It’s very easy to mistake Maldives for a quintessential paradise rife with glistening sandy beaches and welcoming smiles. For decades, tourists have been astounded by the majestic beauty of the archipelago and with good reason – there is simply nothing like it. Everything from the country’s unique geology to its pristine beauty exudes glimpses of heaven.

Consisting of 1,192 islands, the Maldives is divided into 26 coral atolls. The island nation has a rather unique landscape because its islands are formed from coral reefs around a submerged volcanic mountain, and a vast majority of its islands (around 1,000) are in fact uninhabited.

Back in the 70s, Maldives was a relatively unknown country with most of its revenue generated through shipping and fishing. However, with the tourism boom brought about by newly formed private island resorts, the true potential of Maldives started to emerge. Within no time, it naturally became one of the most desired tourist destinations on the planet.

Decisions Decisions Decisions

Before heading on over to this whimsical land, choosing your accommodation can be a bit tricky. Do you want to live like a king in a luxury resort or experience the culture on local islands? This article will help determine what place best suits you.

Luxury Resorts – Live like a King

For decades, resorts in Maldives have been synonymous with luxury travel. Year after year millions of tourists are awed by the country and its people and the reasons are apparent. A resort experience is truly distinctive. From the moment you land at the airport, you are treated like royalty – everything is already taken care off. Since transport to the island is the responsibility of the resort, expect to be whisked away to your private island via boat or seaplane soon after landing in Velana International Airport. Once you reach the resort, you are made to feel at home in a foreign land thanks to the infamous Maldivian hospitality that is one of the major reasons people can’t get enough of the island nation.

Geography

In Maldives, resorts are always situated on uninhabited islands – that is to say, each resort is situated on a private, secluded island, with the island making up the borders of the resort. This means almost unbridled privacy! Most resorts in Maldives are comprised of a house reef (usually within a comfortable swimming distance) which serves as a natural aquarium, making diving and snorkeling beyond breathtaking.

Resorts also usually offer day trips to nearby inhabited and uninhabited islands so visitors can also experience the island life and bio-diversity untouched by man, respectively.

Accommodation and Amenities

For accommodation, most resorts offer a beach or water bungalows with restaurants, souvenir shops, cafes, lounges, bars, nightclubs, sports facilities as well as diving schools. If you’re willing to pay for it, a private butler can also be hired (or provided by the resort depending on the room type) who will further ensure your trip goes as smooth as possible.

Most resorts in the Maldives also offer half board, full board and all-inclusive packages. Half board includes the 2 meals (breakfast and dinner), with full-board having 3 meals – neither of the two come with meal drinks unless stated otherwise. All-inclusive, as the name suggests includes 3 meals plus drinks. Accommodation can start from 300 USD per night going as high as the thousands of dollars.

There are resorts which specialize in activities as well, for example the COMO Maalfushi resort at Kunfunadhoo Island have partnered up with TropicSurf to teach guests how to surf from scratch or provide exhilarating adventures for veterans.

It should be noted that alcohol and pork in Maldives is almost exclusively sold at safaris and resorts.

Guesthouses – The art of Simplicity

For most of us, visiting Maldives was a mere unattainable dream, only reserved for those willing to spend an arm and a leg. However, due to recent relaxations in laws which restricted tourism to resorts in uninhabited islands, guest houses on local islands have started to sprout up. As such, budget traveling is increasing exponentially – Maafushi Island being a prime example.

Geography

Guesthouses (unlike resorts) are established on local inhabited islands and are usually owned by the locals. This allows travelers to bask in the simplicity and serenity of island life whilst simultaneously learning about the magical Maldivian culture. A culture that promotes hospitality, warmth, endless smiles and amazing folk art.

Accommodation and Amenities

Guesthouses also provide a wide range of accommodations. While some mimic resorts, in that they are all inclusive, others are similar to cozy bed and breakfasts. The accommodation usually starts from 30USD and can go as high as 250 USD depending on the room type. All the basic amenities one might need like Wi-Fi, laundry and air conditioning will be readily available in nearly all the guesthouses.

Different inhabited islands also specialize in varying activities, ranging from watersports, diving, surfing, night excursions, fishing and trips to uninhabited islands and sandbanks. Travelers can also spend the day in nearby luxury resorts by paying an entrance fee (usually 100 USD).

Considering the close proximity of inhabited islands, different tour agencies have also introduced island-hopping packages, which are exactly what they sound like – moving from island to island in a space of a few days. This allows one to see the true scale of biodiversity of the Maldives, as different regions contain different variants of marine life. These excursions are perfect getaways for backpackers who can take rather cheap flights from India, Sri Lanka or South East Asia and see a chunk of Maldives despite a tight budget and schedule.

On a side note, if you ever get the opportunity to visit Baa Atoll (a UNESCO Biosphere reserve) – take it without hesitation. Words can’t possibly come close to what one might see there.

Keep In mind

A few things to note if you’re planning on visiting guesthouses:

As mentioned before, guesthouses are located on inhabited islands and run by locals, which means guests will need to be respectful of the customs and traditions of local communities. Different islands have different rules though.

Alcohol and pork are almost impossible to come by unless you’re on a private resort in Maldives. This rule is also dependent on the island, however some islands like Maafushi have an offshore boat with free transfers where alcohol is served.

Conclusion

Whether you to choose to live like a king on resorts or bask in the simplicity in local islands, you simply can’t go wrong in the Maldives. Very few places can offer what the country has to offer and once you’re enticed by its charm, there is simply nothing like it.