Take a trip to the Maldives' palm-lined beaches and crystal-clear waters for just £14pp a night

A HONEYMOON in the Maldives has always been a bucket-list trip that risks breaking the bank . . . until now.

The island of Dhiffushi offers the palm-lined beaches and crystal-clear waters newlyweds would expect from a holiday to the atoll nation — but at a fraction of the cost.

Rooms at a top-rated 3H hotel on the Indian Ocean island are from just £99.39pp for a week.

That is cheaper than a single night on most resort islands.

So what’s the catch?

Unusually for the Maldives, Dhiffushi is a residential island where locals live alongside tourists.

A decade ago, the mile-long stretch of land became the first non-resort island in the Indian Ocean to host holidaymakers after its government opened up local islands to tourism.

The Maldives is a Muslim country and, unlike resort islands, alcohol is prohibited on local islands.

For visitors after a taste of the real ­Maldives, the trade-off is worthwhile.

But you need not detox entirely: Guests can visit a floating bar on a boat just offshore.

Hotels transfer guests to the vessel, called Top Cruiser, where they can enjoy a tipple or two surrounded by sealife.

Or hire a speedboat to take you to a resort island for lunch or dinner, where you can drink with your meal.

After touching down at Male airport, Dhiffushi is just a 40-minute transfer by speedboat.

If you are not in a hurry, there is a slower local boat available from just £3.50pp.

The slow boat takes around four hours, stopping at local islands along the way.

But it offers a glimpse into island life most visitors never see.

You might spot dolphins, manta ray and whale sharks along the way.

The tiny island of 1,000 people has 25 hotels and guest houses, a few restaurants, a barber shop, two mosques and a fishing harbour.

Much of the coastline comprises three stunning “bikini beaches” where tourists are welcome to wear bathing suits . . . but you are advised to dress more modestly in town.

As the most eastern inhabited island of the Maldives, the beaches of Dhiffushi are first to greet the sunrise.

Six sandbanks off the coast offer some of the country’s best snorkelling and diving sites.

On excursions costing from £14pp, you can snorkel with sea turtles, glide alongside dolphins or try finding Nemo.

By day, there are loads of watersports to try, include kayaking and paddleboard trips.

In the evening, guests can feed rays by hand or set out on a sunset trip to see dolphins.

As for accommodation, you will find no over-water bungalows but TripAdvisor reviews for the well-priced independent hotels often beat the competition from the resort islands.

The Ameera Guest House, is just 25 metres from the beach is just £14.19pp per night based on two sharing.

For that you can get an air-conditioned ensuite room with towels, toiletries, tea and coffee facilities, bottled water, satellite TV and wifi.

If you want to be directly on the waterfront, Bibee Maldives, is a charming 3H hotel where a night’s B&B is from £19.51pp based on two sharing.

Five steps from the most popular beach, guests can walk straight from their rooms to feed wild rays in the evenings.

At the higher end, £24pppn — based on two sharing — will get you a room at the boutique Araamu Holidays & Spa with a roof terrace and access to the island’s only spa.

Wherever you choose to stay, the abundance of independent hotels and guest houses means you are spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out, especially if booking half-board or room-only.

Keep costs down with a bite to eat at Cafe 420, highly rated on TripAdvisor, or splash out with a candlelit dinner of fresh lobster on the beach or even your own private sandbank.

Local specialities include Mas Huni, a spicy tuna salad with coconut traditionally eaten for breakfast with chapati bread, and an array of delicious curries.

Most restaurants can rustle up Western ­favourites too.

These, like everything else on this paradise isle, are cheap as chips.

Go: Maldives, Dhiffushi

GETTING THERE: Return flights from Heathrow to Male via Abu Dhabi are from £628 departing May 17 at etihad.com.

Due to Covid, the slow ferry from £3.50 is not taking tourists until at least April.

Private speedboat transfers are £50pp return but can work out cheaper if sharing with other guests.

STAYING THERE: A week’s full-board at the 3H Ameera Guest House is from £173.94 based on two sharing including the $3 a night green tax, other taxes and service charge.

See bibeemaldives.com.

COVID COSTS: All hotels will guarantee a full refund when booked directly if you are unable to travel due to the pandemic.

An island-wide rate of £60.60 is charged for the mandatory PCR test to be taken 72 hours before leaving the island for your return journey.

All visitors to the Maldives are required to pay into an insurance plan ranging from £18.50 to £33 depending on the length of stay and level of coverage.

MORE INFO: See visitdhiffushi.com.

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