A girl on a boat faces the ocean in the Maldives

The Maldives vs Bali: Which Tropical Paradise is For You?

If you’re looking for a tropical destination for your next escape, you might consider a trip to the Maldives or Bali. Both islands are the definition of paradise with their sparkling beaches and glistening waters, but their similarities stop there. It’s difficult choosing between these heavenly locales, but keep reading to find out which picture-perfect island is right for you!

Travel to: Asia

Maldives Bali
Capital cityMaléDenpasar
National languageDhivehiIndonesian
Must-try food Hedhikaa, or “short eats”nasi campur
Popular attractionCoral sand beaches Black sand beaches

The Maldives

Why you need to visit the Maldives

The Maldives are a chain of atolls, which are coral reef formations that surround a lagoon, located in the Indian Ocean southwest of Sri Lanka. When anyone thinks of the Maldives, they undoubtedly picture overwater bungalows overlooking gleaming white coral-sand beaches and shimmering turquoise waters. These are unique to the Maldives – you simply will not find a more breathtaking beach anywhere else. As beautiful as the Maldives are from land, things get even more incredible underwater. Maldivian waters are home to extremely diverse marine life – manta rays, tropical fish, whale sharks, and turtles swim in the crystal-clear water, and stunning coral reefs will blow you away. Go beneath the surface by diving, snorkelling, or swimming, right outside your overwater bungalow. The Maldives offers a back-to-nature experience unlike anywhere else.

a long dock stretching into turquoise water in the Maldives
The iconic overwater bungalows of The Maldives attract thousands to this slice of paradise | ⓒ Mac Qin/Flickr

The Maldives is the world’s lowest-lying country and is at risk of disappearing as a result of rising sea levels. If you’ve been waiting to visit the Maldives, now might be the time; make sure you see the most of its beauty before it disappears.

When to visit the Maldives

The Maldives is a tropical destination; as such, temperatures remain high all year round. Rain is more likely from May to November, but the weather will still be warm. You’ll encounter the most travellers from December to February, when the weather is at its best. If surfing is what you’re looking for, go sometime between March and October to catch the best breaks.

Where to go in the Maldives


Because most resorts in the Maldives are self-contained on their own atoll, you’ll need to do some island-hopping if you’re looking to experience the Maldives like the locals. The best place to do this is Malé, the small but energetic capital of the Maldives. Malé is fast-paced and crowded, contrasting the leisurely, relaxed rhythm that you’ll find on the resort islands.

Some places to visit in Malé include:

  • Old Friday Mosque  
    • The oldest mosque in the Maldives. Built in 1658, it is ornately decorated with intricate carvings on its coral stone walls, heralding back to a time when coral was plentiful enough to be used as a common building material.
  • Fish Market
    • An integral part of Malé’s daily function. Visit the fish market to see the day’s catch on display, fresh from the harbour nearby. Because the country is surrounded by ocean, fishing is a huge part of Maldivian culture, so the fish market offers a unique glimpse at local life.
an abandoned house with a red roof on a sunny day in the Maldives
Take the road less travelled for the ultimate experience in the Maldives | ⓒ Saffu/Unsplash


Throughout the Maldives, tourists are mostly separated from the locals, and islands not occupied by resorts are more culturally reserved. On these islands, alcohol is forbidden, and people must dress conservatively. Maafushi is an inhabited island in the Maldives that is not a resort island, but is becoming more laid back due to the number of guesthouses being built there. Visit Bikini Beach, where you are allowed to bare some skin, or visit Water Sports Beach to participate in fun activities in the water. Hotels on the island arrange excursions like dolphin watching, snorkelling, and resort visits. If you fancy an alcoholic beverage or two, venture out to the Floating Bar, a restaurant on a boat that is permitted to serve alcohol on board.

A girl on a boat faces the ocean in the Maldives
The best way to explore the Maldives is by boat | ⓒ Flickr

Things to do in the Maldives

To really see all that the Maldives has to offer, you simply have to go underwater to see the incredible marine life for yourself.  Go snorkelling to see gorgeous coral reefs, swim with whale sharks and manta rays, or dive into one of many shipwreck dive sites near the islands.

If water sports aren’t your thing, go on a boat cruise to see more of the islands, or indulge in a rejuvenating spa treatment. Whether you’re looking to be active, relaxed, or somewhere in between, the Maldives have you covered.


