The Maldives is one of the world's most picture-perfect luxury travel destinations. To experience the idyllic tropical scenes you've no doubt admired, the best time to visit the Maldives is in the "dry season" from December to April. Not surprisingly, this is also peak season when rates skyrocket. Therefore, if budget is an issue, traveling at a different time may be preferable. You should plan your visit according to the various things to do in the Maldives. Most people are willing to pay the higher prices for good weather, as outdoor activities are limited when it rains. Here's what to consider.
Weather in the Maldives
The weather in the Maldives is split into two distinct seasons by two monsoons, in which the wind changes to the opposite direction.
- The dry northeast monsoon from December to April. This is labeled the "dry season" but it doesn't mean it won't rain! The reality is that the weather is more stable and there's less chance of it raining. Short afternoon and evening showers are frequent though in the southern atolls. If you really want to avoid the rain, your best bet is February and March in the northern atolls.
- The windy, wet southwest monsoon from mid May to November. This monsoon is characterized by intense stormy periods that can be brief, or last for a few days followed by perfect sunny spells. The weather is unpredictable and the conditions can alter at any minute, although it tends to rain more at night during the wet season. The transitional months from October to early December can be particularly unsettled, with quite a few bursts of rain, before the season transforms completely.
However, it's important to keep in mind that the islands in the Maldives are situated over a considerable distance of more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) from north to south (download a map here). This means that the weather will vary across the country, and even from island to island in the same area! The southern atolls receive more annual rain than the northern atolls. Yet, rain tends to be less frequent in the southern atolls during the wet season, as they're less exposed to the southwest monsoon. As a result, they're sunnier and not as windy. More information about the climate is available from the Maldives Meteorological Service here.
What doesn't vary much is the temperature in the Maldives, due to the country's location right on the equator. It stays warm throughout the year, with average temperatures rarely dropping below 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) at night or rising above 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius) in the day.
The level of humidity also remains constant, and high, at about 80%. The water is warm too, with an average temperature of about 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius).
One of the benefits of visiting the Maldives during the wet season are dramatic sunsets after the rain clears.
Scuba Diving in the Maldives
There are some extra things to consider if you're planning on going scuba diving in the Maldives, which has some of the most remarkable dive sites in the world. In particular, visibility and marine life change according to the season.
Visibility is generally superior in the calm dry season, and is especially good along the northeastern atolls of the Maldives then. February is the pick of the months for diving there. However, the wet season is a better time to see sharks and manta rays, especially on the southwestern side of the Maldives (around South Ari Atoll) from May to October. The manta rays are attracted by the plentiful availability of plankton to feed on.
If you're lucky, you might get to see a whale shark. The Maldives is one of the few places on earth where this is possible. These massive sharks are mostly found on the western side of the Maldives from May to December, and on the eastern side up until April. The protected area off the coast of Maamigili Island in South Ari Atoll has whale shark sightings year round.
Flights and Accommodations in the Maldives
Unfortunately, getting to the Maldives from the U.S. is quite an ordeal as there are no direct flights. Be prepared for travel to take a considerable amount of time (up to 30 hours) and money (from about $1,200 if you fly out of a major international hub such as New York, Boston, or Los Angeles). If you have limited funds, you may want to think about going to the Maldives for a couple of weeks during the cheaper low season, rather than a week in peak season.
Prices for accommodations in the Maldives generally drop substantially at the start of May, on the fringe of the low season. It's often the case that the weather is still decent enough then, as the wet season doesn't set in until the second half of May. Plus, if you have your heart set on a certain resort in the Maldives, the low season will make it more affordable. May and June tend to be the cheapest months, with deals for over-water bungalows at top-rated resorts running up to 50% off high season prices. Do compare prices (including flight prices) though, as they rise during summer break.
The most popular islands in the Maldives book up well in advance during the high season. While flash sales and last-minute offers come up throughout the year, these are commonly for the commercial mass-market resorts. Of course, this isn't an issue if you're flexible in regards to your accommodations and travel dates. If you can drop everything and book within six weeks of travel, you may be able to score yourself a super deal as resorts (even the top-end ones) constantly adjust their prices to maximize occupancy levels. So, make a note of a handful of resorts you're interested in (here are some really beautiful ones or take a look at this Maldives Tourism brochure for inspiration) and monitor them.
The fact that accommodations are spread over many island in the Maldives means that it never feels too crowded there, even during peak season.
January is a very popular time to visit the Maldives, as people want to escape the winter at home. Prices are especially high over the New Year period. Make sure you book well in advance. The weather stabilizes in January, resulting in mostly calm and clear sunny days. While you can expect about three rainy days during the month in the north, this increases up to 10 days in the south.
