6 Stunning Local Islands For Paradise on a Budget- Maldives

Maldives

Maldives

During my year living and working in Maldives I learnt that budget-travel here definitely is possible. More and more islands are opening up guest houses and dive clubs- the local people are now benefiting from tourism more than ever before. While resorts are wonderfully luxurious, visitors often state how bored they get after lying in a sun-bed all day drinking and not really ever meeting a local nor learning anything about the country.

Here are six beautiful local islands I’ve visited which offer insight into authentic Maldivian life. If you’re staying for around a week, I’d recommend you stay on one or two islands and make use of the growing public transport networks and the willingness of guest house owners to explore wider and deeper into this enchanting archipelago.

1. Hithadhoo Island District, Addu Atoll

 

Enjoying the Indian Ocean sea breeze

A photo posted by Mizbar 👽 (@mizbar) on

I had an incredibly authentic experience when I was kindly invited to stay with a friend’s family in the southernmost atoll of Maldives. There’s a fantastic dive club where I got close up to SIX Manta Rays, we went sunset fishing, visited charming lakes “Kilhi” and “Running Fenganda” and enjoyed lovely strolls around the islands- which are all linked up with roads, so really easy to travel around!

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I loved how far away I felt from all the hustle and bustle. Addu is bursting with history, it was even significant in the Second World War. Check out “A Weekend in Addu with The Naseem’s (And a history lesson)” for more information and pictures!

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How to Get There: Take an international flight into Gan Island or a domestic flight from the international airport near the capital.

Where to Stay: Check out guest houses in Addu Atoll here.

 

2. Hinmafushi (Himmafushi), Kaafu Atoll

#silhouette #sky #sunset #sea #hinmafushi #maldives

A photo posted by ash raf (@ashh_raf) on

 


This local island is bursting with life and colour (not to mention is recognized for it’s world famous surfing and diving spots!) I remember strolling around the island and seeing some women relaxing in the shade smoking shisha, while others were cooking in huge pans bubbling over small fires, children were playing on their bicycles. Absolute peace and tranquility.

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For more information and pictures, check out “My First Island Hop: Himmafushi”

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How to Get There: Take a public ferry from the capital.

Where to Stay: Check out guest houses in Himmafushi island here.

 

3. Huraa, Kaafu Atoll

 

Savner det her hver dag 🌴 #Huraa #Maldives #adventuredk #påturmedremse #ogminesødevenner

A photo posted by Sidsel 👋🏼 (@sidselmchristensen) on


Where do I even start with this charming island?! I adored my stay in Huraa: I dived with turtles, snorkeled with SHARKS, enjoyed tasty local food and met so many interesting people.

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Still not convinced? Guest houses on this island can organise visits to sandbanks, snorkelling with Manta Rays, dolphin watching, excursions to other local islands and nearby resorts, sunset fishing, paddleboarding or kayak, surfing, catamaran, para-sailing, renting a jet ski .. you can even have a romantic beach wedding here!

For more information and pictures check out my post ‘A Short Stay in Huraa

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How to Get There: Take a public ferry from the capital.
Where to Stay: Check out guest houses in Huraa Island here.

 

4. Gan Island, Laamu Atoll


Gan Island is an absolute gem! It’s far enough that you can feel totally away from your troubles, but close enough that it’s easy to travel to! Gan is the most culturally-rich island I’ve been to in Maldives, it has a gorgeous fresh water lake (the Red Lake) as well as some truly unique ancient Buddhist ruins.

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There’s a fantastic diving school on the island and you’ll be able to do so many budget-friendly excursions and activities during your stay!

For more information and pictures, take a look at ‘Maldives, Laamu Atoll. Gan: a local island with history & luxury

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How to Get There: Take a domestic flight from the capital.

Where to Stay: Check out guest houses in Gan Island here

 

5. Maafushi, Kaafu Atoll

 

Maafushi is a lovely little island bursting with life and tourism! It’s fantastic that more and more people are exploring the local life here, boosting local tourism and showing that travel in Maldives is affordable. Here you can expect a fun-packed itinerary: strolling around, snorkeling and sandbank excursions, scuba diving, fishing trips, island-hopping (nearby local island AND resorts), excursions to uninhabited islands, dolphin, whale shark and Manta cruises, a whole range of water sports and, if you’re lucky, I really recommend planning your trip to join in the Eid celebrations- we had so much fun!

