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Maldives Itinerary: The Ultimate Guide to Local Islands and Resort Islands

Maldives Itinerary

by Su and Titu
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Maldives Itinerary
Maldives Itinerary

Close your eyes and imagine a tropical paradise. What do you see? White sand beaches, crystal clear waters and swaying palm trees? Well we found Paradise – Maldives! I had the impression that it’s an overhyped and overpriced destination but I was wrong. The hype is totally worth it. We’ve island hopped in the Mediterranean, Indonesia and Thailand but Maldives has hands down the clearest waters we’ve seen. The marine life in particular is unbelievable. With over 200 islands to choose from, narrowing down on a few islands was a struggle. Even more since we wanted to combine both local islands and a resort island. Are you planning to visit Maldives and not sure which island to visit? Don’t worry, we’ve been there. We hope this Maldives itinerary helps you plan an ultimate trip to the Maldives whether it’s locals islands, a resort island or a combination of both.

Our 10 day Maldives Itinerary

Maldives Itinerary Day 1 – Hulhumale

Although we could have taken a speedboat to a far away local island, we decided to spend the night in Hulhumalé after landing in Male airport.

We purchased a local sim card and some local currency (Maldivian Rufiyaa) from Velana International Airport. The Dhiraagu Traveller Plus sim card cost USD 35. It gave 150 mins local calls and SMS and 17 GB data, valid for 30 days. Basically this was the cheapest option and as all the guest houses and resorts have wifi, this was sufficient. By and large, Maldives is an expensive country so do bear that in mind.

Hulhumale is an artificial island located near Malé, the capital city of the Maldives. It’s worth visiting if you’re interested in seeing another side of the country, as it offers a unique blend of modern city life and traditional Maldivian culture.

We pretty much walked around the city the whole day, explored the sights, and got a feel of the local Maldivian life. This is something we enjoy doing and even more so on the first day. After all, it’s an excellent way to get an immersive experience of a new city.

How to reach Hulhumale?

We booked an airport pick up via our hotel as we wanted the first bit of our trip to be seamless. Though this tends to be pricey, we always opt for this option on our first day in a country we aren’t familiar with. We started doing this after a few unpleasant experiences in South East Asia. It cost us USD 20 from Male airport to our hotel in Hulhumale. However if you take a taxi from outside the airport it will cost you around USD 10.

Things to do in Hulhumale

  1. Hulhumale Beach: Hulhumale has a picturesque beach. Surprisingly the water was clear despite it being a city beach.
  2. Explore the Hulhumale Mosque: The Hulhumale Mosque is a beautiful and historic mosque located in the heart of the island. Also, it is one of the largest mosques in the Maldives and is known for its beautiful architecture and design.
  3. Central Park: Hulhumale’s Central Park is a lush green space in the centre of the island, offering a perfect spot for picnics and relaxation. Additionally it has the largest musical fountain ever built in the Maldives. Visit it during sunset for a leisurely stroll like the locals. Children especially will have a gala time.
  4. Cafe / Restaurant hopping: Hulhumale has several restaurants offering a variety of local and international cuisine. We had dinner at the Amber Beach Hotel. The food was average but the rooftop restaurant had splendid sea views.
  5. Water sports: Finally water activities. There are several operators offering snorkelling, diving, island visits and so on. We wouldn’t recommend you to do these in Hulhumale as the local islands are way more scenic.

Where to stay in Hulhumale?

Choose any hotel on the beach road. It was just a night stay for us therefore we chose a budget option at Chen Beach Hotel. It amounted to USD 75 with breakfast. Overall we were happy with the room, service and breakfast. Furthermore the airport pick up was smooth and they arranged for a local taxi back to Male. The other hotels that we were considering were Season Holidays and H78 Maldives.

Average price per night: USD 75 – USD 150

Is it worth going to Hulhumale?

Summing up, we enjoyed our time in Hulhumale. It’s not the classic Maldives that you think of, so if you have limited time, don’t include it in your Maldives itinerary. All in all, it’s good for a wee stop-over near the airport to get an insight about the local life in Maldives.

