost $12USD to sew me up. I was incredibly grateful! – See what I carry in my surf first aid.
Getting a ferry or seaplane from Malé International airport
If your charter hasn’t arranged your arrival you may need to get a private speedboat, ferry or seaplane to another island. Easy – the marina for the ferry is 50m from the arrivals – no joke!
The public ferry is around $3 – $7 depending on where you are going. It stops running around 8pm though so if you are arriving late to Malé airport and need to get to another island, your only option is a private speedboat – around $100USD one-way (share between passengers).
Note: different timetable during Ramadam.
Ferry/seaplane options Maldives:
Have a few days before your boat leaves?
My flight landed late and I had two nights to kill before our surf boat charter left on Sunday. I got a private 20min speedboat with a friend ($50 USD each) to Himmafushi island, a local island approximately 15 km to the Male’ International Airport. We stayed two nights at Jailbreak Surf Inn ($65 USD including 3x meals). The right-hand point Jailbreak (named such as it is opposite the Maldives jail!), is a 3-minute walk away. From here you can surf many of the waves of the Northern Atols (Jails, Honkys, Sultans, Cokes).
Other good hotel options in Malé Atoll area include:
Himmafushi island – Closest to airport:
- Jailbreak Surf Inn – $65USD a night, including 3x meals
- Eyotwave – $48USD a night, including breakfast
- Raalhu Lodge – $40USD a night
Thulusdhoo Island– Best for multiple wave options:
- Cokes Surf Camp – $120USD a night, breakfast included
- Cannipus – $60USD a night, breakfast included
- Batuta Maldives Surf View – $45USd a night, breakfast included
Or if you are feeling like splashing out for your own private waves, check out:
- Kandooma Surf Resort – $213 to $482USD per night. The maximum number of Surfers is limited to 50 surfers. Brand new resort with private access to Kandooma Rights. Must be booked through Perfect Wave.
- Cinnamon Dhonveli Maldives – $160 to $1,100 USD per night. Private access to surf the famous wave, Pasta Point.
- Hudhuranfushi Surf Resort – $300 – $349 USD per night. Private access to surf the famous Lohis left-hander. Max 45 people in the surf at any time (more than Pasta Point allows).
Pasta point access only by staying at Cinnamon Dhonveli
The waves in the Maldives
For more in-depth details on all the waves in the Maldives, check out surfatoll.com – they have a great write up and a load of info on swell and wind direction plus a cool map we found useful.
The waves of the Northern Atolls (North & South Malé)
- Jails – Beginner to Advanced: Right-hander, mellow take-off, Long walls – right in front of the Maldives jail.
- Honkys – Intermediate to Advanced: Right-hander, 2-peaks strong currents.
- Sultans – Intermediate to Advanced: Fast right-hander. Most surfed spot in northern atolls. 2 sections across 300m line up. Handles good size and barrels. Rides around 200m.
- Cokes – Advanced: Hollow and barrelling right-hander breaking over shallow reef. One of the hardest and best waves in the Maldives.
- Pasta Point – Intermediate to Advanced: Perfect left-hander, three sections. Home to previous QWS event. Can only surf here if you stay at Cinnamon Dhonveli Resort. There is a limit to the number of surfers.
- Chickens – Advanced: Longest left in the Maldives. Most northernest break in N. Malé Atoll. Barrels and can hold large swell.
- Lohis – Intermediate to Advanced: Left-hander. Another private wave, must stay at Hudhuranfushi Surf Resort. Max 45 people in the surf at any time (more than Pasta Point allows).
- Ninjas – Beginner: Right-hander. Named Ninjas due to its popularity with the Japanese! Good for longboarders and learners.
- Towns – Intermediate to Advanced: Right-hander. Close to Malé so popular with the locals.
- Gurus – Intermediate to Advanced: Fast left-hander. Breaks on a reef in the middle of the sea.
- Twin peaks – Intermediate to Advanced: Left-hander. Can only be accessed by boat. A swell magnet in south Malé atoll.
- Foxy’s / Natives – Advanced: Right-hander. Located near the Kandooma Resort in South Malé atoll, called by both names. Barrells and less crowded. A perfect SE swell offers 150m rides.
- Riptides – Intermediate to Advanced: Right-hander. Strong sweep. Breaks in the middle of the channel. Need to access by boat. Long open faces.
- Vodi – Intermediate to Advanced: Left-hander
- Kasabu – Beginner: Right-hander
- Muli – Intermediate to Advanced: Right-hander. Soft and an outside and inside section. Stunning spot.
- Bowling Alley – Intermediate to Advanced: Left-hander
- Malik’s – Intermediate to Advanced: Left-hander
- Outside Mikado – Advanced: Right-hander
- Inside Mikado – Intermediate to Advanced: Right-hander. Beautiful area to moor your boat!
- Shipwrecks – Intermediate to Advanced: Right-hander. Not on any maps, we surfed it when it was small but fun!
- Finnimas – Intermediate to Advanced: Left-hander
- Machine – Advanced: Right-hander. Fast and hollow, breaking onto shallow but soft reef. One of the most consistent waves in the area.
- Refugee’s Rights – Expert: Right-hander. Breaks right onto the shallow reef. For the speed-demons only!
- Refugee’s Lefts – Advanced: Left-hander.
- Bedhuge – Intermediate to Advanced: Right-hander.
- Ying Yang – Advanced: Right-hander.
- Hocus Pocus – Advanced: Right-hander.
The waves of the Southern Atolls (Huvadhoo & Seenu)
You will need to be on a boat charter to get down here!
- Tiger Stripes – Intermediate to Advanced: Left-hander.
- Antiques – Beginner: Right-hander.
- Love Charms – Advanced: Left-hander.
- Two ways – Intermediate to Advanced: Left-hander.
- Five Islands – Advanced: Right-hander.
- Blue Bowls – Intermediate to Advanced: Right-hander.
- Beacons – Expert: Right-hander.
- Kottey – Advanced: Right-hander.
- Air Equator Lefts – Intermediate to Advanced: Left-hander.
- Kanda Muli – Intermediate to Advanced: Left-hander.
- Shangri-la – Intermediate to Advanced: Right-hander.
- Madihera – Intermediate to Advanced: Left-hander.
- Approach lights – Advanced: Right-hander.
- Viligili – Intermediate to Advanced: Right-hander.
Maldives boat charter options
If you have a bit of cash to spend and want to do surfing in The Maldives properly, then you can’t really beat a surf charter. Especially if you want to get down to the central and southern atolls. For the south, it is your only options. Surfboat charters are not cheap (although on-par with some land camps!), but they are the way to go.
Here are some that we recommend:
- Triton Safari – boat sleeps 10. 12-night options from North to South atolls and visa-versa. Great value for money. Amazing food.
- The Perfect Wave – The Naera boat charter for the Male and Central atols or The Cobia boat for the southern atols.
- World Surf Safaris – their “Adora” boat was so sick!
Remember to check our surf trip packing list before you leave!
And don’t forget travel insurance – We recommend World Nomads
Have you been surfing in The Maldives?
I hope you find this article helpful if you are planning to go surfing in the Maldives. If we have missed anything or you want us to add anything, please let us know in the comments below!