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If you’re a bit nervous about going somewhere too local, Maafushi is perfect as there will be many other backpackers around to meet!

If you’d like more information and pictures, check out my ‘Quick Guide to Local Island Maafushi, Maldives

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How to Get There: Take a public ferry or the South Kaaf Atoll Ferry from the capital.
Where to Stay: Check out guest houses in Maafushi here.

6. Thulusdhoo, Kaafu Atoll

 

Thulusdhoo is a vibrant local village with stunning white sandy beaches, warm turquoise waters and a remarkable house reef, not to mention all of the dolphins swimming nearby. Planning a more local (and affordable) trip to Maldives? Look no further.

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There’s an uninhabited island right next door too, which I hear is perfect for surfers!

If you’d like more information and pictures, take a look at ‘A Trip to Thulusdhoo- The Perfect Local Island in Maldives

keep the island safe and secure

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How to Get There: Take a public ferry from the capital (which also stops at Himmafushi and Huraa en-route!)
Where to Stay: Check out guest houses in Thulusdhoo here.

 

That’s all for now folks! If you’ve found this useful or have visited any other local islands in Maldives I’m dying to know, please comment below! You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram 🙂

Hi! I'm Sarah. I dropped out of university tired with the mundane life I was living in England. Now I'm an aspiring ex-pat of the world, having already lived and worked in Vietnam, Italy and Maldives. I'm using this blog to document my experiences and hopefully inspire others!

50 Comments

    1. It’s just great that Maldives is finally opening up to all kinds of travellers, not only ones who can afford to spend $1000 a night!!

  1. I wanted always to go to the Maldives but after the research I just could afford it. Thanks for sharing with us this informations so that normal people can realise there plans as well 🙂 I am in love with your pictures you took they just look lovely.

  2. Thank you Sarah for sharing this information. I worked three years in Maldives and really miss it, especially the diving. If everything will go as I hope for may I return to paradise. Fingers crossed!

  3. I am saving this post to a travel folder, thank you for sharing it! I actually do find it very useful as so many people think that Maldives are only affordable to the chosen people. It is great to know that there are options for a limited budget!

    1. Thank you!! There definitely are so many options 🙂 plus, resorts offer day trips fairly cheaply, so you can still balance luxury and budget-travel 🙂

    1. It depends on the single guy really! It certainly isn’t like island hopping in Thailand for example, but if you’re looking for some peace and quiet, amazing scuba diving or even surfing spots– then it’s absolutely ideal. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Gan Island is really charming! I don’t like resort holidays, it’s exactly like you said- it’s pretty boring and to be honest doesn’t matter where you are, you can lie and drink everywhere, not even noticing if you are on Maledives or Bali. Great post, I like traveling off the beaten track and your tips might be useful for me.

  5. I’m kinda obsessed with beaches so have always wanted to go to the Maldives but truly never thought it was possible on a budget. Exactly what would be a reasonable budget for a 10 day trip there?

    1. I would say between $30-$60 a night for full board accommodation in a guest house (rates vary depending on season and number of guests), then it really depends on the traveller- if you are already PADI qualified or not and wanting to dive will change the budget, but dives are about $60 per dive, cheaper if you book multiple dives. Assuming in 10 days you dived 4 times, did an excursion each day (visiting an uninhabited island, a resort, dolphin cruise etc) – minus the day you arrive which might just be wandering around and doing some water sports etc- I’d budget at least $1000/£700. It’s about the same price as staying one night in a resort all inclusive without dives or excursions. Hope that helps!

  6. Oh my! I’ve always wanted to go island hopping and I am falling in love with these places as I read about them! Why did you live in Maldives for a year? I think if I were to go for a week would visit Maafushi and Huraa!

    1. Remember that all of the excursions and diving etc are possible on all of the local islands I mentioned- I just didn’t want to repeat myself 6 times haha 😉

      I was teaching English out there! Best year of my life so far!

  7. My husband was in the Maldives before we ever met and always says how beautiful it is. I would love to visit these islands. I just wish there could be a way to transport myself over there right now 🙂

  8. I actually can’t decide which one l would rather go to – they all look so stunning, especially for diving. And dolphins! That’s incredible you spent so much time there teaching English, it looks like a real dream! Saving this for when I go to the Maldives someday 😀

  9. What unbelievable pictures. I really can’t pick a favorite, but I think Hithadhoo slightly edges it for me. Still can’t get over the pictures and the shades of blue I just saw 🙂

    1. Thank you! I really worked on my photography when living in Maldives, never really had a camera before! I miss those blues so much.

