Society & Culture Tourism

8 cool and underrated spots to check out in Male, Maldives

Paving the way for specialist coffee roasters in Male, Meraki Coffee Roasters opened just a little over a year ago in the middle of a rather busy alley of Husnuheena Magu. Step inside and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a different place—red bare bricks, vintage trinkets and a long coffee bar with stylish baristas wearing their signature aprons.

Specialty coffees use coffee beans from their in-house roaster as well as those sourced from around the world. Milk coffees, hot chocolate, red velvet and matcha lattes start from MVR75-85. Teas are served here, with the origins of the tea leaves presented upfront. For something more refreshing, try the fruity Cherry Soda (MVR80), spiced up with cardamom, ginger infusions, grapefruit citrus, and sugar syrup for a balanced flavor. Food-wise, be sure to try their some of the best soft-baked cookies on the island, curated to pair with the best drinks in the house.

The team has recently started serving eggs Benedict from 9am in limited portions for those lucky enough to come early. For the coffee enthusiasts who are staying on the island for a while, be sure to check out updates on their home-brew and latte art workshops.

Owned by the same people behind the long-standing Jazz Café, The Civil Coffee Society operates as both a coffee shop and an all-day dining spot. Opened not too long after Meraki, this is another spot to go to for specialty coffee—the team has recently started roasting its own coffee beans too. Other drinks include Gryphon tea and fresh juices (prices start from MVR55). We would recommend giving the Affogato with homemade hazelnut ice-cream a try.

But the highlight has to be the freshly baked, homemade croissants that are to die for, plus savory options like pies, sausage rolls, ciabatta sandwiches and croque monsieur. As it’s located in what’s known as the Wall Street part of the city, Civil attracts a big office crowd in the morning for grab and go bites, but we wouldn’t mind whiling away the hours inside this white space with huge windows that allow a lot of natural light. They’re regularly experimenting with homemade bakeries, ice cream and coffee blends behind that façade, making it seem like a place that never sleeps.

One interesting foodie culture in the Maldives is the emphasis on breakfast buffets, which many establishments will offer in the early hours of the day. That’s also the case at Odegalla Coffee, which does a combination of Maldivian and Western food at MVR65/person (they’ve just started doing lunch buffets too, so if you’re on the island during the day you know where to go). But of course, that’s not the only thing they have in store.

The two-story restaurant serves up a huge list of comfort dishes and Asian flavors, with milkshakes and smoothies inspired by tropical fruits. The local delicacy Kanamandhu cake, like a cross between an almond and carrot cake, is a must-try. Another local delicacy to try is the Hoonu Maroshi  – these are “short eats”, pastry bites that are traditionally served at teahouses between 5-6:30pm. Because teahouses are usually only frequented by the male population, the owners decided to modernize and recreate their own version of Maldivian short eats to enable the trendy young crowd and the female population to enjoy these treats too. It’s located in the education institute zone of the island, but with the greenery right out front you won’t miss it.

Zeeba’s wouldn’t immediately strike you as a trendy café due to its very simple, homey décor, but that doesn’t matter as the deli & café is known as the spot that dishes out the most decadent cakes and desserts in town. Owner and chef Zeeba finetunes her homemade recipe and puts extra effort into sourcing high-quality produce like pine nuts to ensure that her creations stand out. Prices range from MVR30-50—we recommend ordering the banana cake and the carrot cake if you’re stopping by for a coffee break (around MVR45-55).

Head over early and you can order a traditional Maldivian breakfast set (Mashuni) that features a roshi (a variation of roti), fried eggs and kulhimas (spicy tuna chili), while the two lunch items (MVR70-80) on the menu will rotate on a regular basis as Zeeba’s experiments with something new all the time – be sure to check the Facebook page in advance.

In the midst of a street that was largely under construction on our visit, a nautical white and blue café stood out from the crowd. At Thyme, the owner wishes to establish a humble place that serves up affordable seafood dishes so that everyone can enjoy a good meal.

One of the most Instagrammed dishes on the menu is the grand Thyme seafood platter (crabs, lobster and prawns, served with rice), but we love the international dishes that highlight Maldivian produce, such as the Tuna Burger MVR85, or the Valhomus Spaghetti, perfectly cooked and topped with olives and the signature smoked tuna — one of the few local items that you can find at the market. Drinks-wise, they’ve also got a lot going for them, being one of the few places on the island that serves refreshing cold-pressed juices. If you’re there early though, they do a hearty breakfast menu that features items like shakshuka and the classic Maldivian breakfast combo of kulhimas and roshi from 6-11:30am.

If you Google where to find souvenirs on Male, you’ll most likely be directed to Maheedhee Magu, where tons of shops lined up on both sides of the street sell typical souvenirs. But to get the best gifts from these beautiful islands, we found a boutique store that is a breezy tropical oasis in the heart of busling Male.

Hidden on the second floor of a nondescript building on Fareedhee Magu, The Island Bazaar oozes a beautiful nautical vibe with clean white walls and aquatic blue flourishes, selling books, artwork, tote bags, cushion covers and wooden artisan crafts like pottery, mats, natural dyes and lacquer works produced by locals from different atolls (group of islands). You’ll notice a lot of Pinterest-perfect elements inside like art illustration by young contemporary artists as well as refreshing spa products by Island Apothecary. You won’t be disappointed.

HULUMALE: Two hidden spots on the Maldives’ reclaimed island

Just four months old, Alchemist Bistro Café was a great stop for us on a super sunny day. The one-room shophouse specializes in homemade creations for both the younger crowd and families. Top items on the menu include the huge all-day big breakfast set (eggs, hash browns, baked beans, sausages, bacon, a coffee and juice), as well as massive freakshakes (MVR 65-90) and refreshing iced teas. As Hulumale is a great spot for guesthouses and diving centers, this makes it a great stop for those looking to take a break from all the water-sporting.

Right along the line of guesthouses that serve local divers on the public beach, here’s a high quality coffee spot for the caffeine lovers. As the name suggests, The Family Room has been designed to look like your own family living room, filled with books, board games and a very family-friendly vibe. Focusing on specialty coffees and teas imported from Australia and Singapore, this is one of the first places that brought the coffee scene to life, and has recently expanded into a second branch called The Commons Room which doubles as a co-working space. For more serious fare, there’s also a seafood grill standing outside the café that serves hot dogs, burgers and lobsters.

DAY-TRIP: Villingili (Male)

If you have a lot of time to kill before your transfer, we recommend taking a ferry across to nearby island Villingili. In a complete contrast to the crowdedness of Male, this 5th administrative ward of Male is an eco-island whereby all motorized cars and motorbikes are not allowed. Vehicles here are all electronic, and there’s plenty of large trees and shades all around. And while there’s no real beach on Male, the public beach here really is amazing on a weekday, with genuinely fine sands and beautiful shades of blue and turquoise waters. Watersport enthusiasts should also give flyboarding a try at Liquid Watersports. A ferry ride costs only MVR 3.25, and takes only 5 minutes.

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