Planning a trip to the Maldives: Which Maldivian local islands to visit?

So you’re already hooked – you want to visit Maldivian local islands. Now comes the hard part – how to choose which Maldivian local island(s) to visit? We’ve been keeping notes on all the islands we stayed on to help you make a decision. Our hope is you’ll be able to make a more informed decision. The good thing is that you can’t be wrong as long as you are headed to the Maldives.

Planning a trip to Maldives local islands

Gulhi (South Malé Atoll)

  • Great sandy beach, just a few umbrellas, emerald waters, and a swing.
  • Snorkeling spot at the end of the beach, currents can be strong.
  • Lots of new construction, space is limited.
  • 30 mins from Male, so a bit touristy, many people coming for the day.
  • Stingrays and sharks can be observed in the evening at the pier.
  • Mesmerizing sunset on the local beach!
  • Local restaurants as well as touristy.
  • Excursions are affordable but they visit crowded places.
  • We couldn’t make a local connection, but we could observe local life respectfully.
  • Feels a bit crowded, almost 1000 people live on an island of size 400 meters x 200 meters.
  • Gulhi means pot.

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Where to stay on Gulhi: Pearlshine Retreat Maldives. We recommend a room with a balcony where you can hang out in the fresh air and watch people and scooters passing the street.

Planning a trip to Maldives local islands

Gaafaru (Gaafaru Atoll)

  • One hour away from Male by speedboat.
  • Nice small area converted to a tourist beach, great for hanging out and dipping into the sea.
  • No house reef so you need to go on an excursion.
  • You will definitely feel the local vibe.
  • Only 3 open guesthouses when we visited.
  • Very very welcoming hosts!
  • Excursions are a bit pricey but private and of very high quality.
  • Part of the island is still not built up.
  • Noisy electricity generator.
  • Just one or two restaurants (one local-style, one more international).
  • The main industry is fishing.
  • Local people population: 1600 (of which 800 work in resorts, usually).
  • Gaafaru means the big reef or stone.
Planning a trip to Maldives local islands

Where to stay on Gaafaru: Old Town Inn. Very lovely place with a nice rooftop and a super hospitable team. Special thanks to the chef who caters to your every whim!

Planning a trip to Maldives local islands

Fodhdhoo (Noonu Atoll)

  • Flight from Male to Maafaru ~40 minutes + boat ride ~30 minutes, the boat is 3+ hours but not very much acceptable due to covid.
  • Half of the island is undeveloped, meaning green with palms and agriculture.
  • Currently only one guest house with a close-to-resort experience.
  • World-class service attitude incorporated with great friendliness!
  • Great sandy beach with the house reef starting right after 10 meters.
  • Tours inexpensive, also nearby – because of the many reefs around.
  • The whole island is surrounded by a beach.
  • Blue bioluminescent plankton visible!
  • Lovely sunsets!
  • Generator powered by solar panels too, less noisy.
  • A small community, less than 200 people.
  • Local businesses are just starting out (one restaurant had just opened).
  • Fodhdhoo means Fonga Gas tree, species that are now extinct.
Planning a trip to Maldives local islands

Where to stay on Fodhdhoo: Sabba Beach Suite. This place will give you a resort-like experience on a tiny local island. If you have to choose just one place to stay in the Maldives, it must be this one!

Planning a trip to Maldives local islands

Thoddoo (Alif Alif Atoll)

  • One hour away from Male, 1h 30 min when the sea is rough.
  • The “agriculture” island. Produces the most watermelons in the Maldives.
  • Large areas of green – fields with cucumbers, watermelons, papaya, palms, other veggies, and fruits.
  • A bigger island so you might use a bike to get around.
  • Over 20 tourist guesthouses, a few local-style, and international restaurants.
  • Two tourist beaches – Sunrise beach and Sunset beach.
  • Natural shade on both beaches.
  • Sunset beach is the most popular, with a huge emerald shallow area and a tiny piece of a reef – great for snorkeling beginners too.
  • Amazing fruit stall at the entrance of the beach!
  • Lots of people on the beach, many families with kids, too. If you want to have a sun chair, arrive earlier than 9 a.m. Otherwise, there is space on the sand.
  • No house reef, so you need excursions for more snorkeling.
  • Great for a beach vacation!
  • Huge presence of Russian-speaking people.
  • Restaurants are quite expensive.
  • The population is over 2600 people but doesn’t feel crowded as the island itself is bigger – 2 kilometers x 1 kilometer.
  • You can observe local life, modest dress code seems to be optional.
  • Thoddoo is one of the islands that remained Buddhist even after people Male became Muslim. Toddu people were hiding their idols when they had to submit to the new religion. There used to be Buddhist ruins on the island before they were vandalized after their excavation in the 1950s.

