Best places to stay in the Maldives
The easiest thing to organise on a trip in this paradise is the flight ticket. Now comes the more complicated question: where to stay in the Maldives? And most important, what is the best island to stay in the Maldives?
But do not be stressed with finding the right accommodation in the Maldives, either for honeymoon and/or on budget, for couples or families.
Because this guide will answer all of your questions. And it’s all updated (no old stuff).
And if I was not able to resolve your doubt, just leave a comment and I will answer in no time.
Table of Contents
Let me say that your choice of where to stay in Fiji will depend mostly on the activity you are going to do, from relax and sunbathing to snorkelling, diving and so much more.
The Maldives is not just a bunch of islands. It’s actually a chain of 26 atolls spreading in one of the world’s most geographically dispersed countries.
No wonder it’s hard to make a choice. But no worries, I have organised a map (see below) that will help a lot in the process.
Then keep in mind that a few resorts are mostly dedicated to families and others to couples, sometimes adults only.
There are finally places that cater to both families and couple, sometimes dedicating areas to adults only (to have a bit of time off and full relax)
I just want to highlight a couple of newspapers in English that can be a good source of local information. The Maldives Independent, probably the most popular one, and The Edition, also a great reference. For the weather, you should check out this guide to the best time to visit the Maldives.
But now let’s dig into the different areas of the Maldives.
Best island in Maldives – Top ideas
If you have just a few minutes, here below a few tips and ideas that will help you choose your island in the Maldives
- Most of the flights arrive in Male, the capital
- You will need either a boat or a short flight trip to reach your final destination
- As a rule of thumb the closer your island is to Male the cheaper will be the final leg of transportation (more on this in the Important Information at the end of the post)
- There are budget accommodations in the Maldives as well as luxury ones. You will see below a description of the best islands in Maldives for every “taste”
- I personally suggest buying the full package (if available). It will give you more peace of mind besides saving some money (buying on-site will be more expensive).
- Best resorts for honeymoon and couples in Maldives: COMO Cocoa Island and Veligandu Island:
- Most exclusive accommodation: Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa
- Most unique place to stay in the Maldives: Hurawalhi Island because of the underwater restaurant, really impressive
- Best island in the Maldives for families: Kihaa Maldives Resort & Spa, a step ahead for any stay with kids
- Top island for budget conscious: Omadhoo Island with the Noomuraka Inn a great place to stay
- Best diving on a budget: Maamigili Island. There is a local airport for quick access. The Shamar Guesthouse works also as a diving center. Most of the expensive resorts offer also diving packages that you can agree on-site.
- Yes you can do island hopping in the Maldives, Maldivian Odyssey runs a 7 days experience by yacht
- A sailing holiday in the Maldives is also possible for either 7 days or 11 days
And now let’s move to the juicy stuff.
Best islands to stay in the Maldives [with a map]
The Maldives spread on 90,000 square kilometres, and over 1,100 islands (only a small part are actually inhabited). 800km from the most northern island to the most southern one. There is indeed a vast choice.
The interesting thing is that it’s impossible to find two identical islands. They are all different from each other.
If you are after the best snorkelling you should probably stay in the north of the Maldives where there are more shallow reefs, easy to swim over and full of fish.
For diving, you will have more options in the south where the lagoons are usually with deep water and it’s not unusual to find underwater caves too.
In saying that, the Maldives offer great snorkelling and diving everywhere.
For the sake of simplicity, I have divided the map of the islands into 3 areas (in blue you will see the atolls).
- Central Atolls: the islands in this atoll can be easily reached by speedboat (1-2 hours), a local ferry (1-6 hours) or a seaplane. I would definitely suggest them if you are short on time (for a stay in the Maldives of one week or less). In this area, you will find also a few cheap islands to stay in the Maldives, mostly in local guesthouse (more on this subject later). There are a few incredible islands with amazing resorts, usually of bigger size than in the other 2 areas (north and south). They are more popular, as easily accessible.
