Consisting of 1,192 coral islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. The photos might look too good to be true, but as soon as you arrive, you’ll notice just how breathtaking the scenery is. The crystal clear water, colorful coral reefs, and breezy beaches make this a real dream destination.
The Maldives isn’t just known for its beauty – it’s also notoriously one of the most expensive destinations in the world. Long a magnet for the rich and famous looking for somewhere exclusive to spend their money, some resorts can set you back years of savings. This, unsurprisingly, discourages a lot of people from visiting.
But – things are changing! The Maldive islands are opening up more and more to budget-friendly travel options (with affordable flights now departing from Sri Lanka). With this guide, we hope to give you the lowdown on the five best places to stay in the island nation.
So, let’s dive right in!
- Where to Stay in the Maldives
- Maldives Neighborhood Guide
- The Maldives’ Top 5 Places to Stay in
- 1. Kaafu – Where to Stay in the Maldives for your First Time
- 2. Malé – Where to Stay in the Maldives on a Budget
- 3. Dhaalu – Best Area in the Maldives for Families
- 4. Alifu – Romantic Getaway in the Maldives for Couples
- 5. Addu – Coolest Place to Stay in the Maldives
- Final Thoughts on Where To Stay in the Maldives
Where to Stay in the Maldives
Not looking for anywhere specific? These are our top picks for accommodation in the Maldives.
Quirky Escape in the Maldives: Bandos Island Garden
The Maldives is the domain of luxury resorts, but thanks to Airbnb, some of these are becoming more accessible to regular travelers. Dome Houses are a typical architectural style of the region, and in this holiday village, you’ll get one all to yourself. It’s just like staying in the more established resorts, but without the super extortionate prices.
Budget-Friendly Accommodation in the Maldives: UI Inn
This hotel is in the heart of Malé, only a short walk from the harbor where you can catch ferries to other islands. It’s a more budget-friendly place to stay in the Maldives, including amenities such as bike hires and an on-site restaurant.
Luxurious Hotel in the Maldives: Niyama Private Islands
When you think of the Maldives, this is usually the first type of resort that comes to mind! Niyama Private Islands is a massive resort that will cater to your every whim. From an underground nightclub to a huge spa, the resort is like a little town in its own right. They also have a seaplane dock, so you can get there from the airport in only 40 minutes.
Consisting of the North and South Malé Atolls, Kaafu is the most popular region with tourists. This is where you will find some of the most famous resorts in the country.
Malé is the capital city of the Maldives. It isn’t actually visited that frequently by tourists, except to catch a speedboat or seaplane to their resort. There are admittedly some good reasons for this. It’s one of the most densely populated spots in the world, so it can get quite busy.
Dhaalu is in the southwest of the country and houses some of the more contemporary resorts. It has only really opened up to tourism within the past decade, so you’ll find many of the hotels here cater to a more modern clientele.
Alifu is the second most popular destination with visitors. This is where you will find some of the most exclusive resorts in the entire country. Alifu Alifu, in particular, is super popular with couples. Think epic diving locations, romantic sunsets, and serene beaches.
Addu is a real wild-card, but if you like to travel off the beaten path, we think you’ll love it. This is the Southernmost region in the Maldives, and it’s home to the second-highest population of all the atolls.
The only way of getting around the Maldives is by speedboat or seaplane, so you’ll have to pick your base wisely. There are a couple of larger airports and ferries around, but it’s much easier to pick a place and stick to it.
That being said, you’ll actually have more freedom staying in a resort. The Maldives is a Muslim country, so drinking and walking around in swimwear is banned in local areas. However, resorts are allowed to ignore these rules.
Kaafu is where the majority of visitors stay when they visit the Maldives. Consisting of the North Malé and South Malé Atolls, this is the best-connected region in the country. This makes it a great choice for first-time visitors.
The city of Malé is a completely different experience. The population of 200,000 all share this one small island, making it one of the most densely populated places in the world. It’s not where most tourists opt to stay, but budget travelers can find some fantastic deals on hotels here.
The Alifu atolls are the second most popular group of islands for visitors. It hosts some of the more exclusive resorts, making it an ideal destination for couples. If you’d rather mingle with locals, Alifu Dhaalu offers the same great scenery, as well as some towns to explore.
Dhaalu is one of the most recent regions to open up to tourism. The resorts here are catered more to modern tourists, with plenty of space for families and groups.
Finally, Addu is the Southernmost region of the Maldives. It’s still fairly untouched by tourism, but the local airport makes it fairly easy to visit from the capital city. Here you will get to discover a more unique side of Maldivian life – something that’s quite rare for visitors.
Still undecided? Keep reading for more information about each place, as well as our top accommodation picks in each!
The Maldives’ Top 5 Places to Stay in
Consisting of the North and South Malé Atolls, Kaafu is the most popular region and is where you will find some of the country’s top resorts. It’s also the best connected area in the region. This is perfect for first-time visitors that are thinking about exploring outside their resort.
