Cheap resorts in the Maldives are few and far between, but it is possible to find a hidden gem of affordable luxury amongst the overpriced over-water bungalows and the amazing, but extortionate, underwater restaurants.
Our amazing find was the Rahaa resort in the south of the Maldives on Laamu Atoll.
Maldives hotel and flight package
Now, full disclosure, an amazing Maldives resort deal isn’t going to be anything like as cheap as two weeks off-season in Costa de Sol, but with a bit of time and effort we were able to book ourselves an all-inclusive 12-night stay for two – including flights and transfers – for just £3,090.
How much is accommodation in the Maldives?
When compared to the average cost of a mid-range/comfort level holiday in the Maldives, which is just shy of £5,000, you can see how much of a bargain it was for a high quality hotel.
It is possible to find cheap accomodation in the Maldives that cost less than this, but you’ll get a very, very different experience.
Liveaboards are an option for diving fanatics but comfort and amenities is pretty much non-existent, while some islands now provide basic B&Bs and home stays, but you’ll need to be well versed on what is and isn’t allowed in the country and follow the same rules as the locals. This means things like keeping covered up – even on the beach – and there’s no alcohol allowed.
I guess it depends on what kind of experience you want to have in the Maldives. My focus was on affordable luxury, and the Rahaa hit the spot!
Introducing the Rahaa resort
The Rahaa is very affordable resort in the Maldives when compared to the other options. This 4-star hotel is located on a private island in the peaceful Laamu Atoll in the south of the Maldives. With nothing other than the resort on the mile-long island, you really do feel like a castaway in paradise!
The resort side of the island is kept pristine, with staff combing the white sand beach every day, and I never got bored of walking along the shore taking in the view and looking for tiny reef sharks close to the beach. One morning we even spotted a manta ray just a few feet into the surf!
We often enjoyed strolling up to the saltwater lake, which essentially splits the island in two, as this was a good place to spot reef sharks and rays. Beyond this point the island has been left wild, and on several occasions we went exploring – by foot and by kayak – into this ‘forbidden’ area (the resort doesn’t like guests going there as they may be at risk of hurting themselves climbing over fallen palms and the like).
Feeling like real adventurers we clambered through brush to discover some old rundown buildings and got close to some beautiful fruit bats, which was amazing.
However, we were also starkly reminded of the damage we’re doing to our oceans, as we saw first-hand the amount of rubbish that gets washed up. The tide brings in plastic drums and bottles along with the dead coral, some of which was being used by hermit crabs as homes.
It showed us how hard the resort staff work to ensure we experience the paradise of our dreams and how much more we, as a society, need to do to protect this paradise for future generations…
How to get to the Rahaa resort
We took a direct flight with BA from London Heathrow to Male, which lasted around 10 hours. From here we were picked up and taken to the domestic terminal lounge where we waited for our internal flight, which was an hour later. This was on a cute little propeller plane that seated about 20-something people, and is how visitors and locals alike travel between the atolls.
After a 30-minute flight with some of the most amazing views we landed at Laamu Atoll’s airport on Kadhdhoo. Here we were transferred to our speedboat for the final leg of our journey, a 30-minute boat ride across the atoll to our very own piece of paradise.
When you disembark at the Rahaa’s jetty you’re at the hub of the resort, where you’ll find the reception, bar and restaurant. These are quite minimalist and open, fitting with the relaxed island vibe of the Rahaa, with fans cooling the air rather than air conditioning units (just one of its many eco-friendly selling points).
From here you follow sandy paths sheltered by palm trees along to the resort’s 116 rooms and the spa (which has an amazing masseuse, I highly recommend a visit).
There are two types available – a beachfront villa or one that looks over the island’s salt water lake (more on that later!). We visited November 2021, within weeks of the resort reopening post-Covid, and at this point only the beachfront rooms were available. This was a win for us, as these are the more luxurious options of the two.
Beachfront villas at Rahaa
Rahaa’s semi-detached beachfront villas are the most luxurious part of the resort.
