When people think about holidays in the Maldives they imagine being in a fancy resort, sipping their coconut water while laying at a perfectly prepared beach – and enjoying an all you can eat buffet. Well, I decided to do it differently and visited Omadhoo Island, one of the many islands inhabited by locals.
Omadhoo Island is located 70 kilometers from the capital Male, which makes it a perfect place for your Maldives trip. Omadhoo Island is home to around 1’000 inhabitants, including more than 100 foreigners. While it is certainly different than visiting a resort, you can experience the true local life of the Maldivians on Omadhoo Island.
In this Omadhoo Island guide, I’ll tell you everything you need to know before visiting Omadhoo, including some tips & tricks and my personal experiences. If you have any questions or feedback, please let me know in the comments below.[toc]
For some impressions about my trip to Omadhoo, check out the highlight video I made:
How to get to Omadhoo
Omadhoo Island is not too far away from Male itself, which makes it a perfect destination to reach by boat. To get from Male to Omadhoo you have a few options, however, I strongly recommend the first one, as it is a good mix of speed and costs. Here are your options to reach Omadhoo:
- Speed boat from Male to Omadhoo, approximately (1,5 hours, 25$/way)
- Ferry from Male to Omadhoo, approximately (4,5 hours, 4$/way)
- Private Transfer from Male Airport to Omadhoo (500$+)
- Flight to a nearby resort + private boat to Omadhoo (600$+)
The first two options both work pretty well, even if you’re traveling on a budget. I personally took the speed boat and couldn’t complain at all. The seats were comfortable, one bottle of water was provided and there was even (good working) Wi-Fi available.
To arrange your transfer or get to know the exact schedule I’d contact the guest house/hotel you are staying at, as they will know how to assist you. Schedules change frequently, so I will not put the times during my own stay on Omadhoo.
Where to stay in Omadhoo
Guest Houses in Omadhoo
As Omadhoo Island is not so touristic (yet?), the options are limited to small guest houses, which has its own charm and is part of the local experience for me, as they are mainly run by Maldivians. Currently, there are less than 10 guest houses on Omadhoo Island, which all offer similar facilities.
I personally stayed in the Guest House Nemo Inn: A lovely place led by 5 brothers that grew up on Omadhoo. The rooms are super clean & comfy, the food tasty (and affordable) and they offer excellent tours all around the island and nearby regions. I stayed here for almost a week and would definitely come back! No matter if you travel as a couple, with family/friends or as a solo traveler, Nemo Inn is a good choice.
You can find all the available accommodation options on Omadhoo by clicking here.
Airbnb in Omadhoo
There is also availability to book your room on Omadhoo via Airbnb – to get a 40$ discount on your first booking, click here.
How to get around in Omadhoo
Omadhoo Island is less than 1 kilometer in length and less than 400 meters in width – therefore, it is totally easy to get around the whole island by walking. If you fancy, you can even walk around the whole island, which is a nice walk along lovely beaches and the local port.
There is kind of a “street system”, where you can walk – and locals will use their bicycles or motorbikes from time to time. I only saw a few cars that were used for construction work. The roads are small and sandy, so it’s always easy to walk.
It’s also possible to rent a bicycle in your guest house to get around even easier.
Things to do in Omadhoo
Some people might think that you need to be in a resort to experience all kinds of amazing activities on the Maldives. But I can tell you one thing: You can also do it on the local islands, and it might be even more fun, as you do it together with your local hosts! Here are some fun things to do in Omadhoo Island and nearby areas!
Relax at Bikini Beach
“Bikini Beach” is the designated beach for all foreign tourists: here you can enjoy the crystal clear water and the beautiful sand, without sharing your spot with hundreds of other tourists. The beach is absolutely lovely and quite serene, as there are only a few other tourists hanging around.
Your guest house will take care that you have some sunshade and the beach is also cleaned regularly by all the different guesthouses.
One of the most obvious activities in an ocean paradise like the Maldives is snorkeling – and I highly suggest you to snorkel as much as you can! The house reef in front of Bikini Beach is super beautiful and full of colorful fish. If you’re lucky you can even spot rays (I did!), turtles or small reef sharks.
You can use the snorkel equipment provided by your guest house – or (even better) bring your own.
There are also some other options when it comes to snorkeling: It is possible to visit other nearby reefs or even snorkel at night – both can be organized with your guest house. I personally snorkeled in the house reef and also in another nearby reef, which was absolutely amazing!
Watch the sunset at the pier
Sunsets in the Maldives are out of this world. I tried to see as many as possible and enjoyed it a lot. While you can just watch it from the beach I found that the pier is the best place to watch the sunset, for several reasons.
Firstly, the view is just absolutely incredible – you can see the colors pop like crazy while sitting on the edge of the pier. Additionally, many locals also go there after sunset time – some to catch fish, others to enjoy the views, and I also always met some kids playing together.
Overall, it’s just such a unique experience to watch the sunset at the pier on Omadhoo Island.
Swim with Whale Sharks
Whale Sharks are the biggest fish in the entire ocean – and often referred to as “gentle giants”. After seeing them with my own eyes in the Maldives I can clearly see why. Whale Sharks are lovely animals, swimming around with low speed. Swimming with Whale Sharks was one of the highlights of my Maldives trip.
