Last year I visited Maldives 4 times and every time I flew into this paradise destination I got as excited as a kid. When you see this country from the airplane window you can clearly see why this is a unique place on earth and is topping many travelers’ bucketlist. And now more than ever a trip to Maldives is within reach for everyone!
Don’t let traveling to Maldives be a dream! Make this dream come true. Maldives may seem like a destination for honeymooners, but think again! Visiting Maldives on a budget is getting popular among travelers after a couple years ago the government decided to open local islands to travelers. Guesthouses are popping up all over the country, but since traveling around Maldives is not easy, people stick to islands around Male international airport. The most convenient island to enjoy a trip to Maldives on a budget is the local island attached to the international airport in Male: Hulhumale Maldives.
Hulhumale is reclaimed land initially to support the expansion of the capital and the international airport in Male but developed in such a way that it became a popular spot for travelers visiting Maldives. A lot of travelers also use the hotels in Hulhumale as a transit night when they change resorts or arrive after sunset in Maldives. In this Hulhumale travel blog I tell you the best things to do, how to get to Hulhumale and give you travel tips and all the information you can expect from an up to date travel guide.
Hulhumale things to do
1. Enjoy Hulhumale Beach
Of course you booked a trip to Maldives to admire its beautiful beaches and here on Hulhumale Beach you will get what you were looking for. On the eastside of the island there is an endless stretch of perfect white sand beach with calm and shallow waters. The beach is protected by a reef approximately 100 meter out.
Keep in mind though that Hulhumale is a local island and that bikinis are not allowed on Hulhumale Beach. If you visit Maldives this is one of the most important things to know. For bikini lovers keep on walking south on Hulhumale Beach until you reach the so-called tourist beach or bikini beach as the locals call it. Later more Maldives travel tips.
2. Go Snorkeling
Strap on your snorkel gear and head out on the east side of the island. Hulhumale Beach is protected by a reef that lies about 70 meters from shore. Swim out to the drop off and expect to see baby sharks, turtles, rays and many reef fish while snorkeling in Hulhumale. Don’t be scared these sharks are black tip reef sharks and often even come close to Hulhumale Beach but are totally harmless. They are about 30 centimeter, they are cute NOT dangerous!
3. Scuba diving in Hulhumale
There are 4 dive shops around in Hulhumale and I had a look at all of them. Everyone was friendly and all are basically offering the same dive packages. I checked out Scuba Club Maldives, Ocean Junkies Dive Center, Dune Maldives Diving Center and Dive Club Maldives for you. They all seem fine to me, but I did not dive myself while staying in Hulhumale.
Everywhere on Hulhumale Beach you will see canoes, jet skis, or places that offer wake boarding, parasailing and kite surfing. When you are a fan of watersports there are many things to do in Hulhumale.
5. Daytrip to Male
Hulhumale island is connected with the airport but is not the capital of Maldives. When in Hulhumale you have most probably spotted Male in the distance already. The busy, dirty capital is not a place where a lot of tourists want to end up, but there are some cool things to do. People come to Maldives with high expectations and expect a paradise destination and not a polluted concrete jungle. As a traveler though I think you should visit Male, it is an interesting place. If you have some spare time on your trip to Maldives I think it is worth a day trip from Hulhumale. Things to do in Male: wander through the colorful and narrow streets, visit the local market and the fish market and have a quality coffee in one of the many nice coffee shops or visit the bars with a view like the skybar on top of Hotel Jen.
6. Day trip to resorts islands near Male international airport
All guesthouses in Hulhumale are able to organize a day trip to one of the fancy resort islands near Male. Expect to pay about $150 - $250 per person for a day trip and that does often not even include a meal or a drink. You can get the price down if you book with a group.
Honestly I don’t think a day trip from Hulhumale to any of the resort islands are worth it. If you search online, you might even find a great last minute deal online. Agoda constantly has great deals for Maldives, check them out below.
7. Stroll through the park
At the end of the afternoon locals are gathering in the park right in the middle of the island. Hulhumale Central Park is a car free zone is where you will find lawns around a pond. People come here for a workout in the open-air gym, play football or go skate boarding or jogging. If you are visiting Maldives on a budget then hanging out in the park is perfect way to get some local advice on which local islands to go in Maldives.