Why you need to visit Bali  

Bali is an Indonesian island whose rich culture and gorgeous scenery make it a tropical paradise. While the Maldives is great for rest and relaxation, you can find tranquility as well as adventure in Bali. When you walk the streets of Bali, the local culture and spirituality are palpable, and natural wonders like black sand beaches, waterfalls, and tropical rainforests can be found around every corner.  Whether you’re looking for a sacred serenity or action and adventure, you can have both in Bali.

A man on a swing above the forest in Bali
There’s always adventure to be had in Bali! | ⓒ Jared Rice/Unsplash

When to visit Bali

Like the Maldives, Bali’s temperatures remain high, and its tropical locale means that it can get a little humid. Avoid high season in July, August, and December, when tourists abound – instead, go in May, June, or September, when the weather is drier and less humid.

Where to go in Bali

Visit a Balinese Rice Field

Rice is an integral crop to the Balinese, so a trip to Bali would not be complete without visiting one of its many rice fields. The Balinese use the Subak system to irrigate their rice fields, which is a UNESCO-recognized system that they invented. Witness it in action when you visit any of Bali’s many vibrant hand-carved rice terraces that cascade down the side of emerald-green hills.


  • Jatiluwih Rice Terrace
  • Belimbing Rice Terrace
  • Pupuan Rice Terrace
  • Tegallalang Rice Terrace
A green rice terrace in Bali
No trip to Bali is complete without visiting a rice terrace | ⓒ Omer Rana/Unsplash

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary

If you’re looking to making some new primate friends on your trip, the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is the place for you! Four different groups of monkeys inhabit this lush forest that has become an important spiritual, conservational, and educational center in Bali. When making your way through the forest, look for the three temples scattered within the sanctuary. On your walk, you will encounter many of the six hundred monkeys that call the forest home – they aren’t scared to interact with visitors of the sanctuary. If you want to keep the interactions gentle and friendly, conceal your belongings, and make sure you aren’t carrying any food with you.

What to do in Bali

Go for a dip in a famous beach

Bali’s beaches are not to be missed – the soft sand underfoot and gentle sea breeze are enough to make you believe that you’re in paradise. If you’re looking for more ways to enjoy the beach than sunbathing and relaxing on the sand, then try one of the many water sports that Bali has to offer. Go for a ride on a rolling donut or banana boat, or go waterskiing. If you’re feeling more adventurous, go river rafting down one of Bali’s three river tracks, or snorkel the USS Liberty wreck, a sunken ship that is now home to a vast array of marine life that will blow you away. Bali’s surf is world famous – learn to surf, or hone your skills here.

A foggy day at Ulun Danu Beratan Temple in Bali
Find your zen in one of Bali’s many hindu temples | ⓒ Dennis Rochel/Unsplash

Hike up a volcano

For an amazing adventure off the beaten path, take a trip up one of Bali’s volcanoes. Whichever one you choose to climb, you’ll undoubtedly be greeted with a stunning and rewarding view.  

  • Mount Batur:
    • Mount Batur is the most popular tourist volcano to climb. It’s a 5,000-foot, active volcano with an incredible view of Lake Batur from the top. If you choose to hike in the early morning, you can catch a gorgeous sunrise, and eat breakfast cooked on lava-heated rocks!
  • Mount Agung:
    • Mount Agung is Bali’s highest point. You’ll have to work hard to get there, but the view from the top is definitely worth it.
  • Mount Catur:
    • Mount Catur is in a beautiful area with lakes, a waterfall, and even a botanical garden. The volcano is extinct, so it won’t give off any heat, but the longer hike up will be punctuated by picturesque landscapes and shrines.  

Find your Zen

Bali is home to most of Indonesia’s Hindu minority – as such, life on the island is inescapably spiritual. Immerse yourself in the island’s culture by practicing yoga, either by taking a class or participating in a yoga retreat. A number of yoga centres and schools in Bali are located in the open air, and overlook beautiful landscapes that will whisk you away into peaceful serenity.

With the immense natural beauty of both of these islands, it’s no wonder these two destinations are honeymoon favourites. Which one is your idea of paradise?

Melanie is a Toronto-based writer and editor who loves experiencing new things in new places. In between adventures, you can find her with her nose in a book, re-watching episodes of Friends, or on the lookout for her next favourite brunch spot.

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