Staying on inhabited Maldives budget islands is a great way to explore this dream destination without spending a fortune on your holiday. Besides private resorts, there are several local islands that are accessible by public ferry or cheap speedboat transfer and offer cheap hotels and guesthouses. Are you curious what these places are? Keep reading and we tell you how to find an affordable accommodation in the Maldives!
Table of Contents
- 10 best Maldives budget islands
- Maafushi – Kaafu Atoll
- Dhiffushi – Kaafu Atoll
- Thulusdhoo – Kaafu Atoll
- Thoddoo – North Ari Atoll
- Ukulhas – North Ari Atoll
- Feridhoo – North Ari Atoll
- Dhigurah – South Ari Atoll
- Omadhoo – South Ari Atoll
- Rasdhoo – Ari Atoll
- Thinadhoo – Vaavu Atoll
10 best Maldives budget islands
Whether you are a low-budget traveler who rather spend money on activities than on luxurious hotels, or looking for a decent guesthouse where you can take your family, here is a list of the best inhabited islands in the Maldives to stay on:
Maafushi – Kaafu Atoll
One of the best-known Maldives budget islands thanks to its proximity to the airport – Maafushi lies only 27 km far from Male – great ferry connection and wide range of accommodations. Maafushi local island is one the biggest island in the Maldives and can be a perfect choice for first-time Maldives visitors.
The southern corner of Maafushi is the tourist zone. Here you find a bikini beach and most restaurants, guesthouses. Although the tourist beach, where you are allowed be in your swimsuit, is pretty small, therefore we recommend signing up for island hopping tours that will take you the nearby resort islands to get the real paradise feeling! A resort island trip usually costs 40-140 USD depending which one you want to visit. Moreover, Maafushi tour organizers offer all kind of trips no matter you wish to go snorkeling or planning a romantic sandbank picnic.
The middle part of the islands is where locals live their everyday life and have their facilities including a mosque, school and some offices. Interesting fact is that the Maldives’ only prison can be found in Maafushi too, in the northern side.
The ferry to Male leaves from Villingili terminal. The ticket is about 2 USD and the journey takes about 1.5 hours. It departs every day at 3pm except Fridays and there are two boats on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. The additional one leaves at 10am. Should you choose speedboat transfer instead, calculate to pay around 25 USD per person.
Related: would you check some budget Maldives resorts too? Read our Biyadhoo Island Resort review!
Dhiffushi – Kaafu Atoll
The small island of Dhiffushi is getting more and more popular by tourists but still one of the best Maldives budget islands. A peaceful place with friendly people where you can experience the real Maldives feeling that goes beyond resort life.
Dhiffushi has two bikini beaches. The one in front of Rashu Hiya Resort is a maintained one, cleaned regularly by the nearby guesthouses. The second one on the southwest side feels abandoned and sometimes there is plastic washed ashore, but it can be a good place for those who seek privacy.
One can find some shops on the island and also 2 cafes that serve local food at affordable prices. Those who wish to visit a Maldives resort island can go for a Meeru Island Resort day trip which costs approx. 50 USD.
How to get to Dhiffushi
The ferry ride is 2.5 – 3 hours long depending on sea conditions. It departs at 2:30pm daily. Speedboat service is available too every day at 4:30pm. No ferry, no speedboat on Fridays.
Related: our best snorkeling Maldives resorts article introduces you resort islands that have good house reef for snorkeling!
Thulusdhoo – Kaafu Atoll
The capital island of Kaafu Atoll is famous for 2 things that make it one of the most special Maldives budget islands. Thulusdhoo gives home to a Coca-Cola factory (it is the only place in the world where they use de-salted water for the coke) and it is a great surf spot too! Tourists explored the superb surfing conditions in the 70s and this is when local tourism started to develop. Now several hotels can be found on Thulusdhoo from 4 star, 5 star resorts to budget guesthouses as well as some local restaurants.
Besides surfing, snorkeling is also excellent in Thulusdhoo. The house reef has pretty healthy corals and rich marine life with sharks and sometimes manta rays around!
