Mahibadhoo Travel Guide: Off-The-Beaten-Path in the Maldives

Crystal blue beaches, luxury resorts, and overwater bungalows may come to mind when thinking of the Maldives. 

While there’s certainly an over-the-top option, there’s an entire side of the Maldives often overlooked by tourists who splurge on the all-inclusive and don’t look past the beach.

Mahibadhoo, an island in the Southern atoll, is a 2000-person locally inhabited island that I bet you haven’t heard of. 

Its lack of popularity is what makes the experience here truly unique and allows you to be fully immersed in the local Maldivian culture on a small, uninterrupted island.

You’ll find that Mahibadhoo may just be the best spot for you not only to discover a hidden gem in the Maldives, but also kick back & relax in a space free of tourists.

A secluded table on a beach in Mahibadhoo
Live the authentic island life on Mahidbadhoo!

Planning Your Trip

How to get there:

After arriving in Male, the Maldivian capital and home to the local international airport, you can easily book a ferry that will take you to Mahibadhoo in less than an hour and a half.

You can also book a private speedboat taxi if you desire, but this comes at a much higher price and will only save you about 10 minutes on the water.

Ferries can easily be booked through 12go.asia and typically cost $45-60 each way and will typically only depart twice a day- at 11:05 and 16:05.

Sunrise over the ferry port in Mahibadhoo
Island sunrises in the Maldives

When to visit and how long to stay in Mahibadhoo:

You’ll find the best weather in the Maldives from November to April when it is warm and tropical, but rainfall has significantly decreased. 

I recommend 4-5 nights in Mahibadhoo to experience all that the little island has to offer. While it may be small, the snorkeling and diving options are extremely vast and can easily fill up your itinerary with time on the sea!

Where to Stay

Noovilu Suites is the sole option for accommodation on this tiny island- but the local feel and upscale amenities will make it feel like a luxury resort!

This magnificent guest house not only shines through their high-quality suites but also from the welcoming staff that will make you feel right at home upon arrival.

Each of their suites includes a comfortable king-sized bed, air conditioning, shower essentials, and- my personal favorite- the private outdoor bathroom ensuite!

The outdoor bathroom in Mahibadhoo
A charming outdoor bathroom

The guesthouse is owned by Mahibadhoo local, Mazin, whose kindness and everlasting smile will surely leave an impression on your entire trip. 

Mazin and his family were extremely accommodating when I visited the island, and we were even able to experience how a traditional dinner would be prepared in his home as he introduced us to his entire family and pets!

Laynie with Mazin's pet bird
We got to meet Mazin’s family and pets including this sweetheart!

The guesthouse experience stood out to me because of the genuine cultural connection and sustainable aspect of supporting a local family through our stay.

You can learn more about how to find these opportunities in my Sustainable Accommodation Guide to continue giving back to the places you visit!

Things to See and Do

Noovilu Suites offers a multitude of excursions to choose from that will liven your trip!

The main attraction is diving, with loads of dive spots within reach of Mahibadhoo and options to see the ocean’s most prized animals:

Experience the best spots around the island with a day of snorkel hopping through the diverse reef systems that surround the island. 

With five of the world’s seven sea turtle species inhabiting Maldivian waters, you’re likely to find a turtle friend on a turtle snorkel tour. 

The vast array and volume of pelagic life to be found in Maldivian waters is nothing short of breathtaking, and you can experience this through whale shark or manta ray watching tours!

Being able to swim with a wild whale shark during my trip is one of the purest and life-changing experiences I’ve ever had. This is the ultimate bucket list experience for anyone visiting the Maldives!

A huge whale shark seen swimming below
Swimming with this whale shark was so surreal- they’re stunning!

No scuba license? No problem, Noovilu also offers a Discover Scuba Course in the crystal clear waters of the South Atoll for anyone interested in getting started with scuba diving!

Though exploring the ocean is a personal favorite of mine as a diver, you will also find plenty more to do on and around the island of Mahibadhoo:

  • Arrange a picnic or overnight stay on a deserted island with Noovilu to be fully immersed in the island life 
  • Choose from a variety of adventurous water sports like jet skiing, wake-boarding, and banana boating to liven your time on the water!
  • Experience relaxing bliss at an uninterrupted, calm beach
  • Stroll through the streets of Mahibadhoo and see how the locals spend their time on the island- you can also stop at the local gift shop for souvenirs!
  • Experience unmatched stargazing under the night sky 
  • Catch your dinner with a night fishing, spearfishing, or big game fishing experience  with the experienced fishing experts at Noovilu Suites
Laynie seen freediving in the Maldivian waters
This is where my love of freediving began

Other Things to Know About the Maldives Travel

  1. Dressing modestly: In adherence to traditional Muslim customs, the island of Mahibadhoo, like all the other islands in the Maldives, has a dress code. While men are allowed to wear T-shirts and knee-length shorts, women are expected to cover their bodies from elbows to knees when in public. During your time in the accommodation and on the boat, you are free to wear any swimwear of your choice. Nevertheless, it is considered respectful to remain fully covered until you board the boat.
  2. Ramadan: As the Maldives has a 100% Muslim population, the locals observe the annual fasting period known as Ramadan. During this time, it is customary for many restaurants to be closed during the day. It is also respectful to refrain from eating, drinking, or smoking in public between sunrise and sunset. The dates of Ramadan vary each year, with the upcoming period falling between March 10 and April 8 in 2024. It is important to take this religious holiday into account when planning your trip to the Maldives.
  3. Alcohol: Due to religious reasons, alcohol is not served on the island of Mahibadhoo. Therefore, if you wish to celebrate after a day of diving, you will need to wait until you return from your trip. The availability of alcohol may vary among accommodations on the island, but it is advisable to be prepared for the possibility of not finding any alcohol during your stay in Mahibadhoo.

Please note that these religious guidelines primarily apply to public interactions outside of your hotel and the dive boat.

Laynie and Mazin seen posing on a scooter
Getting to know this tiny island in the Maldives was unforgettable

Ditching the over-the-top Maldivian experience and spending time off-the-beaten-path on this tiny local island in the Southern Atoll is sure to be an unforgettable experience. 

With the upscale and sustainable accommodation, you not only get a glimpse of Maldivian life but also experience deep cultural connection through supporting a local family by choosing Noovilu Suites.

Not to mention the multitude of memorable excursions to be booked here; this is the best way to get an authentic and unique stay in the Maldives!

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