Where to stay on Thoddoo: THILA FARM VIEW. As the name conveys, you’ll be in the middle of farming lands to enjoy the agricultural vibe of the island as well as the hospitality of the local people.

Planning a trip to Maldives local islands

Notes on all Maldivian local islands

  • Calls for prayers – part of the local vibe are the calls for prayers 5 times a day. No matter where you are, you will hear them. On Fridays, there’s a longer prayer.
  • Go slow seems to be the slogan everywhere. You can hang out and chill out on one of the many swings that hang conveniently under tree shades.
  • The rhythm of life is something you will feel and learn to live with – early mornings, late afternoons, and evenings are the times when people are moving and working. Everything becomes active and alive when the sun is not too scorching. When it burns or during the night, everything and everybody goes to sleep.
  • The weather changes fast, it’s usually hot and sunny, sometimes hot with a bit of rain. Unexpected storms can occur – we had 2 full days where it rained all the time which heavily obstructed sea traffic and everyday affairs. Our skin was so thankful for the rainy days. Most of the time raining, however, was for a short half an hour or at night.
  • Scooters and e-vehicles – the more populated the island, the more traffic it has. Scooters buzz around, while the e-cars are used for moving goods, luggage, and people. We loved walking and biking though.
  • Tourist (bikini) beaches are the places where you can put on a swimming suit and enjoy the beach, and the ocean. If you go to non-tourist beaches, make sure you are modestly dressed. Something that had obviously become a “trademark” is a sign on the bikini beach saying I love <name of the island>.
  • There are minimarkets and (sometimes even) supermarkets on each of the islands – you can find all the essentials there.
Planning a trip to Maldives local islands

Planning tips

  • June and July are considered the rainy season but are good for surfing. They say it doesn’t rain all the time though.
  • If you’re really into a certain activity, check with the island and guesthouse what is the best time of the year for it.
  • You need a PCR test to enter the Maldives and depending on your destination back home, you might need a PCR too (all the islands we stayed on have the facilities to do PCR tests, prices varied between 50 and 90 USD). You can check up-to-date travel restrictions on the Ministry of Tourism website.
  • You need to fill in the IMUGA form before your arrival and before your departure from the Maldives online and have to show the QR code at checkpoints.
  • Local ferries are suspended due to covid. Shared transfers exist but depending on the island, the number of passengers, and the frequency, are reduced. Guesthouses arrange your transfer.
  • Wi-fi could be unstable. Get a local sim card if you need to stay connected – Dhuragu (works great on Gulhi and Fodhdhoo, so-so on Gaafaru) and Ooredoo (works better on Thoddoo). Tourist sim cards are sold at the airport and can be hard (read unable) to find at other places. Both operators offer e-sims for a set of devices.
  • Guesthouses arrange your split forms when you go from one island to another.
  • Most of the places would charge a 3.5-5% card fee.
  • You can pay by local currency (Maldivian rufiyaa) or USD everywhere.
  • Bring enough sunscreen from home as there isn’t much choice on the local islands (sometimes there isn’t at all).
Planning a trip to Maldives local islands

We hope you now have a better idea of how to plan your trip to the Maldives and which local island(s) to choose. Let us know which is your favorite Maldivian island so we can put it straight to the bucket list!

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2 Responses

  1. Suncoral Maldives

    We want to add our place

    • We’d be happy to visit your place and eventually add it to our list of favorite islands!