Maldives Itinerary Day 2 to Day 4 – Ukulhas

Our final Maldives itinerary took months of research to finalise. Chiefly because we wanted to explore 2 local islands, 1 resort island along with Hulhumale and Male. As for the local islands, our main criteria was – it should be scenic, quiet and have an excellent beach. Additionally, it shouldn’t be too far from Male. Given these points and after reading 100’s of blogs and watching several youtube videos, we chose Ukulhas.

Bikini beach at Ukulhas, Maldives
The beautiful bikini beach at Ukulhas

Why choose Ukulhas?

  1. Beautiful beach – It has one of the largest and undeniably the most beautiful bikini beaches on a local island in Maldives. The beach is over 1 km long and there are plenty of sun beds and umbrellas. Moreover the beach is regularly cleaned and didn’t feel crowded even in peak season. In fact lot of secluded spots that will make it feel like your own private beach.
  2. Excellent house reef – Meanwhile the house reef is excellent for snorkelling. We saw huge schools of a wide variety of fish.
  3. Quiet island – By and large it had the typical laidback, quiet island feeling.
  4. Sustainable tourism – It is one of the most environmental friendly islands in the Maldives. For instance single use plastic is banned so you won’t find any plastic waste on the island.
  5. Hotels with beach access – Several hotels have direct access to the beach but only a few have sea view. Given that, a direct beach access from our guest house was fantastic.
  6. Local culture – Ukulhas is not as developed as some of the other more touristy islands in the Maldives so still pretty much a hidden paradise.
  7. Great island for families – All in all this island is a perfect place for young families as the distance from the beach to hotels is a maximum of 100 m and the waters are shallow.
  8. Clean island – We walked all around the island and didn’t see any garbage. Certainly one of the cleanest local islands in the Maldives.

How to reach Ukulhas?

We took a speedboat from Male airport to Ukulhas. It costs USD 50 per head and takes around 2 hours. They run everyday.

There timing are as follows:

  • Velana International Airport to Ukulhas : 10:30 ​
  • Velana International Airport to Ukulhas : 16:30 
  • Ukulhas / Rasdhoo / Airport : 07:00 
  • Ukulhas / Rasdhoo / Airport : 13:00

Your guesthouse / hotel will arrange your speedboat transfer if you inform them about your arrival time at least a few days before your trip. You need to pay the speedboat captain directly.

There are public ferries operating as well, although they run only twice every week. It takes 4 hours instead of 2.

Male to Ukulhas – Every Monday and Thursday – at 9:00 am from Hulhumale Ferry Terminal in Male. Tickets can be purchased for 5 USD from Hulhumale Ferry Terminal.

Ukulhas to Male – Every Sunday and Wednesday – 9:45 am from Ukulhas Jetty. Tickets can be purchased inside the Ferry. No pre-reservation is required.

Additionally, you can check out the Atoll Transfer website to check and book ferries and speedboats to chalk your Maldives itinerary.

Where to stay in Ukulhas?

  1. SeaLaVie Inn – We stayed at SeaLaVie, a small 5 bedroom guest house in the quiet part of Ukulhas. The room was spacious and sparkling clean. Best part of course was the location, just a minute walk to the bikini beach. We took the half board package which overall was a good deal. Breakfast was served at SeaLaVie and dinner was at Fisherman’s boat restaurant. We loved the traditional Maldivian breakfast as well as the buffet dinner. You can book your stay here – Book SeaLavie Price: USD 320 for a couple for 3 nights including breakfast and dinner.
  2. Ranthari Hotel and Spa – If you are looking for a luxury hotel with a pool then consider Ranthari. This is especially amazing if you want to get a slice of luxury on a local island. Since we had a resort island booked we preferred a more local guest house experience. You can book your stay here – Book Ranthari

Ukulhas is surely not the cheapest local island. You’d find hotels and activities at a fraction of this cost in islands like Maafushi but after reading about over tourism there, we thought its best to avoid them.

