So the beach destination of the Maldives is in the far south of South Asia, and countries like India and Sri Lanka can make a perfect access point.
You can find direct flights to the Maldives from both of these countries.
So if you’re backpacking around Asia, it can be perfect to make a side trip to the Maldives!
And while you really can’t argue that staying on a private island in the Maldives will give you that ultimate Maldives resort experience…
Can you have good experiences in the Maldives without spending that kind of money?!
Of course, it all depends on what you’re looking for out of your Maldives tropical beach vacation.
But if you’re looking for those ocean views…
And the chance to swim with some marine life…
Then there could be a good chance you can do the Maldives on a budget AND leave the Maldives feeling like you had an amazing time!
This mini Addu atoll Maldives travel guide also includes ideas on activities (mostly) without staying at a resort and how you can get around from place to place… mainly, by bus from the airport island, and then biking!
First, the quick list of the best things to do in the Addu atoll.
Then, some ideas for your Maldives itinerary and getting to this atoll.
And then, a more detailed look into how you can fit the top things to do in the Maldives into your 4-day itinerary.
5 best things to do in Addu atoll with 4 days in the Maldives
1. One-night resort stay on arrival
2. Scenic bus ride across the islands
3. Scenic bike ride across the islands
4. Swimming at the beach
5. Snorkeling in the bay
How much does it cost to go to the Maldives on a budget?
Of course there are a number of different factors depending on what you want out of your Maldives vacation.
But just to give you an idea for my trip to the Maldives…
I was flying within Asia, so my flights were a little cheaper than flights from the US or from Europe.
My flights were one-way tickets (from Kuala Lumpur/Malaysia, to Chennai/India), and flying into and out of the Maldives (Gan Island/Addu atoll) cost around US$400 total.
If you’re not into airbnb, you can likely find a nice place to stay on a local island for around US$50 to $100 a night.
A bicycle rental was around US$5 per day.
A visit to the top snorkeling spot that can be visited on your own (i.e. without a tour) cost US$7.
Visits to local beaches were free.
I was in the Maldives in May, which is generally considered off-season.
Why visit the Addu atoll?
So the Maldives is made up a whole bunch of atolls.
This group of islands called the Addu atoll is located in the far south of the Maldives.
The Addu atoll is made up of several islands, and it’s said that it is a unique atoll because there is a road that connects between a number of these islands.
Basically, islands in the Maldives are generally not connected by road at all, and that would mean that ferry, speedboat, or plane is the only way to get between them.
Not ALL islands in the Addu atoll are connected by road, but there are a few to choose from. (There are still some that require a ferry or speedboat to access.)
But by staying on one of these connected local islands in the Addu atoll, it means you can freely move between the islands (by bicycle or taxi) without being at the burden of a ferry schedule or flight schedule.
This means that you’re not confined to a single island.
If you’re looking for local islands in the Maldives so you can just chill, these islands in the Addu atoll can be perfect.
But of course, this all depends on what you’re looking for!
And if you’re looking for the private island resort experience, the Addu atoll has that too – have a look at the Shangri-La resort ($$$) that’s located on Villingili island.
This Shangri-La is also located in the Addu atoll but not connected to other islands. If you do decide you want to visit some local islands, you can arrange to do so and it’ll be a short ferry ride away.
Cross the equator in the Maldives
And if you are coming from the northern hemisphere…
You’ll cross the equator to get to the Addu atoll!
Not all of the Maldives is south of the equator.
Velana international airport is the airport in the capital city of Male, and the main international airport of the Maldives.
The islands in the Addu atoll are among those you can visit that will put you in the southern hemisphere.
Arriving to Addu atoll: Flight to Gan Island
What can make the Addu atoll convenient to visit is because there are international flights direct to this atoll.
The main international airport is the Gan Island airport (GAN).
Gan Island connects to other local islands by road.
If you choose other islands not in the Addu atoll for your trip to the Maldives, you’ll probably end up flying into the Male airport.
And with that, there’s a good chance that it will require a ferry, speedboat, or seaplane after you fly into the airport. (Seaplane = $$$) Options available for transportation once you arrive to the Maldives will depend on how far away your selected island is from the airport.
