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The Maldives conjure up images of pristine beaches, reef-ringed atolls, and luxurious bungalows on the water, where lucky guests can observe fish through glass floors and jump into the sea from their deck.

This island nation has always been on my “bucket list,” so when I decided to visit Sri Lanka and Dubai last month, the Maldives was a logical and obvious addition to my itinerary.

Especially, since there’s now a budget travel scene in the country.

In 2009, the Maldivian government allowed locals to open their own guesthouses and restaurants to tourists. Whereas before travelers were limited to the resort islands, now they can visit and stay on any local island they choose to. Suddenly, homestays, hotels, and guesthouses have started popping up everywhere!

It was a momentous shift in policy that finally allowed locals a piece of the economic tourist pie.

Though I wanted to experience everyday life, the aforementioned idyllic images rippled through my mind, and there was no way I could miss a chance at experiencing that. Splitting my nine-day visit into two parts, I decided to spend four days in a resort and five days on the “real” islands

Maafushi, once a sleepy little island, is now the victim of uncontrolled development. There are hotels going up left and right, boats making frequent trips to Malé to pick up tour groups, and one small, increasingly crowded, overbuilt beach. The few restaurants on the island cater mostly to tourists, and outside the area cleaned up for visitors, it’s one trash-covered dump. You can see the writing on the wall — this place is the next Ko Phi Phi. As a guesthouse owner on another island said, “Soon there will be no more locals there. They will simply rent out their land and move to Malé.”

I can't wait to get back in the near future with the girls or the bae



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