8. Have breakfast on the beach
All the guesthouses lined up on the beach road include free breakfast on the beach, but even if you are not staying here you can come here for breakfast. As the beach is facing east it is also a perfect sunrise spot. Hulhumale beach is the best spot if you are looking for romantic Hulhumale things to do. :)
9. Coffee at Family Room
For the best coffee place in Hulhumale you have to go to Family Room where you can find Coffee Lab, right on the beach road. You can sit outside on the beach or have your coffee inside in the AC in this homey decorated spot. This is the perfect place to meet other travelers and nomads. Working on your laptop is normal practice and the place is full of foreigners.
10. Lunch at a local restaurant in Hulhumale
If you are traveling the Maldives on a budget I am sure you will like this thing to do in Hulhumale. Find a local restaurant and get to pick your own meal from the counter. Just point at what looks good. I recommend you to try a boneless fish curry, my favorite. And the price? You will love it! You can eat at a local restaurant in Hulhumale for already $3 per meal. For good Indian food I found Bombay Carbar and Tandoori Flames a good choice. Hulhumale is full of restaurants and the further away from the beach the more local and cheaper they become.
All this food was $3 and really yummy!
11. Ice cream at LuiBuin
There are a couple ice cream places along Hulhumale Beach and because I had to tell you which ones are the best I gained a couple kilos. My favorite ice cream shop is actually on the main street though and is called LuiBuin. Grab some ice cream here and walk to the park.
12. Play sports with locals
This is the coolest advice for the sporty traveler and something you won’t find in any Hulhumale travel guide. If you want to stay fit on your trip to Maldives then just wear some easy clothes, some trainers and head towards the mosque around 5pm.
Around here you will find football, basketball and volleyball fields and locals will all ask you to join. Don’t be shy! Hulhumale is a melt pot of loads of different nationalities and they are happy to see a foreigner joining.
13. Hulhumale Gym
There are a couple opportunities to workout around the island. There is a running track in the North and some outdoor gyms in Hulhumale Central Park. But the best gym in Hulhumale is Fitzone, which is open from 5.00 till 23.00 and closed on Fridays. Tourists can buy a day pass for $12.
14. Visit the mosque
Honestly I am not sure if tourists are allowed to visit the mosque in Hulhumale. Every time I wanted to have a look it was prayer time and I obviously did not want to walk in with my camera being that stupid tourist. According to locals though tourists can visit the mosque during other hours. The name of the mosque is Masjid Hamad bin Khalifa.
15. Eat sushi
When on a trip to Maldives you will most definitely have to eat at a fish restaurant or go for sushi. I have been to a lot of fancy sushi restaurants around the world, but the sushi in Maldives is by far the best. If you are looking for sushi restaurants in Hulhumale try Oishii in the northeast on Hulhumale Beach.
16. Local market
The local market in Hulhumale is not as authentic like the one in Male and definitely lacks charm as it is temporary tent, but it still is the perfect place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables or even a fresh coconut for $1.
17. Play pool at night
If you are a fan of playing pool then you should try your luck at the local mini youth activity center opposite the Hulhumale Hospital. They are happy to see foreigners coming.
18. Watch football on a big screen at Valhomas Cafe
The number one sport in Maldives is football and all locals are mad about it. Since there is no alcohol on a local island there is no Irish Pub or a bar in Hulhumale where you watch football. But on the main street Nirolhu Magu you will find Valhomas Café and they have a huge outdoor screen where they play football even after midnight.
If you forgot some beach accessories then you are spoiled for choice, as there are numerous beach outlets to buy your floaties from. Souvenir shops, clothing shops, phone accessory shops, local markets and almost everything like in a big city can be found in the many local shops around the island. Most of them are on the main street called Nirolhu Magu and the cross road to Hulhumale Central Park. On the way to the park there is a 5-story shopping mall called Centro.
It is not yet fully occupied but that is just a matter of time. You can already find some branded clothing shops and cute coffee and ice cream places.
Hulhumale travel tips
Local islands in Maldives
Keep in mind that you are traveling to a local island in Maldives and that there are some rules you might not know about when you visit Maldives for the first time. These are the three most important travel tips for a local island in Maldives:
- Dress appropriate! Maldives is a strict Muslim country.
- On public beaches bikinis are not allowed, men in board shorts is ok!
- Alcohol is strictly prohibited!
- It is officially prohibited to show affection in public.
Always respect the culture of the country you are traveling to!
There is a big supermarket on the ground floor of the shopping mall called Fantasy Express and all over the island you will find small local shops that basically cater all your needs as well.
Although guesthouses in Hulhumale accept US dollars, local shops mostly don’t or give you a very bad exchange rate. You can basically change money everywhere just ask around. Check the going rate online so you have an indication what you should get for your dollars or euros. $1 is around 15.5 MVR at the beginning of 2018.
