Where to stay near Malé, Maldives Airport for one night
The Maldives is the water villa capital of the world, and one of the planet's most desirable holiday destinations. But a Maldives vacation can be a bit confusing because of the long flights into the country and the fact that each visitor then has to take a sea-plane or speedboat to another island to reach their 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, or perhaps both. 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:
- 0.1 1 – Hulhule Island Hotel
- 0.2 2 – Take the ferry over to Malé Island
- 0.3 3 – Stay on Hulhumale Island, which is connected to the airport
- 1 Why you probably shouldn't stay on Malé Island
- 1.1 Why you SHOULD stay on Hulhumale island
- 1.2 Hulhumale Island is pleasant, uncrowded, and actually cheaper than Malé
- 1.3 A new bridge from the airport to Malé Island opened in 2018, but you should still probably stay on Hulhumale Island
- 1.4 The best of the affordable hotels on Hulhumale Island
- 1.5 If the Maakanaa Lodge is full, book a hotel nearby
1 – Hulhule Island Hotel
The Hulhule Island Hotel is the one and only hotel that is very close to the airport, and also the one and 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.
2 – 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 below, this is actually not a good choice for most people, and the option below is far better.
3 – Stay on Hulhumale Island, which is connected to the airport
THIS is where most people should look for a hotel. Hulhumale Island is new (on mostly reclaimed land) and it's connected to the airport island by a road that runs along the southern border of the airport itself. You can get there by taxi or public bus, but 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 that it's much more of a hassle than staying on Hulhumale Island, and there is virtually nothing there to see.
As someone who has visited the capital city of almost every Asian country you can think of, I was shocked by how crowded and charmless Malé is. It's literally one of the most densely populated islands on earth, 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.
The other reason not to stay on Malé is that you have to rely on the ferry to get there and back. While it does operate 24 hours a day and it's cheap, it doesn't go very often in the middle of the night when many people are coming or going. And once you get to the island itself, there are a few hotels within walking distance, but most of them will require a confusing taxi ride to reach. You'll have to do that same taxi ride on the way back, and all of that takes much longer than staying on Hulhumale island.
Why you SHOULD stay on Hulhumale island
If you book a hotel on Hulhumale Island, you will almost certainly have a driver from the hotel there waiting for you just outside of Baggage Claim. Your driver will 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 you'll be at your hotel before you know it.
Even though the distance on a map is much farther than taking a ferry over to Malé Island, it takes MUCH less time to reach your hotel on Hulhumale Island. And you won't have to even deal with your own luggage once you pluck it off the baggage carousel, since 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 is pleasant, uncrowded, and actually cheaper than Malé
As of 2016, most of Hulhumale Island is still empty and yet to be developed. 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 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 is certain to make some things easier for locals, but it really won'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
As of 2016, the Maakanaa Lodge is the #1 rated B&B or Inn on Hulhumale Island. I was lucky enough to book there myself earlier this year and I was able to see what the fuss was about. The room rate is reasonable at around US$100 per night for 2 people, but it comes with airport transportation in both directions and a fantastic breakfast.
They only have 5 rooms 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 exactly one night at a time. The rooms are fairly small, but very comfortable and they have good wi-fi and satellite TV channels.
Most guests arrive late at night and leave early the following 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 a few short blocks.
If the Maakanaa Lodge is full, book a hotel nearby
With only 5 rooms, the Makaanaa Lodge gets booked early on most days. If they are full you can still find a good hotel nearby. Most nearby hotels are set up in a similar fashion in that they offer complimentary airport transportation in both directions, and most of their guests are only there for 8 to 12 total hours. Read the reviews and make sure that transportation is at least available or hopefully included.
Some other good options on Hulhumale Island
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.