If you are looking to explore the Maldives on a budget, whether you are a Muslim traveller or not, then Maafushi island is the perfect option for you.
People don’t think you can do the Maldives on the cheap. Still, actually, with the government allowing local islands to build hotels and host tourists, the Maldives has become a more affordable option in recent years.
There are plenty of islands in the Maldives, from high-end luxury hotels to small local islands with cheap options for tourists who want to experience the country’s beauty.
Why Choose a local Island in the Maldives
There are several local islands in the Maldives where you will find Muslims living, making it a fantastic halal holiday option for travellers.
On the local islands, you will also find some of the cheapest hotels in the Maldives and a more authentic experience.
After visiting both, the local Maafushi island and a high-end resort, the Maldives is a country with different sides. What you experience in a resort is NOT the same as your experience in local islands.
They are not bad, but they are different, and you should be prepared as local islands don’t have all the high-end amenities of the resorts.
But also it is important to keep in mind that by visiting a local island in the Maldives, not only do you have a budget holiday that you can afford, but you are supporting the local economy as well.
The majority of the resort islands are owned by large corporations, so little goes to the locals.
Maafushi Island – Maldives on a Budget
Maafusni island is one of the largest and most popular destinations in the Maldives for those looking for a budget holiday with a mixture of cheap and mid-range hotel accommodations.
The island itself is small, only 1km long, with a local population of 3000 people.
Maafushi is approximately 27km from Male, and it takes about 40min to reach it from Male airport via speedboat.
Also, a third of the island is a prison, and you can walk from one end to the other in about 20min at a leisure pace.
They have a police station, a health centre, as well as a supermarket, bank and other amenities. You will definitely taste how the local population lives and know that you are on holiday.
The Maldives are a Muslim country, and as such, it makes it a perfect halal holiday or honeymoon destination for Muslims, especially on local islands since there is no alcohol there and all the halal food is available.
If you would like to enjoy a drink on your holiday in Maafushi, then you will need to go on the boat available where it will take you out at sea for the night to enjoy your poison of choice ;).
In my opinion, Maafushi island is one of the best local islands in the Maldives for tourists that want to experience a mixture of both options. A budget holiday in the Maldives, as well as some luxury options.
For example, Maafushi island doesn’t have water villa hotels if this is your dream experience for your holiday. But you can have a beautiful candlelight dinner on the beach for a fraction of the cost of a resort.
As you would imagine, the island is small. Their houses are close together, and the streets are tight, with scooters’ most popular mode of transportation.
It is a different pace of life, and I found it fascinating to experience it.
All the locals we met are friendly and speak English, so you will not struggle with this. Also, Maafushi is very popular with Russians and Eastern Europeans and Muslim travellers on a budget holiday.
I also consider Maafushi one of the best local islands for tourists. There are several budget accommodation options in the Maldives. Still, as a more developed island, you won’t struggle with entertainment.
You will find plenty of restaurants serving halal food in Maafushi and fresh fish. The prices are reasonable considering you are in the middle of the ocean.
I think we paid about $10 for fish and chips and burgers each, which is much cheaper than what we paid for a burger in the Waldorf Astoria in the Maldives.
You can enjoy fresh coconuts on the beach for $3 approx. 🙂
How to Get to Maafushi island
There are several ways you can get to Maafushi island from Male.
This is a medium prices solution and one of the easiest ones.
Most hotels have stands outside the arrivals doors at Male airport, so you don’t have to go far.
This is the easiest and fastest way to get to Maafushi, especially if the timing of your speedboat is close to your arrival time.
We stayed at the Kaani hotel (further down for info), and their speedboat left at 2.30 pm, while we arrived at 12:30.
We decided to wait for the 2 hrs because the price was $20 per person one way. Once it was time, we went to the hotel stand, and the host took us across the road to the waiting boat.
From there, everything was efficient, with them taking us on and loading the luggage. We enjoyed the speedboat trip of 40minutes to Maafushi.
Note that depending on your arrival time, you might have to spend the night in Male as speedboats travel during the day until evening. Check with your hotel.
This is a more expensive option to reach Maafushi island, but also it might make more sense if you are a large party or you want to avoid a long wait.
Many hotels offer private boats you can rent for the trip, and also, there are several companies offering the service from Male to Maafushi.
