You don’t have to clean out your bank account to stay in the Maldives. In fact, you can snag a hotel for as little as £38 ($46) a night.
The trick? Stay on an inhabited island rather than a resort island…
Multi-award-winning travel blogger Adriana Neptuna, who recently visited a selection of the inhabited islands, tells MailOnline Travel: ‘It’s a completely different vibe and you might find you enjoy it more. Think idyllic, azure blue beaches with tropical music, Maldivian locals selling fresh coconuts and delicious Maldivian restaurants.’
Here she shares her tips on how to do more for less… in paradise.
Among the most popular of the Maldives’ local islands is Maafushi (above), which offers an abundance of beach bars, restaurants, water sports and snorkelling tours, according to TikToker and Maldives bargain hunter Adriana Neptuna
Maafushi is 40 minutes from Male International Airport via speedboat ferry, which costs around £30 ($36)
Among the most popular of the Maldives’ inhabited islands is Maafushi, which offers an abundance of beach bars, restaurants, water sports and snorkelling tours, according to Adriana, who described a visit there as ‘an authentic way to interact with locals’.
The island is 40 minutes from Velana International Airport on Male via speedboat ferry, which costs around £30 ($36).
Adriana also recommended the 90-minute public ferry services, which depart from Male’s Jetty 1 at 2.30pm every day except Fridays and costs just $3 (£2.30).
Alaika Maafushi – £40 ($48) per night, standard double room, breakfast included, price for April 2024
Rated a ‘very good’ 8.5/10 on Booking.com, this guesthouse is nestled on the south side of Maafushi island moments from the local beach and around 15 minutes’ walk from Bikini Beach, where tourists are permitted to don swimwear
RESORT ISLANDS VS INHABITED ISLANDS IN THE MALDIVES
‘Every resort in Maldives is its own private island,’ explains Lonely Planet.
Examples include Jumeirah Maldives and Siyam World Maldives.
Hotel prices can be expensive, but the neighbouring inhabited islands offer standard hotels for less money.
These residential islands are home to local Maldivians and offer hotels, restaurants and attractions.
Local laws apply such as bikinis not being permitted on beaches. However, many islands have designated areas where tourists can wear them.
Examples of inhabited, or residential, islands include Maafushi, Fulidhoo and Gulhi.
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Rated a ‘very good’ 8.5/10 on Booking.com this guesthouse is nestled on the south side of the island moments from the local beach (where beachwear is banned) and around 15 minutes’ walk from Bikini Beach, where tourists are permitted to don swimwear.
Guests benefit from air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, room service, laundry service, free parking, free toiletries and a flat-screen TV in the room.
‘Mumbaikichori‘ described it as ‘bohemian-style accommodation’ with an exterior that ‘will make your eyes fall in love within seconds’, in a Tripadvisor review.
The former guest said there is a wide variety of rooms, ‘from deluxe to super deluxe’, that are spacious and well-equipped.
In another review, ‘Sneha‘ said it ‘feels like home’ with great food, the ‘perfect’ host and ‘best price’ activities on offer.
Maamadi Boutique, Maafushi – £44 ($53) per night, superior double room, £6 ($7.30) breakfast, November 2023
Rated a ‘good’ on Booking.com, Maamadi Boutique is a two-minute walk to Maafushi Beach
Rated ‘good’ on Booking.com, Maamadi Boutique is a two-minute walk to Maafushi Beach.
The beachfront hotel offers simple air-conditioned rooms with a private bathroom as well as an onsite restaurant, a shared garden and terrace, basic wood furnishings, free Wi-Fi and an airport shuttle service for an additional fee.
‘Raghav’ claimed it is ‘the best hotel in Maafushi’ in a Tripadvisor review that praised its ‘delicious food’ and ‘friendly and amazing staff’.
In another review, ‘Jacobo G’ said it is ‘literally heaven on earth’ and ‘by far the best place I ever stayed at’ with ‘extremely attentive staff, delicious food and drinks, and a wonderful room and design’.
