Until recently the Maldives was strictly a destination limited to only those who could afford the resort island price tags, as they were the onl places to visit in The Maldives.
Then, due to a change in legislation, the local islands opened their arms, offering budget-friendly guest houses and hotels, quaint little cafes and restaurants and generally inviting visitors to share in their serene slice of paradise.
Which is epic news, because now everyone gets to play and it’s now possible to travel The Maldives on a budget.
Inside each of the Maldives 26 atolls you will find a ridiculously beautiful lagoon of warm crystal waters with swimming pool-like conditions, perfect for snorkelling, kayaking, stand-up paddle-boarding or simply gazing and lazing.
Spend any time here and you are sure to make friends with the locals and not just those with two legs. The waters of the Maldives are home to turtles, sharks, manta rays, dolphins and whale sharks. Getting up-close-and-personal with these incredible creatures isn’t just possible here but almost compulsory.
Of course if you simply had doing nothing as your main priority go right ahead, there couldn’t be a better place to do it – silky white sands, swaying palms and idyllic turquoise ocean all come as standard here.
There are plenty of incredible places to visit in the Maldives, but if you’re looking to travel The Maldives on a budget (check out this post for more info) these 5 islands should be on your to do list…
Places To Visit In The Maldives – The Best Budget Maldives Local Islands
Pint-sized and sleepy, Fulidhoo is one of just five of the Vaavu Atoll’s islands which is inhabited and is certainly my one of my personal favourite places to visit in The Maldives.
A 700m by 200m splash of green encircled by bleached-white sand, Fulidhoo is all about the tropical island vibes and laid back lifestyle.
Here, islanders proudly preserve their traditions of old such as the ‘bodu beru’ drum playing and the dances which accompany these soul-stirring beats. Simply check into one of the island’s guest houses – such as Serena Guest House – and sample life the local way, with amazing local hospitality.
As far as beauty goes, most of the Maldives tend to elicit a wow reaction from all who visit. However, even the Maldivians consider tiny Fulidhoo something special so you can be completely assured if you are in search of tropical perfection you are going to have stumbled across the mother-load here.
Fulidhoo truly does give the best of both worlds. This is an absolute remote-feel tropical gem with aqua water-lapped sands almost uninterrupted in their total circumnavigation of the island but still within incredibly easy access from Male.
In fact you can get here for less than the price of a pint of beer in London using the local ferry!
Kayaking the lagoon, dolphin watching tours and day-tripping to a resort for a few hours of ultimate luxury are all on the Fulidhoo menu.
However, what this little jewel is best known for is its incredible diving. With year-round diving possibilities and often almost empty dive sites, scuba diving in Fulidhoo is one of the Maldives channel-dive hotspots and a paradise for the adrenalin-junkie type diver.
The wealth of unchartered dive sites is also a big draw card. Transversely, if you are just starting out learning to dive, you can do that here too with the amazing crew of Fuliudhoo dive (say hi from me!)
While the menu of dive sites is an extensive one, topping the must-do list is the Alimatha House Reef. Here the scuba-passionate can kneel in the sand on a night dive as anything up to 100 nurse sharks and armies of rays circle around and in between them.
Check out my full Fulidhoo guide here
Distance from Male – 57km – transfers possible by speedboat (1 hour) or public ferry (3 hours)
Lowest priced accommodation – Eveyla Guest House – $35 (click here to check availability and book your stay!)
My Top rated hotel – Seena Inn – $65 (click here to check availability and book your stay!)
Top rated guest house – Thundi Guest House – $77 (click here to check availability and book your stay!)
A slow walk up sun-kissed, talcum powder-soft sands….a coconut palm grown over the aquamarine water in such a way it makes a perfect place to perch for a while and ocean gaze or watch the rainbow-coloured fish swimming just beneath you.
This is what Thulusdhoo is made of and is every bit the perfect castaway desert island that your imagination could conjure up.
Thulusdhoo would register as paradise for anyone but if you happen to be a surfer that is especially true.
If you surf, this is definitely going to be top of your places to visit in The Maldives
While limpid lagoons ideal for snorkelling and swimming are found here, so too are surf conditions on a world class scale.
Home to Cokes and Chickens – arguably two of the world’s most iconic reef breaks – and more, the magazine-spread-perfect board-short barrels of Thulusdhoo were once the exclusive territory of only those wave-riders rich enough to book surf charters.
But times change and with the opening up of local islands in the Maldives now everyone with sufficient spirit of adventure and the savvy to cope with the speed and hollowness of these waves gets to join in.
And while these breaks are strictly experienced surfers only there are also more mellow breaks suitable for novices and long-boarders around here too.
If non-surfers want to get active there are activities such as diving and snorkelling amid sharks and manta rays, stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking or simply taking a wander along the long, long sand spit with a few inches of water the whole way to keep you cool.
Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins – they are often around especially early or late in the day. For use of the island’s most gorgeous infinity pool check into the Season Paradise hotel. At five storeys up your views from here are of the off-the-scale idyllic kind and even overlook the surf spots.
Check out my full Thulusdhoo guide here.
