Maldives on a Budget
Updates June, 2020
Famous for the most beautiful beaches, Kelaa is an inhabited island in Haa Alifu atoll in the Maldives. Opening for budget tourism in 2015, Kelaa is the authentic experience of the Maldives with a handful of guest houses on the island, white beaches, a beautiful lagoon and an impressive sea life. Whether it's a solo trip, a honeymoon or a family holiday, everyone will find here their own piece of paradise.
The locals are very hospitable and sympathetic people, and they do everything for the unforgettable experience of their guests on Kelaa, and many who have visited here plan to return to the island again. Today (2018) on the island there are three guest houses: Holiday Home Kelaa, Beach Home Kelaa and Summer Home Kelaa.
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How to Get: Transfers
The transfer from Male to Kelaa takes about three hours. First, expect a direct flight (45 minutes) by Maldivian Aero to Hanimaadhoo International Airport (HAQ) followed 30 minutes speed boat ride to Kelaa Island. Good advice: do not buy airline tickets online on the airline's website. Send aa message to your guest house - they will book air tickets for you twice cheaper than the air carrier's website. Flights from Male are operated daily and at Hanimaadhoo airport you will be greated by the hotel's staff. Flight schedule can be check here.
Also, if you have the time and patience, you can travel to Kelaa from / in Male by a weekly food boat, that also uses as a passenger ferry. "Arafa Express" is cheap and cheerful, and as far as possible is a real Maldivian experience. Once a week, an 18 hour trip through a handful of atolls in a calm ocean, amidst the friendly locals, many of whom will like you this is one of the most memorable sea voyages in your life. You can find out the details and the schedule of the ferry traffic through your hotel on Kelaa, by a mail to them. There are no ATMs on Kelaa, so stock up on cash in Malé!
The island is very large by Maldivian standards and its amazing interior is ideal for those who like activities and adventure. With a population of at least 2,000 souls, the only village is in the northern part of the island. Here you will find local shops where you can buy vital little things, including sunscreen, fruit, chocolate or mosquito repellent. There is a school and a hospital on the island also. Local residents live by fishing and farming, although many are already working in the tourism industry.
From historical facts, it is known that in 1934 the British created their outpost here and it functioned until the end of the Second World War, as an analog of RAF Gan in the south of the country. A mosque built during the reign of Sultan Mohamed Ibn Ali (Muhammad Mohyeddine) (AD 1692-1701) of the Utheemy Dynastry still stands today as a historical place of interest on the island. This was the king who re-established the Islamic penal code.
If you stay on the island during the celebration of Eid-al-Adha (Muslim holiday), you can see cultural and traditional events with local music and sports. Everything is unique for Kelaa.
You can rent a motorbike, but it's better to take free bicycles and explore the shady coconut groves and thick forests riding across the island visiting a watermelons, pumpkins and eggplants farms, or to find the way to the mangrove swamp. Evenings usually take place on the beach, with friends under a tropical sky full of stars, talking about life. Given that the island is literally buried in tropical vegetation - in the twilight, expect the appearance of an army of mosquitoes.
Three kilometers long and just over 1 km in the widest part, Kelaa Island is one of the largest inhabited islands and is geographically part of the Thiladhummathi Atoll in the north of the Maldives. Oriented strictly from north to south, the juicy-green island boasts one of the longest beaches in the country - 2.5 kilometers of white, deep and soft sands. The total length of Kelaa beaches is 7.5 kilometers. There are no breakwaters or walls - the architecture of the beach is led by nature itself. In short, you will easily find your place under the sun.
In the form of a crescent, a huge and shallow lagoon is ideal for swimming children and is impressive during the romantic sunset hours. Crystal clear water is a variety of shades of blue, green and turquoise depending on the sun position. The long, wide, clean sand strip offers several separate sections of the bikini beach that are unobtrusively hidden among Plumeria bushes and coconut palms, including sun loungers and beach umbrellas. Dense vegetation gives an excellent sense of privacy and makes you feel that you are alone on the island, on your honeymoon. The beach on the eastern side is narrower and with coarser sand. Local residents clean the beaches regularly.
The fun water activities you will find at water sport center near the central pier (next to Holiday Home Kelaa). In the menu: motorized and non-motorized sports, including jet ski, windsurfing, banana, catamaran and more.
The house reef stretches along the east side approximately 100 meters from the beach and it recommended for snorkeling only to the most experienced swimmers considering the strong currents. If you like snorkelling, then look for fish, rays, sharks and turtles around the island's southern tip, or even better book the snorkeling excursions that local guest houses offer with affordable rates. You are guaranteed close contact with manta rays and whale sharks (in the season of course).
Diving services on the island are offered by Holiday Home Kelaa, but they are not regular and are closed from time to time. So if your bucket list includes diving at Kelaa - make an advance request. The hotel's staff will help arrange for you diving from the nearest resort.
Scuba diving in Haa Alifu atoll (home to Kelaa island) is one of the best in the Maldives. Since there are only two resorts here - private diving is guaranteed to you.
Corals are perfectly restored after the 2004 tsunami, and on various reefs, hard and soft coral formations offer an amazing spectacle and vibrant life of fish and macro. Diving is quite simple compared to other atolls due to wide channels and shallower depths: currents are not strong.
Manta rays are mainly observed from December to May, and two dives at cleaning stations give divers the opportunity to enjoy close contact with giants at shallow water. Also within the atoll are often found large groups of dolphins and pelagic species.
Things to Do
You will be surprised to discover that there is much to do and see on Kelaa Island. Explore of a blue lagoon by sea kayak, evening billiard, table football and darts. Island hopping, snorkeling excursions, dolphins watching, fishing, visiting nearby resorts and traditional sandbank barbecue. The cost of excursions should not break your budget.
Baarah and Utheem are 30 minutes by speedboat from Kelaa. On these islands you can see the heritage, history and the old palace of the Maldivian hero (Mohamad Thakurufaanu), who fought and brought independence to the Maldives. It will certainly enrich your memories of travel.
Where to Stay
Today (2019), Kelaa's accommodation options are not too extensive (5 hotels), but all rooms guarantee exceptional service, hospitality, delicious food and comfortable amenities for reasonable prices.
Located in the northern part of the Maldives, Holiday Home Kelaa is proud to be the first guest house operating in Kelaa. The econom hotel offers 10 modern rooms with air conditioning and various facilities, including free wifi. This nice 4-star eco-friendly hotel is only 5 minutes walk from the bikini beach. The hotel's restaurant serves a choice of continental breakfast (toast, scrambled eggs, pancakes, fruit, juice) or local (a mixture of finely chopped tuna, vegetables and coconut, which can be wrapped in a soft cake). Many guests like the local Maldivian breakfast of Roshi Mashuni. Fish is served daily, fried, bbq or curry. Another guest house, Summer Home Kelaa is located in the heart of the village, and offers no less impressive hospitality services.
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