The Maldives - Budget vs Blowout
Visit paradise without the pay cheque.
You might think the Maldives is a place reserved only for loved-up honeymooners and the super-minted-rich-kid-of-Instagram types.
Famed for its crystal clear turquoise water and legit swoon-inducing beaches, it’s probably firmly on your dream travel bucket list already, but it might feel like you’re quite far away from checking it off.
Well, good news. We’ve created a bumper list of accommodation options and fun activities that you can add to your itinerary, regardless of your spending allowance.
WATCH 9 THINGS YOU HAVE TO DO IN THE MALDIVES
Where To Stay: W Maldives
If you’re craving idyllic deserted island vibes (but still want that ultra luxurious five star pampering, obv), then this is 100% the place for you.
With 77 private retreats on the island, each with its own pool and sundeck, W is actually one of the smaller resorts in the Maldives. Although, with six gourmet restaurants and bars, an ACTUAL underground nightclub, a watersports centre offering buttloads of activities and gear for hire, AND the spa with the most eye-wateringly beautiful views we’ve seen, like, ever, this resort certainly doesn’t feel boutique.
We stayed in a Wonderful Beach Oasis, a beach hut like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Seriously. First of all, it’s a duplex, with its second floor boasting a sofa swing and top-of-the-range speakers. There’s also an in-room hammock (because of course), open-air bathroom (sounds exposed but it’s amazing how quickly you get used to bathing under the stars) and a private path to your very own section of the luscious beach.
If all of that isn’t giving you Kardashian-style celeb luxury, then just wait until you spot one of the refreshments stands hidden around the island, offering over-heated sunbathers unlimited free ice cold drinks, ice creams and cold flannels. Perfection.
Cost: Prices start from US$860 (approx. £688) per night for a Wonderful Beach Oasis on bed and breakfast basis.
What To Do: Fluo Night Snorkeling
W are one of a few resorts in the Maldives to have their own house reef, only a few short feet from the beach. And what a reef it is. We recommend bagging a totally unique view of the sea with this super magical night-time underwater adventure.
Your guide will kit you out with snorkelling gear and two very important torches. The first one may just be a regular torch to help you avoid swimming directly into a bank of coral in the darkness, but the the second (combined with a mask lens filter) brings a world of fluorescent lights and glowing corals to life. Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for manta rays and sea turtles.
Cost: US$125 per person
Where To Stay: LUX* South Ari Atoll
Ok, are you ready for this? 193 villas, a whopping seven restaurants, five bars, two infinity pools, tennis courts, spa, PADI diving centre, watersports hub… Need we go on?
If all that wasn’t enough, it also offers hidden treats including an ice cream bar (where you can customise your scoop to your heart's desire), an open air cinema where you can cuddle up on beanbags with popcorn and bevs, a literal TREE OF WISHES where you can hang a ribbon (and one per year gets picked for a free holiday) - and even an oasis of calm in the form of a island library, offering the perfect place to cool down and catch up on your reading.
Cost: Room prices start from $590 (approx £485) per night for a Beach Pavilion on a B&B basis in low season.
What To Do: Whale Shark / Manta Ray Swimming
LUX* South Ari Atoll are bonafide water activity royalty, especially when it comes to their sealife. With their very own resident marine biologist on site, this is one of the best places in the Maldives to get a glimpse of the biggest fish on earth - the elusive whale shark.
You’ll get a half day excursion on board the traditional dhoni (a Maldivian boat, FYI), where the marine biologist will give you a beginner’s guide to the fishy fellow, before you jump in for a proper look and hopefully the chance to swim alongside these ocean giants.
If the idea of swimming with sharks (even the friendly ones) is too much for you, then there’s a similar trip available to spot manta rays.
Cost: Prices start from $121 per person.
Where To Stay: The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi Maldives
Our trip to Sun Siyam Iru Fushi Maldives wins mega points because we got to take a motherflippin’ SPEED BOAT to the resort. So James Bond, innit.
The resort itself has all the gorgeous basics covered - they’ve got the flawless beaches, they’ve got the private villas (complete with plunge pool and access to the beach), and they’ve got an array of incredible restaurants and bars (one of which has a private wine cellar which you can reserve for an intimate dinner with a twist).
Cost: Prices start from US$300 (approx. £240) per night in a Beach Villa on bed and breakfast basis.
What To Do: Hit Up The Super-Sized Spa
What they also have is one of the biggest spas in the whole of the Maldives. With a whopping TWENTY rooms, Sun Siyam Iru Fushi offers hydrotherapy pools, steam rooms and saunas for every kind of treatment under the sun.
So go get yoself pampered.
Cost: Dependent on treatment.
Where To Stay: Dream Inn
Okay, it might seem like an impossible dream to visit the Maldives on a budget, but there are tote-bag ways to work it in your favour. These days there are loads of options on Airbnb, as well as a number of pretty darn lovely hostels available for us muggles.
One of the best of those on offer is the Dream Inn, a three star tourist guest house on the island of Thulusdhoo. Only a short speed boat ride from Malé airport, the Inn offers spacious rooms with cushy beds, and even a hostel version for groups of eight.
Cost: From £67pp per night for a deluxe double room.
What To Do: Ride The Surf, Dude
The Dream Inn has the added bonus of being smack bang in the middle of two famous surfing points (the Cokes and the Chickens for all your surf fiends). It’s the perfect place to catch some waves without breaking the bank.
Cost: US$20 for surfboard rental.