Distance from Male – 28km – transfers possible by speedboat (25 minutes) or by public ferry (2 ½ hours)
Lowest priced accommodation – Sea Retreats Hostel – dorm bed $29 (click here to check availability and book your stay!)
My Top rated hotel – Season Paradise – $180 (click here to check availability and book your stay!)
Maafushi is certainly top of THE most popular places to visit in the Maldives when it comes to local island to visit in The Maldives – but with this popularity comes a slight loss of the chilled vibes and empty beaches you might be expecting.
However, Maafushi does offer a big menu of things to do for those who like to mix it up a bit or get more active.
As the first of the local islands to open up to visitors, Maafushi has had a while to perfect its art – offering a more plentiful supply of cafes and restaurants, guest-houses and hotels and finding ways to up the fun ante and add some adventure to your trip.
If ocean wildlife is your thing head out on a boat trip to get up-close-and-personal with dolphins, manta rays and whale sharks – the largest fish on the planet.
To check out the wonderland beneath the water go snorkelling or scuba diving with options even for complete novices. Or perhaps you would prefer to soar above all of this stunning beauty rather than dive below – if so try a spot of para-sailing.
You can also head out for a sandbank excursion or fishing trip or perhaps try a little island-hopping which might take you to one of the uninhabited islands for total escape or transversely for a day of ultimate luxury at a resort island.
If you feel in need of pampering or have a few kinks to work out after all that fun head to the island’s spa before perhaps grabbing a totally tropical sundowner cocktail at the floating bar, just a short dingy trip from the shore.
Check out my full Maafushi guide here
Distance from Male – 26km – transfers by speedboat (35 minutes) or by public ferry (1 hour 45 minutes)
Looking for a remote-feel Maldives jewel that can still be easily accessed? Dhigurah in the South Ari Atoll could be your perfect answer for top places to visit in The Maldives.
The calm and serenity of Dhigurah might take a little longer to get to (although ferry, speedboat and plane are all still options) but your reward is a slice of off-the-beaten track paradise.
Sharing with other visitors might not even be an issue here while the 600 or so inhabitants cluster at the northern end of the island. .
On maps Dhigurah looks like a very long thin brush-stroke in the Indian Ocean – just 300m wide. Down its 3 km of length runs an unbroken stretch of jaw-droppingly beautiful white-sand perfection which then wanders off into the impossible blue as a vast sandbank where turtles paddle by.
Water-skiing, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, diving, snorkelling or simply stretching out on the bikini beach to watch the small puffs of cloud float by are all on the menu in Dhigurah. However, it also has an extra-special something to offer all who venture here – whale sharks.
Growing up to 12m in length, whale sharks are the largest fish species in existence and they live in the waters of Dhigurah year round making it one of the planet’s whale shark hotspots. Snorkelling with these gentle giants is unbelievably sensational. Totally non-aggressive, it is still a heart-stopping moment when you see these mighty creatures swimming towards you with their 1.5m mouth wide open – definitely one for the bucket-list.
Dhigurah waters have other natural inhabitants too such as dolphins and manta-rays. You can swim with the dolphins, should they choose to grace you with their presence, while watching the underwater balletic ‘flying’ performances of the manta rays on a dive or snorkel is something magical.
Otherwise, life is slow here in Dhigurah. Browse the craft souvenirs at one of the shops, kick back at a cafe to watch the spectacular sunset or head off to one of the nearby islands for a private picnic. You choose – all of this is yours.
Distance from Male – 96km – transfers by speedboat (2 hours) or by night ferry (5 hours) and day ferry (7 hours). By air it is a 17 minute flight+30 minute boat trip.
Possible to walk round in an hour, Huraa in the Kaafu Atoll may be tiny but it also happens to have been the place from which Maldivian royalty sprang in ages past. Offering just a handful of places to stay, Huraa is about retreating into tropical island life and communing with nature.
If swinging in a hammock and staring off into the twenty shades of blue ocean gets a bit old then sign up for something a little more energetic. Water-based activities of course reign supreme with the menu of fun stuff including kayaking, scuba-diving, paddle boarding, para-sailing and fishing. Huraa is also just a short few minutes hop by boat to some of the most iconic surf breaks in the Maldives which makes it a great base for the wave-riding passionate.
You can also meet the marine locals with such things as dolphin cruises or snorkelling with sharks, turtles or manta rays amid the underwater wonderland gardens of multi-coloured coral, sponges and fish. For something a little different try a night snorkel and watch what happens beneath the waves once the sun has set and all kinds of marine life, never seen in the day, comes out to play.
If you fancy a bit of a splurge then a couple of minutes by boat will bring you to a choice of resort islands where you can laze, feast, get pampered at a spa and generally live like a king for a day. Or, if you want to keep things more simple, head off to another local island for a change of scenery instead.
After you have watched the big orange sun sink below the ocean horizon you may find your evening filled with a traditional dance show led by tropical island drum beats which some of the guest houses organise.
Distance from Male – 20km – transfers by speedboat (35 minutes) or public ferry (90 minutes)