At 829 sq ft in size they’re huge, and the only places on the island with air conditioning, so they’re a haven during the hottest hours of the day.
The rooms come with very comfortable king-size beds, all the usual amenities you’d expect from a high-end hotel including tea and coffee facilities and a large flat screen TV, but god knows why you’d want to stay in and watch something when you’ve got that amazing view outside!
Double wardrobes provide more than enough space (and coat hangers) for overpackers like myself, and are also where you’ll find a large umbrella for inclement weather and a torch for night-time strolls.
Go through the door beside them and you’ll enter the vast bathroom that challenges the bedroom in size. I loved this space, with its long double sink area with loads of room for your toiletries, huge walk-in rain shower and free-standing bathtub.
This room opens into an outdoor space with a second shower, which I usually love, but this one looked to have suffered from a bad case of subsidence and the trickle of the waterfall shower made it more for show than practical use.
But open to the elements as the bathroom is, it does mean you can watch a tropical rain storm from the comfort of your tub, and as is always the case in Asia, spot the occasional gecko on the wall or ceiling!
Chillax on your private patio
Head back through the bedroom and large patio doors open up onto your own private outdoor space with table, chairs and a very comfy day bed. This was my spot for my morning cuppa each day, watching the hermit crabs descend on any fallen fruit and spotting the occasional lizard sprint across the sand. Bliss.
Lines of trees separate each villa, giving you a bit of privacy and protection from the sun as you walk down your private path to the pristine white beachfront where the views wont fail to amaze you day after day.
Understandably, it’s very easy to bring sand into your room, even with a wash tap on every patio. But this isn’t an issue for long, as the cleaners do an amazing job of sweeping away any sign of sand each day, and are hugely helpful, bringing you an extra bits and bobs you might need (like tea bags – yep I’m British!).
Cheap resorts in the Maldives – is it fair to class the Rahaa as one of these?
It feels unfair to call the Rahaa a cheap resort in the Maldives really, as that implies that it’s lesser in some way, or a low-quality hotel. That’s not the case.
Instead I’d say it’s a great mid-range hotel – it’s just bloody cheap for the Maldives! It has many aspects of luxury, for sure, but it’s vibe is more minimalist and natural than opulent and palatial. It’s about comfort and relaxation in an amazing setting rather than being all about the glitz and glamour.
What makes the Rahaa special
In my opinion it’s the setting that provides the luxury at Rahaa. This island, and the crystal clear waters around it, are truly paradise!
Waking up to that sea every morning is absolutely bliss. It’s the same turquoise you see in the dreamy adverts, so clear that you can watch the fish dart around. If you choose you can just lie around on the loungers, beanbags or hammocks and relax listening to the rustle of the wind through the palm trees and the water lapping at the beach.
But the best bit of our trip to the Maldives was getting into that water. We went out every day and got to see the most amazing creatures from puffer fish and octopi through to sea turtles and absolutely giant stingrays. It. Was. Amazing.
I won’t go into too much detail here, as I’m going to write post a post totally dedicated to snorkelling and scuba diving in the Maldives soon, but let’s just say I cannot imagine a better place to dive.
What’s great though is you don’t have to be a pro to experience the underwater paradise of coral reefs across Laamu Atoll. On-site is Seasplash Maldives, which runs the resort’s dive and water sports activities. A stay at the resort includes free daily snorkelling excursions to the house reef, and the team, headed up by the lovely Gert and Zaffi, are always on hand to ensure you’re safe and make the most of every trip.
Justin and I are weak/unfit swimmers, but they gave us the confidence to explore more each excursion, making us feel safe but also pointing out amazing sights we might otherwise have missed. We loved these trips so much we started paying to go further afield to larger, more diverse coral reefs. These extra trips only cost $25 per person and were worth every penny – the moments I had out there will stay with me forever!
We also gained enough confidence to book an intro scuba diving course. We still need some work but our experiences there have opened up a whole new world to us and I am hooked.
