The Maldives is among the world's top vacation destinations for travelers seeking the very best that tropical island life has in store. With powdery white sands, shimmering turquoise waters, and lush palm trees that sway in the warm, gentle breeze, the best islands in the Maldives embody everything that sun-seekers and beach bums desire from a paradise escapade. And it's not just about rest and relaxation either - the Maldives hosts unrivaled snorkeling, scuba diving, and fishing opportunities thanks to its rich abundance of diverse marine life that call this Indian Ocean heaven home.

Of course, such a perfect paradise can rightfully demand a pretty penny - the Maldives isn't known for being the most affordable escape. However, sieve through the sea of five-star luxury resorts and private islands that are exclusive playgrounds to the elite, and you'll find no shortage of hidden islands peppered across this unbelievably stunning stretch of sun, sand, and sea. From local islands oozing authentic Maldivian charm, to resort retreats that don't cost an arm and a leg, these islands are the budget-friendly, yet utterly perfect Maldives treasures that all the glossy magazines and Instagram Influencers don't tell you about.

Updated by Lauren Feather, January 7th, 2022: The Maldives never fails to be a hit destination for discerning travelers seeking a true paradisiac experience. And as this nation of dreamy atolls continues to grow in popularity, more and more budget-friendly islands are discovered by savvy vacationers hunting for the holiday nation's very best without taking a hit to the purse. To keep up with the trends of this ever-growing tourist melting pot of sugar-white beaches, crystal clear underwater world, and tropical flora, new islands that don't break the bank have been included in the mix.

13 Fuvahmulah, Gnaviyani Atoll

Fuvahmulah in the deep south is a stunning local island - meaning visitors should respect Maldivian Islamic traditions by dressing modestly outside of the "bikini beaches," which are specifically designated areas for tourists. About 45 minutes by plane from the capital's airport in Male, it's relatively underdeveloped as a tourist destination and accommodation is limited (but low cost). However, don't let that put you off, for this idyllic gem is paramount for experiencing the authentic Maldivian way of life that the protected bubbles of fancy five-star resorts and tourist hotspots cannot offer.

Nicknamed the "Galapagos of the Maldives," Fuvahmulah is famed for its jaw-dropping abundance of diverse marine species. Snorkeling and scuba diving here is representative of some of the nation's best (along with its neighboring Addu Island), with divers regularly enjoying encounters with tiger sharks, thresher sharks, oceanic manta rays, and whale sharks. Add the fact that accommodation and diving are very inexpensive compared to the rest of the Maldives, and this is the place to be for budget travelers seeking real Maldivian culture combined with incredible underwater action.

12 Maafushi, South Male Atoll

White beaches and turquoise waters combine with a superb range of budget-friendly attractions, activities, and accommodation on Maafushi Island - which is conveniently close to Male airport and accessible by ferry, speedboat, or plane. The island is home to a sea of low-cost hotels and boasts the largest number of guesthouses in the Maldives.

Plus, kaleidoscopic reefs, outstanding diving, and memorable excursions, as well as a list of budget-friendly (and excellent!) restaurants all at an attractive price make this one of the nation's top spots for experiencing all that the Maldives has to offer without paying a fortune.

11 Dhiffushi, Kaafu Atoll

Despite being small, the island of Dhiffushi is growing in popularity amongst the tourist population, but it still remains irresistibly budget-friendly. It's a tranquil island full of friendly Maldivians, where guests can enjoy the same resort life for which many pay a pretty penny. Dhiffushi boasts two bikini beaches for tourists to let their hair down and don swimwear without worry; one being the pristine and clean stretch of powdery sand at Rashu Hiya Resort, and the other, the southwest side of the island's quiet shore that sometimes feels abandoned though peaceful. Visitors can also find shops on the island, as well as two lovely cafés serving up local cuisine at affordable prices.

Related: 25 Reasons To Visit The Maldives (Other Than For The Insane Water)

10 Hanimaadhoo, Haa Dhaalu Atoll

Hanimaadhoo situated in the Maldives's pristine northern stretches is around 45 minutes by air from the capital's airport. Postcard-perfect beaches, azure lagoons, and lush tropical greenery abound on this untouched island, where travelers can indulge in water adventures like scuba diving and big game fishing, in addition to nature excursions and yoga classes all within budget. Accommodation here is equally as tempting, spoiling guests with irresistible Maldivian charm blended with modern comforts that don't break the bank.

9 Dharavandhoo, Baa Atoll

Dharavandhoo tucked away in Baa Atoll is very much off the beaten track, yet easily accessed from Male airport. This picture-perfect island offers an affordable Maldives beach retreat to families and loved-up couples without sucking their pockets dry.

It's a favorite amongst honeymooners in particular, and offers world-class snorkeling and diving on colorful reefs, along with fairly reliable manta ray and whale shark encounters given the right season.

Located within the heart of the Maldives' only UNESCO marine biosphere reserve, the island is an ideal wallet-friendly base for those who want to witness the globally famed congregation of manta rays at Hanifaru Bay.

Related: Things To Do In The Maldives (That Aren’t Swimming With The Mantas)

8 Ukulhas, North Ari Atoll

Dotted with charming fishing communities, Ukulhas Island on the far edge of North Ari Atoll features a wide range of economy hotels and guests houses and rewards visitors with warm Maldivian hospitality and authentic local island culture.