Where to eat in Ukulhas?

  1. Fisherman’s Boat – We had all our dinners here as it was part of our half board plan. The buffet spread was great with cut fruits, breads, meat, veg and desserts. Moreover there was a decent vegetarian spread as well.
  2. Sapore Restaurant & Pizzeria – Another wonderful option in case you are bored of rice and noodles everyday.

To sum up we loved Ukulhas and it is undoubtedly our favourite local island. We highly recommend you to add this to your Maldives itinerary.

Maldives Itinerary Day 5 and 6 – Rasdhoo

We hopped on a 15 minute speed boat from Ukulhas to Rasdhoo. We chose Rasdhoo as it was on the same atoll and easy to get to from Ukulhas.

Why choose Rasdhoo?

  1. Accessibility – Situated in North Ari Atoll, 60 km west of Male, it’s just an hour and half speedboat ride away which in particular makes it convenient travel wise.
  2. Good budget option – In general we found the accommodation and food options to be cheaper than Ukulhas.
  3. Snorkeling – Rasdhoo is excellent for snorkelling around the house reef even though we preferred the bikini beach at Ukulhas.
  4. Sandbank and uninhabited islands nearby – A 5 minute boat ride from Rasdhoo island, lies silky white sandbank surrounded by turquoise waters at Madivaru Finolhu. In essence this is the main draw of Rashdoo and can be a unique experience.
  5. Dolphin safari – Between Rasdhoo and Thoddoo there is a place where a group of dolphins gather in the evenings. Certainly worth doing this as well.

How to reach Rasdhoo?

We took a 10 min speedboat from Ukulhas to Rasdhoo at 7:00 am. Price is USD 10 per head.

The speedboat timings are as follows. They run everyday.

  • Velana International Airport to Rasdhoo : 10:30 ​
  • Velana International Airport to Rasdhoo : 16:00
  • Rasdhoo / Airport : 07:30 
  • Rasdhoo / Airport : 13:30

There are public ferries operating as well, although they run only twice every week. It takes 4 hours instead of 2.

Male to Rasdhoo – Every Monday and Thursday – at 9:00 am from Hulhumale Ferry Terminal in Male. Tickets can be purchased for 3.50 USD from Hulhumale Ferry Terminal.

Rasdhoo to Male – Every Sunday and Wednesday – 9:45 am from Ukulhas Jetty. Tickets can be purchased inside the Ferry. No pre-reservation is required.

Your guest house / hotel will arrange your transfer.

Where to stay in Rasdhoo?

  1. Acqua Blu Rasdhoo – Clean budget guesthouse with friendly staff. Great location and they offer several activities as well.
  2. Holiday Garden Rasdhoo – Another hotel with good reviews that you could consider.

Where to eat in Rasdhoo?

  1. Lemon Drop – Quiet restaurant with a lovely vibe. We had pizzas and some refreshments.
  2. Alimente – Cool spot for coffee and cakes

To summarise, Rasdhoo ticks all the boxes for a budget Maldivian getaway with superb excursions and activities. A fab option for your Maldives itinerary.

Maldives Itinerary Day 7 to 10 – Centara Grand Island Resort and Spa

Centara Grand Island Resort and Spa, Maldives
Luxury Maldives stay at Centara Grand Island Resort and Spa

A 5 star resort island, an overwater villa, endless views of crystal clear turquoise waters, high quality food and a taste of ultimate luxury – this is the quintessential Maldivian holiday of dreams. Our Maldives itinerary felt truly complete with this experience. To clarify we are not luxury travellers but decided to splurge for this experience. Was it worth it?

Read our detailed blog post about resort islands here – Coming soon! Watch this space.

Best resort islands in the Maldives

Check out all the details here – Coming soon!

Maldives Itinerary Day 11 – Male

We spent our final day in Male before flying back home the next afternoon. Male is the capital and the biggest city of Maldives. It’s a wonderful way to understand how real life in Maldives looks like.

