This post was last updated on April 1st, 2021 at 12:15 pm
The Maldives island group always appear on a “Top 10 Things to See before You Die” list. Everyone knows the pictures of luxurious water villas that seem to float above a magically clear blue sea with a snow-white sandy beach with a few palm trees within walking distance. And everyone also knows the price tag… But luckily you still have Maafushi. In this article we will teach you the following about this budget destination:
Maafushi, and other local islands like Thulusdhoo, Haa Dhaalu, Fuvahmulah, Gan and Guraidhoo offer hope to travelers who don’t want to pay $400 a night. It is a local island in the South Malé Atoll about 2.5 hours by boat from the capital Malé.
TIP – Maafushi is the main island for those who do not want to stay in luxurious resorts.
Maafushi is often visited by backpackers because it was one of the first islands in the Maldives that was opened to tourists. Thankfully so because it is true what they say about the Maldives; it’s a paradise on earth.
We did not find Maafushi the tropical paradise that you expect, but the surrounding islands are more beautiful than you could ever imagine.
A Backpacker’s Paradise
Maafushi is not a private island with a resort but an island where locals live. But don’t be afraid, the pictures that you see on the internet of the Maldives are real. And more importantly, it is affordable. You just have to go there because Maafushi itself is not the most beautiful island in the country.
Maafushi is the most important island for the “independent traveler”, which means; people who do not want to pay US$400 a night for a resort but would like to go to the Maldives. It is also the largest island in the South Malé Atoll, that is; 250 meters (0.15 miles) wide and 1,800 meters (1.1 miles) long. On the island you will find around 30 hotels and guesthouses.
During the high season it can get quite busy here because the prices for overnight stays are very affordable. Yet, strangely enough, that has no influence on life on Maafushi. Locals do what they always do; fish, eat, and relax.
Fun Fact – Maafushi is home to the only prison in the country! But don’t worry, you will hardly notice it.
The Best Beaches in Maafushi
We mainly used Maafushi as a base to explore the rest of the Maldives. The island itself is quite busy and, in addition, there is only one beach, Bikini Beach, where you can swim as a woman in a bikini. Because the Maldives is an Islamic country, women are not allowed to walk in public places wearing bikinis.
Bikini Beach is a special beach where you can swim in a bikini on Maafushi. Men are allowed to swim everywhere, but you only have Bikini Beach in the north and another beach in the east.
At the beach in the east you can take beautiful pictures because it is very quiet as you are not allowed to swim in a bikini here.
TIP – Whale sharks swim in the Maldives. You can even swim with these giants which we recommend!
In our opinion, the Maldives has the most beautiful beaches in Asia, and we have seen quite a few! If you use Maafushi as a base you can visit some beautiful beaches and sandbanks from here during a day trip. You can book this anywhere on Maafushi.
Best Things to Do
Activities on Maafushi are mainly related to water sports. The island is in the middle of the sea in a tropical paradise so that is not a bad thing. There are many things to book on Maafushi. Below we’ve listed a number of options.
1. Diving and snorkeling
This is the most important reason to come here. Forget the coral around the Philippines, Indonesia, or Thailand. The underwater world in the Maldives is the most beautiful you will find in Asia. We have booked several snorkeling trips. Along the way, you often encounter dolphins and beautiful beaches.
The colors of the coral and the fish are very impressive. In total there are about 3 to 4 diving schools and a number of desks that offer snorkeling trips. You can also book this at your hotel or guesthouse. Of course you can also get your PADI here. A course costs around US$500.
Book a day trip where you can snorkel and visit a sandbar. The coral (and the sea life) underwater in the Maldives is magically beautiful! The sandbanks consist of white sandy beaches surrounded by crystal clear water in the middle of the sea, a very special experience.
TIP – A nice snorkeling trip is one to the Turtle Reef where you also go to a sandbar. It takes half a day and costs around US$30 per person, including lunch.
2. Water Sports
Every water sport that you can imagine is possible at Maafushi. You can dive, snorkel, SUP, kite surf, windsurf, wave surf, water ski, and jet ski here. The companies that offer these activities are all located around Bikini Beach; it’s very hard to miss.
TIP – Kite surfing and windsurfing costs US$45 for an hour to rent the gear and US$60 for an hour long lesson.