The local budget ferry from Male to Thulusdhoo departs every day at 3pm (not on Fridays) near the fish market. It is just 3 USD and takes 90 minutes – 2 hours. Speedboat transfer can be used every day. 4 departures can be chosen (11am, 4pm, 5pm and 10 pm). The 30 minutes trip is 30 USD.
Tip: when visiting the Maldives, prepare yourself for extreme UV radiation! You might know how strong the sun in the tropics is, but the white sand makes it even stronger. It is easy to get painful sunburn in even 10-15 minutes. Therefore, make sure to wear UV protective clothes when on the beach and while snorkeling, and apply eco-friendly sunscreen frequently!
Thoddoo – North Ari Atoll
A real paradise island with lush vegetation and picturesque beaches! The popular Thoddoo local island lies 70 km from Male and 20 km from Rasdhoo. It is an idyllic place where you will have the opportunity to explore not only beautiful landscape but the local life too.
Part of the island is agricultural area so you can see coconut, papaya and banana plantations and enjoy freshly picked fruits! A little drawback of this that there are lot of mosquitos around, therefore take an effective mosquito repellent with you!
The bikini beach can be found on the west side of the island. You can get there by foot or bicycle. The water here is good for general beach activities but not really for snorkeling. Although you might find small coral patches and few fish around. For better snorkeling, sign up for snorkeling tours in one of the dive centers.
The Male-Thoddoo ferry operates daily at midnight, no service on Thursdays and Fridays. The trip is quite long (about 5 hours, a one-way journey is 15 USD) so it may be better to jump on the scheduled speedboat (approx. 35 USD) which runs every day except Fridays 2 times per day (11am an 4pm).
Ukulhas – North Ari Atoll
The perfect local islands in the Maldives if you are looking for a family holiday destination! According to tourists and locals, Ukulhas is the most beautiful among Maldives budget islands! The white sandy bikini beach is extreme long comparing to other local islands offering enough room and privacy for visitors. Snbeds and umbrellas are available. The island itself is very developed: there are shops, cafes, hospital and also a fitness center.
The various activity options make Ukulhas local island even more attractive! If you would get bored snorkeling over the house reef, you can rent a boat and get to the nearby lagoon where the abundance of marine life is excellent. One can observe here vibrant corals, colorful fish, octopus, turtles and sharks too. Moreover, there are several picnic islands nearby where you can organize a romantic day with your beloved one.
To get to Ukulhas you can choose ferry or speedboat. The public ferry trip is 4 hours long (Monday and Thursday) and the ticket is 3.5 USD. The speedboat runs twice a day at 10:30am and 4pm. Expect to pay 50 USD for the 1.5-2 hours long journey.
Feridhoo – North Ari Atoll
In terms of snorkeling, Feridhoo is often referred as one of the best Maldives budget island. Also, there are several top Maldives dive sites nearby reachable with a short boat ride.
This less-visited local island with powdery soft sand and lush vegetation is a good choice for a family vacation or even for solo trips when you need a getaway. Whether you just want to lie on the beach or seeking for activities, you will get it here! Picnic island excursions, island hopping tours, dolphin and manta spotting trips offered daily. An interesting fact is that the famous Maldivian dance Bodu Beru origins from this local island. If you are brave enough, you might join the locals who regularly perform the dance in the evenings!
There are only a few guest houses on Feridhoo but those are equipped with everything you need for a comfortable budget holiday in the Maldives.
Getting to Feridhoo
The speedboat goes out every day 14:30am from Male Marry Brown (excluding Fridays) and costs 50 USD. For the 6 hours long public ferry trip you pay only 4 USD/person and the schedule is: Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday leaving at 9am from Villingili Terminal.
Dhigurah – South Ari Atoll
Dhigurah is definitely the number one on our best Maldives budget islands list if it comes to snorkeling with whale shark. This big, long inhabited island lies not so far from the area where whale sharks congregate to feed due to the presence of plankton rich currents, therefore you have a high chance to snorkel with these gentle giants if you go out for a spotting tour. There are two dive centers who organize whale shark snorkeling and diving trips. We do recommend Island Divers who works with knowledgeable and friendly staff.
