Since the government changed the laws and opened up the local islands for tourism in 2008, the whole concept of Maldives as we’ve known for the rich or for that once in a lifetime honeymoon destination has completely done a 180. Instead of paying $3000 a night at a luxury resort, you can now holiday for $50 a night for two people including breakfast. $50 you say? That’s right, and that’s what we did when we stayed at Maafushi Inn located on the main tourist local island of Maafushi.Maafushi Island, Maldives
Getting to Maafushi
The good thing about Maafushi is it’s easy to get to from the airport. There’s a public ferry which takes 1.5 hours from Male at 3pm for like $1.5 or you can get a local speedboat during the day for $25 or if you prefer and have more cash, your own private speedboat. We got the 9:30am local speedboat from the airport the morning after we arrived in Male. I had read that no one really stays in Male, it’s more of a stopover city until you get to the islands. I’m glad I organised our second night on Maafushi as we were too excited and wanted to get to the island as soon as we woke up on our first morning in Maldives. We went back to the airport and asked around until we found someone organising the boats. People are very friendly and will help you out in Maldives so don’t expect to get ripped off. You’ll need to book accommodation in advance as well and the hotel will always guide you on how to get to their island. And bring US dollars, it’s a better exchange rate than using the local currency.
We arrived in Maafushi after 30 minutes and we were picked up by the hotel with their big wheel barrow to carry our heavy bags (thank you lord!!).
Our guesthouse Maafushi Inn picking our backpacks up
The island is pretty small, big enough to walk around in about 20 minutes that you can see from one side to the other. Our guesthouse Maafushi Inn was located on the opposite side to most of the hotels.Our guesthouse Maafushi Inn
The island is split into 3, one side is where all the hotels and bikini beach is, in other words the tourist beach. Maldives is a very strict Muslim country whereby sunbathing in a bikini is not allowed unless you sit on the tourist beach. The other side is the local beach, a beach whereby locals can enjoy the beach to themselves. And the third section is the prison located at the end of island.
I found it fascinating that the main tourist island also holds the prison. With only two prisons in Maldives, this prison was once a clothing factory and turned into a prison to house the drug addicts around 10 years ago. Although alcohol is banned in Maldives, I found it weird to think drugs are a problem.
With building work taking over the island, it would be hard to holiday there without hearing the constant sound of it throughout the day. But this is the norm when it comes to most local islands at the moment.
Building work taking over Maafushi island
But tourism has exploded on the island and it’s a worry on whether the locals can keep up with it let alone it be regulated by the government. I say it’s exploded but it’s not like Thailand and I wondered whether this is what Thailand was like years ago. The only busy part however was the tourist beach.The busy tourist beach at Maafushi Island
Because alcohol is banned in Maldives, Maafushi actually holds two booze boats just off the island with free transfers to and from the boat. If you stay at a resort, anything goes. You can walk around in bikinis, drink alcohol, the works, but to have a booze boat just off a local island? I thought it was a shame that people couldn’t respect the culture here. But then again, it was weird going to a beach destination and not seeing anyone drink.
Advertising for the booze boat
I didn’t go onto the booze boat even though Steve was desperate for a beer, but I did wonder how much a drink would cost. Instead there were juice bars in place of the of the bars we all know.
Juice bars are located right next to the tourist beach
Where we stayed on Maafushi Island
$50 a night to stay here at Maafushi Inn
I found Maafushi Inn on Airbnb and specifically wanted to stay there because of its price. There are plenty of other hotels that weirdly look like they could have been taken from the Gold Coast or from somewhere like Majorca which are a good $200 a night, but what would be the point in staying there?
Lots of hotels going up on Maafushi Island
I wanted to experience the real Maldives. I was told that all of the hotels and guest houses used to be like Maafushi Inn just a year ago, but with fast development, we saw big resorts on the beach. When we arrived, we were greeted by the most friendly staff who told us all about the island.