- Northern Atolls: the north of the Maldives tends to have less rain than the south (based on the data collected in the last 20 years by the Meteorology Center of the Maldives). In this respect, it is a better bet if you are after a sunny holiday. There are more exclusive resorts usually reachable by either seaplane or a domestic flight and a quick boat transfer.
- Southern Atolls: here you will find the most challenging diving sites. Resorts tend to be concentrated in the Addu and the Gaaf atolls, in the southernmost area of the Maldives. There is here the Gan International Airport. You can fly directly here from Colombo which can be a great time saver in case your flight is through Sri Lanka. This area has some of the most secluded and idyllic surfing in the world. You will share the wave with just a bunch of surfers, or maybe none at all.
You can also see a Google interactive map here.
Central atolls, easier to reach
In the Central area, the Ari Atoll is a very popular choice. There are islands with amazing resorts as well as inhabited islands offering affordable guesthouses for a stay in the Maldives on a budget. The north of the Atoll offers easier diving, not as deep. Here, you will be more likely to encounter whale sharks (luck is always a big factor). The south tends to be more for expert divers.
Another popular choice is the North Male Atoll. My suggestion is to avoid staying on an island too close to Male and its International Airport runway. You may end up with plenty of noise, which is probably not what you dreamed of when you booked your holiday.
Both of the above atolls are easy to reach. You can even think about some island hopping once there.
Northern Atolls, less probability of rain
The main island of Dharavandhoo has also a modern domestic Airport which works at the gateway to the atolls.
There are only a couple of islands offering local guesthouses, Dharavandhoo and Maalhos (one hour south by ferry). the accommodations are mostly resorts in this part of the Maldives.
If you fly through India, and more specifically Kerala, there is now a bi-weekly direct flight to Hanimaadhoo, one of the northmost islands of the Maldives run by Maldivian Airlines. This can be an easy gateway.
From there, you can book in a guesthouse in Hanimaadhoo, if you are on a budget, or book a resort nearby.
Southern Atolls, more secluded
This part of the Maldives is probably the most secluded area of the country. The main reason is the high distance to Male.
There are three airports with flights connecting to the capital. You may need on top a boat trip to the resort.
One of the airports, the Gan, has an international flight to Colombo which can be very handy if you are in Sri Lanka. It would save a ton of time as you don’t need a stopover in Male.
Best island to stay in the Maldives for honeymoon and couples
There are over 70 islands with a private resort, from tiny and boutique structures to bigger and more popular hotels.
In this section, I highlight the 3 best islands to stay in the Maldives for a honeymoon, or just for a relaxing trip as a couple.
Of course, this is just a personal opinion, as everyone choice and taste can be different. For sure, this is a good starting point.
What all of these islands have in common is a boutique resort, with an ad-hoc and personalised service, the possibility of eating at the own bungalow (mostly water bungalow) and a spa.
An important tip, book up to 12 months in advance, especially on high season, they are often booked out. Most of the hotels and resorts offer nowadays free cancellation anyway. It’s better to book the one you like and if you find another good one then you cancel the previous one (this is how I usually do at least, just easier)
Take the full-inclusive package for peace of mind, besides saving some money. Buying on-site may be much more expensive.
- COMO Cocoa Island: a tiny luxurious island in the South Male Atoll with just a few water bungalows where you will find yourself secluded from the rest of the world. The bungalows have a Balinese interior design. There is also the possibility to book a private villa, right at the end of the small pier. The dominant colours are the white, of the beach, and the turquoise, of the water. The island is a 40-minute speedboat trip from the airport, which makes it so convenient.
- Veligandu Island: intimate and private small island with water bungalows organised on 4 short piers. You can also book a beach villa for a much lower price. You can even mix your experience with a few days on a beach and the others on the water (making it more cost-effective). This resort has a beach and even a tennis court for the more active couples. The island is north of the Ari Atoll and 20 minutes by seaplane from the Male International Airport
- Villingili Island: in the Addu Atoll, that is where you will find the Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa, one of the best Shangri-La in the world. Few of the water villas offer also an amazing large private pool which makes this accommodation unique across the Maldives. You would need a domestic flight from Male or, if flying through Sri Lanka, you can book the direct international flight from Colombo (so convenient).
