Discovering the Maldives on a Budget: A Family Adventure on Thoddoo Island

In January, my family and I decided to visit the Maldives. However, upon looking at the prices of resort islands, we were taken aback. Moreover, the idea of flying to a resort only to spend an entire week lying on the beach did not appeal to us. Such leisure was not our cup of tea.


This prompted us to explore the option of visiting a local island. It was a recent development that these local islands became accessible to tourists, with cozy guest houses being built where one could rent rooms at a modest price.

The water, sand, and palm trees were just as idyllic as those found in resorts, proving that the beauty of the Maldives could be enjoyed without the hefty price tag. During our stay in the Maldives, we spent 9 nights in total: two in Hulhumale and a week on Thoddoo Island.

Beach in Thoddoo Island

What's This About?

Exploring the Authentic Maldives: Balancing Tradition and Tourism

The Maldives, being a 100% Islamic country, necessitates adherence to certain fundamental rules: no alcohol can be brought into the country, dressing modestly with longer and less revealing dresses is recommended, and swimming is allowed at designated beaches, specifically marked as Bikini Beach.

Local beach

We stayed in Hulhumale for two nights to get a glimpse of local life, taking a ferry to Malé. The cities are not very clean, quite noisy, and are bustling with scooters weaving in and out as they please, making it crucial to be extremely cautious when crossing streets. There are plenty of neat places to eat with reasonable prices.

Street in Male

We ventured deep into the city, which is not an easy task on streets crowded with scooters, sometimes even with young children aboard. However, near the ferry terminal, there is a beautiful park filled with exotic tropical plants and a pond with fish.

For travelers curious and eager to explore, I would recommend dedicating a day to the capital. For those who prefer to avoid the hustle and bustle, especially under the scorching sun, heading directly to your chosen island might be the better option.

Lonuziyaaraiy Park

Thoddoo Island: A Paradise of Fertility and Hospitality in the Maldives

For our first trip to the Maldives, we chose Thoddoo Island, an hour’s speedboat ride from Malé airport. After making your hotel reservation, we recommend writing a letter to arrange for a transfer to the island and back. This approach is simpler and more cost-effective than trying to figure out transportation on your own.

While there are various methods to reach the island besides a speedboat, the speedboat is the fastest, taking about an hour of sailing and bouncing over waves. If you’re prone to seasickness and feel unwell during sea journeys, it’s advisable to take medication before the trip and to sit at the back of the boat rather than the front.

Speedboat in Male Airport

Thoddoo is a lush plantation island known for its fruit cultivation, exporting to other islands within the country. The island boasts numerous cozy and beautiful guest houses, but it’s advisable to book rooms well in advance.

Street in Thoddoo

There are two well-maintained bikini beaches on the island, complete with toilets and showers. The local people are very pleased that the island can earn not only from the fruits and vegetables it produces but also from visiting tourists. This has motivated them to maintain cleanliness not only on the beaches but also on the streets.

Palm Trees in Thoddoo

There’s no shortage of great places to eat on the island, where the food is delicious and reasonably priced, and fresh juice is available everywhere. Fresh fruits, conveniently cut for easy consumption, along with coconuts and drinks, are sold near the beaches. It’s very convenient.

Fruits on the Thoddoo Beach

On Thoddoo, one can pay with US dollars or the local currency, and there are several places where credit cards are accepted. Additionally, there’s an ATM on the island. Bicycles are available for rent, offering a pleasant way to explore the island.

Thoddoo Island

Discovering Thoddoo Island

On Thoddoo Island, there’s also the opportunity to book a variety of tours, either for a full day or half a day, which include activities such as diving, snorkeling with sharks and manta rays, fishing, among others. These excursions provide a glimpse into the rich marine life surrounding the island and are a must-do for any visitor looking to experience the underwater beauty of the Maldives.


Local islands offer day trips such as a visit to a resort island. Tourists pay a fee, typically around $150, which includes a round-trip speedboat transfer and a day at the resort. This fee grants access to the resort’s facilities like swimming pools and loungers, includes towel service, lunch, and drinks, including alcoholic beverages that are not available on local islands.