Things to do in Male

  1. Visit the mosques – Visit the Hukuru Miskiy and King Salman mosques to get a glimpse of Maldivian architecture.
  2. Tsunami Monument – The memorial was built to pay homage to the victims of a tsunami that hit Maldives in 2004. It was peaceful during sunset.
  3. National Museum – This museum has a collection of artefacts dating back to the pre-Islamic period of the Maldives.
  4. Local Market – Walk around the bustling local markets to experience the local culture.
  5. Try local cuisine – Try the delicious seafood, coconut-based dishes, and traditional curries.
  6. Relax on the beach – Go for a leisurely walk on the 2 artificial beaches in Male. It’s definitely not as pretty as the ones in faraway islands but worth visiting nonetheless.

Is it worth visiting Male?

You could definitely spend a day to understand the local culture if you have the time. If you are visiting for less than a week, then skip it from your Maldives itinerary. It’s good for an overnight pit-stop before or after your trip to the local / resort islands.

Where to stay in Male?

Since we just had a night we chose a budget hotel The Grand View. Small, basic clean room, no complaints. Other hotels that we considered were Manhattan Business Hotel and The Somerset Hotel.

Hope you find our Maldives itinerary helpful to plan your holiday. Read along for more tips for Maldives.

Maldives FAQ’s

Best Local Islands in the Maldives

If you have around 10-12 days in the Maldives, you can include 2-3 islands in your Maldives itinerary. Our top picks for local islands are Ukulhas, Rasdhoo, Fulidhoo, Dhigurah, Hanimaadhoo and Vaadhoo. Then again, Dhigurah, Vaadhoo and Hanimaadhoo are very far from Male so choose wisely. The following tips will help you select the islands of your choice.

How to choose a local island in Maldives?

Choosing a local island can be a unique way to experience the Maldives. But with over a 100 local islands to choose from, narrowing down to 2 was not easy. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a local island:

  1. Distance from Male: Consider the location of the island in relation to the capital city of Male and other islands you may want to visit. Distances can be large so this will affect the travel time as well as budget.
  2. Accommodation options: Choose an island based on the accommodation options available to suit your budget and preferences. Some local islands may have guesthouses, hotels, or resorts, while others may only have a few basic options. Some islands are more expensive than others so compare before booking.
  3. Activities: Consider the activities available on the island and nearby areas. Some local islands are famous for snorkelling, diving, surfing, or other water sports, while others may have more cultural or historical attractions to explore.
  4. Accessibility: Check the transportation options to the island, including ferries, speedboats, and domestic flights. Some islands may be more difficult to access than others.
  5. Budget: Finally, consider your budget as it has to cover the costs for island transfer, accommodation, food and activities. Local islands are more affordable than staying at a resorts, but the costs are not uniform across islands.

We enjoyed Ukulhas and Rasdhoo and strongly suggest to include at least 1 local island in your Maldives itinerary.

How to do Maldives on a budget?

The first image that comes to mind while thinking of Maldives is that of ultimate luxury – sipping champagne in an infinity pool from an over water villa. Of course this experience is unique and wonderful but it’s not the only way to explore Maldives. Most important, luxury resorts are insanely expensive. Since we stayed in both local and resort islands, we can vouch that both were equally special. But if budget is the constraint, then the following tips will help to plan a trip to the Maldives without breaking the bank.

Maldives on a budget
Local island transfer from speedboat terminal
1) Choose local island / islands

The local islands in the Maldives officially opened for tourism in 2009, when the Maldivian government introduced a guesthouse program to promote tourism outside of the resort islands. Stay in a guesthouses on local islands instead of expensive resort islands.

2) Travel cheaper

Opt for local transport: Instead of taking seaplanes or speedboats to get around, consider taking the public ferry. While they may be slower, they are much more affordable than private transfers. For example: A speedboat cost USD 10 from Ukulhas to Rasdhoo whereas the local ferry cost just USD 1. Although keep in mind that public ferries do not run everyday so plan your trip accordingly.

