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Huraa Island Travel Guide - Maldives on a Budget

The Maldives needs no introduction as a picturesque gem nestled in the Indian sea. Renowned for its pristine beaches and azure waters, it’s the ultimate bucket-list destination for any beach lover. 

However, with its seaplanes and ultra-swanky water villas, this island nation is often thought of as an exclusive playground for the uber-rich that has never been and will never be accessible to the regular masses.

If you’ve written off the Maldives as something that’s beyond your reach, this article may change your mind.

The Maldives is often associated with luxury travel. And that makes total sense, because most of the resorts and over-water villas being advertised can cost up to USD 5,000 per night (and that’s not including taxes)!

Overwater villa in the Maldives
Credit: Ila Mae Thie / Wikimedia Commons

But this doesn’t mean there’s no hope at all for backpackers or budget travelers like myself.

While previously tourists were only allowed on expensive private islands, in 2008 the Maldivian government changed the laws and opened up the local islands for tourism.

What this means is that now you can stay at budget guesthouses for as low as USD 30 and get a decent room with free breakfast and all the basic amenities. Most of the guesthouses also offer diving and snorkeling trips at reasonable prices.

Needless to say, this was excellent news to me. So far, I’ve been to 5 local islands in the Maldives: Male, Hulhumale, Maafushi, Thulusdhoo, and Huraa.

Overview of Huraa Island

On the bikini beach of Huraa Island.

Huraa is an inhabited island located in the North Male Atoll, roughly 20 kilometres northwest of the country’s capital, Male.

With a population of only around 1000, this small island thrives on fishing and tourism. It has most of the infrastructure and conveniences you may need, including mini markets, souvenir shops, a pharmacy, cafes, and restaurants.

One of my favorite things about Huraa is that its topography is more diverse than a lot of the other islands. Apart from beaches, it also has a mangrove swamp that you can kayak in!

Although small, this island is not overcrowded — we only saw a handful of foreign tourists. Our guesthouse owner told us that Huraa is more popular for local tourists looking for a short break, thanks to its proximity to the capital. So, if you’re looking for somewhere that still feels authentic and not too commercialized, this is it.

There are a few other inhabited and private islands nearby including some on the same public ferry route, so you can include them in your itinerary if you’re so inclined. 

Best Time to Go to Huraa Island

It’s pretty hard to predict the weather in the Maldives, as each island has its own climate, and the more remote the island is, the more different it is from the rest of the country.

However, since Huraa is close enough to the capital, it follows the general Maldives’ climate:

Dry Season

(December – March)

During this time, the country enjoys little rainfall and low humidity, with temperatures around 29°C – 31°C (84°F – 86°F), which is why it is visitors’ favorite time to go. But going in the peak season also means that you’ll be dealing with more crowds, and prices can increase dramatically.

Wet Season

(May – October)

Rain frequently occurs during this monsoon season, although temperatures remain almost the same. The wettest month in the Maldives is September.

We visited in October and did experience rain on two of the six days we spent in the Maldives. The rest of the time, it was hot and sunny. The good thing was, since it was a low season, there were not many people around and prices were low.

Shoulder Seasons

(April & November)

These two months are the transitional periods between the two seasons and are known for clear water, making them the perfect months for diving or snorkeling. Prices are still low around this time, so if you’d like to visit the Maldives on a budget, you might want to consider visiting during the shoulder season.


How to Go to Huraa Island

From Velana Airport to Male

Unless you’re booking a private speedboat, there is no direct transfer from Velana International Airport to Huraa Island; you first need to go to the capital island Male. After you exit the airport building, cross the street in front of it, turn left, and you will see a ticket counter with a sign saying “Ferry to Male”.

The ferry service to Male is every 10 – 30 minutes, costing MVR 15 (USD 1) and is available around the clock from Saturday to Thursday. On Fridays, ferries only operate from 6 a.m. to midnight. The journey takes around 15 minutes.

Every passenger is allowed up to 3 pieces of luggage for free. Any extra will be charged at MVR 10 per piece.

Check the Male Airport website for the latest fare and schedule updates.

From Male to Huraa

Once you reach Male, you have three options to get to Huraa:

1. By Local Ferry

This is the cheapest option to get to Huraa Island, but it’s also the slowest, taking about 1.5 hours. Ferry tickets are not available online, so you’ll have to purchase it directly at the counter for MVR 22 (USD 1.50).

There is one ferry a day from Male at 2.30 p.m. and one ferry from Huraa back to Male at 8 a.m. You can refer to the ferry schedule here, but please confirm with your guesthouse in case there are any changes.

Take note that there is no local ferry to or from Huraa Island on Fridays. If you’re traveling on a Friday, your only option is to take a speedboat.

2. By Shared Speedboat

Going by local speedboat is certainly not the cheapest option, but it’s a good alternative if the public ferry doesn’t fit your travel schedule. A return ticket costs $30 per person and takes about 30 minutes.

