This is an informative article about the resort islands and local islands in Maldives. We will explore their differences, unique features, and tips for tourists, but most importantly, where is the best place to stay in the Maldives. We’ll discuss potential pitfalls and provide guidance on how to make the right choice to ensure a fulfilling and unforgettable experience in this paradise nation.

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Resorts or local islands in Maldives: general points

Let’s start with some general information to give you a full picture and understanding of what a vacation in the Maldives entails:

  • The Maldives is an island republic consisting of 1,200 islands.
  • Only about 300 of them are inhabited and developed by humans.
  • These 300 islands are roughly evenly divided between local islands and resort islands.
  • All the islands in the country are of coral origin, and the size of any island is no more than 1 by 2 km, or even smaller. One of the largest islands in the country measures a whopping 2 by 3 km, and it is home to the country’s only city and capital – Male. All the other islands in the Maldives are significantly smaller.

Good to know:

Beach vacations in the Maldives are possible on both local islands and resort islands. Let me provide some detailed information about the vacation trends in the Maldives, whether it’s worth visiting this place today, and what to expect from a vacation here in the article at the link.
the best place to stay in the Maldives
There is ocean here and there, beaches, manta rays, turtles and lots of sun.

What is the difference between a resort island and local islands in Maldives?

You can read more detailed information below in the article, but the main difference is that a local island is an island where the local population lives. There are schools, hospitals, banks, cafes and restaurants, guesthouses, and hotels, and public ferries serve these islands. On the other hand, a resort island is a private island with only one hotel where package tourists are brought in via private transfer. There is no local population on resort islands, only hotel staff.

Details about island resorts in Maldives: pros and cons

As I have already mentioned, a resort island is essentially a hotel island. There is nothing else there. All resorts are closed, private territories that only tourists who have purchased a package to a specific hotel can access. Another option is to take a day trip from a neighboring local island to a resort island without an overnight stay, where visitors can use the resort’s facilities such as the pool, beach, and sun loungers. The cost of such a tour starts from $100-150 per person per day.

The advantages of vacationing on resort islands are:

  • It’s the type of vacation that comes to mind when you think of the Maldives – villas on stilts in the ocean, turquoise water, lots of palm trees, and white sand.
  • You can buy and consume alcohol on resort islands. In general, there is a lot of interesting information about alcohol in the Maldives in the article.
  • And that’s about it for the advantages. 🙂
best islands in maldives
The most classic private island resorts in Maldives. A distinctive feature is the villas on stilts right in the ocean

Cons of staying on resort islands:

  • These islands are very small, most of them are no more than 300 by 500 meters. There aren’t as many activities as you might like.
  • Everything is expensive and very expensive. Starting with getting to the resort, and ending with excursions, dinner at a restaurant, or buying alcohol. The price difference between a local island can be up to 10 times.
  • All about prices in the Maldives.
  • Staying on resort islands will cost significantly more. You can only get to these islands as part of a tour package, and all about tours to the Maldives and their prices can be found in a separate article.

In summary, if you can spend the whole day lying on the beach, want a heavenly vacation as depicted in the pictures, a villa with its own pool and jumping into the ocean from your terrace, then the resort island is perfect for you, provided that you can afford it.

Maldives local islands: what you need to know

The stereotype that the Maldives is a destination only for the wealthy appeared before 1990, when it was only possible to fly to luxurious resort islands. However, everything changed about 30 years ago when the country decided to develop tourism on local islands.

Starting from around 1992, tourists were allowed to vacation on islands where locals live. As the country is Muslim and there are many restrictions, infrastructure was created from scratch for tourists to feel comfortable.

Today, vacationing on a local islands in Maldives is no different from staying at a resort island, but there are some things to keep in mind that could be considered drawbacks.

