12 Awesome Things to Do on Thulusdhoo - Maldives Budget Island
The Maldives, a wondrous gem nestled in the embrace of the Indian Ocean, requires no grand introduction. Its allure is defined by pristine beaches that seamlessly meld with the azure waters, painting a picture-perfect scene that beckons travelers worldwide. This idyllic destination stands tall on the bucket lists of many, especially those with an affinity for the serene beauty of beaches.
However, the Maldives often carries the reputation of being an exclusive haven reserved for the affluent elite. The imagery of sleek seaplanes and opulent water villas may reinforce the belief that it remains forever beyond the grasp of the everyday traveler.
Yet, beneath this facade lies a more inclusive reality. Recent developments in tourism have paved the way for a more diverse range of experiences and accommodations, making this paradise more accessible than one might assume.
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Can You Visit the Maldives on a Budget?
It’s true that the Maldives has been synonymous with luxury and extravagance, catering to those seeking an unparalleled level of opulence and seclusion. In fact, 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)!
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.
Overview of Thulusdhoo Island
Thulusdhoo is an inhabited island located in the North Male Atoll, roughly 30 kilometres northwest of the country’s capital, Male.
It’s one of the most popular Maldivian islands for budget surf tourism. In fact, it is often dubbed Maldives’ surf capital, boasting some of the country’s best breaks, such as the famous ‘Cokes’ and ‘Chickens’.
However, Thulusdhoo isn’t exclusively tailored for surfers; it’s a destination that caters to diverse travelers with an array of activities and experiences that set it apart from other destinations.
Beyond surfing, Thulusdhoo provides an assortment of unique opportunities for travelers. From cultural immersion to adventurous outings, visitors can delve into activities that might not be readily available on other islands in the region.
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 Thulusdhoo 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 Thulusdhoo is close enough to the capital, it follows the general Maldives’ climate:
(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.
(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.
(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 Thulusdhoo Island
1. By Local Ferry
If you’re taking the cheapest option (public ferry), there is no direct transfer from Velana International Airport to Thulusdhoo 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.
Once you get to Male, you can take the ferry to Thulusdhoo at the same ferry terminal. Ferry tickets are not available online, so you’ll have to purchase it directly at the counter for MVR 22 (USD 1.50). The journey takes about 1.5 hours.
There is one ferry a day from Male at 2.30 p.m. and one ferry from Thulusdhoo back to Male at around 7.10 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 Thulusdhoo 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 Thulusdhoo Island
Most guesthouses will send someone to pick you up on a buggy at the jetty once you arrive on Thulusdhoo. Apart from that, you can either walk or ride a bike / motorbike. Thulusdhoo is only about 1.5 kilometers x 500 meters in size, and it should take just around 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, although we did just fine without. I didn’t see any motorbikes for rent, but I’m pretty sure it can be arranged if necessary.
Things to Do on Thulusdhoo Island
1. Swim and Sunbathe on 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 Thulusdhoo island, the bikini beach is right in front of Samura Maldives Guesthouse.
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 Thulusdhoo or go on snorkeling trips on a boat (check with your hotel or other travel agents). There are a few spots where you’ll have a high chance of spotting turtles, stingrays, and black-tipped sharks.
3. Do Other Water Sports
Apart from snorkeling, adventure enthusiasts have an array of water sports options like surfing, jetskiing, kitesurfing, windsurfing, flyboarding, parasailing, and paddle-boarding to indulge in.
Thulusdhoo, renowned for its renowned surf breaks like Cokes and Chickens, attracts surfers worldwide, especially during the peak swell season from March to October. Notably, the most significant swells typically occur in July and August, making these months ideal for a thrilling surfing experience.
To arrange these activities, simply inquire at your hotel or any of the island’s rental shops; they’re typically equipped to facilitate your requests, and some even offer instructional sessions.
4. Discover the 'Secret Garden'
From the bikini beach, if you stroll to the right-hand side along the coast, you will soon see a small island that is linked to Thulusdhoo by a bridge.
The island is almost entirely covered by a lush canopy of trees, essentially shielding it from rain and shine and tucking it away from the outside world.
Yet, a discreet pathway adorned with wooden benches and twinkling fairy lights suggests that its secrecy might be somewhat compromised. In fact, we stumbled upon several fellow travelers and surfers here. Nevertheless, the cocoon of tree cover creates an ambiance that renders it an ideal rendezvous spot.
5. Float on a Natural Lazy River
Between the small island and Thulusdhoo, a robust current from the nearby Cokes Break serves as a natural division, creating a sort of natural lazy river.
Treat yourself to a complimentary ‘water spa treatment’ as the currents gently massage your back. Just be sure to grip on the rope provided and exercise utmost caution due to the potentially intense currents!
6. Explore the Island
The primary benefit of opting for a local island over a private one lies in the opportunity to immerse yourself in the authentic local culture.
On private islands, interaction with locals is limited as you’re largely secluded from the community, engaging mostly with resort staff, some of whom might even be international employees.
Contrastingly, Thulusdhoo Island offers a genuine glimpse into the everyday lives of locals. Here, you can observe locals engaged in their daily routines—be it shopping for groceries, engaging in football matches at the field, attending prayer sessions at the mosque, or chatting along the sidewalks, offering a firsthand view of their lifestyle.
Additionally, there are souvenir shops available if you wish to indulge in some shopping during your visit.
7. Visit Surrounding Islands
Thulusdhoo isn’t particularly isolated — it’s surrounded by several resort islands, some of which cater to day visitors.
