Navigate the Maldives Local Islands, with Insider Travel Tips
The Maldives is a tropical archipelago in the Indian Ocean that is often described as a true paradise on Earth. Although it’s most commonly associated with fancy resorts, I had long wondered if its islands could be explored on a shoestring budget.
So, I travelled there to find out! In this article, I’ll share with you everything you need to know about the budget islands of the Maldives, with all my insider travel tips.
When to Visit the Maldives
The Maldives, with its pristine beaches and turquoise waters, is a popular year-round destination. However, the best time to visit the Maldives ultimately depends on your preferences and what you hope to experience. Here’s a summary of what you can expect in each season:
Dry Season (November to April)
This is considered the high season in the Maldives, with dry weather, plenty of sunshine, and calm seas. December to March are particularly popular months, with minimal rainfall and excellent visibility for snorkelling and diving. It’s the ideal time for beach activities, water sports, and exploring the islands.
Shoulder Seasons (May to July, September to October)
These transitional periods between the dry and wet seasons offer a mix of good weather and some rainfall. May to July can still provide relatively dry and sunny days, while September to October might see occasional rain showers. Prices during these months are often lower, and the islands are less crowded.
Wet Season (May to August)
The wet season in the Maldives is characterised by higher humidity, occasional rainfall, and stronger winds. However, it’s important to note that rain showers are typically short-lived and can be followed by clear skies. The wet season can also bring lower rates and quieter resorts, making it a good time for budget-conscious travellers.
Southwest Monsoon Season (June to August)
This season experiences stronger winds and a higher chance of rainfall. It’s worth noting that while the weather may be less predictable, some divers prefer this season due to the increased marine activity and better visibility underwater.
Overall, the Maldives offers a tropical climate throughout the year, with temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to mid-80s Fahrenheit (mid-20s to low 30s Celsius). Regardless of the season, expect stunning beaches, abundant marine life, and incredible opportunities for snorkelling, diving, and relaxation.
The official language of the Maldives is Dhivehi. It is a language spoken exclusively in the Maldives and has its own unique script. However, English is widely spoken and understood, especially in tourist areas and resorts.
The currency of the Maldives is the Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR). But US dollars are widely accepted in most tourist establishments, resorts, and popular tourist areas. In fact, on the local islands we were often asked to pay with US dollars instead of MVR. Major credit cards are also widely accepted in hotels, resorts, and larger establishments.
The culture in the local islands of the Maldives is deeply rooted in the country’s Islamic heritage and traditional way of life. Here are some aspects of Maldivian culture that you can experience in the local islands:
- Islam: Islam is the official religion of the Maldives, and it heavily influences the culture and daily life of the local communities. Mosques are a central part of the islands, and you may hear the call to prayer throughout the day. Respect for Islamic customs and traditions is important while visiting local islands.
- Traditional Music and Dance: Boduberu is the traditional Maldivian music accompanied by drums and singing. You may have the chance to witness lively boduberu performances during cultural events and celebrations on local islands.
- Handicrafts and Art: Local artisans in the Maldives produce beautiful handicrafts, including intricate lacquer work, woodcarvings, and woven products. On the local islands, you can find these crafts showcased in markets or even visit workshops to observe the craftsmanship.
- Community Bond: Maldivian communities on local islands have a strong sense of community and close-knit relationships. If you visit the local islands, you’ll almost certainly have the opportunity to interact with locals, witness their hospitality, and learn about their customs and way of life.
It’s important to note that the Maldives is a Muslim country, and visitors are expected to respect local customs and dress modestly, especially when visiting local islands. While the resort islands cater more to international tourists, the local islands offer a chance to experience the authentic culture and interact with the friendly local communities.
Best Budget Islands in the Maldives:
Budget Island #1: Hangnaameedhoo Island
Local islands offer a unique opportunity to experience the Maldives rich culture, connect with friendly locals, and enjoy affordable accommodation, all while exploring breathtaking natural beauty.
Staying on islands that are usually overlooked by tourists also helps to beat the crowds and support the local community, making it a win-win situation!
