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Resort vs. Local Island. How To Choose?


Everybody knows that Maldives is a paradise for those who want to enjoy some peace and quiet. This is a wonderful place with stunning views, white sand beaches and deep azure waters. The Maldives’ remoteness from the rest of the world is a magnet for tourists, and it’s believed that only the chosen ones can afford to visit this beautiful place.

And that’s absolutely true – for many years only few people have had enough money to spend their holiday on these magnificent islands. On average, travel expenses amounted to $3,000! But is it really worth going there?


There were just no alternatives till 2008, so the Maldives remained a private resort. Once in a while, ordinary tourists visited the islands in search of the exotic and the opportunity to experience the real, wild, and unexplored Maldives.

But with the changes in the government and in the legal system, the locals were allowed to start their own tourism business on the local islands. All this marked the beginning of the era of the affordable, budget, and, what is more important, quality holidays in the Maldives.

But still, how to choose between resort or local island? One can argue forever, so I’ve tried to consider the pros and cons, and also some similar features of spending the holidays on the local islands and on the resorts.


Local Islands: Advantages

Local islands in the Maldives are inhabited islands where the locals live. The population of these islands was counted to be 50 – 2500. The length of the islands varies from 500m to 2,000m, and the width is practically equal to the length. I consider it important to put an emphasis on these figures, and I’ll explain why we should pay attention to them.

There are about 200 inhabited islands in Maldives. The opportunities for tourists to stay are available only on 100 of them (there is at least a guest house or just a camping site, or B&B). And about 30 of them provide the tourists with well-developed infrastructure, which includes ferry terminal, some guest houses, cafes and restaurants, beaches, diving centres. Let’s consider the main advantages of these islands.


Cost of Living

Cost of living is certainly the main criterion. It varies from $30 to $150 per night depending on the guest house, the island, time of year and the meal option.

However, the quality of accommodation is reasonably high. There is an air conditioner, a half-bathroom and other basic facilities in each hotel room. The rooms are clean, well-groomed and well-furnished.


Cost of living in Maldives is certainly much higher than in neighboring India or Sri Lanka. But we should remember that the economy of the country is concentrated on imports (the country is importing almost everything: fuel, construction materials, foods, clothing, etc.).

Tourism is the main source of income for many Maldivians. Their average salary amounts to $300-400, which is not really high.


Food Options

Restaurants and guest houses usually offer the dishes of the Continental and Maldivian cuisines. The main products are rice, pasta, vegetables, beef, chicken, fish, spices (a lot of spices), and also seafood: lobsters, crabs, and octopuses. Maldivians are not used to eat a lot of seafood.

So, we have to admit that what concerns food, local islands are not likely to provide their tourists with a varied range of dishes.

However, the portions are really big, and the dishes are really nourishing. The cost of lunch is $7-14. In my own experience, it was enough for me to have only breakfast and dinner, because in the afternoon we usually went on excursions, during which we had light snacks (e.g. fruit).

Moreover, while fishing you can catch a fish, and you can have it cooked immediately absolutely for free! It’s hardly permitted on a resort.




One of the main issues of Maldives is the opportunity to move between islands. Given that the distance between the northernmost and southernmost atolls is about 1,200 km, it is a real problem.

Nowadays, a public ferry goes between all the inhabited islands, and a one-way trip by ferry costs less than $10. The main problem is that they follow a regular schedule, and there are situations when they are canceled due to bad weather or other reasons.

Therefore, schedules speedboat and ferries are a good alternative. They are an additional means of transferring between the islands. In this case the cost of a trip on the boat is $25-100.

At least, you can book transfer by the request (i.e private speedboat) of the guest house, but such a trip will cost you a vast deal of money.

Compare: you can be taken to the resort by seaplane (one way – from $300), or you can take a transfer on request (from $500). Of course, it is convenient but rather expensive.


Local Culture

If you are going to visit the Maldives not only to lie on the beach and enjoy the sun, but also to get to know with the local culture and traditions, then local islands are perfect chose for you!

Maldivians are very communicative and friendly people with their own customs and traditions. Despite the fact that they are Muslims, there are almost no externals of their religion. There are certainly some rules that have to be followed when you are going to visit the local islands. But they won’t make you feel inconvenient.

Read also: How to Choose a local island?

There still exist some heathen customs, which appeared due to the influence of the Africans’ past.

It is on the local islands where you can see the real Maldives – without glamour and superfluity. The locals will be happy to help you with discovering these amazing islands [they are really kind, just give them a reason].


Small Markets

There are several little restaurants, groceries and souvenir shops on any inhabited island. There is one interesting feature – it’s obligatory to take off your shoes before entering a shop (not everywhere). Not so much hygienic, right? But actually, you do not even think about it, and the possibility of catching any infection seems not really strong to me.

In these little shops, you can buy a wide range of products, which you can hardly find in the guesthouses. There are no such shops on the resorts. Speaking about souvenirs, they are much cheaper on the local islands than in resorts. Moreover, such little shops simply don’t exist on some resorts.

Therefore, tourists who stay on the resorts are often taken to the local islands to buy souvenirs.

maldives resort deals outrigger kanotta

Resorts: Main Advantages

Resorts, or island hotels, are separate islands, the territory of which is occupied by a hotel. In terms of the size, these islands are usually much smaller than the local islands.

Bungalows and water villas are the key factors to go to resorts. They are separate villas that are located either asore or on the ocean (and the prices vary as well). Inside the cabins are equipped with all the necessary things: there is a bathroom, air conditioning, a mini-bar, etc. Besides, on the island you can find fitness centers, bars, restaurants, spa-centers, clubs, and diving centers.

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You can be transferred to the island by seaplane, speedboat or domestic flight (the following transfer to the island is by speedboat).

