Pros and cons of local islands vs resorts in Maldives
When planning a trip to Maldives, many people have no idea which islands to choose. To be honest, I also spent quite some time researching before my trip. I had a chance to visit 12 different islands out of 1,1192 Maldives consist of. It might sound like not enough but it’s still more than most tourists get to explore. On average tourists visiting Maldives go to two, max 3 islands. I divided the month I traveled around Maldives into time spent on local islands, but also some time relaxing in 4 different resorts. Just to be able to compare. So what are the pros and cons of local islands vs resorts in Maldives?
Local islands pros
- a lot cheaper than resorts – if you are traveling on a budget, then visiting local islands is more doable than resorts, of course!
- you can observe how the locals live there
- more opportunities to get in touch with locals, talk to them and make friends. You can play volleyball, basketball or football with locals, lead discussions at small coffee shops or just start a conversation with local kids on the street.
- you can visit a Mosque (locals are Muslims). If you are not a Muslim, you can just walk close by to learn something about Muslim habits and rituals.
- depending on the island you choose, you might be the only tourist in there. Well, if you get as lucky as I did. Many local islands have just 1 guesthouse, or very few, so in low season you won’t encounter many tourists there. For me that’s a good thing. I spent a couple of days on Gaafaru island on my own. Just me and a thousand locals. Quite cool, isn’t it?
- daily trips around the islands are cheaper than those booked at resorts
- you will feel like part of a family
- no need to wear anything posh. You don’t have to care about the quality of clothes, make-up, shoes etc. No one cares.
Local islands cons
- most probably your local island guesthouses and small hotels won’t have swimming pools
- some islands do not have designated bikini beach which is the only beach where you can swim/sunbathe in swimwear. As Maldives is a Muslim country, you have to follow their rules of covering your shoulders and knees, even on the beach. It means that on non bikini beaches, and everywhere else around the local islands you should be wearing short/long sleeves and pants covering your knees. This applies more to women than men. It’s more strict with women. It might not feel very comfortable in that ehat and humidity, and it’s not so easy to get a tan if all covered up.
- garbage is the biggest problem in Maldives. You will definitely see a lot of rubbish, mostly cans and bottles on local islands and beaches. They try to deal with it the best they can, but piles of garbage can be still found on most local islands.
- you might be limited to very few food choices. There’s not that much food available at local supermarkets, nor many local restaurants either. There’s a big chance that you would eat most of your meals at your guesthouse. If you are picky, or have special dietary requirements, it could be a challenge. However, personally when I stayed at Summer Inn Thoddoo on Thoddoo island, and also at Mirian Sky hotel on Gaafaru island, both cooks were happy to make me vegan meals without any problems. All my meals were really tasty 🙂
- as the islands are very small, you most probably will listen to the locals praying at the mosques 5 times a day.
- usually you can pay only in local currency or dollars, but not with credit card.
TIP: I wrote down 5 important things you should know about the Maldivians. Yes, I mean the local people of Maldives. Maldivians are so nice, and very humble people living an easy life.
- you will have all the luxury you’ve always dreamed of.
- delicious food to choose from. Usually resorts offer also buffet meals, which is easier for you as you can taste a bit of everything. It can get also easier when you are vegan or vegetarian, as there’s always fresh fruit and veggie salads in each buffet. Menu meals might not offer these options. However, usually resort chefs are more than willing to prepare you special meals if you advise them beforehand.
- different cuisines from around the world, not only local Maldivian meals.
- you will be treated like a Queen/King.
- more activities to choose from: such as yoga classes, tennis, table tennis, cycling, movie theatre etc. If it’s raining, you might always find something else to do.
- usually resort staff speak better English than hotel employees on local islands.
- you can wear swimwear on the beach and wear pretty much anything all around the resort. Resorts are an exception to the Muslim rule in Maldives which means you don’t have to spend time on the beach covering yourself up with clothes.
- cleaner than some local islands. You won’t spot garbage when walking around.
- it’s usually possible to pay by credit card, and not in cash only.
- more expensive than local islands
- you won’t learn almost anything about the local life. Local staff members usually live in a small staff village on the same resort island. However, guests do not have access to the staff village which makes it almost impossible to find out about local habits. Plus, Maldivian resorts do not employ only locals, but people from all the countries of the world.
Maldivian Muslims cannot drink alcohol at all, not even when working at resorts.
One more thing I should mention when comparing Maldivian local islands vs resorts. Alcohol. I’ve noticed that on local islands it is not so easy to get alcohol. Due to Islam religion, local people are banned to drink alcohol so on many local islands you will not find any alcohol at stores, nor served at hotels. However, at resorts alcohol is fine so just remember than most probably you would not be able to get alcohol on local islands but yes at resorts.
Personally, I have not been drinking alcohol since 2009 so it’s even better for me not to find drunk people on local Maldivian islands.
TIP 2: Before you plan a visit to Maldives, check out how much it costs there. I wrote an article about my month expenses in Maldives.
TIP 3: While traveling around Maldives for 4 weeks, I observed all the interesting things about the islands and life there. I wrote a list of 30 things you should know about Maldives before you visit. Hope it’s helpful 😉
If I can suggest you, try to visit both, local islands and also resorts in Maldives. It will give you an overall view of what the country is like. Visiting only a resort, or only a local island would not do its justice so well. So if you get time, plan a relaxing holidays at a luxury resort and add exploration of a local Maldivian island to your itinerary as well.