You can either arrange with your guesthouse to book the speedboat for you, or make the booking yourself with the speedboat companies.

3. By Private Speedboat

Through the same companies, you can also book a private speedboat transfer. This is a good option if you’re traveling in a big group or if you want to depart at your own preferred time.

Getting Around Huraa Island

Most guesthouses will send someone to pick you up on a buggy at the jetty once you arrive on Huraa. Apart from that, you can either walk or ride a bike / motorbike. Huraa is only 850 meters x 300 meters in size, and it should take less than two hours to walk its entire perimeter. There are no cars on the island.

Bicycles are available for hire at a few of the rental shops. Many guesthouses, including ours, provide complimentary bicycles for guests. We made the mistake of trying to walk to the bikini beach from the hotel, and halfway through, we really wished we had taken the bikes instead. It was really hot at midday and there was practically no shade at all.

I didn’t see any motorbikes for rent, but I’m pretty sure it can be arranged if necessary.

Things to Do on Huraa Island

1. Swim and Sunbathe on the Bikini Beach

At the bikini beach.

Most people who go to the Maldives love the beach, so that should definitely be on the forefront of your itinerary.

However, you should be aware that the Maldives is a Muslim country, and therefore, a certain dress code applies. Bikinis are only allowed in designated areas, and on Huraa island, the bikini beach is next to Pearl Sands of Maldives hotel (the hotel also has its own private bikini beach that non-guests can enter for a fee).

On the bikini beach, you can swim, sunbathe, or chill on the deck chairs in your swimsuit. Just make sure that you properly cover up beyond this area.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t swim in other parts of the island — you can, but you’ll have to do it fully clothed. This is not a strange thing to do in a Muslim country, you’ll see the locals do it too.

2. Go Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Snorkeling and scuba diving are two of the most popular things to do in the Maldives, which is no surprise, considering that the country has the largest groups of coral reefs in the Indian Ocean, with 250 species of corals and over 1000 species of marine life.

You can snorkel within the vicinity of Huraa or go on snorkeling trips on a boat (check with your hotel or other travel agents). There are a few reefs off the island where you’ll have a high chance of spotting turtles and blue surgeonfish.

Read: Can You Scuba Dive if You Can’t Swim?

3. Do Other Water Sports

If snorkeling is a little too vanilla for you, there are a ton of other water activities you can do, such as surfing, jetskiing, kitesurfing, windsurfing, flyboarding, parasailing, and paddle-boarding.

Surfing is especially popular from May to October. The island is located near many excellent surf breaks.

Just ask your hotel or any of the rental shops on the island, and they should be able to arrange something for you. Some of them provide lessons as well.

4. Visit the Mangrove

Huraa mangroves at sunset.

One of the features that sets Huraa apart from the other Maldivian islands is its more diverse topography. While most other islands are only about beaches, Huraa also has a mangrove nature reserve. You can kayak through the mangrove, watch birds (and bats in the evening), or look for crabs.

So, if you’re one of those people who get bored being on the beach all the time, you’re in for a treat!

5. Explore the Island

The greatest advantage of going to a local island instead of a private one is that you get to experience the local culture.

On the private islands, you are pretty much closed off from the locals. The only people you interact with are the resort staff members, some of whom may actually be foreign workers.

On Huraa island, you get to witness the local lifestyle in practice as the people go about their day — shopping for groceries, playing football on the field, going to the mosque, and gossiping on the sidewalks.

There are also some souvenir shops if you need to do some shopping.

6. Visit Surrounding Islands

Huraa is not that remote — it’s surrounded by quite a few resort islands, some of which are open for day trippers.

On a day tour to these exclusive islands, you’ll get to swim in the ocean, walk around the overwater villas, and eat at the restaurants/bars. Some may even allow you to use their amenities — like the swimming pool, etc — for a fee.

So, if you crave a taste of luxury without the premium price tag, you can go on a resort day tour for around $90 to $150 per person. Still not cheap by my standard, but much more affordable than paying for the real thing.

Among the resort islands near Huraa that allow day-trippers are:

Additionally, Huraa is also close to other local islands that you can visit for a change of scenery, including Thulusdhoo, Himmafushi, and Gulhi.

7. Sandbank Trips

Another instaworthy day tour you can do from Huraa is a trip to a sandbank. Also called ‘picnic islands’, sandbanks are transitory deposits of sand that create shallow areas in the sea — like tiny islands.

So, what do you do on a sandbank? Have a picnic, swim, sunbathe, snap loads of pictures, watch sunset, have a candlelight dinner under the stars — anything you like. It’s your own private island!

Some sandbank tours even allow you to camp overnight. Tents, water closets, and other basic necessities will be provided.

sandbank Maldives
Sandbank in the Maldives. Credit: dronepicr / Wikimedia Commons

8. Dolphin Watching

The Maldives is home to thousands of dolphins and the easiest way to see them is on a dolphin-watching cruise. Always eager to please, these playful and sociable creatures like to put on a good show, especially if you clap and cheer them on.