The cost is approximately $220 per way for up to 6 people from a private company or the hotel.
I found a company that can do this for cheap and also they can take you to several islands as well. This is great if you are doing a hotel hopping from a local island to a resort or if you are hopping between local islands.
You can find their info here.
I didn’t end up using them because for 2 hrs, it was not worth paying $150 extra. But they replied to my email very fast and answered my questions promptly.
This is the cheapest way to travel between local islands in the Maldives.
A ticket on the local ferry between Maafushi and Male costs $2, but also it takes almost 2 hours to arrive compared to the 40min you would normally.
But if you truly want to travel on the cheap in the Maldives and don’t mind, it is obviously a no-brainer.
The local ferry, however, leaves from the port. So you will have to make your way there from Male airport.
The ferry doesn’t operate on Friday, so keep this in mind if you need to arrive or depart on a Friday.
You can find the ferry timings here.
The Best Place to stay in Maafushi
There are several budget accommodations in the Maldives, and over the years, several new hotels have been built.
Kaani hotels are one of the most popular, and I would say they offer some of the best hotels in Maafushi for people on a budget holiday.
The island doesn’t have resorts in the true sense of the word, and also, Maafushi doesn’t have overwater villas.
There is something for everyone’s pockets. You can also experience the resort life in the Maldives from Maafushi, as several hotels offer day trips to nearby resorts where you can have lunch, enjoy the resort amenities and even drink alcohol if this is your thing.
It also costs a fraction of the price going from a local island-like Maafushi to these resorts for the day than actually staying full time in one.
All of the hotels are on the “good” side of Maafushi, right on bikini beach with blue waters and palm trees.
As Maafushi is a local island with a Muslim population, you are only allowed to swim in a bikini on the dedicated beach. Hence the name bikini beach.
There is also a local beach on the opposite side, but while we were there, we didn’t see any locals swimming.
If you are a female Muslim, you can, of course, cover in a burkini and swim on bikini beach as well without a problem.
There were several Muslim families there with their children, and everyone had a lot of fun. The water was clear, and I would highly recommend for you to buy a mask and snorkel a bit.
It was my first time, but it was amazing to just float and see the fish.
The best hotels in Maafushi
As mentioned above, there are several hotels, from budget to mid-luxury and also guesthouses.
Depending on your budget, you can find accommodation in Maafushi from $30 to $200 a night depending on the season you are visiting.
We stayed at the Kaani Grand Seaview and as the name states we had a fantastic sea view with only 1 min walk to the beach.
However, if we had the choice again, I would have stayed either in Arena hotel, which is a new hotel with a rooftop pool and a sea view or the Kaani Palm Beach hotel.
The Kaani Palm Beach hotel is newer and fresher looking than some of the other ones.
Please note that the hotels are not luxurious but more like 3/ 4 stat by European expectations.
Though in terms of breakfast, don’t expect much. I would also suggest that you don’t go for a full board on Maafushi hotels.
Below are my top four choices of the best hotels in Maafushi
I would check the hotels on Tripadvisor but I would suggest you book via this link on Hotels.com since you receive a free night as well. The links help us keep this site going. As always thank you.
Read the hotel review from our stay here
Activities to do in Maafushi
There are plenty of activities and things to do in Maafushi apart from enjoying the beach.
I tried snorkelling by myself for the first time, and I loved it.
We didn’t do a tour which is, of course, available, but I just snorkelled on the beach. There was plenty of fish, and I can only imagine how amazing it would be on a proper reef.
Every hotel offers various options from dolphin watching to snorkelling, even lunch options on a sandbank.
Prices are reasonable starting from approx 50$ per activity.
You can also tailor various activities for yourself. We wanted to do an activity, but it was about 5 hrs which was long for my daughter, so we asked to just tailor a package.
The price was very reasonable, and it was about $250 for 4 people for 3 hrs with dolphin watching, snorkelling, and lunch.
If you are on a budget honeymoon in the Maldives, you can splash out on some private activities to enjoy as a couple.
There is a water sports centre next to bikini beach, and you can enjoy sunset parasailing and other water sport activities there.
Resort Day Access
As mentioned above, you can visit a resort for the day from Maafushi and enjoy all the facilities there including the beach, pools, lunch etc.