  10. I always knew the Maldives were stunning but not this stunning (the views, the colours – everything)! This is such a fantastic and in-depth guide for local islands.

    1. Thank you so much! I’m so happy I was able to show off the local islands and hopefully encourage local tourism 😀

  11. Amazing photos and so beautiful! I have always wanted to visit the Maldives and not just for those instagram worthy shots haha. I’ve always thought of the Maldives as a purely luxury destination. Glad to hear that it can be done on a budget!

    1. Yes, as most people do! Locals weren’t even ALLOWED to open up guest houses and even have tourists on local islands. A big concern was the impact of Western values on the local culture.. but so long as tourists remember to cover up a bit and not to illegally bring over any alcohol (or a dog!) then there won’t be any problems!

    1. Thank you! Hope you do 🙂 but oh Philippines… My dream destination!! Do you know anything about teaching English there? I don’t have a degree so that might make it hard.

  12. Wow, I can’t decide which place to visit! I would probably end up doing all of them. 🙂 I grew up on an island in British Columbia and have a special spot in my heart for them. Your photos are so beautiful, too!

  13. Hi there! Thank you so much for sharing information on the Maldives! I am arriving on 19 May for a 2 month period to work and have found it incredibly difficult to find information on what to do, basic living etc. This has been fantastically insightful! If you’re still in the Maldives it would be great to connect!

    1. Thanks David, I’m so pleased you found my blog useful!! Try and see as much as you can in those 2 months, and have a blast!! Sadly I’m not there, wish I was!

  14. Hi Sarah!

    I’m so glad to have found your blog! I’m thinking of doing my first ever solo trip to Maldives next year, and I’m so happy you share so much information on budget travelling in Maldives.

    Can I ask if you’re familiar with Embudu Village? I’m thinking of doing a 2 Nights stay in the village and another 2 nights stay in Male, and booking tours/day trips. Do you have any recommendation on the accommodation available in Male/Hulhumale? Do the hotels/guesthouses offer such day trips/activities (at an affordable cost)?

    And lastly, is Maldives safe for a solo female traveller? I AM SO NERVOUS!!

    Thank you in advance 🙂

    1. Hi Jess, thank you for stopping by! A solo trip to Maldives sounds just what I need right now hehe. Embudu village sounds familiar, and having a look now it looks decent. But I’m surprised if you are interested in budget travel- would you not want to try staying on a local island? Thulusdhoo and Maafushi are beautiful islands. Male, on the other hand, I wouldn’t recommend unless you had much more time in Maldives. Unless you love exploring cities. There is some good stuff to see and an artificial beach, but it’s a bit crowded and not exactly what you think of when you hear ‘Maldives’. Hulhumale, next door, is bigger and less congested and has a lovely beach. There are many guest houses but my friend Siraa has a friendly place called Travel Lodge Maldives. Day trips etc can be organised for you yes, oftentimes on the day. Diving, excursions to other nearby islands, dolphin cruising, fishing, BBQ on the beach, snorkelling, etc. Just remember that Hulhumale and Male are working towns, kind of like ‘hubs’ and most people only stay a night for airport transfers.

      I’d say there aren’t many women traveling solo, it certainly isn’t Goa or Thailand, there won’t be a bunch of young people chilling out on the beach, so be prepared to have alone time. As for safety though, as a tourist yes I’d say you’re incredibly safe. Just be sure to dress appropriately and obviously try to avoid being drunk at all times on local islands. If you do get super lonely there’s a bar near the airport where expats and travelers used to hang out (when I lived there anyway) as it’s the only place on the entire island you can drink legally. Plus there’s a pool.

      Have a fabulous time!

  15. Hi Sarah! Thank you so much for your reply, I really really appreciate it 🙂

    I just thought that if I were to go to Embudu Village, they will probably have transfer to and fro Male, so I can spend 2 days in Male too. So I don’t have to coordinate too much of the boat transfers and stuffs.

    Seems like Maafushi is a pretty nice place, I previously read elsewhere that ladies have to dress modestly (no bikinis on beach) in Maafushi, burning rubbish and a huge prison occupy the island? :/ yay or nay?

    I do want to keep it as hassle free as possible and hopefully I don’t have to spend much time wandering alone because I get lost extremely easily! Haha

    Would you recommend my 3D2N at embudu plus 2D1N at Maafushi?