If you want to try the underwater restaurant, a really unique experience, than Hurawalhi Island is the place to be in the Maldives. The resort is located in the northern area of the Maldives, in the Lhaviyani Atoll. Of course, also here you have the possibilities to book both a water and a beach villa, with fantastic private pools.
The island is 40 minutes by seaplane from the Male International Airport, an incredible trip with an amazing view, by the way.
Best place to stay in the Maldives for families
Kids will love the Maldives.
Where to stay in the Maldives for families?
In my opinion, in a place that offers:
- a swimming pool: don’t take it for granted. If the kids are not too small, this may not be an issue. However, with toddlers and small ones, you may really want to check they have one. If the children are bigger, obviously, the sea offers so much that the lack of a swimming pool is not a problem at all.
- meals available on a buffet: a few resorts offer only a la carte menu, which is absolutely fine, if not actually better, for adults. However, for children, it may be an issue, especially if they are a bit fussy. Moreover, the kids will have actually a fun time in getting what they want from the buffet
- reef close to the beach: this may help if you have kids that want to do snorkelling however they still do not have the strength to swim to an outer reef
The Kihaa Maldives Resort & Spa is one of the favorites with families and kids. It is located in the Baa Atoll, in the north. It has a nice big outdoor pool and the snorkelling is just excellent. You need to take a domestic flight from the Male Airport.
If on a budget then in the Ukulhas Island you can book your own Villa at the Gunbaru Inn for an incredible bargain price. There is no pool but they are beachfront.
Best places to stay in the Maldives on a budget
If you are looking for cheap places to stay in the Maldives than you need to book in a local guesthouse. That’s where you will save lots of money.
So, what’s the catch?
You will not have the luxury time and the best food you usually have in an organised resort. And no water bungalows too.
The local guest house may be just meters from the beach and the pristine water. But you may have to take your towel and there is most probably no organised beach too.
But you can experience all the activities as in an organised resort, from diving to snorkelling, from fishing to isolated island trips, and anything else you can think of.
What island is best for a budget stay in the Maldives?
There are a few, mostly in the Ari Atoll (but not only). Time to reach these islands by fast boat is between 1 and 2 hours. The local ferry can take 3 times longer but it would cost a fifth of the price too.
Here below a list of the most budget-oriented islands in the Maldives
- Villingili Island (the closest option, you can be there in no time but you may experience less of a Maldive feeling)
- Maafushi Island
- Thoddoo Island, the Muraka Inn is a fabulous guesthouse with a private beach too. The price is so convenient that you will not believe you are actually in the Maldives!
- Ukulhas Island
- Bodufolhudhoo Island
- Mathiveri Island
- Omadhoo Island, the Noomuraka Inn is a great choice, so close to the beach and so friendly too. You can also ask to add a small for a little kid if you are travelling as a family.
- Mahibadhoo Island
- Hangnaameedhoo Island
- Maalhos Island
- Maamigili Island (with a local airport). Have a look at the Shamar Guesthouse where they run also a Dive Center, something you really want to try out in the Maldives.
And there are a few others. Not all inhabited islands are actually allowed to have guesthouses.
Sometimes the resort include also free snorkelling gear which is a great bonus (I personally suggest to take your own though)
Eating in the villages is quite cheap, considering the location. You can have a meal for US$10-15 which is not too bad, usually more of an Indian style food.
If you are after some diving, you may want to consider an all-inclusive offer (Accommodation full board + diving) of Rasdhoo Divelodge. The 7 days package comes at a steal price, considering you are in the Maldives. The same price of a night in a big resort, without diving.
Liveaboard Maldives – Island Hopping a real adventure
If staying in a single resort may look boring or you want to explore more island, then liveaboard (navigating through the islands in your own cabin) may actually be the best place to stay in the Maldives after all.
