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Maafushi Island – An Affordable Way to Explore Maldives

A drone shot of a couple sat on a large "Maafushi" white statue sign with sculptures of marine life

Maafushi Island – An Affordable Way to Explore Maldives

Maafushi Island in the Maldives is a slice of heaven on earth. Located in the heart of the Indian Ocean it’s famous for its stunning beaches, vibrant coral reefs, and budget-friendly accommodations.

An aerial shot of the northern part of Maafushi - a tropical island surrounded by clear water

Maafushi

Maafushi Island is where it all started for the affordable Maldives travel. It’s thanks to this tiny island that budget travel is now possible around the tropical nation. In 2009 when the government changed the law to allow non-resort tourism, the first guesthouses and hotels started to develop here.

Want to know more about affordable Maldives trips? Check out our complete guide to the Maldives on a Budget.

Getting to Maafushi

The cheapest way to get to Maafushi is by utilizing the Maldives’ public ferry system.

There’s a boat running daily (except for Fridays) that leaves the main island of Male at 15:00pm. It only costs $3 per person one way and it takes around 90 minutes.

A queue of people waiting to board a blue ferry in the Maldives

If you’re landing in Male Airport (Velana International Airport) then you need to get the airport ferry over to the main Male Island. This ferry runs every 10 minutes and costs $1. It’s right outside the airport and you can buy your ticket at a small booth near where the ferry docks. This ferry takes you to Hulhumale Ferry Terminal, but the Maafushi ferry departs from Villingili Ferry Terminal on the opposite end of the island. The best way to get there is by hailing a taxi outside the terminal, it should only cost you around $2.

You can also go by speedboat directly from Male Airport to Maafushi. It’s a bit more expensive at around $20-$25 per person one way, but it does mean you get there in 45 minutes instead of 90.

Best Things to Do in Maafushi

Due to Maafushi being the original non-resort island, and drawing the largest number of tourists, there’s more to do here than most islands.

Bikini Beach

Most islands in the Maldives have beach areas reserved for tourists named ‘Bikini Beach’. The Maldives is a Muslim country and so rules on how people dress is very conservative. For that reason, each island has designated places where it’s okay to wear beachwear like shorts and bikinis.

Bikini Beach on Maafushi is on the northwest corner of the island. It’s a beach between two large breakwaters with a few palm trees at the back. It’s a great beach for bathing as the water is warm and shallow. There are places behind the beach that sell king coconuts and fresh fruit smoothies.

There’s also Arena beach, in front of the same named hotel, which is often quieter. It’s just round a bit from Bikini Beach to the northeast.

Harbor for Sunset

An aerial shot of the sunrise at the northern end of Maafushi - clear, blue waters, palm trees, and hotels

The rocky breakwater surrounding the port where you arrived by boat is a great place to watch the sunset. There are plenty of fish to spot from here, and many rays swimming around the harbor.

Excursions – Snorkelling, Islands, and Resorts

There’s plenty of choice when it comes to day trips from Maafushi. There are several companies offering similar excursions at comparable prices. We chose iCom Tours based on their positive reviews and they were very well run.

One bucket list adventure is the nurse shark and stingray trip. You actually swim with the nurse sharks, and you’ll be completely surrounded by a huge school of these gentle giants. The tour guides capture it all on a GoPro and forward you the footage later that evening. The footage we got was incredible. If you’re a capable swimmer and you follow the guide’s instructions, they will let you snorkel with them alone while they’re filming other groups.

We also really enjoyed our excursion to Gulhi Island, which included stops at various reefs. We were lucky enough to swim with a number of turtles at a reef drop-off as well as a diverse range of fish. We ended the day with food and relaxation time on a secluded beach on Gulhi.

If you’re interested in experiencing overwater bungalow resorts, day trips from Maafushi are available. While they are cheaper than staying at the resorts, they’re still a bit on the pricey side.

Renee’s Coral Garden

A man-made coral garden of frames with young coral growing and a large school of silver fish

Renee’s Coral Garden is located off the shore to the northeast of the island. It’s around 200m from Sunrise Beach.

Google Maps does have its location marked, though this isn’t necessarily useful when you’re in the water. Unless you take your phone in a waterproof sleeve, you’re going to have to locate it manually. But it is worth checking on Maps first to get an idea of where you’re heading.