A feeling of family
What makes this hotel particularly special is its staff. Sure, you don’t get concierges or private butlers, but instead you become firm friends with the people that work there.
I mentioned the attentive housekeeping team, but I couldn’t go on without gushing about the bar and restaurant crew, who we were truly sad to say goodbye to by the time we had to leave.
These guys make an effort to get to know everyone’s name and say hello to you whenever they see you around the resort. Even though they were all insanely busy they would always make time to stop and chat with you, and would quickly learn your preferences and rock up with your favourite drinks before you even ordered anything!
I fell in love with one of the chefs in particular, who always greeted me with a beaming smile every morning. Within two days he knew I liked poached eggs and as soon as he saw me enter the restaurant would start cooking them – by the time I walked up to the counter they’d be ready for me, and sometimes he even brought them to my table before I got up. Such a lovely guy!
Each week there’s a Manager’s Cocktail party in the Dhirun’ Bar, where members of the team will mingle with guests over free drinks, which is a lovely touch, and every afternoon staff go out on the beach to play volleyball and welcome any guests that want to join them. There’s a feeling of family, and they welcome every guest with open arms.
Check out our video from the Rahaa resort!
Room for improvement
There’s lots of things I loved about my time at Rahaa, but it wasn’t without its faults.
I didn’t notice this myself, but several other guests pointed out that although the resort is quite new (it originally opened in 2019), it actually looks a little tired, noting cracks in their outside showers and signs of rust on some of the restaurant chairs.
This didn’t bother me, as I put that down to being open to the elements and the fact that the island had been empty for the previous 18 months due to Covid and so maintenance and upkeep hadn’t been possible. However, I guess if you’re coming to the Maldives, you have high expectations and some were surprised that everything wasn’t sparkling new.
For me, the biggest let down was the dining options, but I think this isn’t something specific to this hotel.
From what I’ve seen the majority of hotels in the Maldives provide buffet dining, and this was the case at the Rahaa.
To be fair, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the food, but I did find it quite basic and repetitive after a few days with pizzas, pasta, potato and chicken making a show at every sitting. As a foodie, mealtimes are a big part of my travel experiences, and so I missed the wow factor of trying different foods.
Also, there was a big problem with food and drink running out. I understand the Rahaa is pretty remote, and I don’t know how much of Covid and supply chain issues made the problem worse, but during our stay the resort regularly ran out of certain fruits and vegetables and even beer, rum and tea!
Another concern – and this may have been due to the fact that we visited just as the Maldives was opening up to visitors again – there was a shortage of staff that meant members of the team were working almost all day, every day. We’d see the same faces at breakfast as dinner and then later in the bar.
As guests, this meant we often had a long wait for things like drink orders and some people would totally forget about us as they were so rushed off their feet. But more than anything we were concerned about their wellbeing and really felt for them.
We asked about the situation and they said they were honestly happy to work the long hours – “what else is there to do on an island” was a regular response – and then take extended leave later. We were also told that new staff were in the process of being recruited (someone new arrived during our stay) and so I’m hoping things have improved for them now.
Cheap resorts in the Maldives – my verdict on the Rahaa
Overall, I really enjoyed my stay at the Rahaa. The resort itself wasn’t as luxurious as other places I’ve stayed, like Koh Jum Beach Villas in Thailand, but the people and the setting made it something really special.
At the price we paid I would return in a heartbeat, just for the snorkelling opportunities alone!
However, during our visit there were talks of investment and changes being made to improve the resort in order to up its price tag. This made me a little sad, as the Rahaa was developed as a more reasonable priced resort in order to make the Maldives more accessible to a wider group of travellers. If the price goes up it would go beyond a lot of people’s budgets.
Personally, I think a lot would have to change to justify doubling the resort’s price tag, but as it currently stands this place is a relaxed, perhaps a little rustic retreat in one of the most beautiful spots on Earth. If you have the opportunity, I would come before they make any further changes.
Cheap resorts in the Maldives – a little luxury at the Rahaa
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