Events to check out:
- Huravee Day is a tribute to Sultan Hussain Izzudin, who freed the Maldives from brief South Indian occupation in 1752. It features traditional music, food and dance. The date is based on the Islamic calendar and varies each year. In 2020, it falls on January 28.
February is regarded as the driest and least humid month to visit the Maldives. Statistically, the north only experiences a couple of rainy days during the month. The number of rainy days in the south also drops to about five, and these are usually short showers in the southeast part. Prices are high, reflecting the fact that it's peak tourist season. Many resorts offer special (and costly!) romantic packages for Valentines Day.
The number of rainy days remains pretty constant in the north but starts to rise to an average of eight in the south. Again, the rain is usually restricted to short bursts that bring relief from the heat, rather than lengthy downpours. The surfing season gets underway in the Maldives in March. Some resorts offer special deals, as peak season winds down later in the month.
The temperature and humidity are slightly higher in April, as the transition from the dry northeast monsoon to the wet southwest monsoon commences. This produces a lot more rain, consisting of afternoon showers that increase in frequency from mid month. The number of rainy days per month averages about six in the north and 12 in the south. Keep an eye out for additional special deals, as long as you avoid traveling around Easter.
Resorts drop their prices in early May. The southwest monsoon usually arrives in the Maldives during the second half of the month. It reaches the southern part of the country first and proceeds north. The second half of May can be particularly wet, with high possibility of storms and whole days of rain. Diving visibility is reduced. The Maldives is an Islamic country and the holy month of Ramadan usually begins in May (the exact date varies each year according to the Islamic calendar). Resort islands aren't affected but restaurants will be closed on local islands, as Muslims fast all day.
The southwest monsoon covers the whole country by early June. Expect quite lot of clouds, morning and evening drizzle, and some torrential downpours. Resorts continue to offer discounted rates to entice guests. If you're planning to visit the Maldives in June, the southern atolls are preferable. The number of rainy days per month jumps to as many as 18 in the north, compared to only 10 or so in the south. Sharks and manta rays are a draw for scuba divers in the south. Ramadan concludes on Eid in June, with families gathering to feast.
The rain continues similar to June but eases off slightly in the north during July, bringing the number of rainy days down to about 15 or 16. The south experiences a couple extra rainy days throughout the month though, averaging around 12. Rates can be higher in July, as families go on summer vacation. This month is great for surfing, as the storms produce reliable big swells.
Events to check out:
- Independence Day (July 26 and 27) marks the day the Maldives gained independence from the British in 1965, after 77 years of protection. Cultural events take place across the country.
August is another popular off-season month for summer vacation in the Maldives, which may result in fewer discounted deals. The number of rainy days continues to reduce slightly in the north, especially towards the end of August. However, it remains constant at about 12 in the south. Downpours are short and heavy.
The weather in the Maldives is quite unpredictable in September. It can rain heavily, or alternatively you may get only an hour of rain some days. There are less tourists, and this is reflected in discounted rates for accommodations. The number of rainy days is about the same in the north and south, averaging around 13 during the month.
The wet southwest monsoon begins to withdraw in October, producing unsettled weather. The number of rainy days jumps to an average of 15 in the south, exceeding that in the north. The surfing season draws to a close in October. It's also the final month for good sharks and manta ray sightings in the south. Expect rates at top resorts to rise towards the end of October.
Events to check out:
- National Day celebrates the end of 15 years of Portuguese occupation in the Maldives, in 1573. The date is set according to the Islamic calendar and varies each year. In 2019, it falls on October 29. There are patriotic parades and marches throughout the Maldives, especially in capital city Male.
The swap in wind direction, associated with the transition from southwest monsoon to northeast monsoon in November, reduces the number of rainy days in the north to about eight. It remains high, at about 15, in the south though. There are heavy downpours that tend to pass quickly in the afternoons. This is the last month to find a cheap deal (if you're lucky) before peak season really kicks in.
Events to check out:
- Victory Day (November 3) commemorates the defeat of an attempted coup by a terrorist group from Sri Lanka in 1988. A military march, drills, traditional dances and processions are held in Male.
- Republic Day (November 11) marks the day Sultanate rule was replaced with a republic government in 1968. Marching bands and vibrant parades are highlights in Male.
December is the start of the "dry," peak season in the Maldives. You'll still get some rain at the beginning of the month (and it can be heavy at times), before the weather transforms completely. However, it lessens in the north as the month goes on. Many tourists visit the Maldives for the Christmas-New Year period. The resorts hold special buffets and gala dinners for these occasions. In addition to super high prices, it's common for resorts to have minimum stay length requirements.
Events to check out:
- Fishermen’s Day (December 10) honors the country's fishermen, who contribute greatly to the economy. Educational and fun events about traditional fishing are organized. You'll be able to devour delicious seafood too!