Where to stay in Maldives? Which island to choose in Maldives? Where are the most beautiful beaches in Maldives ? Where to stay in the Maldives on a small budget ? These are the first questions I asked myself when I fixed the dates of my sunny holiday planned for next October.
And yes, this year we have decided to give ourselves a very good treat by choosing to go on this so controversial archipelago…
It’s true that with all what I had read, first I thought NO, especially not the Maldives… and then I discovered that we could go there without necessarily spending all our time on a resort island and that we could discover inhabited islands and enjoy tourism in a different way. But on the other hand, I didn’t expect so many possibilities and therefore so many difficulties to choose an island in the Maldives…
How to choose an island in maldives?
Given the vastness of the archipelago, to be able to choose an island in the Maldives, I had to look at the geography to :
- Understand the difference between local islands and private islands (resort islands);
- To find out where the most beautiful places to snorkel, to discover the underwater fauna;
- To find out where are the most beautiful beaches of the Maldives, small desert and paradise islands…
and all that not too far from Male…
So, I had to divide my stay in two and I had to select:
- one of the most beautiful atolls in the Maldives, famous for its population of turtles, manta rays and whale sharks. There, I was able to find a cheap hotel for the first 5 days of my stay,
- one small island of postcard scenery to end my stay in a hotel on stilts in the middle of a heavenly landscape. We will only spend 4 days there because unfortunately, I haven’t won the lottery yet!
I have to tell you that all this research took me a lot of time because I had to synthesize all the information I found on forums and travel blogs to have everything in hand and choose exactly the 2 islands of Maldives that correspond exactly to my expectations.
That’s why, in my turn, I’m going to share them for the next lucky ones who will go there to enjoy the experience!
The Maldives consists of 26 atolls, 2000 islands in total (200 of which are permanently inhabited), an area of almost 90,000 km2 and more than 800 kilometres long with Male as the main island where the international airport is located.
When I evaluated the distances between the islands and Male, I quickly understood that the first constraint for a short stay in the Maldives is to choose an atoll not too far from the main island. Indeed, having only 10 days on the place, I don’t want to lose time in transport and I want to be able to possibly take advantage of excursions from Male or to be able to transit there.
Which atoll in Maldives for underwater fauna?
To find the most beautiful atoll but within a perimeter around Male, I of course completely ignored all the very distant atolls to search only within a distance of less than 100 km.
The forum of the Routard was a good source of information. I learned that to see the famous whale sharks and manta rays, you have to go to Ari one of the most beautiful atolls in the Maldives.
Whale sharks and manta rays on Ari Atoll
So, I chose to spend the first 5 days of my stay in the Maldives on Ari Atoll (also called Aliff) which is considered one of the best spots in the world to see whale sharks and manta rays.
How’s Ari Atoll?
This huge atoll located 80 kilometers south-east of Male has about a hundred beautiful islets and a few islands, some of which are inhabited. Indeed, it is these local islands that particularly attract me. Not only question of budget to stay there cheaply for a few days, but also to see something else as well as the lagoon, the white sand and the coconut palms!
Maldives island with most activities
Now that I had found the Atoll, we must find the best island in this Atoll. Before choosing the island of Dhigurah, I hesitated for a long time with the island of Dhangethi on which there is a superb beach facing the lagoon where the sunsets are spectacular!
But to be really sure to see manta rays and whale sharks while enjoying a long lagoon, a beautiful white sand beach, turquoise waters…, it’s to Dhigurah that I have to go…
Dhigurah is an island 3 km long, with 600 inhabitants and located in the southern part of Ari atoll. For snorkeling, its reef is accessible and rich in multicolored fish and turtles. Its large and beautiful beach accepts bikinis (because yes, it should be pointed out because it is a Muslim country and bikinis are not allowed on all beaches). But I chose Dhigurah also for its offer of cheap hotels which is rare in the Maldives!
How do I get to Dhigurah Island from Male?
This is the question I asked the person in charge of the guesthouse before booking my stay. It was him who told me that there are daily speedboat rotations to Dhigurah from Male:
- Departures from Male airport every day at 16:00 (Friday at 15:00)
- Departure from Dhigurah every day at 6:30 am
The trip costs 38 USD and takes between 1h30 and 2h00 depending on weather conditions.
Best place to stay in Maldives on a budget
It’s very complicated to find a cheap hotel in the Maldives, which is correct, well placed with a beautiful beach and ideally located near the diving spots and observation of manta rays, whale sharks, turtles…
But the island of Dhigurah has some of them. On this island, my choice was the Athiri Beach guest house. Facing the lagoon, this hotel has a diving center that offers daily outings. It organizes day trips for diving or snorkeling with whale sharks and manta rays at least 2 to 3 times a week. Moreover, I could read in the comments that the hotel assists you in all the steps and takes care of organizing transfers between islands if needed but also to the airport of Male.
For 595 Euros for 5 nights with breakfasts included, I think I made a good choice because cheap hotels in Maldives are often less well located.
Best island of Maldives for its beaches
For the second part of my stay, which consists in spending 4 days like a ” honeymoon ” on a deserted islet, I had been indicated the atoll of Baa which is, it seems, simply idyllic (turquoise lagoon, crystalline waters…). But compared to the geographical situation of my first lodging on Ari Atoll in the South of Male, Baa Atoll (in the North of Male) was too far away. Going there meant coming back to Male and taking a seaplane. However, it was not possible in such a short time and with my small budget…
So, I looked for a small postcard island really close to Male and very easily accessible to spend our last 4 days in idleness mode and if possible on a pile on the lagoon.
So I searched on the atoll of South Male and I found my little paradise: Cocoa Beach.
How to choose a good resort in maldives?
So it’s decided: To spend our four dream days not too far from Male, I chose Cocoa Island on the South Male atoll. Indeed, Cocoa Island is very easy to reach from the airport of Male (40 minutes by speedboat) and it is known for its beaches which are among the most beautiful beaches of the Maldives.
Tongues of white sand melting in a turquoise blue lagoon, turtles and reef fish: this is exactly what I have been dreaming of for so long (since Polynesia in 2011 and Mauritius at the end of 2016).
Which resort in Maldives on Cocoa Island?
On Cocoa Island on the atoll of South Male, I discovered a very small islet: Kaafu where there is nothing on it but a small set of dream bungalows and some coconut trees …
Cocoa Island – Hotel in Paradise
So it is the Como Cocoa Island hotel resort that I have chosen and which will cost me 4 050 Euros for 4 nights. Yes, it’s expensive but when I saw the pictures and the comments, I really fell for it. I hope I won’t regret it, I’ll tell you all about it when I get back…
How to get to Cocoa Island from Male?
Located 32 km from Male, it can be reached by speedboat for USD 38 per trip. The trip takes about 40 minutes. For my part, I will come from Ari Atoll and to make it simple I will take a return Dhigurah-Male in speedboat then a Male-Cocoa Island.
Here is the link to use for the reservations of inter-island transfers in the Maldives: https://www.atolltransfer.com/