Maldives is proudly noted as the water villa capital of the world, and one of the planet's most desirable holiday destinations, for many different and exciting reasons. However, it should be noted that a Maldives vacation can be a bit confusing because of the long flights into and out of the country and the fact that each visitor then has to take a sea-plane or speedboat to another island to reach their choosen resort.

If you are reading this article you have probably just realized that you are going to have to spend a least one night near the Malé International Airport on your way in or on your way out. You may even have to spend the night near the airport going both ways. The good news is that once you read the information below, you'll be able to confidently book a hotel near the Malé Airport, and know exactly how you'll get there and back.

For Malé Airport hotels, you have 3 main choices:

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Hulhule Island Hotel

The Hulhule Island Hotel is the one and only hotel that is very close to the airport, and also the only place in or near the capital area that serves alcohol. Rooms here start around US$300 per night for two people, and there are many cheaper options nearby.


Take the ferry over to Malé Island

Your first instinct might be to book a hotel in the capital city of Malé, which is a 10-minute ferry ride from just across from Baggage Claim at the airport. As I’ll explain further below, this is really not a good choice for most people, and the option below is far better.


Stay on Hulhumale Island, which is connected to the airport

THIS is where most people visiting the area should look for a hotel. Hulhumale Island is new (on mostly reclaimed land) and it’s connected to the airport island due to a road that runs along the southern border of the airport. You can get there by either taxi or public bus, however, you’ll find that most of the better hotels will arrange for a driver to pick you up and drop you back off at the airport.

Why you probably shouldn't stay on Malé Island

Since you are traveling to the exotic island nation of the Maldives for the first time, why not spend part of a day or night in its capital city of Malé? Well, the answer to that is it’s more of a hassle than staying on Hulhumale Island, and there is virtually nothing there to see that’s of any interest or exciting.

 

As someone who has visited the capital city of almost every Asian country you can think of, I was shocked by how both crowded and charmless Malé is. It’s literally one of the most densely populated islands on the entire planet, and a very ordinary fish market is probably its number one sight. Stranger still, there are almost no restaurants on the island that are suitable for the typical tourist.

Why you SHOULD stay on Hulhumale island

If you book a hotel on Hulhumale Island, you’ll most likely to have a driver from the hotel waiting for you, just outside of Baggage Claim. Your driver will then take your bags and you’ll be in the car only a few minutes later. It’s about a 10-minute drive around the southern tip of the airport (through 2 security checkpoints), and then you’ll be at your hotel.

 

Even though the distance on a map is much farther than taking a ferry over to Malé Island, it takes a considerably smaller amount of time to reach your hotel on Hulhumale Island. And you won’t have to even deal with your own luggage once you retrieve it off the baggage carousel because the driver will assist you all the way to the hotel lobby.

 

Perhaps more importantly, when it’s time to head back to the Malé Airport the next morning, whether you are flying out or heading to your resort, you can also get a ride from your hotel and you’ll be exactly where you need to be only about 10 minutes after checking out of your room.

Hulhumale Island

Hulhumale Island is pleasant, uncrowded, and actually cheaper than Malé

 

The area along the beach on the northern east coast is where you’ll find many hotels and quite a few tourist-oriented restaurants within an easy walk of one another. If you have some time during daylight hours, you can actually spend it on the sandy beach in this area, which is many times larger than the artificial beach on the northern coast of Malé.

 

Basically, the Maldives goverment is very aware that Malé is crowded, expensive, and has no real worthwhile sights, so they commissioned Hulhumale Island to be built for hotels serving resort visitors coming into or out of the country.

A New Bridge

A new bridge from the airport to Malé Island opened in 2018, but you should still probably stay on Hulhumale Island

 

At the end of August 2018 the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge opened up, which is a China-funded project that now connects the southern part of Hulhule Island (the airport island) with the southern part of Malé Island. The bridge has made some things easier for locals, but it really didn’t change anything for visitors. For one thing, the ferries between the airport and Malé Island already run 24/7 and are quite cheap. More importantly, the new bridge takes you into a part of the main island with very few hotels, so it will be a much longer drive to reach a hotel than to reach a hotel on Hulhumale Island itself.