Embarking on a day excursion to these exclusive islands offers a range of experiences such as ocean swimming, exploring overwater villas, and dining at their restaurants or bars. Some might even grant access to their facilities, like swimming pools, typically for an additional fee.
For those seeking a taste of luxury without the hefty price, opting for a resort day tour can range between $90 to $150 per person. Although not inexpensive by my usual standards, it’s notably more affordable compared to the full resort experience.
Among the nearby resort islands welcoming day-trippers are:
Additionally, Thulusdhoo’s proximity to other local islands like Huraa, Himmafushi, and Gulhi provides alternative destinations for a change of scenery.
8. Sandbank Trips
Another picturesque day excursion available from Thulusdhoo involves visiting a sandbank, often referred to as “picnic islands.” Sandbanks, which are basically temporary formations of sand, create shallow areas in the sea resembling small islands.
What can you enjoy on a sandbank? From picnicking, swimming, and sunbathing to capturing numerous photos, witnessing the sunset, or relishing a candlelit dinner beneath the stars — essentially, it’s your private paradise!
Certain sandbank tours even offer the opportunity for overnight camping, providing essentials such as tents and basic amenities like water closets.
9. Dolphin Watching
The Maldives boasts a large population of dolphins, and the simplest method to spot them is by joining a dolphin-watching excursion.
Known for their sociable and playful nature, these creatures are keen to entertain, often putting on a delightful performance, especially if encouraged with applause and cheer.
Certain tours bundle dolphin watching with additional activities, like snorkeling and visits to resorts.
Great news for avid anglers — fishing is a popular activity in the Maldives. 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.
11. Tour the Coca Cola Factory
Thulusdhoo hosts the sole Coca-Cola factory in the Maldives. Visitors can take tours of the facility and enjoy samples, getting a glimpse into the production process.
This factory exclusively manufactures all the Coca-Cola consumed throughout the tropical archipelago. Notably, it stands out globally for utilizing desalinated water—the only Coca-Cola plant worldwide to do so in its production process.
The tours are available every day except Friday, but has to be booked in advance.
12. Observe Salted Fish Production
The fish plant located near the extensive jetty specializes in crafting lonu mas, a type of salted fish. While it may seem akin to the well-known valho mas (dried fish), the manufacturing method and resulting product vary. This particular fish variety serves as a favored export to neighboring Sri Lanka.
Thousands of fish are meticulously laid out on wooden racks by workers, left to dry under the tropical sun.
How Many Days to Spend on Thulusdhoo Island?
In my view, the ideal duration for your stay on Thulusdhoo Island depends on your affinity for beaches and water-based activities, alongside your financial considerations.
If you’re someone who relishes basking in the sun endlessly or plans to engage in various tours and adventures, your stay duration can be as extensive as your budget permits.
However, if extended lounging isn’t your style or if you have a specific budget in mind, dedicating 2 to 3 days on Thulusdhoo should suffice to thoroughly explore its offerings. This timeframe allows you to immerse yourself in the island’s essence before potentially transitioning to another locale for more beach-centric experiences or returning home.
How Much to Budget for Thulusdhoo Island
Sticking to budget-friendly lodging, dining at economical places, and engaging in mostly free or low-cost activities can allow you to manage your expenses on Thulusdhoo Island within a range of USD 50 to 60 per day.
Similar to any other destination, your primary cost will likely be your accommodation. The most affordable guesthouse on Thulusdhoo Island typically amounts to approximately $30 per night in the low season. If you’re traveling with a companion to split this expense, it can lead to additional savings.
Regarding meals, local dishes usually come to around $5, while Western-style meals might cost double or triple that amount.
In addition to accommodation and meals, you’ll need to consider other expenses such as ferry fares and activity costs.
Where to Stay on Thulusdhoo Island
During our visit, we stayed at Villa Kudi, and had an amazing stay. The rate was very affordable (USD 55 per night in October, including breakfast), and the service was excellent. It’s also within 5 minutes’ walk to the bikini beach.
Here are some of the other top-rated ones:
Aasna Inn – Located about 300 meters from the bikini beach, this inn features air-conditioned rooms with a desk, kettle, fridge, minibar, safety deposit box, flat-screen TV, terrace, and private bathroom. Some rooms come with seating areas and views of the garden. From USD 51 for a double or twin room, with breakfast.
Midsummer Thulusdhoo – Only 100 meters from bikini beach, this beachfront property offers access to a patio, onsite coffeeshop, lounge, and luggage storage space. Some rooms come with a balcony. For guests with children, the guesthouse provides outdoor play equipment. From USD 77 for a double or twin room, with breakfast.
Season Paradise – A sustainable beachfront accommodation boasting a restaurant, elevator, sun terrace, coffeeshop, and rooftop pool. Certain rooms have a patio and an outdoor dining area. From USD 115 for a double or twin room, not including breakfast. Family rooms are also available.
- 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. There’s an ATM on Thulusdhoo, but it’s best to come prepared with alternative payment modes, in case the machine is out of service.
- 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 Thulusdhoo
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 Thulusdhoo includes:
- 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 Thulusdhoo, 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 Thulusdhoo
Thulusdhoo stands out as an ideal choice for those seeking an affordable and convenient local island destination packed with numerous offerings.
While it embraces modern amenities to cater to its visitors, it also retains an authentic charm that preserves the natural beauty and tranquility of the Maldives.
Whether seeking adventure, relaxation, or a deeper cultural experience, Thulusdhoo Island presents itself as an idyllic destination, inviting travelers to immerse themselves in its allure and create unforgettable memories in this slice of paradise.
Have you been to the Maldives? Which island did you go to? Share your experience in the comment section below.