    Thank u so much as always! <3

    1. Yes Maafushi is gorgeous. Of course ladies must dress modestly, it being a local island, although actually Maafushi has a ‘bikini barrier’ which separates the local beach from a smaller tourist beach, where you can wear a bikini. I lived in Maldives for almost a year though and mostly got by in tshirt and trunks haha! Burning rubbish is everywhere, and even though resorts hide it, it’s a big problem. There is an artificial island made especially for the burning of trash. You can see the smoke (and sometimes catch a whiff) when at the airport bar. And yes, there is a prison on Maafushi. I barely saw or thought about it to be honest. I stayed in Maafushi for 4 or 5 days, I can’t remember. So many excursions in the day it was always lovely to return back to the island for some seafood dinner.

      I understand the hassle free side of things. Perhaps you could see which islands are near the resort you want to go, perhaps Maafushi is quite close and a local can take you on his own boat.

      If I were you I’d probably do local first, go diving and anything else you want to do at a much cheaper rate, then go to the resort for some luxury pampering. If you’re worried about getting to a local island, there are several boats and even a website. It involves a fair amount of planning and checking, but you’ll be fine! Definitely, check those ferries and try to get the most out of the time in this lovely country.:D

  16. Thanks Sarah! You’re like a Maldives Ambassador, Resorts should start hiring you. Haha!

    Seems like I could do Maafushi for a couple of days and do the day trips to the resorts (been to Club Med and I think I’m hooked). I guessed with the excursions available I probably will be with a local guide most of the time?

    Do you happen to know any websites that arrange for transfers/excursions? So far I’ve only found iCom?

    Lastly, Maafushi is really small right? I won’t get lost? Seriously I get lost extremely easily I should wear a tag on my neck already.

    Thank you again 🙂 I can’t thank you enough.

    Best,
    Jess

    1. Haha resorts would hate me because I keep emphasising local travel to local islands!! Oh yes I spent an evening in club Med absolutely gorgeous. You’ll be able to arrange your excursions with the guest house directly. Everyone knows everyone on these small islands, it’ll be nice and easy. You won’t get lost!!! It’s very small, don’t worry. 🙂 You’re very welcome. Do let me know about your trip!!! Sarah x

  17. Haha! Thanks Sarah for your insights 🙂 I will look around for the excursions then 🙂 thank u again and all the best in all your adventures! If you ever come to Singapore, let me know and I’ll share my insider info haha 🙂 <3

  18. Hi Sarah,

    Great write up and beautiful photos!!! Lots of helpful information. Is there a particular place you would recommend if we are travelling with a 6 month old baby?

    thanks 🙂
    Lynda

    1. Hi Lynda, I think it was me with the small baby I would rather stay at resort islands and take trips to visit the local islands. The only reason is because I’m a bit of a hypochondriac! Doctors are on-call in resorts but in local islands there may not even be a hospital. Something to take into consideration when traveling with kids!

  19. HI,Sarah, I am Nancy, From Thulusdhoo Maldives. I saw u all story,very perfect, very nice. can we be a good friend?

  20. Hi Sarah,
    You seem to capture a few hearts!. Im in the Maldives until December this year. Im a geography teacher and a deputy of a new international school. Im planning to take some kids out there to the islands and decided on Thuslusdhoo. Your write up is so useful and i got a glimpse of the island too!. I did visit Huraa with my friends last weekend. It was a lovely time

  21. Hello Sarah ! Congratulations for your blogg is great, really interesting and very helpfull. I am Diego I am from Uruguay, me and my gf Valentina , she is Italian , we are planing to travel to sri lanka and Maldives in december 2017 . We are planning to stay in maldives from the 8th till 19th of december. Same as you I prefer much more the local island than resort. I love snorkelling , could you recommend me any local island which a good reef for snorkell on the beach , also I would need that the beach allow bikini for my girlfriend , would be a pitty that she could not get tan ! 😂. Thank you very much in advance .
    Diego

    1. Hey Diego! Maafushi definitely has a separate beach for bikini wearers, but that was 3 years ago i was there so im sure several of the local islands have too! Besides, even a top and shorts is fine and can still tan. 🙂
      Most local islands are at least near to fantastic reefs if not directly by them, and a local dive club or your guest house owners can help you to organise a snorkelling session if you need dropping off.
      Have a fantastic time!

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