 

If you are really curious about Malé and want to visit the island it’s better to take the cheap and frequent ferries that leave from right in front of the airport. The ferry terminal on Malé Island is more or less the center of everything, so it’s where you’ll want to start a visit as well. Also, there are quite a few hotels within a fairly short walk of the ferry terminal on Malé Island, so if you want to stay there you are best off in one of those.


The best of the affordable hotels on Hulhumale Island

Paralian Hulhumale

 

They only have 7 rooms and it gets great reviews, so the place is booked up most of the time. If you make your inquiry early enough you should be able to get a room though, since almost all guests stay only stay for one night at a time. Though the rooms are on the small side they are still very comfortable and they also have good wi-fi and satellite TV channels. They have some modest rooms for a very good price and those are probably best suited to guests who check in after dark and will depart again around sunrise. If you are arriving early or departing a bit later, some of their nicer rooms could be worth it because they are on a really nice beach.

 

Most guests arrive late at night and leave early the next morning, and they are set up well for that with their own driver. If you need any meals other than breakfast, there are a few good and reasonably priced restaurants within walking distance.


If the Paralian Hulhumale is full, book a hotel nearby

Planktons Beach Hotel – This 3-star hotel is also fairly new and gets great reviews. They charge extra for airport transfer.

 

h78 at Hulhumale Maldives – Just across the road from the beach, this one has slightly cheaper rooms with no view as well as sea view rooms. If you are only spending overnight hours at the hotel, a view might be pointless. Breakfast and airport transfers are included in the rate.

 

Hotel Ocean Grand at Hulhumale – This 4-star hotel is near the others and often offers great discounts. Airport transfers are included in the rate, and the reviews here are fantastic.


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14 thoughts on "Overwater villa holidays: How to begin planning yours"

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  1. My family and I live in Asia and we are looking for a trip to anywhere with water bungalows and hopefully clear, turqoise water with snorkelling and water activities available, and is also budget friendly if possible. We are two adults and one child who is a little over 17. Are there any suggestions or recommendations? Thank you

  2. I am looking to plan a family vacation that is budget friendly. I would love to stay in an overwater hut. Can you tell me the best and most reasonable place to stay with a family the kids are 12 & 16

    1. Kris,

      Since you aren’t even sure which part of the world you want to visit, I’d recommend starting with this list of the world’s cheapest overwater resorts on our other site. Most of those resorts only allow 3 guests per room, even though almost all of them have a pull-out couch in addition to a king bed. You might find some good choices in Central America or in Asia other than the Maldives. And of course it really depends on where you are starting from because the cost of flights could cancel out any savings from a cheaper resort. I hope that helps and I’m happy to help with other questions if you have them. -Roger

  3. I would like to attend an over water bungalow resort for me and about 7 of my closest friends to celebrate my 45th Birthday. As most resorts are for honeymooners, are there single friendly resorts that can accommodate a "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" week long celebration. We live on the East coast and realize we will have to fly West for all the bungalows you have described above. All feedback is appreciated to guide me in the planning phrase.

    1. Kim,

      That sounds like a lot of fun. You won’t find many resorts that are great options for “solo” travelers, but groups of singles will fit in with many other groups there. Most of the resorts in Bora Bora and Moorea allow 3 guests per bungalow, and they all have a sleeper sofa in them for that purpose (most don’t allow 4 guests per room though). So if two of your group are okay sleeping on a pull-out couch then you can get by with 3 bungalows.

      It’s true that many of the guests at these resorts will be honeymoon couples or anniversary couples, but there are also families with older children and multi-generational groups. I think your group would have fun at just about any of those resorts, but I’d probably focus on one that has some nightlife each evening such as a band or DJ. Some of the smaller resorts only have a beach bar and it’ll mostly be couples in those. Long story short, I think I’d look at one of the larger resorts on Moorea or Bora Bora or even Tahiti. The places with at least 100 total rooms (including beach and garden bungalows) should also have plenty of things to keep you happy and a diverse clientele.