ATMs in Hulhumale
There are plenty of ATMs around Hulhumale but be aware that withdrawing money in Maldives has its price and you mostly pay up to $7 per transaction. Changing money might therefore be a better way to get local currency.
Maldives sim card
WiFi in the Maldives is something they should definitely work on. If you like to be connected I would recommend you to buy a Maldives sim card rather than rely on the free wifi (when the guesthouses even offer it). You can buy it everwhere around Hulhumale and if you want to know which mobile provider best suits you then click on the link and I will explain you the difference.
How to get to and from Hulhumale
How to get from the airport to Hulhumale?
Take the bus
If you land at the international airport in Male it is really easy and cheap to get to Hulhumale by bus as it is connected to the airport island by road. If you walk out of the airport at the side of the Burger King turn immediately left and after 20 meter on your left side there is a bus stop. The bus from the airport to Hulhumale leaves every 30 minutes starting at 6.00 in the morning and cost 20MVR ($1,33). You can only pay in local currency so change money first at the airport or use any of the ATMs right next to the arrival gate and the airport information center.
There are also taxis available but they will charge you at least $15 one way and the ride is less then 10 minutes. From the ferry terminal to Hulhumale Beach expect to pay around 40 MVR.
Rent a scooter in Hulhumale
A cool way to get around Hulhumale is on a scooter. Every time I go island hopping in Thailand or Indonesia I rent a motorbike. Hulhumale is actually so small though that everything is within walking distance. Still renting a motorbike always feels nice and you are able to see more of the island. Ask your guesthouse in Hulhumale to organize this for you. Expect to pay around $20 per day!
Ferry terminal in Hulhumale
Hulhumale is connected by road with the airport island and will in the future also get a direct connection with Male when the new bridge will be opened. But even when that connection is established the way to get to and from Hulhumale is by ferry. The Ferry terminal is located on the west side of the island and there is a boat from Hulhumale to Male every 15 minutes and cost only 5,50 MVR ($0,35). It takes about 15 minutes by boat from Male to Hulhumale or vice versa. If you want to take a day trip to Male this is where you start.
Keep in mind that on Fridays there is a 3-hour break between 11.30 and 14.30. There will be no boats going to and from the islands.
There are ferries all night long from Male to the airport in case you are afraid not getting back to Hulhumale. The ferry from Male to the airport take around 10 minutes and also costs 5.50 MVR. From the airport you can take the bus which goes every hour during the night.
Taxis in Hulhumale
As Hulhumale is expanding and tourists are finding their way to Hulhumale Beach there are more and more taxis coming. Service is still limited, but prices are affordable. Know what to pay by asking a local first. From the ferry terminal to Hulhumale beach should not cost more than 50 MVR per taxi.
You know how tourists are the easiest victims for taxi drivers. In Male a taxi driver once tried to charge me $20 where the real price was less than $3. Ask a random local for an estimate of the price first before getting into a taxi.
A lot of guesthouses in Hulhumale have shuttle services, definitely those ones that charge around $80 per night and upward. This complimentary shuttle service can be handy when you arrive on Male Airport out of the bus service hours. A one-way taxi will mostly cost you around $15, so sometimes it makes sense booking a more expensive guesthouse with complimentary shuttle service.
Where to stay in Hulhumale Maldives
I would definitely recommend you to stay in a guesthouse close to Hulhumale Beach or in the back alley of the beach road. Anywhere else on the island is fine as well as the beach will never been further than a couple hundred meters. Though for the best island vibe stay on the beach road where you find all the restaurants, water sport rentals and coffee shops. If you know you gonna spend a lot of time on bikini beach then book your Hulhumale accommodation more towards the south.
These are some nice guesthouses and hotels in Hulhumale with good reviews:
Luxury: Hotel Ocean Grand at Hulhumale.
This picture I took from a seaplane tells you why I think Hulhumale has endless potential and will soon become even more popular with travelers on a trip to Maldives on a budget.
Yes I have also seen the luxury side of Maldives and stayed in a lot of handful luxury resorts in Maldives as well. If you are looking for a more lifestyle resort and a place to meet people check out Kuramathi Island or the newly opened Kandima Maldives. For ultimate luxury head to the secluded Shangri La Villingili, Kurumba is a good option if you are looking for a resort close to Male.
Want to stay in a overwater villa close to Male international airport then Adaaran Prestige Vadoo is a great option. And if you want to see whalesharks on the back of your overwater villa then you should definitely read about my favorite resort in Maldives: Lux South Ari Atoll.