3) Eat local

Eat at local restaurants: Instead of dining at fancy restaurants, try local cafes and restaurants, which offer delicious food at affordable prices.

4) Research activities and compare prices

Book excursions and activities directly with local providers: Scout for local providers for activities. Booking through hotels can be more expensive. If your main reason for traveling to Maldives is diving then hunt around for the best diving package deal in advance of your trip. Many guesthouses offer deals for stay and dive packages.

5) Choose your island wisely

The Maldives is made up of 26 natural atolls and each atoll has several islands. Some atolls are very far from Male so a speedboat transfer will be more expensive. Local ferry can take over 5-6 hrs and if you choose local islands in different atolls, you will have to come back to Male and take another speedboat / ferry. There are no direct transfers. From what we researched, the activities in the faraway islands like Dhigurah were more expensive than the others so factor this in as well. Lastly some islands like Maafushi, Fulidhoo have a better tourism infrastructure so tend to be cheaper.

6) Bring your own snorkelling gear

Most resorts and guesthouses offer masks, snorkels, fins and other motorised water-sports equipment to guests free of cost but for hygiene reasons it’s best to take your own snorkeling masks. We highly recommend getting the Easybreath Dive mask from Decathlon. This was one of our best purchases for sure.

7) Visit in low season

Some people suggest visiting Maldives in the off-season. This would certainly cut down your budget like anything. The resort island offer wonderful deals and are almost half price. But we read some awful experiences of storms and rains for the entire duration if the trip so it’s definitely a risk.

Best resorts in Maldives
5* resort island in Maldives

When is the best time to visit Maldives?

November to April tends to be the best time for Maldives.

We visited in February and it was perfect – February and March are the driest months, with warm temperatures, low humidity and great visibility for diving and snorkelling. However this is peak season so the priciest months too. Book in advance to get a fair deal.

What is the cheapest month to visit Maldives?

May to September is the rainy season so high chances of cloudy days and storms but the cheapest time to visit Maldives. Resorts have amazing deals during this period and you can save a lot of money but bear in mind that the weather can be terrible and ruin your idea of a sunny beach vacay.

Do you need a visa to visit the Maldives?

Tourist visa is granted for all nationalities on arrival to the Maldives including Indian citizens. All you need is your passport, hotel reservations and a copy of traveller declaration on IMUGA.

Is vegetarian food available in the Maldives?

Plant based cuisine may sound like an anomaly in an island know for fresh sea food but certainly things are better now. If you decide to book a vegan luxury escape to the Maldives it’s best to contact your resort in advance to tell them you are vegan. Most local islands have vegetarian options as well.

Which island in Maldives has Bioluminescence?

After sunset the turquoise waters of Maldives transformed into glittering sea of stars. It was a surreal display of light and motion with the whole ocean dancing and sparkling. This magical effect is caused by bioluminescent plankton that often appear in warm coastal waters. We were extremely lucky to witness this phenomenon in February in Ukulhas island.

They are notoriously difficult to predict, and mainly occur most often far out in the ocean so seeing them on the beach was other worldly. They say the best time to see bioluminescence is in between June and November but it’s difficult to plan a Maldives itinerary around this.

Top 10 things to do in the Maldives

1) Free Activities like snorkelling, swimming, walking along the wonderful beaches

Maldives is one of the most amazing places for snorkelling with some of the best reefs in the world. Best part is that you don’t need to go deep to see the marine life which is especially fantastic for non-swimmers.

2) Diving

The Maldives has an abundance of marine life and the crystal clear waters offer incredible visibility. It’s one of the top scuba diving destinations with many affordable PADI dive centers where you can take a discovery dive if you are not certified. Scuba Diving cost in Maldives (approx): $70 to $150 per dive. Some of you probably would want to plan your whole Maldives itinerary around diving so best to check islands and operators offering good deals.

3) Sandbank visit

Most guesthouses and resorts offer sandbank excursions, which can include a picnic lunch, snorkelling gear, and a guide. It costs around $60-$120 depending on the group size and island you do it from.