      If your budget can handle a bit over US$2,000 per night you might even consider one of the Sandals resorts on Jamaica because the flights will be so much shorter and cheaper. The overwater bungalows there are huge (I just toured both resorts recently) and the nearby beach rooms are really wonderful there as well. The beach rooms start at around US$500 per night, but they are premium all-inclusive with even many activities included so they would be really fun for a group. In other words, maybe you could get 1 (or 2) overwater bungalows and a couple of beach rooms, and take turns in each? And you could mostly hang out in the overwater bungalow during the day, which is plenty big enough for everyone. When you add in the cost of flights and all that time flying to Los Angeles and to Tahiti then the Jamaica plan could look even better. Also you have to factor in the cost of meals and drinks and activities. In the South Pacific the room includes breakfast, but everything else is extra, while in Jamaica it’s ALL included in the price. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  4. My wife and I will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. It would be wonderful to stay at an over water bungalow.

    Is Tahiti, Bora Bora gay-friendly islands? Are any island more friendly than others?

    1. Merchel,

      Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora are all part of French Polynesia, and the French culture there is quite strong. With that in mind, I’d expect that the islands and the resorts in particular would be quite LGBT-friendly. I don’t recall seeing anything in particular that stood out when I’ve been there, but I have a strong hunch that the resorts are all very progressive with that sort of thing. The island people seem to be quite open minded, and French people are famously tolerant. I wish I could give you more certainty. Best of luck with this. -Roger

  5. I am trying to plan our 10 year wedding anniversary. We are both pretty easy to please regarding vacations.

    I do know that my wife would really love to stay at an over water Bungalow for this trip.

    We would be traveling from Wichita, KS to Bora Bora or somewhere similar.(hopefully if price is right).

    I have browsed a bit and can’t find much for our budget (around $3-4k per person). Obviously I would love to be on the low end of my budget and save as much as possible.

    If not in Bora Bora, we would be okay with over water bungalow’s elsewhere.

    Travel dates would be leaving August 26th and Returning September 2nd (can go 1 day either way if needed).

    1. Michael,

      We are simply an online guide to overwater bungalows and not a travel agency. You’ll find the best deals online for these resorts. You can usually get better value in Moorea, which is another gorgeous island right off Tahiti itself. The room rates are a bit lower and transportation is faster and cheaper as well. If you have any specific questions just let us know. -Roger

  6. We our planning our honeymoon and live near San Francisco. We’d love to go to an amazing bungalow but the issue is we have only around 7 days for our trip, so the long flights really eat into our time. Is there an island you recommend we go to which is easy to reach from SFO? Thanks!

    1. Andrew,

      From San Francisco the closest overwater bungalows are in Tahiti, which is only a couple hours farther than Hawaii. It looks like you’d have to fly down to LAX first, as that’s where all the flights to Tahiti start. There are two resorts not far from the Tahiti Airport that offer overwater bungalows. Those resorts are pretty nice, but there are 4 nicer ones on Moorea, which is a 5-minute flight or one-hour ferry ride from Tahiti. If you are going all that way, it’s probably worth going to Moorea, as it’s also a much prettier island than Tahiti itself. Bora Bora is a 60-minute flight from Tahiti, and it has even more options. Those islands are so gorgeous and wonderful that I think it’s worth the flight, even for a week. Best of luck with this. -Roger

  7. Hi
    We live at the Gold Coast, Australia so can fly out of here or Brisbane. For our 20 year wedding anniversary in April we want to stay at an overwater bungalow – this will probably be a one-off so I want it to be in the clearest water with white sand so that the swimming and hopefully snorkelling is great. Maybe even some other water activities like sailboarding nearby? What do you recommend also considering ease of getting there? Thanks!

    1. Margo,

      There are actually a few resorts in the South Pacific that aren’t far from you, including one in New Caledonia. Have a look at our list of resorts in the South Pacific for more details. The next closest to you are in the Philippines and Malaysia. You can find those under the Asia tab on the top of this page.

      But really you’ll find the best affordable resorts in the Maldives, which has 80 different overwater hotels, each on its own island. Click on the Maldives tab for all of that information. And of course Bora Bora, which also isn’t too far from you, has many of the world’s best overwater resorts if price isn’t a major factor. Best of luck and let me know if I can help more. -Roger