Life’s a beach at Maldives’ Maafushi island, where sun, sand and sea make for a romantic escapade.
The mere mention of Maldives conjures up images of azure seas, luxe water bungalows and isolated islands that come with a hefty price tag. Most vacationers have to fork out more than USD 500 a night. Fortunately, affordable luxury awaits in Maafushi. It offers a romantic retreat which doesn’t break the bank.
Home to an estimated local population of 2,700, Maafushi is known for housing the largest prison in Maldives. After the 2004 tsunami disaster, rebuilding efforts have turned Maafushi into one of the biggest local tourist spots. With modest accommodation, crystal clear beaches and friendly locals, it’s not hard to see why.
To get to Maafushi from the capital of Male, take either a 1.5 hour ferry ride or a 30 minute speedboat trip. You’ll know you’ve arrived when an island with a red and white satellite tower looming in the distance is spotted.
If you’re planning to take the ferry, head to Villingili Ferry Terminal at least two hours before departure to purchase tickets (about USD2 each). Ferries operate daily, except Fridays. Speedboat trips may be booked online at icomtours.com, for USD25 per one-way trip.
Just five minutes walk from the landing pier, Kaani Village & Spa is a quiet, two storey hotel with a minimalist, contemporary touch. Deluxe rooms are equipped with comfortable double beds, complimentary Wi-Fi, and mounted flat screen TVs with cable access.
Room rates also include a daily buffet breakfast. Alternatively, the room service menu includes Western and Asia offerings like chicken stroganoff, grilled lobster and Maldivian style spicy noodle soup. To soothe body aches and pains, friendly masseuses at Kaani’s Sampa Spa await with therapeutic treatments and your rejuvenation in mind.
Photo credit: Kaani Village & Spa
Maafushi offers several buffet options on the little island. Arena Beach Hotel’s popular USD12 nighttime buffet includes rice staples, barbecued meats, fish and desserts. Similarly-priced experiences are also available at Kaani Beach Hotel and Crystal Sands Hotel. There’s also the option to indulge in a three course candlelight dinner at the beach, available from Kaani Village & Spa.
With a largely conservative Muslim population, it is illegal to don bikinis on Maafushi. Nevertheless, shorts and a tank top are generally accepted for women.
To strut your stuff, head towards Bikini Beach, hidden behind a wooden fence barrier on the northeastern side of the island. Chill amidst soft white sand, swaying palm trees and turquoise sea views. Head further east and you will reach Maafushi’s public beach. This is where locals swim and relax. It also features crystal clear waters.
Adventure seekers can opt for day trips, readily available with iComs Tours at the landing pier and hotel reception. These include snorkeling, diving, sandbank visits, whale shark-spotting and island hopping.
Photo credit: Moose, iComs Tours
A snorkeling excursion at Turtle Reef or Shark Point potentially brings you face-to- face with sea turtles, reef sharks and manta rays during season. Dolphin cruises also provide a rare glimpse at these aquatic mammals swimming alongside your vessel and flipping in the water.
Images by Rebecca Wong