Ci-Ritorno View, Maafushi – £38 ($46) per night, deluxe double or twin room, breakfast £4 ($4.88), November 2023
Rated a ‘pleasant’ 6.8/10 on Booking.com, this hotel is located in the centre of Maafushi island, which is popular for snorkelling and windsurfing. Amenities include free Wi-Fi throughout the property and complimentary use of bicycles
Rated a ‘pleasant’ 6.8/10 on Booking.com, this hotel is located in the centre of Maafushi island, which is popular for snorkeling and windsurfing.
Amenities include free Wi-Fi throughout the property and complimentary use of bicycles.
Former guest ‘Mike G‘ said he had ‘no idea there were affordable places to stay in the Maldives’ until he found the Ci-Ritorno View Hotel and he ‘was in’.
‘The room was large, the bed was super comfortable and I’m a picky sleeper, the breakfast was nice, the hotel was only a three-minute walk to the beach, everything was walkable, and there were several restaurants and shops nearby,’ he said in a review on Tripadvisor.
Multi-award-winning travel blogger Adriana Neptuna, who recently visited some of the inhabited islands and spoke to MailOnline Travel about her bargain hunting
Adriana said: ‘There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, most of them directly on the beach.
‘At night the restaurants are lit up with hundreds of fairy lights giving the shores a dazzling, magical atmosphere.
‘Most meals on the island range from around £2.50 ($3.05) to £7 ($8.5)and they have everything from Indian and Asian to Italian and Maldivian. There are a few luxurious and specialist restaurants on the island too, which have a higher price range.
Her budget eatery suggestions include Fine Bake by Suzy, for cakes and snacks, Hiyala Mariyaadhu, for seafood, The Palm Cafe, for Italian and Chinese dishes, Oceana Garden, for seafood and Mediterranean cuisines, and Hot Bite for pizza.
Fulidhoo is famous for its Maldivian cultural events such as Langiri, a traditional dance with drums and Thaara folk music. The island boasts a laid-back atmosphere, ‘by far the best beaches’, and ‘incredible marine life’, Adriana said
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT THE MALDIVES?
There are two distinct seasons in the Maldives, with the dry, or high, season taking place from December to April. The best time to visit the Maldives is between November and April when you can expect dry sunny days. Source: TUI
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Fulidhoo boasts a laid-back atmosphere, ‘by far the best beaches’, and ‘incredible marine life’, Adriana said.
‘Here you’ll find eagle rays, sting rays, black tip reef sharks and turtles.
‘The tours on Fulidhoo are the best, and we were able to swim with hundreds of wild dolphins for an hour.
‘Most tourists here enjoy sitting under the shade of the palm trees, reading a book and relaxing.’
The island is an hour from Male airport if you take the speedboat ferry (£35/$42) or three-and-a-half hours by public ferry (£1.25/$1.52), according to Adriana.
Bougainvillea Inn – £50 ($60) per night, double or twin room with garden view, April 2024
Rated a ‘fabulous’ 8.7 on Booking.com, this sustainable hotel is located in the centre of the island, just a five-minute walk from Bikini Beach West where tourists are permitted to wear swimsuits.
Rated a ‘superb’ 9.0 on Booking.com, Bougainvillea Inn is located in the centre of Fulidhoo
Sustainable Fulidhoo is a five-minute walk from Bikini Beach West where tourists are permitted to wear swimsuits
Guests can enjoy air-conditioned rooms with a private balcony and a private bathroom, free Wi-Fi and breakfast service with vegetarian, halal and gluten-free options available.
Tripadvisor user ‘518jelenam‘ said staying there was ‘a great experience’ with a clean room and ‘all necessary amenities’.
Another former guest, ‘neha-onetripdown‘, said they had ‘an amazing time’ at the hotel, which was ‘very neat and clean’ and had a ‘very welcoming and helpful’ host.
Adriana said: ‘There aren’t many restaurants on Fulidhoo island. It is a super-small island, so you might find it easier to book in half board at your hotel and pop out for lunches to the different restaurants and cafes.
‘I can recommend Bougainvillea Restaurant – excellent service, excellent atmosphere and excellent food. A meal for two with drinks came to £12 ($14) to £15 ($18).’
Her other budget eatery recommendations, where diners can expect to pay between £5 ($6) and £15 ($18) for a meal, include Cafe de Orzo and Aya Cafe and Restaurant.
