When you think of the Maldives, you probably picture a place where the sun shines bright and the sand is white. A place where there's no shortage of water sports, excursions and nature.
And while that might be true for most of the Maldives, one small island has managed to stand out from the crowd. Maafushi has become a popular tourist destination over the years—not only for locals but also for tourists looking for an island getaway filled with fun activities and excitement.
Located just 30 minutes from Male’, Maafushi is the perfect get-away for many as it provides a variety of fun activities including water sports, excursions and even a vibrant atmosphere. Looking at Maafushi now—always fully booked with so much life and excitement overflowing—one may wonder how this small local island in the Maldives developed into one of the country’s most popular local tourism hot spots.
The story of Maafushi actually starts with one of the most popular brands in the country, ‘Kaani’. Anyone who has visited this island would be familiar with all the Kaani hotels as well as the food outlets offered by this brand in Maafushi, but what many do not realise is how Kaani changed the tourism industry of the Maldives, especially for local islands like Maafushi.
How it all started
While Kaani is most popular in Maafushi, the brand started all the way back in 2008 when Asna Investments Pvt. Ltd opened its first property in Male’ City. Asna Investment Pvt.Ltd owned by a Maldivian couple was started with the aim to change the resort-based industry of the Maldives and provide more affordable holiday packages for budget travellers. The company had the vision to offer affordable holidays to budget travellers while still providing quality services and facilities.
While Kaani, as we know it today, is a big name with several outlets in Maafushi island, their first property ‘Kaani Lodge’ was a simple 12-room three-star hotel. It was not until 2012 that Asna Investments took a leap of faith and opened up the very first Kaani hotel in Maafushi, which is extremely famous to this day– Kaani Beach Hotel.
Becoming a success story
The decision to build this guest was not an easy one as the Maldivian tourism industry back then consisted of only luxury resorts and no one had ever thought about building a guest house in a hotel concept before. This led to the local community criticising Mr Abdulla Nasheed and his wife for their decisions and warning them about the possible failure of this project. However, Mr. Nasheed and his wife, Aminath Asima Saleem went ahead with it anyway, even though they had no experience in running a guest house on a local island.
Despite all their warnings, Kaani Beach Hotel was opened in 2012 as an 18-room ocean-view guest house and has since become one of the most popular properties on the island. The popularity of this place soared when it gained an amazing reputation among locals and tourists alike due to its proximity to most beaches on the island as well as its cosy atmosphere inside each room which makes it feel like a home away from home for many guests who visit here often during their vacation.
With the popularity hyping up the tourism industry on the island, Kaani Village and spa was opened in 2014 which consisted of a swimming pool and a spa – slowly showing the progress of the Kaani brand. This step up from their previous guest house was necessary one for the Kaani brand, as they wanted to capitalize on the growing popularity of tourism in the area.
In 2017, Kaani really hit its stride as it opened up its first four-star hotel, Kaani Grand Sea View. This was a big moment for the budget-hotel industry, as the hotel was constructed with the most breathtaking views of Maafushi. It includes 56 rooms with an ocean view that is truly unbeatable.
By this time Maafushi had really picked up its popularity. The guest houses and inflow of tourists allowed for more than just the hotel industry as locals started gaining the benefits of having a local tourism industry as well. Locals soon started setting up shops varying from little cafes to booths that sell arts and crafts or clothes fit for the Maldivian weather.
By the time 2020 came around, the tourism industry of the Maldives was at its peak and so, Kaani expanded again by opening their fifth hotel ‘Kaani Palm Beach.’ This hotel with its 105 rooms, a spa, 2 restaurants and a banquet hall that could accommodate 100 pax was yet another step up for the brand.
Kaani has definitely come a long way since its inception with a 3-star hotel as they have not only changed the face of tourism on the island but proved that luxury could be affordable and still be as beautiful and relaxing as the resorts. And as they celebrate their 10-year anniversary today, on 9th December 2022, Kaani does not have any future plans to slow down as they have already planned out their next hotel, this time on a brand new island, Ukulhas in Alifu Atoll.