To see the whale sharks you’ll need to book a tour with your guest house – the location where you can spot them is over an hour away – and many other tourists also go there while staying in a resort (or other local islands). While it was a wonderful experience to see a Whale Shark, I also felt sad as some people were absolutely disrespectful towards this beautiful animal.
If you decide to participate in a Whale Shark tour please be respectful (don’t go to close to the animal and NEVER touch it). You should also be prepared for many other tourists swimming around while searching for the Whale Sharks.
Watch Manta Rays
I booked a bundle package to see both Whale Sharks and Manta Rays – which was a good decision in my opinion. Directly after the Whale Shark Watching we went to another location to find Manta Rays. While there were still a few other tourists, it was already much better than at the Whale Shark location.
Soon we found some Manta Rays circling around (around 4 or 5 of them). I was honestly surprised by how big they are – it was truly impressive. The Manta Rays were also curious about us, making big circles around our group as if they are playing with us.
To see Manta Rays from Omadhoo Island, you’ll also need to book a tour with your guest house, however, there are some locations quite close to Omadhoo where you can see them.
All around Omadhoo, there are different spots where you can see dolphins from time to time. While it is quite often possible to see them it’s harder to actually swim with them. We saw a few dolphins on our way to the Whale Sharks (it was included in the package as well) and it was a wonderful sight.
Like with the Manta Rays, it is also possible to book a tour specifically to see Dolphins nearby Omadhoo Island.
One of the biggest advantages of being on a remote island is the visibility of the stars. Every night you can see a sky full of stars, which is extremely beautiful. Whether you are having dinner outside or just laying on the beach – stargazing is one of the best things to do in Omadhoo – and free 😉
If you’re lucky you can even see the milky way with your bare eyes!
Visit a remote island
A short boat ride from Omadhoo away there is an inhabited island, which can be visited with tours from all the local guesthouses. It is possible to just spend some hours, have a picnic or dinner – or even stay overnight in a tent.
This is definitely a once in a lifetime experience. Your guesthouse will make sure that you are comfortable, providing your tent and even prepare dinner on the island.
Do scuba diving
If snorkeling is not enough for you, there is a diving shop located on Omadhoo Island, which offers different scuba diving tours and packages. I personally didn’t do scuba diving but heard from some other travelers that it was an amazing experience.
For more information, I’d suggest asking in your guest house or just visit the dive place located on Omadhoo Island (you can’t miss it as the town is so small ;-))
Visit a sandbank
There are plenty of beautiful sandbanks around Omadhoo – which you can reach comfortably with a boat. I personally stayed on one sandbank and absolutely loved it. It’s a really personal experience – and most sandbanks come with a fantastic reef to do some snorkeling too. I honestly couldn’t believe how beautiful the water was when visiting the sandbank.
Experience the local life
While the locals might seem a bit shy and reserved at the beginning (as they are not used to big groups of tourists), they are absolutely lovely and, in fact, also curious. Simply stroll around the town, visit some shops, local beaches or even play soccer with them. Especially the kids were super curious and friendly when you approached them.
To be honest, experiencing the local life on Omadhoo was one of the reasons that made this trip special – and, in my opinion, more real than visiting a resort island.
Just keep in mind that the Maldives is a Muslim country and you are a visitor – while experiencing the local life you are expected to wear appropriate clothing.
As there are a few resorts nearby Omadhoo Island, it is also possible to do day-trips to a resort. I personally don’t see a reason why, as the island itself already has a magnificent beach.
If you’re interested in it, it is possible though by renting a boat.
Do some fun water activities
Wherever there is water around you can also do some fun water activities. On Omadhoo it was possible to get some adventures with a jet ski or a stand-up paddleboard. Both are fun activities and a perfect addition for your stay at Bikini Beach.
If you’re into some fun activities these two are definitely something to consider.
Tips for your stay in Omadhoo
Omadhoo Island is a fun place to spend some holidays – yet, there are a few things you should consider before visiting:
- If you need internet during your stay I highly recommend getting a sim card in Male before going to Omadhoo, as the wi-fi connection on the island was super slow. The mobile data network is quite strong and even accessible on some completely remote islands.
- Omadhoo is a local island, therefore you have to show respect to the local – wearing appropriate clothing (for example no bikinis for girls in the town). Bikini Beach is excepted from this rule, so you can wear your bikini there without any problems.
- If you plan to buy something in one of the little stores you will need to bring some cash, as there is no ATM or changing bureau on the island. You can pay for everything by credit card in your guest house, but not in the local shops.
- Use sunscreen and drink a lot of water! The weather doesn’t seem super hot, especially if you stay at the beach, however, the sun is extremely strong and you can easily get sunburnt.
Best time to stay in Omadhoo
Honestly, the Maldives, and also Omadhoo, are sunny and a good destination to visit all year long. However, the best time to visit is from November to April, as you can witness the best weather during these months with low chances of rain.
Do I recommend a stay in Omadhoo?
I can give a simple answer to that: Absolutely. I had an incredible time on Omadhoo Island and loved everything from the guest house, the locals and especially the incredible sceneries around Omadhoo. The Maldives are an absolute dream destination and Omadhoo is a great island to experience both the local life and the beauty of the Maldives – without breaking the bank.