The first stop on our budget tour of the Maldives was Hangnaameedhoo Island, which is located 72 km west from Male in Alif Dhaal Atoll. This tiny island is home to only 500 people and you can truly experience local life here.
Where to Stay in Hangnaameedhoo
We paid around £350 for 10 nights at this charming (albeit rustic) guesthouse, which even included a delicious buffet breakfast and bikes to explore the island on. Despite its remote location, the Wi-Fi here was extremely fast!
However, if Coral Beach doesn’t tick all your boxes, you can easily find the best accommodation deals to suit your budget using Hotellook below:
Top Things to do in Hangnaameedhoo
#1 Snorkelling and Diving
The Bikini Beach is located just 5 minutes’ walking distance from Coral Beach Guesthouse. At Bikini Beach, you can snorkel and dive the house reef, which has a rich diversity of corals. Within minutes of exploring the reef, we were lucky enough to see loads of tropical fish and rays!
Bikini Beach is well equipped with chairs, loungers, and hammocks, making it perfect to sunbathe and unwind on.
Fun fact: It’s called ‘Bikini Beach’ to let you know it’s a designated swimwear area. As the population is predominately Muslim, conservative dress is expected in some areas, although not strictly enforced.
The rest of the island is super chilled too so it’s the ideal place to get your steps in and go for a leisurely stroll, taking in the fresh air, gorgeous sunshine and peaceful vibe.
#3 Fishing, Fishing & More Fishing!
Fishing is one of the best things to do in Hangnaameedhoo and is extremely popular both day and night. We opted to do a sunset fishing tour, which Coral Beach arranged for us. It only cost $20 and was an amazing experience – in the space of about 20 minutes we managed to catch 3 Barracudas and then had them for dinner!
We also walked to the harbour every evening to watch local fishermen do night fishing. I highly recommend doing this as there’s a spotlight right over the water, making it easy to see all of the squid, sharks, and jack fish that come to the surface to feed everyday. Top tip: At 10pm all the fishermen come out and the sea really comes alive!
#4 Awesome Day Trips
There are so many day trips you can do from Hangnaameedhoo Island, which can be booked at your guesthouse.
We opted to go to Dream Island, as we were told that it’s one of the most beautiful uninhabited islands to explore in the Maldives – and it certainly didn’t disappoint!
Travelling to Dream Island from Hangnaameedhoo took around 30 mins by boat and cost $60.
Snorkelling here was truly out of this world – the reef is extremely colourful and we spotted several white tip sharks just meters from the shore!
Even if snorkelling isn’t for you, the powdery white beaches of Dream Island and its peaceful setting, make it one of the most incredible day trips in the Maldives.
Dining in Hangnaameedhoo
In terms of dining, there are several local restaurants on the island serving traditional Maldivian dishes, such as coconut fish curry and saagu bondibai (a sweet coconut pudding).
However, we opted to eat at the guesthouse every evening as the buffet food (although quite basic) was extremely tasty – usually consisting of fresh fish, a variety of veggies and sweet Maldivian bread.
Good to know: Only resort islands serve alcohol – all local islands prohibit it.
Hangnaameedhoo Island also has several corner shops. However, these tend to only be open for a few hours per day, at seemingly random times, so we only managed to buy a Magnum ice cream on a couple of occasions!
The locals are super friendly here though, so if there’s something you need to buy and the shops are shut, speak to your guesthouse manager and usually the shops can be opened specifically for you!
Verdict on Hangnaameedhoo Island
👍 Overall, Hangnaameedhoo Island is an ideal destination for travellers that are seeking natural beauty and relaxation, while on a tight budget. The slower pace of life here is truly calming for the soul and makes for the perfect escape away from stresses of modern life.
Maldives Budget Island #2: Maafushi
The next stop on our budget Maldivian adventure was Maafushi. This is one of the most popular local islands in the Maldives, located in the Kaafu Atoll, about 27 kilometers from the capital city of Male. You can get here from Hangnaameedhoo by boat transfer, which took us 1.5 hours via speedboat (arranged by Coral Beach Guesthouse).