3. Visiting the Resorts
An absolute must is to book a day trip to one of the resorts in the area. You can go here as a day guest. You can also go to other resorts ranging from $45 to $400 a day. It is a lot of money but at the resorts you will find that beautiful picture that you will always find on the internet. The resorts are the real tropical paradises.
TIP – We went to Fihaalhohi, this costs US$90 per person but it is definitely worth it.
Best Time to Visit
The weather is very important during your trip, regardless of which country or place that is. The best time to visit Maafushi is from December to February. The weather is the best, there is little rain and the sky is clear blue. The low season runs from May to November. During this time there are more storms and it rains more often than you would like. Prices rise in August due to vacations in Western countries.
The reason that Maafushi is so popular is because there are quite a lot of hotels and guesthouses which are very affordable. A double room in the high season in a normal hotel costs around US$50 a night. Book in advance in the high season as it can get quite busy and many accommodations are fully booked. We recommend not staying at a hotel/guesthouse close to Bikini Beach because it is busier here. From north to south Maafushi is approximately a 5-minutes’ walk so you are never far away from the beach.
TIP – An overnight stay in Maafushi costs around US$50 per night for a double room.
We have very good experiences with Arora Inn. Good rooms, delicious breakfast, and friendly staff.
Velana Beach Maldives
The Velana Beach Maldives is a slightly more expensive option on Maafushi. It’s spacious and has beautifully designed rooms. The location is close to Bikini Beach.
How to Get to Maafushi
Maafushi is a 90-minute boat ride from Malé with the local ferry. There are two ways to get to Maafushi. You can arrange a speedboat through your accommodation to pick you up at the airport and take you to Maafushi. However, this is pricey because booking a speedboat through your accommodation can cost up to $150. If you are with several people you can share the costs.
This option is especially useful if you want to save time or if you land in the evening or on Friday (when there are no more local ferries). Another option is with the local ferry. This takes a little longer but is a lot cheaper.
TIP – The local ferries in the Maldives do not sail on Fridays! So keep this in mind. Make sure you don’t arrive after 3 p.m. on a Thursday or on a Friday; there will be no ferries.
By Local Ferry
The cheapest way is taking the local ferry which is easy to book in Malé. Below we describe how you can do that.
- From the airport (Hulhumale) you take a ferry to Malé. These go 24 hours a day, every 10 minutes. The ferry costs $2 per person.
- In Malé you take a taxi to Villingili Ferry Terminal on the other side of the island. Walking is just too far and a taxi only costs $2.
- At the Villingili Ferry Terminal you buy a boat ticket to Maafushi. This also costs only $2 per person.
- PAY ATTENTION! The ferry departs twice a day on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays the ferry only goes once a day at 3 p.m. There are no ferries on Friday! A ticket for the ferry costs $2 per person.
If you land later than 3 p.m. you must spend the night on Malé or arrange a speedboat that can cost up to $150.
- From the “port” of Maafushi you take the ferry to Malé.
- The ferry departs twice a day on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday at 7:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. On Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays the ferry runs once a day, at 7:30 a.m. There are no ferries departing on Friday! A ticket for the ferry costs $2 per person.
Maafushi has become increasingly popular in recent years. This also means that transport is increasingly arranged better. In addition to the well-known ferry service, there is also the option to take a speedboat. These are a lot faster (takes only 30 minutes) than the ferries and a lot cheaper than the boats arranged by the accommodation.
The speedboats sail a few times a day between Male and Maafushi. The timetable sometimes varies, but seems to be fairly stable in recent years. You can check the times on their website per day (see the link below).
- Male / Airport to Maafushi
- 9:15 a.m.
- 1:30 p.m.
- 4:00 p.m.
- 6:30 p.m.
- 10:00 p.m.
- Maafushi to Male / Airport
- 8:00 a.m.
- 12 p.m.
- 2:30 p.m.
- 5 p.m.
- 8 p.m.
The service is offered by iCom Tours and it costs US$20 per person. If the normal ferry sails, we recommend taking this. That is cheaper, but also much more fun. If you cannot take the ferry then iCom Tours speedboat is a good alternative.
TIP – Check the iCom website here. At iCom Tours you can order tickets for their boats online. Super easy and it saves you a lot of time when you arrive!