On the island, one can find a small village with grocery and souvenir shops. There is a pretty sandbank on the southern end of Dhigurah. To get there, you need to walk or bike through the jungle but the stunning view is worth the efforts! In terms of hotels in Dhigurah, you can choose from quite a big selection from lovely B&B’s to decent hotels.
Dhigurah speedboat and ferry
Dhigurah local island is available by ferry from Male, although the trip is long (7 hours). Departures happen on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 8:30am. The one –way ticket is 8-10 USD. The speedboat transfer is more expensive (80-100 USD) but you can get to the island in 2-2.5 hours. The scheduled speedboat runs on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays and stops at Dhangethi Island too.
Alternatively, you can choose the seaplane too. Domestic flights operate between Male and Maamigili, almost every day.
Omadhoo – South Ari Atoll
Omadhoo is another proof for the fact that not only resorts islands offering excellent diving and snorkeling in the Maldives! This inhabited island features one of the healthiest house reef in the Maldives. There is so much to see here! Turtles, rays and baby reef sharks are frequent visitors besides various tropical fish species. On the top of this, there are several manta points not so far from Omadhoo and if you are lucky, you might swim with a whale shark too when heading out for a boat trip.
Even Maldives budget islands vary a lot if it comes to hotel prices, but Omadhoo belongs to those that have reasonable room rates. Don’t expect to find here a wide selection of resorts, but lovely the guesthouses and inns.
Male to Omadhoo
The easiest way to get to Omadhoo local island is using the speedboat. It operates from Monday to Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 4pm. On Fridays, the speedboat departs at 9:30am.The price is 25 USD. The slower and cheaper option is taking the public dhoani ferry. The schedule from Male is: Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 9am and the ride costs about 4 USD.
Rasdhoo – Ari Atoll
Rasdhoo is a top local island if you come to explore the Indian Ocean’s marine life. Just 56 km west from Male, with a small yet clean bikini beach, various shops, cafes, dive centers, bank and hospital, it is an affordable local island that combines natural beauty and comfort services. Regarding hotels, Rasdhoo has various guesthouses, inns and lodges that are fairly priced.
Rasdhoo is one of the best places for a budget holiday in the Maldives if you love snorkeling! The house reef offers superb snorkeling with turtles, rays and small sharks. Moreover, there is a manta point and turtle cleaning station nearby too!
Besides the excellent snorkeling opportunities, Rasdhoo has a lot to offer for divers too! Some of the Maldives best dive spots can be found in the area with huge schools of fish, sharks and mantas around. And most of them are accessible for entry-level divers too!
The Male-Rasdhoo ferry operates every Monday and Thursday at 9am. There is scheduled speedboat service too, 2 times per day (one morning and one afternoon departure). For the actual schedule, contact your guesthouse. The ticket is 35 USD and the journey it about 90 minutes.
Thinadhoo – Vaavu Atoll
Vaavu Atoll has only 5 inhabited islands and Thinadhoo is a top choice for ocean lovers! Thinadhoo dazzles its visitors not only with postcard perfect beaches but also with teeming marine life. The small village (couple of shops, 2 cafes and 1 dive center) and the bikini beach area is separated by a tropical jungle so no one will disturb you while enjoying the sun and sea.
Only a few budget hotels can be found on the island. The Plumeria Resort and Hudhu Raakani Lodge are the most popular places to stay at. They both are famous for the exceptional service at affordable prices.
Male to Thinadhoo transfer
The public ferry leaves from Male terminal at 10am on Tuesday, Thursdays and Sundays. It operates with stops at Maafushi and Fulidhoo. The whole trip is 5 hours long and costs 7 USD per person. If you wish to take a speedboat instead, you might hop on the Plumeria Resort’s transfer which runs twice a day (10 am and 4pm) but you need to book it with the hotel.
Please note that the information on ferries and speedboats are just for reference. Always double check the current schedule with your hotel or tour organizer!