If you’re flying to Male, the capital, then you’ll actually land on this man-made island, Hulhumale. I hear a bridge is being built to connect Hulhumale to Male, but for now you can easily and cheaply take the government ferry across, or if you’re staying at a resort, a resort can possibly arrange to have you escorted over with a private boat.
Hulhumale, rather than Male, is where you’ll find the budget hotels if you have to stay the night before transferring islands.
Male is one of the world’s most populated cities in the world. Just about every speck of land is built upon, save a chaotic network of little streets. More cars and motorbikes wiz around the minuscule island than should be legal. The pollution here is off the charts, yet more and more Maldivians are flocking to live here. Male has the only university in the country, low prices and city conveniences. To deal with the demand, another man-made island is being built nearby. It’s definitely interesting to walk around a get a feel for the place; it’s so unique. If you have time, there’s a fruit market and fish market. STO is the local supermarket if you need to pick up any groceries. You won’t find too much variety on the other local island stores, so best to stock up here.
When we booked a budget hotel through hotwire on Male, our hotel was actually located on the island of Vilingili. The guesthouse we stayed at here was called Top Deck Seahouse. There’s a small beach that’s decent for swimming and snorkeling and a few food stores. This island is small, quiet, and escapes a large portion of the pollution brewing on Male.
We headed to this island in the Vaavu/Fulidhoo atoll first from Male. To go to Maafushi, Fulidhoo, or Felidhoo, the boat called Village 1 will make stops at all of these places, in that order. You’ll take the boat from the same pier where you catch the boat from Male to Vilingili.
Felidhoo doesn’t have so many budget guesthouse options at the moment, although a couple more guesthouses are in the process of being built. The typical price for two people is $70. Meals at the guesthouse are about $12 per person, but there are two small restaurants on the main road that serve noodle and rice meals for about 50 rufiyaa (~$3.50.)
We found the people on this island to be less friendly than anywhere else we went. Those who are not befitting from the tourist dollars coming in seem to oppose the changes to their island.
Beware that there is a $3 charge per person, each day for staying on the island. This is a government charge for maintenance of the bikini beach they say. We found it quite ridiculous that they charge extra for the beach when that’s what people come to the Maldives for.
We came to this island to volunteer with a hospital art project and originally were supposed to stay there for our full month visit. However, after the project was completed, there was a family feud on the island as all the guesthouse business owners were related. They fought over who would host us for the month. The result was that they broke the deal we had agreed on before flying to the Maldives and tripled the price. So we happily left.
We were also warned not to exchange or take out money on this island, as the locals here have a reputation for being dishonest.
Felidhoo is a relatively small island that only takes about 20 minutes to walk around.
A close neighbor to Felidhoo, Keyodhoo looks so near that you could swim over to it. But don’t try to! There’s a channel that divides them. To get to Keyodhoo, you’ll have to take the government ferry- Village 1- to Felidhoo, then arrange for someone to take you over by dinghy boat. Or, you can arrange for a speedboat transfer if you favor efficiency over funds.
The people on Keyodhoo are much friendlier than on Felidhoo. And I’d highly recommend this island for it’s marine life and beach. We took a day trip to this island to visit a friend of ours. Just when standing on the pier, we saw groups of both small and large, vibrantly colored fish and several baby black tip sharks stalking them. It was amazing to simply look down in the water near the shore and see so much life and activity. Sometimes you can see dolphins pass by the beach.
The water in this area of the Fulidhoo/Vaavu atoll has the most electric color blue in the whole Maldives, according to our friend who has visited many islands in all areas of the Maldives.
Near the pier at night you can often spot sting rays who come to be fed discarded parts of fish as the fisherman throw them back in.
Right now, the rate for two people per night on Keyodhoo stands at $50. The food options are about the same as on Felidhoo, some small restaurants serving noodles and rice (~$3.50/meal) and guesthouse meals (~$8-14/meal). However, the store prices are much cheaper than on Felidhoo.
Keyodhoo is about the same size as Felidhoo.
After everything fell through on Felidhoo, we jumped on the ferry and headed to Fulidhoo. Fulidhoo is the capital of the Vaavu/Fulidhoo atoll. As this island has been hosting tourists from the very beginning, in 2009 when it became legal to do so, the locals here are more accustomed to hosting visitors.
While there are many guesthouses being built at the moment, creating lots of construction areas, there has been a decent amount of trees and natural areas left untouched, for such a small island anyway. This is a small island that might take about 30 minutes to walk around. The bikini beach is at the end of the island, away from where trash is burned, which is good. The whole front of the island, where the boats and pier are, are good for swimming and snorkeling (you just have to be confined to bikini beach if you’re wearing a bikini.)
P.S.: While local islands are the home of a 99% Muslim population (it’s a requirement of the law to be Muslim if you are Maldivian. If you chose not to be, you must hide your chosen faith or face imprisonment or death), tourists are given a lot of leeway while staying on these islands. You are free to explore the island in shorts and spaghetti straps. (You’ll likely get some uncomfortable stares though.) The only thing you cannot do is swim in a bikini outside the closed off bikini beach area. This goes for all the local islands.
Swimming on the other side of the island is not advisable since the guesthouses drain their sewerage on that side.