Kaafu is also growing into one of the more diverse areas of the Maldives. You can find everything from budget bargains to lavish luxury across both atolls. If you can, we recommend choosing either a resort or an island that offers tours of neighboring destinations.
Unique Hideaway in Kaafu: Bandos Island Garden
This small cluster of dome houses feels like a village in its own right. They also run regular shuttle boats to the capital, as well as to the airport and back. This gives you more freedom than you would expect from other tourist islands in the country.
Best Bed and Breakfast in Kaafu: Midsummer Thulusdhoo
This is the only hostel in the entire country! Backpackers need not despair any longer – you can now tick the Maldives off your bucket list too. The hostel is run by locals, so you’ll get a unique insight into Maldivian culture. Thulusdhoo Island has a laid-back atmosphere, with a spacious beach and some fantastic restaurants.
Z in Kaafu: Biyadhoo Island Resort
This gorgeous resort is actually among the most affordable in Kaafu. It’s located in the South Malé Atoll and is a little bit more peaceful than its northern neighbors. They offer water sports such as windsurfing and kayaking, as well as snorkeling for those keen to explore the ocean. The prices also includes your speedboat transfer from the airport.
Things to See and Do in Kaafu:
- Check with your hotel! Each one offers something different – snorkeling, diving, and boat trips are particularly popular in this area.
2. Malé – Where to Stay in the Maldives on a Budget
Malé is the capital city of the Maldives. It isn’t actually visited that frequently by tourists, except to catch a speedboat or seaplane to their resort. There are admittedly some good reasons for this. It’s one of the most densely populated places in the world, so it can get quite busy. Hotels follow national rules here too, so no drinking.
That being said, Malé is a great budget destination if you don’t mind going teetotal and covering up a little. The hotels here offer some of the best rates in the country. You’ll also find a few great excursions departing from the harbor for a very reasonable fee.
Coastal Paradise in Malé: Beachfront Villa
This villa is located right next to the ferry terminal that connects Malé to the airport – perfect for those evening arrivals where you just want to kick back and relax for the night. The colorful deck area comes with views into the city whilst the master bedroom also offers gorgeous sea views. If you want to stay in the city but don’t want to compromise on those chilled-out coastal vibes, this is the place for you.
Affordable Hotel in Malé: UI Inn
This is our top pick for budget travelers in the Maldives! They have rooms for less than $30 a night – a bargain in such an expensive destination. There is a terrace on the top floor where you can marvel at views across the Indian Ocean. Plus, it’s conveniently close to the main shopping and dining district in Malé.
Central Hotel in Malé: Samann Grand
You’ll struggle to find a typical hotel experience anywhere else in the Maldives, but Malé has some super affordable options right in the heart of the city. This is one of the best-rated hotels in Malé thanks to the excellent guest service and fantastic location. Every room comes with its own private balcony where guests can admire ocean views.
Things to See and Do in Malé:
- Visit the Islamic Centre – the largest mosque in the city. It’s one of the only ones that non-Muslims can enter (outside of prayer hours).
- Check out Sultan Park and National Museum. It’s a bit of an odd attraction – it seems like more of a shrine to the nation’s sultanate past.
- The Local Market is a great spot to grab some souvenirs. You’ll find all of the atolls in the country represented here.
- Backpacker Maldives offers budget-friendly cruises of neighboring atolls and coral reefs – perfect for seeing the country without breaking the bank.
3. Dhaalu – Best Area in the Maldives for Families
Dhaalu is in the southwest of the country and houses some of the more contemporary resorts. It’s only really opened up to tourism within the past decade, so you’ll find many of the hotels here cater to a more modern clientele. Lots of hotels now offer kids’ clubs, but make sure to double-check this before you book!
Even if you don’t opt to stay in a resort, the inhabited islands in Dhaalu have a friendly and laid-back atmosphere. This makes them a great place for a chilled-out family vacation. Each island comes with its own restaurants and boutiques, so you’ll have plenty to explore.
Peaceful Bed and Breakfast in Dhaalu: Paradise Island
On a budget? This charming villa is the next best thing for smaller families heading to the Maldives. Although it’s officially only for two people, you can also be provided with extra cots so it can accommodate up to two additional young children. The villa is located just off the beach, and toys are provided. It’s part of a larger resort, so there are also restaurants and diving classes on offer.
Spacious Guest House in Dhaalu: Dhebanveli Guest Villa
Larger families on a budget can instead opt to stay in this humongous six-bedroom villa! It’s on an inhabited island so you won’t be able to drink or wear a bikini, but this isn’t a major concern for a lot of families. What you lack in sunset tipples you’ll gain in learning about local culture in a laid-back town. It’s also a popular destination for fishing, with regular excursions departing nearby.
