The Maldives are often known as an expensive luxury destination with five-star resorts.
However, my husband and I traveled to the local islands in the Maldives for just $100 per day.
By visiting the local islands, we were able to save money and learn about the Maldivian culture.
Could the Maldives be traveled on a tight budget? Or were we doomed to spend the trip marooned on one of the world's most expensive islands to visit?
We found that we could travel to the Maldives for $100 per day as a couple — it just took a lot of planning.
The key to budget travel in the Maldives is visiting the local islands
Instead of traveling to the expensive, private-resort-owned islands that are separate from local communities, we island-hopped and splurged on the iconic underwater activities that make a trip to the Maldives worthwhile.
When planning our trip, we did extensive research and chose three local islands that offered unique underwater attractions: Gulhi, Ukulhas, and Omadhoo.
In Gulhi, we'd snorkel with sharks and see the stunning reef systems in the open ocean. We'd travel to Ukulhas, where visitors can snorkel with Manta Rays en masse year-round.
And finally, we'd visit Omadhoo for its pristine beaches.
The local Maldivian Islands were affordable and beautiful
During our trip, we stayed in locally-run guesthouses that offered a complimentary traditional Maldivian breakfast of finely ground coconut and tuna called Mashuni each morning.
The rooms were pristine, and because of the island's small size, everything was beachfront.
We spent our time on the islands strolling the finest white-sand beaches I've ever seen, systematically working our way through the menu of the local restaurants.
Each massive tuna-centric dish only cost us around $2 to $4 per plate. Even still, the trip felt luxurious and romantic.
It was simply the best beach vacation we've ever experienced.
We teamed up with other tourists to save money on tours and excursions
Another perk of visiting the local islands is the reasonably priced tours.
We quickly realized that the price per person would plummet if we could find fellow travelers to share the trips with.
Rather than opt for private excursions, we joined small groups of like-minded travelers for one tour on each island.
We spotted dolphins, snorkeled in vibrantly-colored coral gardens, saw clouds of tropical fish, and swam with all the mega-fauna we had hoped to.
These excursions proved the waters of the local islands had just as much to offer as the private-island resorts.
We utilized the public ferry to travel between islands to keep our costs low
Public ferries in the Maldives run regularly, albeit infrequently, to all the major inhabited islands.
These budget-friendly ferries churn slowly through the open ocean with bench seats and open-air windows.
We painstakingly scoured online ferry schedules and crafted a 14-day itinerary of island-hopping that allowed us to visit multiple islands with no ferry journey lasting longer than five hours.
Sure, we lost a few days to transport, but reading a book with the wind in my hair as we drifted through dolphin-filled waters hardly seemed like a waste of my precious vacation time.
By staying on the local islands, we got to experience more of the Maldivian culture
We had originally intended to visit the local islands to obtain luxury with a budget price tag.
However, we soon discovered that what we loved most about our budget-friendly experience was getting a good look into the local culture.
Since we weren't staying in secluded private resorts, this also meant that we had to be more aware of the country's rules.
For example, many tourists may not realize that bikinis are not allowed on most public beaches in the Maldives.
By staying on the local islands, we got to interact with members of the community and learn about their incredible sea-faring history. We also enjoyed mouthwatering local cuisine.
Additionally, we felt good knowing the money we spent went to locally-owned businesses instead of mega-resorts.
As a couple, we spent just over $1,400 to spend 2 weeks in the Maldives
By booking the cheapest local guesthouses, utilizing local ferries, and choosing our underwater attractions carefully, we saved big and were still able to relish in the pristine white-sand beaches that make the Maldives famous.
Our verdict? The Maldives are an underrated budget-travel destination and should be on every traveler's bucket list.
Read the original article on Business Insider