We mostly enjoyed our two week stay on Felidhoo. The beach is nice and has a great area for snorkeling, although try to snorkel in the morning when the water is calm. There can often be a strong current near the snorkel area that becomes dangerous to swim in. We saw dolphins and often had fun watching fish jump wildly out of the water as the sharks came around every afternoon to feed. Sting rays can easily be found around the pier, as the locals say they are tame and used to humans because they are fed unwanted pieces of fish from the fishermen. There’s an area called Shark Point not too far from Fulidhoo, near a resort island, where you can snorkel with sharks. You can also dive with whale sharks in this area or take day trips to explore resort islands.
We stayed at Eveyia Guesthouse on a quiet corner of the island. Since we were staying for so long, the guesthouse worked out a deal for us to pay $35/night plus 10% tax, including breakfast, for the three of us ($35 total, not each 🙂 ). The rooms are double rooms, but they added an extra bed for us. I recommend this guesthouse to another budget traveler who was scheduled to visit the Maldives soon after us. She and her friend stayed at Eveyia for one week for the $35 price. There’s wifi and, if you ask, you can use the kitchen for cooking. There’s a law that every guesthouse in the Maldives must also have a restaurant. So every guesthouse has cooking facilities, although they are mostly basic. If you really want some good food, you can get a good buffet meal at the Kenin Guesthouse for $14pp. You don’t have to be a guest to eat at their restaurant.
We met a woman from the UK who had visited this island several years earlier. She said there is a lot more trash now than there was then and she was quite upset and saddened at the changes she found. She said she had suggested to the counsil to take care of the trash problem if they wanted to keep up tourism there. Their response was to put a trash bag up at bikini beach… they didn’t seem to realize that the tourist use trash cans, but the problem is that the locals often don’t.
There are a lot of mosquitoes on this island, so just make sure to bring some repellent! We love to use tigerbalm. Bugs hate it and it’s all natural!
This island is known for keeping traditional Maldivian music alive. Many tourists take day trips here and pay to experience the local music. Here’s what it sounds like. You can decide if you’d like the experience too.
Also, we found out that a lot of Maldivians sleep during the day and come out at night due to the heat. You can find people grilling fish on the beach at around 12am.
Maafushi is the island people hear most about when planning a trip to the local islands in the Maldives. This island has become somewhat of the capital of all budget activities and accommodation. Maafushi has grown so much to accommodate tourists that it’s being said soon all the locals there will sell their land and move to Male. Some people find Maafushi fulfilling for what they are looking for in the Maldives, others say it’s a crowded, waste of time.
We never ended up staying here, it was just a “plan B,” so I don’t have a personal opinion about this place, but here’s what it offers:
Some of the cheapest offers for guesthouses and excursions, more and varied restaurants, a larger portion of foreigners over locals, and therefore a more crowded and social beach environment.
Downsides that kept us from visiting where reports of some restaurants having loud music, even into the night, a crowded, overdeveloped beach, and loud noises from constant construction going on. Apparently there’s a tall guesthouse being built behind the bikini beach, so the local construction workers have been seen looking over into bikini beach as they work, haha. There’s also a jail on one end of the island.
If you’re not sure where to stay, begin your trip, or if you really need to watch your budget, Maafushi is definitely a viable option. Many people also use this island as a jumping point to other islands such as Gulhi and Thinadhoo, as the ferry to these islands run from Maafushi.
After Fulidhoo, we took the ferry back to Male then another ferry from Male to an island only an hour and a half away called Huraa. Our friend told us about this island and worked out a deal for us to stay at a guesthouse there for 8 nights at $50/night for the three of us. Najaf Lakeview Guesthouse has two buildings and they put us in the one with a kitchen we could use. In fact, since there was a little living room area and a dining room, and no one else staying there for most of the time, it was like having our own house! They even let us use the washer machine free of charge. We stocked up on groceries in Male. Being able to cook for ourselves was a huge relief. It also saved us a ton budget-wise. There is wifi here, but it’s very slow.
Huraa was probably our favorite of all the islands. It’s considered “large” as it takes upwards of an hour to walk all the way around it.
What’s fun about Huraa is that it has the Four Seasons resort island to its left and the Club Med resort island to the right. So while you are on a budget, local island, you have beautiful island surroundings. Plus, you feel a little bit more in civilization, rather than just on a floating dot in the middle of the ocean. 🙂 Just walking along the pier here as well, you can see all kinds of fish and sting rays. The bikini beach is fantastic for snorkeling. You can hire a boat out to visit other islands, go to snorkeling point (the snorkeling there is as good as diving!) or to surf point. Surf point is very near Huraa and is the location for international surf competitions. Everyone else that stayed at our guesthouse was there to surf.
There are thoughts of turning part of the Najaf Guesthouse into a hostel. So stay tuned if you’re a single traveler! 🙂
I haven’t been to any of these islands, but they all came up as good, budget options. We met a young man from Chile who highly recommended Gulhi. He said you can take a ferry there from Maafushi. Thulusdhoo has a renowned reputation for incredible surfing. And a traveler I talked to from the Philippines went to Dhiffushi and really enjoyed it there. If you’re searching for more options, why not check these four out some more? 🙂