Why You Should Visit Maafushi Island - Maldives Best Local Island
Have you always wanted to visit the Maldives but dismissed it as something too expensive for us commoners? Well, you can’t be more mistaken.
Many years ago, the Maldives might have been an exclusive destination reserved for the elite few. Any visitor to the country would have had to book a full-board package on one of those posh private islands, where a night’s stay could cost you up to USD 5000. These are uninhabited islands that are privately owned by distinguished resort companies.
However, since 2008, the Maldivian government has decided to open up the local (inhabited) islands for tourism, allowing budget-conscious travelers to come and see this beautiful country without blowing their entire life savings.
The most popular of these local islands is called Maafushi. But why is it so popular? Why must you choose Maafushi over the other islands? This article will tell you why.
As an island nation, the Maldives isn’t the easiest country to get around in. The archipelago is made up of 1190 tiny islands, and to get from one island to another, sometimes your only option is by seaplane, which can cost you more than your flight ticket to the country itself.
Maafushi, however, is well connected to the capital island Male. You can get there by speedboat (30 minutes) or local ferry (1.5 hours). The fares are around USD 25 and USD 2 respectively, making it the easiest and cheapest local island to get to from Male.
Check out my Maafushi Travel Guide for more info on how to get there.
2. Maafushi is the Most Tourist-Friendly Local Island
When the government started allowing visitors to visit the local islands in 2008, Maafushi was one of the first to welcome tourists.
Therefore, it now has the most developed tourism infrastructure compared to the other local islands. This includes guesthouses, shops, restaurants, tour operators, and other amenities a tourist may need. There’s even a public gym!
Getting around is also fairly easy, as the guides are knowledgeable and experienced, and most locals speak English.
Since the Maldives is a Muslim country, not many places allow people to wear bikinis in public, but Maafushi has a designated beach specially for tourists to swim and sunbathe in their two-piece bathing suits.
3. Maafushi is the Local Island with the Most Guesthouses
Maafushi holds the record as the local island with the biggest number of guesthouses on it. In 2017, there were reportedly more than 70 guesthouses on Maafushi (although there may be fewer now due to the pandemic).
So, even if you plan a last-minute holiday during the peak season, Maafushi is your best chance of finding vacant rooms.
Plus, if you happen to not like something at one guesthouse, you can easily move to another without having to go to another island!
4. Maafushi is Cheap!
Being a local island already means that it’s 100 times cheaper than the resort islands (not exaggerating).
On top of that, since it has the biggest number of guesthouses, all that competition will also ensure that you’ll get a good price for everything including accommodation, day trips, and food.
The room rates on Maafushi range from USD 30 to USD 80 per night. Taking all other expenses into account, you can travel quite comfortably on Maafushi for as low as USD 50 per day.
5. Maafushi is the Perfect Introduction to Local Islands
One of the greatest appeals of visiting a local island is the opportunity to get to know the locals’ way of life. It would be a shame, in my opinion, to visit another country and leave without learning anything new about the culture.
Maafushi maintains that perfect balance between being modern enough to provide comfort for the average Western traveler, and still retaining its Maldivian charm.
So, if you’d like to get acquainted with Maldivian culture but aren’t quite ready to ditch your creature comforts and conveniences — such as having English-speaking tour guides — Maafushi is the right island for you.
6. Maafushi is Small and Easy to Navigate
Although it is considered one of the biggest inhabited islands in the country, Maafushi is only 1.2 kilometres long and 265 metres wide. It will take you less than an hour to explore the whole island on foot and shorter if you rent a bike.
You don’t have to worry about finding public transports or getting lost. Anything and everything you need is conveniently close to you. Most hotels and guesthouses are located a short walk away from the beach.
7. Maafushi has Beautiful White-Sand Beaches
Despite being one of the country’s largest and most populated local islands, Maafushi still has pristine white-sand beaches with clear blue waters.
Granted, they may not be the best beaches in the country, but they’re beautiful enough that you don’t have to go to another island to enjoy a decent swim.
The best thing is, they’re probably just a stone’s throw away from your hotel; you may even be able to see them from your room window.
8. Maafushi is Perfectly Safe
Maafushi is actually home to the country’s biggest prison, but don’t let this scare you — the island is perfectly safe. According to the locals, most prisoners in there were convicted of minor crimes (so they say).
Whether or not that’s true, my general impression of the locals on Maafushi is that they are gentle, respectful people. You can walk around with a DSLR or a drone without anyone batting an eye.
As two women traveling together, my partner and I never felt unsafe or threatened in any way.
9. Maafushi can be the Base for Island-Hopping Trips
Maafushi is not a remote island – it is located close enough to a bunch of private islands, some of which you can visit on a day trip.
So, if you’re curious to know what it’s really like to be on those luxurious islands, you can experience that without having to fork out a ridiculous sum of money. Some resorts even allow day trippers to come in and access some of their facilities for a fee.
Just ask your hotel reception and they should be able to arrange something for you. Apart from island hopping, you can also do other tours, such as snorkeling, scuba diving, dolphin watching, and many more.
10. You Can Contribute to the Local Economy
Since being opened for international visitors, the local islands have benefited greatly from tourism money. The locals have been given more opportunity to find employment, start their own businesses, and develop their skills in dealing with people from all over the world.
So, instead of funding the big hotel chains on those private islands (some of which don’t even hire locals), consider going to a local island like Maafushi and help contribute to the local community.
Final Thoughts on Maafushi Island
So, there you have it — all the reasons why you should visit Maafushi island if you go to the Maldives, whether it is your first time to the country or if you’re already a frequent visitor.
Maafushi is growing fast to become a major tourist destination in the Maldives, but as of now, it’s not over touristy yet, although this may change in several more years. Now, in 2021, it is an especially good time to go (yes, they’ve reopened since July last year), as there are even fewer people.
Most importantly, adhere to the SOPs and stay safe!
Have you visited a local island in the Maldives? Which island did you go to and what was your experience like? Share in the comment section below.