The Maldives encompass almost 1200 islands, 200 inhabited by locals and 1000 not.
So, the government decided to create a win-win situation to bump up Maldives tourism: they sold uninhabited islands to hotel companies in exchange for taxes and the result worked perfectly.
Soon, the Maldives became a true paradise on earth. While some luxurious bungalows in resorts reach upwards of thousands of dollars per night, the appeal of the peace, luxury and natural beauty of the Maldives invites thousands of tourists every year.
However, it all changed in 2009 when the ban on guesthouses in non-resort islands was lifted.
Lifting this ban was a great move that helped both locals and travelers from the middle class. Middle-class Maldivians started opening guesthouses on local islands and earning money, while middle-class travelers got the chance to experience the Maldives thanks to lower costs. The first island that started opening up was Maafushi, but today you can find guesthouses in Hithadhoo, Huraa, Mahibadhoo, Dhangethi, and on any of the other larger islands. So, what should you choose—private Maldives resorts on an island or local islands for your Maldives vacation? Here’s a little guide that will help you make the right decision.
Staying in a Private Resort in the Maldives
If you want to experience the luxury you’ve always dreamed of, you’re a traveler for resorts. This is the picture of a tropical paradise you imagine when you think about Indian Ocean islands—white beaches, blue water, palms, and sunshine. And you’ll be truly treated like royalty from the moment you step in any of the luxury resorts in the Maldives—they are famous for its service!
The comfort and practicality of resorts can’t be matched—everything is taken care of.
Additionally, resorts are some of the rare places in the Maldives where you can swim in bikinis and have alcohol. The Maldives are a Muslim country, so alcohol consumption is not allowed nor are women allowed to wear bikinis. But, if you book your stay at a resort, you can do all of those things, so check your priorities. Resorts are also perfect for picky eaters since you can find everything from local cuisine, international dishes, and fusion cuisine. Also, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, the buffets almost always contain various all-veggie dishes as well as fresh vegetable and fruit salads. Additionally, resorts are much cleaner, especially when it comes to the beaches.
However, one of the rare disadvantages of private resorts are the costs involved (everything is much more expensive). You can steer clear from expensive water bungalows and still pay hundreds of dollars per night. But if you have money to splurge, you’ll definitely be spoiled! Another con is that you won’t get to experience any of the local cultures if you only plan to stay in your resort. Even the staff in resorts is mixed with locals and international workers, so you can expect zero contact with the wonderful people, culture, and atmosphere of the real Maldives.
Staying on local islands in the Maldives
Local islands are places where real Maldivians live. Most islands are truly gorgeous with beautiful beaches, vibrant atmosphere and great food. Male is the main island and it’s not particularly heaven for tourists since it’s a concrete jungle. But, if you go to places like Mahibadhoo, Dhangethi, Dhigurah, and Hanifaru, you’ll have an authentic Maldivian experience. These islands are up-and-coming places thanks to their beaches and the abundance of manta rays and whale sharks. One of the best things about local islands is that guesthouses are quite cheap (the competition is constantly bringing down the prices). Additionally, you’re not tied to your resort and you can island-hop, change guesthouses and feel free. You can explore the islands, meet locals and experience how they live. Most people are very, very friendly and willing to chat and offer their insight.
Sometimes, if you hit the shoulder season, you can be the only tourist there which means you’ll basically have all the best views, experiences and fun all to yourself!
And, you don’t have to overthink what you’re going to wear, how you’re going to present yourself and where you’re going to go—the atmosphere is very chill and you can truly relax!
However, if you’re planning to get a good tan or grab a cocktail at the beach, you can forget about it. Local islands follow strict rules of no booze and no nudity (there are “bikini beaches” but not on every island). You have to have your knees and shoulders covered at all times. But, the biggest issue with local islands is the trash. You can see it in the streets and unfortunately at the beach. While people are trying to clean up the islands, you can still see piles of trash next to garbage cans and pieces of garbage around the beach. Also, if you’re a picky eater, you might be left without too many options. The offer of groceries at supermarkets isn’t big and restaurants only serve a few different dishes.
The most important things to consider when choosing between private resorts and local islands for your Maldives holidays is your lifestyle and personality. If you want luxury paradise full of amazing Instagram photo opportunities, opt for a resort. On the other hand, if you want to experience the local culture and also travel on a budget, choose a local island. No matter what you opt for, the Maldives will not disappoint!
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Zara Lewis is a regular contributor at Highstylife Magazine, a traveler and a mother of two. Originally from Chicago, she found her place in the sun in Perth, Australia. Zara brings a passion to followsummer about spreading the word about fantastic places to visit and creating a better world for the generations to come. You can follow Zara on Facebook and Twitter.