Maafushi offers a more affordable option to experience the beauty of the Maldives compared to the more exclusive and expensive resort islands. Yet it still has a lively atmosphere and is far less remote than Hangnaameedhoo.
Where to Stay in Maafushi
I highly recommend staying at Kaani Palm Beach, which is a mid-range hotel that will cost you around £600 per week.
This gorgeous hotel boasts the highest infinity pool in the Maldives and is right opposite a pristine beach. The location of the hotel is also super handy, as it’s next to several convenience and tourist shops, as well as the main strip of local restaurants.
Where to Eat in Maafushi
In the evenings, the island comes alive with entertainment and nightlife. Many restaurants and cafes offer live music, traditional Maldivian dances, and other performances that are sure to keep you entertained well into the night.
There are dozens of reputable restaurants to try in Maafushi, such as Caviar Café and Hot Bite. However, we ate at Moonlight, a Mediterranean restaurant, almost every night because the fresh fish tacos were simply to die for. I highly recommend going here, but it’s popular so be sure to book in advance.
Note: Even though local Islands prohibit alcohol, you can go to a floating bar over the sea, just a free ferry away from Maafushi if you’re craving some tropical cocktails!
What really surprised us about Maafushi was its buzzing atmosphere – it was full of fellow backpackers, primarily due to the abundance of affordable guesthouses and hostels on the island, as well as its strategic location, which is perfect for doing the most incredible day trips in the Maldives.
Here are some of the best things to do in Maafushi:
#1 Explore the Island
Due to its size, you can easily bike around the whole island in about 25 minutes, or take a leisurely stroll.
While exploring the island, there’s plenty of little cafes you can stop at to pick up some homemade ice cream, smoothies, or iced coffee (they’re usually open all day on this island!)
The quaint local shops on Maafushi are also perfect for picking out some unique Maldivian souvenirs.
#2 Snorkelling and Diving
Maafushi has long stretches of gorgeous beaches with crystal clear waters that are perfect for snorkelling and diving.
#3 Water Sports
There’s so much going on in Maafushi! Besides from snorkelling and diving, you can also do a wide range of other water sports, such as jet skiing, parasailing, and windsurfing.
#4 Chill Out
But if the above sounds like too much effort, why not just chill out onshore and watch other people doing this from the beach! On Kaani beach you can even get pizza delivered to your sunbed!
#5 The Maldives Most Unique Activity
You could visit Maafushi Prison, which is one of the most unique activities to do in the Maldives! This historical site was converted into a museum showcasing the history of the prison and the Maldives’ justice system, and it’s something totally different to experience.
#6 Spot Bioluminescent Plankton
You’ll find Bioluminescent plankton on Maafushi beaches at night time. We saw this several times at around 10pm just yards from our hotel, it was truly spectactular!
#7 Day Trips from Maafushi
One of the best things about Maafushi is its location – it’s in prime position to do some of the Maldives top activities, such as shipwreck tours, whale shark spotting, and swimming with nurse sharks. I highly recommend doing all of them if you get the chance!
Book online to get up to 20% off ⁀➷
Verdict on Maafushi Island
Maafushi really does offer something for everyone, whether you’re a culture vulture, a water sports enthusiast or simply someone looking to chill out. The island offers a compromise between remote local life and boujee resort life, making it a great island for those seeking affordable paradise.
Overall, these local Maldivian adventures prove that this incredible archipelago can be done very enjoyably on a tight budget! By choosing local islands over luxury resorts, you can experience the beauty and charm of the Maldives without breaking the bank. There’s clearly a thriving local culture that offers a more authentic and budget-friendly alternative, which is just waiting to be experienced by you!
I really hope that this blog post inspires you to visit the Maldives one day, as it really doesn’t have to cost the earth. If you have any questions please feel free to ask me in the comments below.
Maldives Travel Map: Budget Island Locations:
You may also like to read:
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase through any links. This income goes towards the sites running costs and enables me to provide readers with free content.