Twice voted the best hotel in the world, this simply stunning and incredibly special Conrad resort rightly remains the first choice for a luxury break in the Maldives for so many people. A high proportion return again and again, just like we did, a couple of months ago.
Often when you revisit a favourite, with all the high expectations your memories demand, the result is a sense of disappointment as your stay fails to live up to your last trip, and you just can’t put your finger on why. With over 15 of the most luxurious Maldives resorts under our belts so far, we were a little anxious this particularly loved one wouldn’t be half as good. Would the villas be as amazing, the two islands as pretty, the beaches as perfect, dining as delicious and welcome as warm?
Conrad Maldives is located in the South Ari Atoll, a 30 minute scenic sea plane journey from the international airport. Our barefoot captain banked the tiny craft around sharply, delighted to show fellow passengers the resort ahead. Below we caught our first glimpse of the two picture-perfect islands joined by a long jetty across a turquoise lagoon, with strings of over water villas and spas – all as pretty as we remembered.
Was lovely to see familiar faces there to welcome us warmly at the arrival jetty, and usher us off to check in, in the comfort of our stunning villa – this time a newly and extensively refurbished Luxury Beach Villa on Rangalifinolhu – the larger island, where the watersports centre, main reception, shopping area and gym are.
Large, incredibly spacious and beautifully appointed throughout, they feature high ceilings, a rear hidden relaxation courtyard with outdoor bath and front garden with pool and direct access to the beach. These villas are gorgeous. Fresh, modern, light and airy, they offer all the privacy you could wish for, yet nestle just a few meters back from the beach behind tropical trees where, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot teddy-bear-cute large bats swing and sway.
There are a host other villa and suite options, and after a few days happily enjoying ours, we were whisked across to the quieter Rangali island to a few doors up from where we stayed before, into one of their incredibly impressive over water Premier Ocean Villas.
Perfectly positioned for stunning sunset views, this super-stylish, spacious open plan home features a modern comfy seating area, bathroom with whirlpool, huge bed with views out across the sea, and floor to ceiling glass doors opening on to a deck with a large infinity pool where we spent many hours relaxing watching fish, sharks and rays swim by, and dainty white terns flit and skim the sea for morsels. The view is so incredible here – uninterrupted, wild, beautiful, with a froth of white in the distance as waves thunder along the reef edge.
Our villa was the last along the beach, with just sandbank beyond, where the flagship Sunset Water Villa loved by A-Listers and royalty resides, its privacy protected by discrete guards. We could still venture along our side though, and sitting on the silk-soft pearl-white sand at dusk, watching the sky morph and moon start to rise with nothing but pottering shore crabs for company and the haunting calls of terns was truly magical.
There is another super-special place to stay at this resort. A pioneering first and the pinnacle of luxury. Somewhere you can sleep actually under the sea, with rainbows of fish surrounding you. The Muraka.
Nestled alone in a private part of the lagoon, this engineering marvel is a first-of-its-kind residence, combining over water sleeping, eating and relaxing areas, large terrace and pool, with an underwater bedroom, lounge and bathroom meters below the surface reached only by a lift. If you wished for a truly remarkable, once in a lifetime extraordinary experience, this has to be it.
With a dedicated team of butlers and chefs, you and your loved ones can be pampered away from all other guests, enjoying incredible over and under water views, delicious dining, and absolute peace, quiet and relaxation – or of course, party the night away in private in this remarkable location. Our visit here was such a treat – sipping champagne being surrounded by fish whilst under the sea, and enjoying a wonderful private dinner with views out across the ocean is an experience we shall certainly cherish.
One of the joys of this Conrad is that it’s one of those rare luxury resorts in the Maldives which offers privacy, peace and quiet, plus enough to see and do for even a several week stay. There is an excellent choice of dining, each with its own distinctive location and style, a small and beautifully curated shopping area, gym, two over water spas, every kind of water sport, two large pools, plus luxury yachts to take you off into the sunset or fishing -to name just some of the offerings to enjoy.
Our particular favourites were fish watching with champagne and canapes at the amazing Ithaa under sea restaurant, (another under water pioneering first), deeply relaxing massages in one of the over water spas, shark feeding, wine tasting in the underground cellar packed with incredible vintages, and a fabulous sunset champagne and dolphin watching cruise on the resort’s luxury motoryacht. Oh, and not forgetting having the adults’ only huge infinity pool all to ourselves, watching a manta ray ballet from the jetty at night, and enjoying breakfast under the beady eye of George the resort’s tame grey heron each blissful morning of our stay.
One thing we missed this time because we were enjoying our wine tasting so much was dinner at Koko – the open air Japanese grill restaurant on the beach – but have it on our list of absolute must-dos for our visit next time.
Even writing this now, I’m recalling how wonderful our stay was, and yearning to head back. This resort is an incredibly special place – somewhere you will make memories you’ll cherish for always. www.conradmaldives.com