An orange, white, and black clownfish in a huge sea anemone

To find it you need to swim directly east from the beach past a huge swathe of sea grass. We found the visibility lacking at first because it was a little choppy near the shore and the sand was being disturbed. As you head out this will begin to improve. After you leave the expanse of grass, you should continue over a wide-open area of sand until you can suddenly see the marine life and coral patches.

There are dozens of man-made reefs spread around with an impressive diversity of animals. We spotted pufferfish, lionfish, butterfly fish, and many large schools of tropical fish.

Water Activities

A couple parasailing at sunset above the ocean

Similar to the excursions and trips, there are also many places running water activities on Maafushi. We decided on Active Watersports and the service was great. The activities include parasailing, jet skis, a fun tube, and sea kayaks.

A couple sat on a jet ski in the shallow water near the beach

It worked out better value to book a package with more than one activity, so we opted for all four! The parasailing was breathtaking; you can see the entire island from above. What’s more, they film you on a drone and transfer you the incredible videos. For an extra special experience, book the parasailing for sunset.

Moonlight Bar

A group of men in traditional Maldivian dresses performing a local dance at a beach club

A slight downside to the Maldives when compared to other holiday destinations is there isn’t as much to do in the evenings. But Maafushi is somewhat of an exception as they have the Moonlight Bar.

They have live music at 8pm every night and they serve the best smoothies, milkshakes, and mocktails in the Indian Ocean. The traditional Maldivian band were great fun to watch – definitely a highlight. They also had solo guitarists and singers on other nights.

They also serve food, but it’s probably best to go before the entertainment starts as it can get loud and busy.

Boat Bar

Maafushi is a dry island like all of the non-resort islands in the Maldives. But thanks to a get out clause, a boat offshore doesn’t count.

The Boat Bar or Floating Bar is an anchored boat that’s allowed to sell alcohol. To get there you get a small boat from the Maafushi harbor. It was difficult to find so we just had to ask around.

They have a DJ playing some questionable tunes and they serve beers, wines, and liquor. It was really quiet when we went so would probably be better if there was a group of you. Also, it’s worth noting that it’s not as cheap as you might think – around $6-10 for a drink.

Where to Stay in Maafushi

An aerial shot of Maafushi Island surrounded by clear waters with sea grass and coral areas

Narnia Maldives is a great, centrally located guesthouse with spacious rooms and breakfast included. It costs around $80 per night.

Another option if you’d prefer a bigger hotel is Arena Beach Hotel on the north end of Maafushi. They have a beach right in front and nice restaurants nearby. Arena costs around $160 per night.

Where to Eat in Maafushi

Our favorite restaurant on Maafushi is an Indian restaurant called Tandoori Flames Maafushi. It’s around 30 yards north of the Moonlight Bar with a large sandy seating area outside.

Another Indian place we loved was Aveli Restaurant near Bikini Beach in the north. The outdoor seating is really nice in the night, adorned with fairy lights.

Maafushi FAQs

Why is Maafushi Island famous?

Maafushi is famous for its budget-friendly accommodation, stunning beaches, and vibrant local culture.

How safe is Maafushi?

Maafushi is generally considered safe for tourists, but standard precautions should be taken.

Can you drink alcohol in Maafushi?

No, alcohol is not allowed in Maafushi, however there is a boat bar offshore where it is permitted.

How far is Maafushi from Male?

Maafushi is about 27 kilometers (16.8 miles) from Male.

How long does it take to get from the airport to Maafushi?

The transfer typically takes around 30-45 minutes by speedboat and about 90 minutes by ferry.

How much does it cost to go from the airport to Maafushi?

The cost varies but is approximately $20-25 USD for a speedboat transfer and $3 for a ferry.

How many days are enough for Maafushi?

A 3-5 day stay allows you to enjoy the island’s beauty and nearby activities.

Can you wear shorts in Maafushi?

Yes, you can wear shorts on Maafushi, but remember to dress modestly in local areas.

How do you get around Maafushi?

Maafushi is a small island, and you can easily explore it on foot. Bicycles are also available for rent.

Is Maafushi a local island?

Yes, Maafushi is a local island with a mix of local culture and tourist amenities.

Is Maafushi worth visiting?

Yes, Maafushi’s affordability, beautiful beaches, proximity to Male, and interesting excursions make it a worthwhile destination.

Is Maafushi expensive?

Maafushi is budget-friendly compared to many other Maldivian islands, making it an affordable option for tourists and backpackers.

Maafushi Island – An Affordable Way to Explore Maldives

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