Our room was basic, but clean and had aircon (thank you!!) and a TV which for $50 a night between us was much better value than I’ve seen in other countries like The Philippines. The owner Ali said that the government charge 12% tax plus a new tourist green tax so it’s very difficult to put the room rate lower but, seeing as we were right on the local beach and it included a good breakfast of cereal, eggs, sausages toast and fruit, you really couldn’t go wrong.
In the evening we were treated to the most beautiful, romantic dinner as a surprise by the guest house of two local caught fish, rice, dahl and salad, it was amazing and the fish was by far the best fish I’ve ever had anywhere!
After we checked into our guesthouse, we went to take a look around the island. Because we arrived in January which is high season, it was actually pretty quiet apart from the beach.
I was amazed to see how many people were crammed into such a small beach that it made you wonder if you were actually staying in Maldives, until you could see a resort in the distance with the outline of the floating water villas.
Busy tourist beach on Maafushi Island
Because it wasn’t only hot but humid, we retreated back to our aircon room in the middle of the day before we set out again at sunset. Whilst walking along the local beach, we saw loads of people walking towards what looked like an event in their best dressed. To our surprise there was a local wedding taking place and it was lovely to see the whole island community come to pay their respects.
A beautiful Maldivian wedding on Maafushi Island
But, I couldn’t help think what a divide there was on this island. On one side there’s a beautiful wedding taking place and we were the only tourists there, whilst on the other, there’s a pack of sardines all squashed onto a beach sunning themselves. I couldn’t help but wonder if the tourists were even interested in the Maldivian culture at all. Was their only purpose of coming to this country to a/ say they’ve been to Maldives and to b/ get a suntan?Sunset on the tourist beach in Maafushi Island
It’s completely obvious it’s a Muslim country yet every single tourist woman I saw didn’t cover up at all and had their legs and shoulder out when walking around the island (with the exception of the tourist beach of course). I was obviously expecting a few women to do this but not every single one I came across. It’s something I just couldn’t get my head around. Were they just not aware to do this, or did they just not care?
Things to do in Maafushi
When it comes to what to do on this island, apart from sunning yourself there’s not much else to do than to go on an excursion ran by your hotel or guest house. Excursions are big on Maafushi and it’s a great island to be on to experience a day trip almost identical to what a resort would offer as well.
Excursions range from day or half day snorkeling trips and sand bars and a day spent on a resort. That’s right, you can go and experience a resort for the day for a fraction of the cost of staying at one. Our guesthouse told us that many of these resorts will charge between $100-$150 for an all inclusive package for food and alcoholic drinks but many will in actual fact only offer you two drinks. They mentioned Adaaran Resort being one that is completely all inclusive for $150, something we probably would have done just to see what it’s like (not to get that picture on the boardwalk, no, really, not at all!). You would spend the whole day there too which is inviting when you want to see what that Maldives experience we all think it is, is really like.
Because there’s so much competition on Maafushi, this is the cheapest island for accommodation rates as well as food choices. Most local islands don’t have cafes but Maafushi had plenty of cafes (even western looking ones), restaurants, shops, even a gelato bar and a gym I saw tourists using! There are also lots of watersports taking place around the tourist beach like jet skis, paddle boarding, parasailing, you name it!The local gym on Maafushi Island
Reasons to visit Maafushi Island
- For $50 for two people a night & breakfast, you can’t go wrong with Maafushi Inn.
- If you want to experience the Maldives like we know it with loads of excursions that will be exactly the same as the resorts then come to Maafushi as there is a lot of competition meaning you’ll get a good price.
- If you want the island to feel like you’re on holiday where there are loads of restaurants to choose from, music playing out along the street, watersports, including the comforts of home like western cafes and a gym then this is a great island to visit. I know other local islands don’t have these amenities and you’ll only be eating at your guesthouse with maybe a local shop if you’re lucky.
- Getting around the Maldives is tricky. I did a lot of research before we arrived and Maafushi is the easiest island to get to and cheapest from the airport.
- Lastly, Maldives is incredibly safe. I walked around with my big DSLR and no one batted an eye-lid. Not even for the drone either and I’ve seen crowds form when we got our drone out in Sydney.
Have you been to Maldives? I’d love to know where you stayed and what you thought of it.
Thanks for reading!