If you’re flying to the Maldives from elsewhere in Asia, Sri Lankan Airlines can be a perfect choice to get to Gan Island.
Sri Lankan Airlines is one of the only (if not THE only?) major airline that flies internationally into the Addu atoll.
Otherwise, if you fly into the main international airport of the Maldives in Male (Velana airport), then there are flights from Male to Gan Island as well.
Flying Sri Lankan Airlines to Gan Island does mean that you’ll have to transit through Colombo airport in Sri Lanka.
Search for Sri Lankan Airlines flights here to see how much it may cost you, and to see if there’s a direct flight from your home airport to Colombo. (Which would mean just the single layover at Colombo airport.)
While there are direct flights from Kerala and South India to the Maldives, there are no direct flights from Kerala to Gan Island.
You can also try searching from these Kerala airports with Sri Lankan Airlines if you do decide to plan your trip to the Maldives for the Addu atoll. You can fly from Kerala to Gan Island with a layover at Colombo airport.
Where to stay in Addu atoll
Zoom out on the map below (partner website) to see hotel prices on the islands that connect to Gan Island. (You’ll see a road on the map below that connects the islands. So going north/west from Gan Island.)
Or have a look here for hotel deals in the Addu atoll.
You really can’t go wrong staying on any of the connecting islands, as going from one end to the other is not that long.
To make use of this 4-day Maldives itinerary:
Spend 1 night at Equator Village, and then 3 nights at another hotel or guesthouse located on an island that connects to Gan Island.
And while you’re at it, zoom out on the map even further to see how far south of South Asia the Maldives is! It’s in the middle of nowhere! …or the middle of the vast ocean! 😉
Best hotels in Addu atoll
And for more resorts in the Addu atoll that aren’t on the connecting islands:
You may be able to find cheaper accommodation options by staying at an airbnb in the Addu atoll.
If you’re new to airbnb, here’s a referral link for up to US$40 off on your first booking.
How to put the best things to do in the Maldives into a 4-day Addu itinerary?!
How to spend 4 days in the Maldives
- Day 1 – Resort + snorkeling
- Day 2 – Bus ride
- Day 3 – Biking + beach swimming
- Day 4 – Biking + snorkeling
How to get around Addu atoll
- Shuttle from Gan Island airport to resort
- Walk around resort!
- Snorkeling around coral reef!
- Bus from Gan Island to Hithadhoo
- Walk to harbor/beach
- Bike to Gaukendi Beach
- Swimming along the coast!
- Bike to Addu Nature Park
- Snorkeling around the Koattey Bay coral reef!
A few more details on the best things to do in the Maldives!
Day 1: Resort stay
Start off your trip to the Maldives with an overnight stay at a resort!
Is a 1-night stay at a resort worth it?!
Well, to start with, this isn’t your typical Maldives resort. (So it doesn’t cost the $$$ to go with it.)
But it can work out to be a perfect welcome to the Maldives as you take in the ocean views and have all-day swimming and snorkeling pretty much right at your doorstep.
Equator Village is located a short 5-minute drive from the Gan Island airport, so shortly after you step off the plane, you can be right on the beach. (There’s a pool with ocean views too.)
This resort has a “house reef” meaning that there’s a snorkeling spot right off-shore from the beach.
This means you can have unlimited snorkeling time too, without a tour.
See more about what 24 hours at Equator Village can be like.
Addu atoll travel in pictures: Equator Village resort
Day 2: Bus ride
Once you’ve had a nice Maldives welcome at the resort, you can then head over to one of the local islands in the Addu atoll to see a different side of the Maldives! (I stayed in Hithadhoo.)
Basically you can make the bus ride your main activity of the day.
Enjoy slow island life.
There is a public bus that runs through the connecting islands, but the frequencies aren’t the best. (About once an hour.)
But as long as you have time and patience, you can take the bus no problem! (Hopefully since you’re headed to the Maldives, you’re ready to take it easy!)
Even if you take the bus to the far island (Hithadhoo) from Gan Island, it will likely take no more than 30 minutes.