Evening snacks are also provided. Around 4:00 PM, guests return to their own island. This provides a fantastic opportunity to experience and see what luxury leisure in the Maldives looks like.

Bikini Beach

Adjacent to the Thoddoo island is a home reef, an easily accessible snorkeling spot just a short swim away from the beach. Here, snorkelers can marvel at a vibrant underwater world teeming with colorful fish, sprawling coral gardens, and the occasional sighting of large sea turtles.

This reef offers an intimate encounter with the diverse ecosystems of the Maldives, showcasing an array of marine biodiversity. The accessibility of the reef means that even those new to snorkeling can experience the wonder of the Maldives’ marine life up close, making

Thoddoo a prime destination for those interested in exploring the natural beauty beneath the waves.

Sunset in Thoddoo Island

A Rainy Week on Thoddoo Island: Embracing the Tropical Showers

Our week-long stay on Thoddoo Island was marked by the frequent tropical showers that are quintessential to the Maldives’ charm. Almost daily, we experienced short bursts of rain, but there was one day when from dawn to dusk, a steady, warm, and strong tropical rain transformed the island.

Umbrella Hat

Thoddoo Island, with its absence of paved roads, saw its streets turn into rivers for the day. Venturing out meant wading through these temporary streams to reach a restaurant for a meal.

Interestingly, the local residents continued their day unfazed, navigating the waterlogged paths on their scooters and bicycles. This sight, quite unusual to us, delighted our 4-year-old daughter immensely.

Street in Thoddoo after the Rain

It appears we experienced the seasonal transition in January, as the weather shifted dramatically soon after our departure, ushering in drier days. This allowed us to witness the Maldives not just in its typically hot and sunny disposition but also in a cooler, more refreshing state.

Rainy Day

Despite the rainy intervals, our week on Thoddoo Island was nothing short of wonderful. We embraced the rain, enjoyed the cooling effect it brought, and spent countless hours by the ocean. The experience highlighted the island’s lush beauty and showed us a different side of the Maldives, one that is not just about sunbathing but also about enjoying the natural rhythms of the tropics.


Culinary Delights of Thoddoo Island: Dispelling the Myths

When planning a trip to Thoddoo Island, I came across a traveler’s advice online warning about the island’s supposed lack of good dining options, with few restaurants and an even smaller selection of tasty dishes. I’m here to counter that claim. Despite its modest size, Thoddoo Island surprisingly hosts a variety of dining establishments. True, the restaurants may boast simpler interiors without much flair, but what they lack in extravagance, they make up for in flavor and diversity.

Place to Eat in Thoddoo

From Italian to Chinese cuisine, cafe’s, and more, the island offers ample opportunities to satisfy your palate. The prices are reasonable, and the food is genuinely delightful. Our family, including our daughter, particularly enjoyed the fried noodles and made a daily ritual of indulging in fish and seafood dishes. The freshly squeezed juices became a staple of our diet, with papaya juices emerging as a favorite.

Maldivian Food

We relished the tuna steaks, octopus, and even the simple Bolognese spaghetti, which rivaled the taste of those we’ve tried in Italy. In a week’s stay, we couldn’t even cover all the restaurants available to us – there are indeed many to choose from. So, for those worrying about the culinary prospects on Thoddoo Island, fear not. You won’t be left hungry.

Grilled Fish
Maldivian Breakfast

The Maldives: A Must-Visit Destination

Our journey through the local islands of the Maldives was both enjoyable and affordable. The beaches and ocean were of breathtaking beauty, with clear, warm waters, coconut palms, soft white sand, and a rich marine life just off the shore. The sunsets were particularly unforgettable. The food was delicious, featuring fresh fruits, and the people were friendly and always willing to help when needed. Visiting the Maldives is something that everyone should do at least once in their lifetime, and we’ve shown that it doesn’t require a fortune—just the desire to explore.

Ocean View

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