In hotels, the number of rooms depends on the size of the island. The smallest number is 40. Compare: in a guest house on local islands there are usually 3-7 rooms.

There are about 130+ resorts in the Maldives and every year new hotels are opened. A wide choice, isn’t it?



One of the main reasons why the Maldives attract tourists is privacy. Choosing a local island, be ready that there you won’t be able to enjoy this feeling. This is especially important for young couples, because it is privacy that they are looking for. Therefore your own bungalow is a great place, where you can escape from hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy peace and quiet.

The size of the island and its remoteness (not every resort is located next to the local islands) create the unique isolation from the rest of the world.

The local islands are still bit crowded, and it is problematic to find privacy there.

resort vs local island


There is no doubt that resorts are known for their amazing bungalows. There are no resorts without them. As I’ve already said, Maldivian bungalows are furnished villas, which are located either ashore or on the ocean. What is more, the bungalows located on a water have a glass floor [not all of them], through which you can observe the underwater world of the Maldives, and it is simply astonishing!

The area of villa which can reach 500-700 m2 and even more, is truly impressive! The lowest cost of a bungalow renting is starting from  $220 per night (including all taxes and fees). But you will get a luxurious accommodation with a beautiful view of the ocean!

Therefore, while choosing a resort, it is better to consider staying in a bungalow located on the water otherwise all your travel expenses will be useless.


Bars & Entertainment

In the Maldives, there are no special places for great entertainment events. Concerts are a rare thing there. One of the reasons for it is religion. The adoption of certain laws is influenced by religion. You will also find no clubs and discos on the local islands.

But all this can’t be applied to the resorts, where the nightlife is in full swing! There are bars, karaoke, restaurants, outdoor discos and various entertainment programs. Every night you get the opportunity to wind down with a glass of wine (other kinds of booze are also available) and dance to modern music.

Read also: How to choose resort in Maldives?

I should note that it is only on the resorts the alcohol is absolutely legal and available for everyone. For some tourists it becomes a decisive factor while choosing the island: a resort or a local one. On the local islands, and in the whole country, import and consumption of alcohol are prohibited. But everyone is free to choose how to entertain themselves.


Reasonable Price

The price you pay for the holidays on the resort is absolutely reasonable. It is a fact. After all, the island is owned by individuals who will do their best to create the favorable atmosphere, so that the tourists feel satisfied with the time spent there and want to come back again and again. You pay for what you get, otherwise, the tourists would just refuse to go there.

A perfectly clean beach, the bottom without sharp dead corals, well-maintained alleys and a lot of greenery can be found at the resort. There is no litter at all. Everything is clean and tidy.

Read also: Top 9 Cheap Resorts in Maldives

At the same time you realize that to maintain this order requires attention, care and money. Resorts are the perfect place for relaxation, where you get what you paid for.


Resort & Local Island. What’s common?

Despite the obvious differences and advantages of resorts and local islands, there are also a number of similar features between them. Taking this all into account, you can already make your choice between the local island and the resort.

So what are these similar features between typical local island and resort? Let’s find out.


Ocean & Sun

Yes, as simple as that. The most obvious similarity is that there is the same water and the same sun. Color, the temperature of water are the same, whether it is the local island or the resort. There is always a chance to come across floating litter during the snorkeling.

The sun does not shine brighter or warmer or softer on the resorts. In Maldives, it is the same. Maldivian sun is very hot and dangerous because you can easily get burned, so do not forget to take a sunscreen with you.



I have already mentioned the excellent conditions of the beaches on the resorts. And what about the beaches of the local islands? They are not too bad, actually. Beaches on the most of local islands are constantly cleaned and kept in order. Their state is not so perfect as that of the resorts, but at least people try to keep them clean.

Still, I should say that the size of the beach varies from island to island. So in this case tourists are taken to the neighboring uninhabited islands where the beaches are specially organized for tourists.

There is still the problem of litter on the local islands. The government simply does not have much time to take it away, therefore all the litter piles up. But the things are not that bad! The situation is changing rapidly on local islands, and now the problem with litter is not a topical issue. Many islands, such as Ukulhas, have already coped with this problem. Other islands are next.


Underwater World

The Maldivian underwater world is unique and special in many ways. The crystal-clear water; lots of little fish, sharks, rays; colorful corals make this place unforgettable!

Many local islands have an excellent house reef, where you can meet not only the little fish, but also sharks, rays and other representatives of the underwater kingdom. The resorts have the same advantages.

Underwater inhabitants swim wherever they want. You can find them either near the resort or near local island. Therefore, the same fish, rays and sharks inhabit those waters.



The Maldives offer a lot of water activities, both underwater (such as snorkeling and diving) and water (such as jet ski, kayak, surfing, etc). What is more, when it comes to diving or snorkeling, tourists from local islands and resorts are taken to the same places. It is clear that this is true only in the case when the local island and the resort are located in the neighborhood.


What concerns spending time with dolphins, fishing, surfing, etc, the resorts offer a wider range of activities than guesthouses. However, the trend is changing, and soon the guest houses are sure to catch up with resorts.

But in terms of the price, the resorts lose their leadership, because the guest houses on the local islands are free to set flexible prices on excursions and to provide additional bonuses that are not included in the price.


What To Choose?

We have considered the main advantages of the local islands and the resorts.

We have found out that they have some similar features, as well as their own characteristics.

It’s up to you to make a final decision, as this decision depends on many factors. And the financial question also plays a crucial role. I’d recommend to combine guest house and resort staying.

It is the purpose of the trip that should be paid attention to when choosing between the resort and the local island.

I can say that if you have a desire (and the opportunity) to visit both the resort and the local island, don’t hesitate and do this, because it’s really worth it.


What next? Check packages to resorts or get a tailor-made tour.

Resort vs. Local Island. How To Choose?
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