Elegant Resort in Dhaalu: Niyama Private Islands
This is our top pick for families heading to the Maldives. Underwater nightclub aside, this hotel is packed with family-friendly features. It has the largest kids’ club in the country which accepts all children from 12 months to 12 years old – perfect for giving the adults some peace and quiet. They have more restaurants than you’ll have time to visit, representing cuisines from all over the world.
Things to See and Do in Dhaalu:
- Check with your hotel! Snorkeling is also pretty popular here, and you’ll also find many of them offer ferries to the locally inhabited islands where you can enjoy shopping.
- Explore the local boutiques and restaurants.
- Pack your beach bag and enjoy a day on the sand.
4. Alifu – Romantic Getaway in the Maldives for Couples
Alifu is the second most popular destination with visitors, and is where you’ll find some of the most exclusive resorts in the country. Alifu Alifu, is super popular with couples in particular. Think epic diving locations, romantic sunsets, and serene beaches.
Alifu Dhaalu, in the south of the region, is a bit more local in terms of atmosphere. You’ll find the resorts here are a bit more modern and often more affordable. This makes it a great spot for budget-conscious couples planning a unique vacation.
Peaceful Water Villa in Alifu: Nika Island
This is without a doubt one of the most beautiful Airbnb Properties in the world! Each villa is surrounded by a coral reef – the perfect place to go snorkeling or diving. You’ll also have unbeatable views of the sunset every evening. Connected to an island, you can enjoy some sunbathing on the beach or head to the resort spa for a luxurious massage.
Locally Owned Villa in Alifu: Huraa Gandú
If you’d rather stay on an inhabited island, this quaint little villa is an excellent choice. It’s actually pretty affordable, despite being located right on the beach. The interiors have been newly renovated, and create a calm and inviting space. The host is a local, so you can also grab some tips on what to do elsewhere on the island.
Honeymooners Paradise in Alifu: Kandolhu Maldives
If you’re planning a honeymoon in the Maldives, you might as well splash out! This five-star resort is a firm favorite with newlyweds thanks to the unbelievably good guest service and luxurious facilities. Each room comes with floor-to-ceiling windows so you can look out at the ocean. There’s also a private beach area where you can soak up the rays.
Things to See and Do in Alifu:
- Check with your resort! Many of the hotels in this area cater to couples, offering spa and luxury dining services.
- Diving is particularly popular here, especially on a Liveaboard.
- Relax on the white-sand beaches.
5. Addu – Coolest Place to Stay in the Maldives
It’s a real wild-card, but you’ll love Addu if you like to travel off the beaten path. This is the Southernmost region in the Maldives and is home to the second highest population of all the atolls. Despite this, it’s relatively untouched by the tourism industry and gives a more authentic insight into local life.
The entire atoll is connected by bridges, so you can actually get around without stepping foot on a single boat. There is an airport on the main island with regular connections to Malé, so make sure to book your onward flight if you’re planning an adventure in Addu.
Spacious Home in Addu: Addu City
Over on Meedhoo, this bungalow is in the quieter part of Addu. The rooms are pretty basic, but they’re spacious and are pretty affordable. In many ways, this is the closest you will get to living in an authentic local home whilst visiting the Maldives. Meedhoo Jetty is within walking distance, connecting you to other atolls by ferry and seaplane.
Calm Studio in Addu: Addu Stay
This local home is a great stay for creatives that are looking for enough seclusion to unwind, but with a reasonably-sized town nearby to interact with others and discover a new culture. It’s also located in Meedhoo, so you’ll have plenty of scope for day trips and further exploring.
Serene Resort in Addu: Equator Village Resort
Located in Gan, this three-star hotel is right next to the airport – perfect for those late arrivals. It also means you can take a quick plane ride to another atoll to explore the country even further. This is the most populous side of Addu, so expect lots of restaurants and shops in the area. Since it’s a resort, you can also drink within the vicinity.
Things to See and Do in Addu:
- Gan Sunset Bridge connects the main island with Gan (where the airport is) and offers some truly mesmerizing views.
- Hithadhoo Aari Kilhi is a freshwater body in the heart of the region offering a great spot for capturing those memories on camera.
- The Market in the center of Addu is a great spot for grabbing some unique souvenirs.
Final Thoughts on Where To Stay in the Maldives
The Maldives is without a doubt one of the best tropical destinations in the world. The bright ocean colors, dazzling sunlight, and calm atmosphere makes this the perfect spot to escape from the daily grind and unwind for a while. And the best part is – it’s becoming more affordable for budget backpackers.
We have two overall favorites here – Malé and Kaafu! Malé is the perfect gateway to the Maldives for those on a budget, and you can still enjoy the breathtaking scenery. However, Kaafu is well worth a visit if you have the budget. These are the best-connected atolls in the country and offer the typical attractions you would expect of the Maldives.
That being said, the best place to stay really depends on what you want to get out of your trip! Addu is another great budget destination and offers something totally different from the more touristy destinations. Dhaalu and Alifu are really popular for their exclusive resorts and laid-back retreats. We hope this guide has helped you narrow down your options.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!
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