This picture paradise is always placed high on the nation's most eco-friendly islands, with its eco-conscious initiatives and untouched environment. And, with its soft sandy beaches, swaying palms, and blue water that hosts rich marine biodiversity, Ukulhas affords environmentally aware, budget-seeking visitors the perfect tropical holiday experience for which the Maldives has become so desired around the world.

7 Omadhoo, North Ari Atoll

Nestled in Ari Atoll's heart, Omadhoo is a charming fishing village where couples and families can kick back and enjoy an authentic, quiet and relaxed island vibe full of local culture. You won't see trussed-up fancy frills like on five-star resort islands, for this is the island to get lost in the real way of life in the Maldives.

Genuine hospitality and local tradition combine with beautiful house reef snorkeling and diving here, where sharks, turtles, and a wealth of diverse species teem on stunning reefs. There's also a "bikini beach" on the southwest side of the island where travelers can don more revealing swimwear without clashing with the local population's conservative values.

Accommodation isn't abundant, but there are enough guest houses to serve the small number of visitors that come to enjoy a superb, yet affordable getaway. Plus, their restaurants with their home from home feel all have glowing reviews.

Related: The Food In The Maldives Is Just One More Reason To Add This Paradise To Your Travel List

6 Dhigurah, South Ari Atoll

South Ari Atoll's stunning Dhigurah Island is a large and long inhabited island enticingly close to where visitors can snorkel with the atoll's congregation of whale sharks, who come to feed in the plankton-rich waters. Local dive operators offer whale shark snorkeling trips, which are a must for anyone on the island raving a once-in-a-lifetime experience that's right out of a David Attenborough-narrated documentary.

The island itself boasts a few hotels and B&Bs, and a small village with grocery and souvenir shops - both handy for guests who're avoiding the pricier trinkets and food at resorts. The island's south end also features a photogenic sandbank, which is the reward after walking or biking through the jungle to get there.

5 Thinadhoo, Vaavu Atoll

Families and honeymoon couples often hold Thinadhoo high on their must-return-to list of Maldivian islands. Diving and snorkeling here are mind-blowing, with dazzling healthy house reefs playing host to colorful marine species just off the white sandy beaches. The island also offers epic deep sea fishing excursions for those seeking more adventures out at sea.

Overall, guests will not be disappointed by this paradise island and its laid-back charm, diverse in-water and on-land activities, and its welcoming aura that entices so many repeat visitors who love to indulge in the perfect Maldives retreat without a hefty price tag.

Related: This Is Why The Maldives Is Still, To This Day, A Dream Destination For Many

4 Thulusdhoo, North Male Atoll

Thulusdhoo is a short 30-minute speedboat ride from Male and promises an exceptional vacation for those who expect all that the Maldives is world-renowned for - but at a fraction of the cost. Crystal clear ocean, powder-soft white sands, luscious palm trees, and outstanding scuba diving and snorkeling all beckon beach bums and nature-lovers, but Thulusdhoo has something extra to grab your attention - it's a surfer's dream. The island's surf season runs from March to October, with June through August offering up the best and most reliable waves.

3 Kelaa, Haa Alifu Atoll

Kelaa is another ideal choice for those seeking authentic Maldivian hospitality and a slow-paced lifestyle without splashing the cash. The island is home to a small handful of affordable guesthouses, but what it lacks in accommodation it makes up for with its dreamy beaches, turquoise lagoons, and overflowing reefs bustling with rainbow-hued corals and fish.

Ideal for couples and families alike, Kelaa delivers a true barefoot Maldives experience, not solely because of its idyllic features and adventures, but because of its hospitable, warm, and kind local people who welcome guests with open arms to enjoy their perfect piece of paradise.

Related: The Maldives Is The Lowest Country On The Planet, And Other Things To Know Before You Visit

2 Thoddoo, North Ari Atoll

Lastly, Thoddoo boasts a couple of dozen guest houses and hotels all suitable for budget travelers. If the impossibly-perfect beaches and azure waters teeming with vibrant and diverse marine life here aren't enough to lure you in, then surely the low-cost snorkeling and diving trips, along with affordable island-hopping tours and water sports activities will do the trick.

The island also features gorgeous sandbanks, which are perfect posing places for your paradise picture reel on Instagram. Beach-goers will also be glad to know that there's a stunning "bikini beach" too, where tourists can work on their tan in skimpy swimwear.

1 Feridhoo, North Ari Atoll

Feridhoo is becoming famed for being one of the top Maldives islands for snorkeling that's easy on the wallet. The scuba diving here is just as noteworthy, with a number of unbelievable dive sites within a short boat ride from the shore. Overall, Feridhoo is a blissful local island with sugar-soft white sands and lush tropical greenery, offering a true local Maldivian feel, and a wealth of idyllic activities in-water and on-land ranging from thrilling to relaxing - all at an unbeatable price tag.

Often highly spoken of by both families and solo travelers, this island is also the place to be for intrepid vacationers in search of beach-lazing, water sports, snorkeling and diving, peaceful picnicking, island hopping, and manta ray and dolphin spotting boat tours. What's more, a fascinating fact about Feridhoo is that it is the origin of the cultural Maldivian dance - the Bodu Beru - and visitors can enjoy fun performances of this historic and cultural dance by locals in the evenings.

Next: Out Of All The Islands In The Maldives, These Are The Best To Visit