Gulhi is a 45-minute journey from Male airport by speedboat ferry (£12/$14) or an hour and a half by public ferry (£1.25/$1.52)
‘Gulhi’s main attraction is the beautiful beach,’ Adriana said. But the blogger warned that half of the island is ‘still very much under construction’
‘You can find some Instagrammable spots around Gulhi,’ Adriana said
Adriana recommended a walk on the beach at night to see the ‘glittering’ bioluminescent plankton
‘Gulhi’s main attraction is the beautiful beach, and most people go to the island for its shores and peaceful, laid back, island vibe,’ Adriana said, recommending a walk on the beach at night to see the ‘glittering’ bioluminescent plankton.
‘You can also find some Instagrammable spots around the island, namely the beach swings and multiple signs where you can take pictures,’ she added.
But the blogger warned that half of the island is ‘still very much under construction’, predicting it will be fully developed ‘in a few years’.
Gulhi is a 45-minute journey from Male airport by speedboat ferry (£23.50/$28.60) or an hour and a half by public ferry (£1.25/$1.52).
Ilaa Beach Maldives – £50 ($60) per night, deluxe family room, breakfast is £4 ($4.88), November 2023
Rated a ‘very good’ 8.5/10 on Booking.com, Ilaa Beach Maldives is just a few steps from the beach, which hugs the southern tip of Gulhi island
Guests benefit from a concierge service, room service, evening entertainment, and free Wi-Fi
Rated a ‘very good’ 8.5/10 on Booking.com, Ilaa Beach Maldives is just a few steps from the beach, which hugs the southern tip of Gulhi island.
Guests benefit from an onsite restaurant serving French, Indian and Italian cuisine, a shared terrace, a concierge service, room service, evening entertainment, and free Wi-Fi.
Writing on Tripadvisor, ‘Katja J’ said her room was cleaned every day and that she felt ‘so welcome’ at the hotel, which boasts ‘a spectacular view’ from the top of the building.
And former guest ‘East’ called it the ‘best place in Maldives’ where staff ‘know exactly what to do’ and said they will ‘be back soon’.
Adriana said: ‘There are a number of restaurants to eat at on Gulhi island and you’ll find that it’s fairly cheap.
‘Meals tend to cost between £4 ($4.88) to £6 ($7.32), so a dinner out for two people with drinks might cost around £10 ($12.20) to £15 ($18.30), which is not bad by any standards.
‘There are also nearby shops on the island where you can purchase snacks or some lunch. Instant noodles are virtually everywhere, as is the delicious ice cream, so you won’t go hungry.’
Her budget eatery picks include Benha Restaurant, Salt Harbour, La Vista Cafe and Bistro, The Hideout Coffee Shop, Hotel Fulhoi, Tropic platter, Premier Beach Hotel and Restaurant, and Dhilakani Cafe.
Known as the island of nature, Magoodhoo (above) boasts white sandy beaches and dense tropical vegetation, as these pictures show
Known as the island of nature, Magoodhoo boasts white sandy beaches and dense tropical vegetation, as these pictures show.
There is a lack of online literature about the island compared to its more popular neighbours, suggesting it remains a less-discovered option.
It is praised by Expedia for its ‘secluded paradise white sands, turquoise waters and breathtaking sunsets.’
Palm Rest Maldives – £43 ($52) per night, deluxe double room, breakfast included, January 2024
Offered by Hotels.com, this beachfront guesthouse is located towards the northern tip of the island
Amenities include an onsite bar and restaurant and ensuite rooms with beach views
Offered by Hotels.com, this beachfront guesthouse is located towards the northern tip of the island, just moments from its bikini beach, where tourists can wear swimwear.
Amenities include an onsite bar and restaurant, early check-in, free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, laundry facilities, complimentary bottled water, and ensuite rooms with beach views.
There is also an outdoor BBQ area, an outdoor entertainment area, a bar, restaurant, and a picnic area.
Hotel, restaurant, and transport prices are based on current quotes for bookings between November 2023 and April 2024, recommended by travel agents as the best time to visit the Maldives.
Turkish Airlines is currently offering a return flight from London Gatwick Airport to Velana International Airport on Male, via Istanbul, for £650 on selected dates each month during peak season.
This image shows the capital of the Maldives archipelago – Male