The Maldives could give Pantone a run for their money with all the shades of blue you’ll spot on the beautiful islands! Known for their sandy beaches, blue lagoons, and breathtaking coral reefs, the Maldives consists of hundreds of islands in the Indian Ocean. If you’re lucky enough to score a trip to any of the islands, or even if you’re in town for a mere few hours, be sure to check out our suggestions on how to make the most out of a short trip!
A day in the Maldives should definitely start off with views of the ocean, and a hearty and delicious breakfast. We recommend checking out The Sea House Maldives. Located just above the ferry terminal, The Sea House offers an excellent selection of food to start your day off right! And did we mention that it’s a buffet? Let us repeat that again: breakfast buffet (!!!). There are local breakfast items like mashuni (flaked tuna, coconut, onion, chili, and lemon), kulhimas (spicy fish), and roshi (flat, pancake style bread). They also offer typical breakfast items like eggs, toast, pastries, and fruit. Whatever it is you’re craving for breakfast, they have it! Sit out on the deck and watch the city wake up. Ferries come and go between Male, Hulhumale, and the airport, but the thing to look out for is dolphins — they’re not an uncommon sight!
Spend your morning trying to pack in the key tourist sites. The city will be at its quietest, and it won’t be too hot to explore. Some main points of interest that we recommend checking out are the fish market and local market, the President’s Palace, Sultan Park, and the Friday Mosque.
A walk through the streets of Male offers the opportunity to observe city life. This is very different to life in the communities on the local islands, and is also a million miles away from the luxurious lifestyle experienced on resorts. Male can be a maze of streets and alleyways when you divert from the main streets, but as an island with a circumference of less than six kilometres, finding your way back after getting lost isn’t very difficult!
To get to this area from The Sea House, walk west along the harbourfront to the President’s Jetty pier and Republic Square. It’s about a 10-minute walk. From here, all the main points of interest are within less than a half-kilometre radius. Pick up a copy of the Hello Maldives guidebook from the information desk at the airport — it contains a map that highlights the key tourist spots in the city.
For the best lunch break in the city, we recommend Harbouru Kada — it’s the best place to experience local food. It’s about a 10-minute taxi ride, or 30-minute walk from Republic Square. Situated alongside the Villingili ferry terminal, this area offers a range of small cafés and restaurants serving those who work in the ports and harbour area of Male. Enjoy spicy and flavourful food at very reasonable prices while you sit back and watch the comings and goings in the harbourfront area. Try the kothu roshi (a roshi and curry-based dish — it’s delicious!)
In the heat of the afternoon, it’s a great idea to escape the city and find the closest body of water to jump into! Maldives Urban Adventures offers an afternoon of snorkelling and sunbathing on a sandbank straight outta Robinson Crusoe.
You’ll get the opportunity to discover a picture-perfect postcard image of the Maldives, as well as the underwater world of the Indian Ocean. From the Harbouru Kada area, you can take a taxi (which costs approximately MVR 25) to the main ferry terminal to Hulhumale. The ferry operates every 15 minutes, and is a 20-minute journey that costs MVR 5.50 per person each way.
For a relaxed evening, we’d recommend heading to the artificial beach. It’s approximately a 10-minute walk from the ferry terminal. This is a popular destination for locals in the late afternoon and evening. There are always a ton of families swimming, kids playing in the small skate park, aquatic classes happening, and even locals playing volleyball or football. You may be lucky enough to even witness live music on the stage! This is a great place to check out if you’re craving local activity without the desire to hit up a bar or nightclub!
While we’ve created the perfect layover guide for the Maldives, it is important to note that due to immigration regulations, we are using the term ‘layover’ to apply to guests who may be transiting between resorts and local islands and their flight departure times. Anyone entering the Maldives has to be able to show that they have accommodation. Therefore, guests in flight transit currently have to remain in the airport unless they have booked day-use rooms.
If you’re transiting between your resort and a local island, you’ll probably have a few hours to kill in between flights or ferry rides. We recommend that you have at least three hours in the actual downtown area to see the sites. From Ibrahim Naseer International Airport to Male, there are two options available: a public ferry transfer or the Airport Express speedboat transfer. The public ferry costs MVR 10 and is a 15-minute trip, whereas the Airport Express speedboat transfer costs MVR 35 and is a five-minute trip. It is important to note that ferries do not operate during Friday prayers. Timings are also subject to change during Ramadan and public holidays, and also during adverse weather conditions.
The best thing to do on a layover, whether it’s morning, afternoon, or night, is to explore the main tourist sites. The main points of interest would still be visiting the fish market and local market, President’s Palace, Sultan Park, and the Friday Mosque. We’d also recommend stopping for a drink at the Royal Garden Café, which is frequented by locals. The Royal Garden is an oasis of tranquility within the hubbub of the city. Housed in a rare example of a ganduvaru, or nobleman’s house, it has a small garden and dark carved-wood interior. Make sure you have at least two to three hours to do all of this; we don’t you missing any ferries or flights!
Seeing the sites and walking through the streets of Male offers a quick look into city life. We’ve mentioned previously that life in the city and on resorts is a world away from life in the communities on local islands. While a few short hours isn’t enough to truly learn about life on local islands, it’s a good start to be aware of the fact that not everyone in the Maldives lives a luxurious lifestyle, and will guarantee that you appreciate your short trip even more!