Some tours combine dolphin watching with other activities, such as snorkeling and resort visit.

9. Fishing

Great news for avid anglers — fishing is a popular activity on Huraa. You can go on a half-day or full-day fishing trip, finished off with a BBQ dinner on the beach, using your fresh catch.

How Many Days to Spend on Huraa Island?

In my opinion, how long you should spend on Huraa Island really depends on how much you love beaches and water sports. And how much your budget is, of course.

If you don’t mind sunbathing all day every day or if you’re going to do all the tours and excursions, then you can stay here for as long as your budget allows.

Otherwise, 2 – 3 days should be more than enough to explore all of Huraa before you move on to another island (for more sunbathing and water activities) or go home.

How Much to Budget for Huraa Island

If you stick to the cheaper hotels and restaurants and do only cheap or low-cost activities, you can get by on Huraa Island with as little as USD 50 per day.

As with any other destination, your biggest expense will be your accommodation. The cheapest guesthouse on Huraa Island should cost you around USD 30 per night. If you have a travel partner to split this cost with, obviously you can save even more. Currently, there has yet to be any dormitory or single room to cater to solo budget travelers.

As for food, local meals are only about USD 5, while Western-style meals can be double or triple that.

Apart from room and meals, you also have to factor in some other expenses like ferry fares and activities.

Where to Stay on Huraa Island

On our trip, we stayed at Courtyard Guesthouse, and I don’t think we could have picked a better one. The rate was very affordable (USD 50 per night in October, including breakfast), and the service was excellent.

Although it is not very near to the bikini beach, the guesthouse provides complimentary bicycles for guests.

Here are some of the other top-rated ones:

The Sunrise Huraa – Every room is furnished with a flat-screen TV, free toiletries, and a hairdryer. Some rooms come with seating areas and views of the garden.

Treasure Island Lodge – A recently renovated 3-star accommodation, featuring a garden, shared lounge, restaurant, and luggage storage space. For guests with children, the guesthouse offers an indoor play area, outdoor play equipment, and a baby safety gate.

Wish Guesthouse – Each unit comes with a fridge, minibar, kettle, safety deposit box and desk. Certain rooms have a terrace and river views. A restaurant, coffee shop, and bar can be found on-site. Family rooms available.

Additional Info

  • The Maldives is an Islamic state, operating under the sharia law. Visitors are not allowed to bring into the country items that are deemed contrary to Islam, including pork or products containing pork, alcohol, bibles, and religious idols.
  • Friday is a holy day and rest day for Muslims. Local ferries in the Maldives don’t run on Fridays, and most shops and restaurants will be closed.
  • On other days, shops open from around 9 a.m. till 10 p.m. They may close several times a day for 15 – 20 minutes for prayer breaks.
  • All tourists have to pay a $6 green tax per person per night if you’re staying in a big hotel/resort (or $3 if it’s a small guesthouse with fewer than 50 rooms), on top of 8% GST for the room and 10% service charge. These will usually have to be paid in cash, preferably in USD.
  • USD is accepted (and preferred) for bigger transactions like hotel bills, speedboat fares, and tours. In local restaurants, shops, and ferries, everything has to be paid in MVR (rufiyaa).
  • If you need to withdraw cash, do so at the airport or in Male. Most of the smaller islands don’t have ATMs.
  • Avoid withdrawing too much rufiyaa, because you will have a hard time exchanging it to other currencies if you have a lot left at the end of your trip.

What to Wear on Huraa

What I wore on Huraa island.

By now, I’m sure you’re aware that bathing suits and bikinis are a strict no-no outside of the Bikini Beach. And ladies, don’t even dream about going topless — it’s illegal and could land you in jail.

But what can you wear in other parts of the island? Do you have to cover everything up? According to a notice posted on the island, acceptable clothing on Huraa includes:

  • Shorts that go below the knees
  • T-shirts
  • Vests
  • Jeans 
  • Pants
  • Other casual clothes

So, it’s not as strict as some other Muslim countries. The other thing that’s not allowed is anything transparent / see-through. To be safe, keep it modest, so you won’t attract unwanted attention or inadvertently offend anyone.

This dress code does not apply when you go on an excursion away from Huraa, such as a snorkeling trip or a visit to a resort island. As long as you’re not on a local island, where locals actually live, you can wear anything you like.

Final Thoughts on Huraa

Huraa is the perfect destination to choose if you’re looking for a convenient, budget-friendly local island that has a lot to offer.

Now is an especially good time to go if you can travel. There is a government-approved land reclamation project in Huraa. Once it is complete, the island will expand in size and it may no longer be the quiet island that it is now or once was.

So, grab the opportunity while you can!

Have you been to the Maldives? Which island did you go to? Share your experience in the comment section below.

Posted in Maldives

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