  • When choosing local islands in Maldives, it’s best to stay within a radius of 60-70 km from Male. This way, it will be easy and inexpensive to get there. However, if you want to visit islands in the far atolls, transportation can be very difficult and expensive.
  • It’s important to note that alcohol is completely prohibited on local islands, even for purchase.
  • Also, it’s not allowed to wear bikinis everywhere on Maldives local islands. There is usually a designated “bikini beach” for tourists, which takes up the best part of the island. This is not a problem as long as you are aware of it, and know that it’s not appropriate to wear bikinis on the streets.
  • For more information about what to wear and what not to wear on the beaches in the Maldives, please see our article on beach holidays in the Maldives.
local islands in Maldives
And this is how an ordinary local island looks like: there are more places, longer beaches, there is where to take a walk. And often the reef near local islands is richer and more diverse than in resorts.

But everything else is a clear advantage of vacationing on local islands in Maldives:

  • It’s 5-10 times cheaper than resorts. Anyone can afford a vacation in the Maldives, not just Elon Musk.
  • There’s a lot more space and entertainment. You can take a walk, choose from cafes and restaurants, and enjoy a wide range of water activities.
  • The beach, reef, and underwater world are exactly the same as those on resort islands, and sometimes even better.
  • Most activities that cost $100 at a resort are completely free on Maldives local islands. For example, a shark feeding excursion. Sharks come to the port on local islands every day.
maldives which island to choose
These are the nurse sharks that come daily to the port of the local island of Rasdhoo. I don’t think it’s necessary to say that this is free entertainment.

If we look at it globally, the vacation experience on both resorts and local islands in Maldives is predominantly centered around the beach. However, on a resort, there is less freedom, space, and entertainment, and you need to be able to lie on the beach all day. On the other hand, on a local island, there is a vibrant Maldivian life with more space, activities, and entertainment.

Where is the best place to stay in the Maldives: rating of the best resorts or local islands

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It depends on personal preferences and budget. If you have the money and want an all-inclusive vacation, then a resort is definitely the way to go. If you want to visit the Maldives but your budget doesn’t allow for it, and you’re willing to organize everything yourself, from flights to hotels to ferries, then a local island is the perfect option.

Below is a list of the most popular local islands in Maldives for budget travel, as well as the most luxurious resort islands for a lavish vacation. Click on the links, read the reviews, and make your choice.

TOP 10 resort islandsTOP 10 local islands
Soneva FushiBodufolhudhoo
Sun Island ResortVaadhoo
Paradise Island ResortFulhadhoo
Bandos ResortDhigurah
Riu PalaceDhiffushi
Conrad and underwater MurakaThinadhoo
Hard RockRasdhoo
Nova MaldivesThoddoo
Ozen Reserve BolifushiUkulhas
I cannot say that all the options on the list are the best in their class, but they are certainly the most popular among tourists.

Comparing a resort island vacation to a local island vacation is not fair as they are completely different experiences. Yes, they share the same ocean, local culture, national cuisine, identical beaches, and underwater world. But it’s like comparing a budget hotel stay in Dubai where one spends evenings strolling through the beautiful city, versus a luxurious stay at the Burj Khalifa, dining at fancy restaurants and attending exclusive events.

In conclusion, where is the best place to stay in the Maldives? I personally prefer the local islands of Rasdhoo, Thoddoo, Ukulhas, and Guraidhoo – they are authentic, with a slow-paced but vibrant way of life. However, if you are looking for a luxurious beach vacation, a private resort island will not disappoint. Luckily, there is a vast selection of options available for all types of travelers.

The best vacation in the Maldives is wherever it suits you best!

If you enjoyed the article and the content in this guide, you can buy me a coffee ^_^

Resources to help you plan your dream trip to the Maldives

  • Flight tickets and the best deals
  • Tour packages (from budget to luxury): Expedia
  • Hotels and guesthouses on any island:
    • Hotellook compares prices among a dozen other services and platforms and offers to choose the best one.
    • Booking – the most popular service for booking accommodation.
    • Agoda – the main competitor of Booking.
  • 12go is the largest Asian transfer service. It gathers all Maldivian carriers, even the small ones that operate between local islands.
  • Tours and excursions: Viator – a limited selection of excursions, but convenient and reliable.
  • Comprehensive insurance: EKTA
  • eSIM at the same price as in telecom office in Male.