There were several resorts on offer, and the hotel has printed their offers with them.
Also, even if you are not staying in a specific hotel but a guest house, you can still just ask and book.
They cost approximately $150 + for the day.
Resorts Near Maafushi
If you want to combine your holiday in the Maldives with hopping between islands, then it is not very difficult to do so.
There are several local islands like Guraidho island, which is only a few kilometres away, can access with the ferry.
Or you can also access the Holiday Inn Kandooma resort, which is also not far away but one of the good budget resorts in the Maldives from there. You can ask for a local boat to transfer you there.
You can also book the Holiday Inn Kandooma on points as it is an IHG property.
The Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi, where we stayed in one of the most expensive resorts in the Maldives but also only 15min away by speedboat.
We had hired the resort’s speedboat for the transfer, and we saved a pretty penny doing it. It is actually how I hacked the transfer cost to the Waldorf Astoria.
Please note if you travel during the restrictions, you will need extra PCR tests as well as a local transfer form from the local health centre, which also costs $20.
Food Prices on Maafushi Island
As mentioned above, the prices are reasonable for a budget traveller on Maafushi. I mean, the Maldives is expensive in general, and of course, on a tiny island in the middle of the Indian ocean is hard to get supplies.
But I didn’t feel that prices were inflated or it was unreasonably expensive.
You can enjoy plenty of fresh fish and traditional dishes on the island for as little as $6.
There are several people from nearby restaurants who will pass by the beach and offer you a menu and food.
It was nice not having to go inside and move to enjoy lunch.
In the evening, we went to a restaurant, and the dishes were about $9 for calamari and chips and about $10 for a burger with chips.
I would say you can budget about $50 per day for food for two people depending on how much you eat.
There are several supermarkets on Maafushi island, and we did buy supplies from there.
I didn’t notice much price difference between the Arena supermarket and the mini-market attached to the hotel.
But you could find drinks, snacks, some things to cook if you are on a tight budget, and anything else you might need.
What I found very interesting is that with a couple of restaurants we ordered lunch from, the card didn’t work, and they didn’t even bother to actually take a note of our name.
They just asked to pay later. The local attitude was very relaxed, which I liked.
I also didn’t feel like a walking dollar where everything was hyped like some other destinations.
Things to keep in mind while visiting Maafushi
- Don’t expect top-of-the-world luxury or the resort feel. You will not be getting this on Maafushi, but you will enjoy a relaxed vibe, have fun on the beach, do the same activities that you would in a resort but not overpriced. After all, this is the Maldives on a budget.
- Pretty much everything is in the local rupiah or dollars; we did take money from the local bank (the only branch on Maafushi island), so we can pay for a few things and also give tips.
- Our hotel was priced in dollars as well as all activities we did.
- Get a strong sunscreen and cover. The sun is very strong, and we did get a burn. I even got a burn fully covered! No idea how this happened. So many sure you get a suncream with high protection.
- The roads are covered with sand, so make sure you have easy to walk in shoes. Also, my daughter hated sand on her feet and refused to talk, so we used our pram.
- Buying souvenirs on Maafushi island was cheapest than at the airport. Also, buy them from some of the small tourist shops around your hotel. The hotel mini-market was selling the same fridge magnet but instead of a pack for $10 individually. So shop around.
- Do tip the local staff as they long hard and long hours for not much salary
- If you are travelling with children to Maafushi, they have a fantastic playground just 5min from bikini beach next to the local beach. It is worth going with your little ones.
- Take mosquito repellant with you.
- Don’t leave food outside on your balcony; the crows are vicious and will attack it. We made that mistake and learned the hard way.
- Pay with a travel card for small shopping like Revolut or Wise. You can read my article here, but it is much cheaper this way.
If you are looking for a holiday in the Maldives on a budget, Maafushi is one of the best and most developed local islands, with budget accommodations, easy access, and plenty of things to do.
I do consider it one of the best places to stay if you want to do the Maldives on the cheap but still have a nice experience and I can happily return there for a relaxed holiday.
It has everything you might need, and it is definitely family-friendly or honeymoon-friendly for budget travellers. We saw many couples and families, and a good amount of them were return visitors to the island.