It can be actually a great experience because it will allow exploring more atolls and inhabited islands, otherwise not accessible (no guesthouses).
There are cruises dedicated to snorkelling and/or divers, as well to surfers or to people looking for a sailing experience. And it can be a much cheaper option.
In any case, you should book well in advance a Maldives cruise package as there is not much offer out there
Maldives island hopping cruise
You can explore a few islands and do all of the water sports, including fishing, from the luxury of a motorised Yacht.
And most of the activities are included in the price, which becomes absolutely a bargain for a 7 days trip.
Maldives sailing holiday
This is one experience I want to do on my future trip to the Maldives, Sailing with a catamaran through a few islands, with lots of snorkelling and water sports.
Important information for a stay in the Maldive
You will most likely arrive at the International Airport of Male in Hulhule Island. From there you will need to transfer to your resort.
The closer it is to Male, the cheaper will be the return fare cost. The trip by boat will be cheaper, however, if the resort is too far than you will need another flight, which adds up in the cost (considerably).
To see the transfer cost, scroll down to the fine prints where you will see the required type of transfer (speedboat, seaplane or domestic flight), the cost and the time they run the service (from, to). Here below an example.
You can check the Government-run ferries on this website. Speedboats are always a quicker option. For a seaplane, check directly the TransMaldivian Airways website. Maldivian and FlyMe fly domestically too. Once you have booked your resort, you may ask them to organise the transfer for you. Easy.
These local transportations may not be available when your international flight arrives (seaplanes, for example, operate only during the day), which means you will have to spend a night in Male. On the way back you may experience the same issue.
As a rule of thumb, if you arrive in the morning then you may be able to catch the transport to the resort on the same day (speedboat or plane). If you land in the late afternoon then it will be very unlikely and you will need to book a night in Male or in Hulhule Island (cheaper). They are both reachable with a taxi drive (the hotel can organise it for you)
The resorts also tend to take the customers to the International airport much earlier than actually need, sometimes even 6-7 hours prior to the departure. This is to prevent possible issues, however, you are gonna miss almost a day just for this.
If your stay is a week or longer than this may be ok. However, for a shorter stay, you may want to choose a resort not too far from Male to avoid spending too much time in transit and not actually on holiday.
Booking your accommodation in a water villa will be more expensive than the same accommodation on the beach (up to 3 times and more). If you are travelling on a budget it is a good idea to mix the two types of arrangements (but you should experience the water bungalow for at least one night, unique)
The water bungalows are an absolutely amazing experience, however, keep in mind they will be hotter too, if compared to the beach bungalows, usually in the shade, under the palm trees. Obviously, all the accommodations are air-conditioned, but the umbrella outside the water bungalow will not help that much with the heat.
Book a full board package because paying as you go can be really expensive. The all-inclusive package will give you more peace of mind.
Try to get some money at the ATM in Male or at the airport. It will be very hard, if not impossible, otherwise. In the resort, you can use your credit card of course.
The resorts usually charge for the usage of the snorkelling equipment. If you are planning for a stay in the Maldives for a week or longer, you may want to take the equipment with you, a much cheaper option.
Drones: you officially need to ask the resort manager to fly your drone, the answer will be most probably no, unfortunately. Privacy is the main concern.
Best time to visit the Maldives
The temperature all year round is very similar, 25 to 32 degrees Celsius. The difference between the seasons is the humidity and rain.
Here below a short overview of the season and months weather. You can read also a full guide to the best time to visit the Maldives.
December to April is the dry high season with December really busy, and probably the most expensive month to stay in the Maldives
May to November is the rainy sea season. Although usually, the rain comes only in the afternoon. There may be, though, cyclones in this time of the year, which means continuous rain and strong wind for a few days.
July and August can be busy too, mostly with the Europeans having the summer holiday.
May as well as November are good shoulder months, you may experience some rain but it won’t be that busy either, and it will be cheaper too.