Or, if you don’t want to deal with the bus, you can take a taxi.
Then once you arrive at your next accommodation… you can continue to take it easy.
And possibly go for a scenic coastal walk.
If you’re staying in Hithadhoo, you might not be too far the “harbor.”
This is a harbor where you can find a row of commercial fishing boats, big and small.
And nearby these boats is also a small local swimming beach that offers up nice ocean views.
You can find dead coral on the beach here too.
This harbor and the beach is not labeled on Google Maps.
But if you find Cress Garden (restaurant) on Hithadhoo island, then the harbor is the area that juts out to the north of this restaurant.
Addu atoll travel in pictures: Scenic bus ride
Day 3: Bike ride + beach swimming
So once you’ve settled into your new accommodation, the next day will get you moving a little bit more!
There’s a good chance your accommodation will have bicycle rental available, and if not, they will probably know where to get one.
Be sure that you take with you on your biking trip plenty of water and snacks. You can buy this at one of the small local shops. Ask your accommodation where the nearest shop is.
Your destination for this day is the Gaukendi strip. (It’s not actually called this, but when you look at a map, that’s what it looks like!)
This is a local beach, which means you’ll need to think a bit more about what to wear in the Maldives when you are packing for your trip.
Basically, you’ll want to dress a bit more conservative.
This may not be good for getting a tan, but this beach area can be good for swimming around and playing in the water.
On Google Maps, you’ll see Gaukendi Beach located on the west side.
That seems to be the “rougher” side with big waves.
When I went, the beach on the east side (“interior”) was much calmer.
I guess it’s possible to see fish somewhere around the Gaukendi strip, although I didn’t really see anything much in the area I was.
But you might want to bring along your snorkeling gear just in case you want to look around underwater!
Addu atoll travel in pictures: Coastal bike ride
Addu atoll travel in pictures: Gaukendi Beach
Day 4: Bike ride + bay snorkeling
Koattey is considered one of the top snorkeling spots in the Addu atoll that you can reach on your own without a tour.
The snorkeling spot isn’t really a bay, although there is a small slightly more sheltered area that can be called a small bay.
There is an entry fee here, so make sure you pay for a “ticket” at the Addu Nature Park before you further take the road to Koattey.
At the time I went, there was really no obvious marking to know that you are supposed to stop by the nature park shelter to pay before taking the road leading to Koattey, so just be sure to stop by the nature park shelter area.
The cost is 105 rufiyaa (US$7).
They also offer bicycle rentals here (US$2-3) for you to ride along on the nature trail to get to the snorkeling spot.
On Sundays, this place is apparently closed for “maintenance” until 2pm.
Otherwise, normal hours are something like 8am to 5pm.
During Ramadan, the hours are limited, something like 4:30pm to 5:30pm.
I saw fish almost immediately upon entering the water, which is always a good sign!
I didn’t get very good underwater pictures here, though!
Once again, pick up some water and snacks before you start your bike ride!
Addu atoll travel in pictures: Biking to Koattey Bay
And there’s your 4 days in the Maldives on a budget!
Be sure to check on what to wear snorkeling in the Maldives and the best sunscreen for the Maldives too!
HAPPY ADDU ATOLL MALDIVES ITINERARY TRAVEL PLANNING!
The need-to-know India travel tips!If it's your first trip to India, be sure to see these tips for getting around India on a budget, and more! Also be sure to see how to spend one month in South India and 2 weeks in North India, as well as tips for the Golden Triangle. And, overnight sleeper bus travel isn't so bad, and neither is traveling in general class on the train!
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Where to stay on the backpacker trail in Kerala
- Fort Cochin: Zostel Kochi
- Alleppey: Zostel Alleppey or Funky Art Beach House for chill beach vibes! (see my pics - zostel / funky) OR Dream Nest to be closer to town // and see how to spend one day in Alleppey
- Alleppey backwaters: cottage right on the waters
- Munroe Island: cottage backwaters homestay right on the waters (and see why you should consider munroe island!)
- Varkala cliff: Seawin or Prashanthi with ocean views