4) Dolphin tours / sunset tours

You can go on a dolphin watching tour to see friendly dolphins. Cost around $100 per head. Even if you don’t go on a tour, do not miss the sunset. The sunsets are to die for.

5) Island hopping

You can hop around different islands as part of your Maldives itinerary especially if it’s a longer trip.

Maldives sunset
Golden hour glow at Maldives
6) Spa

When you think of the Maldives, it’s probably the white sand beaches, turquoise waters and a relaxing holiday. You’ll find a spa in almost every island even the local ones. All resort islands have wellness centres with stunning views of the ocean. We did it in Male as the prices were affordable.

7) Over Water bungalow

As the name suggests, overwater bungalows are standalone bungalows positioned over the water. This is what the most people dream of when they think of a dream vacation. It’s insanely expensive but surely worth splurging for the once-in -a-lifetime kind of experience. Most packages are for a 3 nights stay so if you can afford it, add it to your Maldives itinerary.

8) Beaches

Maldives is known to have some of the best beaches in the world. It’s the perfect tropical getaway.

9)Cultural Experiences

Resorts often organise tours to the local islands for experiencing local culture, food and the Maldivian way of life. However, you don’t need this if you stay in a local island.

10) Water sports

Lastly, Maldives is an incredible destination for indulging in some fun water activities. After all it has the most inviting waters and there is something for everyone – from peaceful kayaking to the adrenalin pumping flyboarding.

What to pack for the Maldives?

Maldives is a Muslim country and the local islands (including Male) have a dress code therefore it’s offensive to reveal your shoulders and knees for both men and women. Men and Women can wear knee length shorts and t-shirts. You can wear swimwear and bikinis only in the designated bikini beaches in the local islands. Resort islands have no dress code so you can wear anything.

We went to a couple of local stores in Male and the islands. The swimwear and snorkelling gear were very expensive. With this in mind, do get clothes and swimwear before getting here.

  1. Swimwear
  2. Summer Dresses
  3. Beach cover-ups
  4. Sunscreen
  5. Hat
  6. Shorts and T-shirts
  7. Resort wear
  8. Snorkeling gear
  9. Scarf to cover up for the conservative local islands
  10. Motion sickness tablets (speedboats can get very bumpy)
  11. Flip flops and Dive shoes

What not to take in the Maldives?

Alcohol – Sale and consumption of alcohol is prohibited in local islands and it is strictly forbidden to bring alcohol into the Maldives. All bags are scanned at the airport so do not purchase from duty free when flying into Maldives. Alcoholic drinks are only available on resort islands.

Our Maldives trip budget breakdown

ItemPrice in USD (for a couple)Price in INR (for a couple)
Return Flight from Delhi to Male$580₹48,000
Male Airport to Hulhumale taxi$20₹1650
Chen Beach Inn, Hulhumale (1 night stay with breakfast)$75₹6200
Taxi to Speedboat terminal$10₹825
Speedboat to Ukulhas$100₹8260
Sea La Vie Inn, Ukulhas 3 nights stay (Dinner + Breakfast)$320₹26450
Speedboat Ukulhas to Rasdhoo$20₹1650
Acqua Blu 1 night stay with breakfast$72₹5950
Speedboat Rasdhoo to Male$80₹6610
Centara Grand Island Resort and Spa (3 nights 4 days ALL INCLUSIVE PACKAGE with Seaplane transfers)$3000₹2,48,000
Taxi to Hotel in Male$6₹500
The Grand View Hotel Male (1 night stay with breakfast)$85₹7030
Food and miscellaneous costs$132₹9920
Total$45003,71,500
  • Do note that we didn’t dive or do any motorised activities. This will considerably increase the budget.

In conclusion, we hope you enjoyed reading our Maldives itinerary and guide. We’d love to hear from you so if you have any questions, leave us a comment below. Do share our guide with family and friends :)

Looking for a beach destination in India, check out our blog post from Goa. Do follow our travels on instagram too :)

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