Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, was once voted as the best hotel in the world. If looks could talk, it would (quite rightly) be the biggest show off around.
The returning rate of guests at the Conrad Maldives is 50%, meaning that most of the time, at least half of the people there at the same time of you have already been there at least once before. Speaks volumes. There was another couple who had visited over 30 times. 30 TIMES! To the same resort! Apparently, a lot of couples who come on their honeymoon then come back when they have children. So be warned, if you do visit, chances are, you’ll be back.
View of the Conrad Maldives from our seaplane
Resort: Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
Location: South Ari Atoll, Maldives
Nearest airport: Malé international
Seaplane? Yes, from Malé, organised via the resort
Packages: Visit the resort’s website for the latest deals
Pool? Yes, one freeform and one infinity, plus pools in most accommodations – and the sea is one big beautiful bath!
Wi-Fi? Yes, throughout the resort.
Perfect for: Families and couples in search of luxury and excellent house reef, coupled with the warmest of welcomes.
What makes Conrad Maldives Rangali Island so special?
I stepped off the seaplane, wanting to appear to fit into this glamourous world where stepping off a seaplane is a normal and regular occurance. It’s just like getting off a bus, right? But my sandalled foot hadn’t even reached dry land before I managed to knock my sunglasses off the top of my head, and watch in dismay as they dropped into the sea while the plane’s pilot threw himself on the floor in an attempt to reach them. The funny thing was, you could see them inch their way towards the seabed since the seawater is so blue, simply prolonging my awkwardness. This would be the only time I have ever wished that the sea was as murky as it is back at home in the UK.
“Let them go,” I said, “they were cheap and cheerful”, I said as I realised they were that ‘Prada’ pair I had picked up in Bangkok for the equivalent of £1. The manager of the hotel, however, promised me they would send out the divers as soon as the seaplane had left, to retrieve them for me. Less than one hour later, as we were sat enjoying a sea view lunch, they were back on top of my head.
The bridge between both Conrad Maldives islands
Two days later, when I was suffering with snorkelling-induced sunburn on my back, I mentioned my angry red injury in passing. By the time we had gotten back to our overwater villa, there was freshly cut aloe vera leaves to soothe my burn, followed up with a phone call to check I knew what it was for. Welcome to the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, where unbelievably thoughtful scenes and acts are a daily occurrence. Yes, it ticks all of the boxes for clear waters, white sands and great food, but the atmosphere the staff create is second to none.
Conrad Maldives is just a 30-minute seaplane ride from Malé international airport. I would recommend this option, since it takes three hours by speedboat – nice, but maybe not so much after a ten-hour flight from London.
Our Spa Retreat overwater villa
What is the hotel like?
Like a few other Maldives hotels, the Conrad Rangali is split over two islands, with a long bridge in between. One has the main reception area, with a busy lunch bar, watersports area, swimming infinity pool and a few other restaurants clustered at one end, and beach and spa overwater villas. The other has another spa, an adults-only quiet zone, a couple of beachside restaurants, an infinity pool at the end of a short pier, and lots of overwater villas, plus an exclusive set of villas that have their own private stretch of beach – one for the royals and celebs, I guess!
Our room was a Spa Retreat over water villa, which I would highly recommend for a true Maldives experience. This place was everything I hoped it would be. We took loads of photos, but if you want to see it all come to life, then do check out my Spa Retreat over water villa room tour video.
Our deck area, and steps down to the lagoon
The massage room in our villa
Our bath with a view
Our Jacuzzi with a view!
But really, what could be better than a swim, or paddle, in this lagoon!
Our favourite restaurant at Conrad Maldives was the open air, over water Spa Retreat restaurant, Mandhoo. An organic food, balanced meal affair designed to either energise, nourish, detoxify, relax or fortify. You choose your dishes based around how your body is feeling, and how you would like it to feel. I chose a Nori crusted beef tenderloin, with teriyaki shitake and wasabi sour cream. Earth dishes are designed to encourage inner peace and soothe your soul – and the flavours were so delicious that I didn’t miss my usual side order of triple cooked chips.
Beautiful Mandhoo restaurant
The Mandhoo staff do a spot of shark feeding at 130pm every day – so don’t miss that. They will even tie your underwater camera onto a stick and film the frenzy, if you like! Plus, there is a sweet afternoon tea here, daily, which is complimentary.
Welcome to the Spa Retreat (above and below)
The Spa Retreat is a pier with 21 villas (where we stayed), and nine over water treatment rooms, opposite the Mandhoo restaurant. As well as massages and treatments, you can get manicures and pedicures here, too. There is a second spa in an over water villa on the other, smaller island, too. That one has glass floors, so you can watch the sea life below while you are being massaged.
Walking off the Spa Retreat pier
The inner island – tropical vegetation along a single path, and not much more!
Rangali Bar – all the restaurants at Conrad Maldives have iPad menus
The main freeform pool on the large island
What is there to eat at Conrad Maldives?
Some resorts in the Maldives make a real thing of their food offerings, in order to stand out among the crowd. The Conrad Maldives is the only resort (won’t be for long, I’m sure) to have a cheese and wine bar, offering sommelier-led dining evenings, tours of the wine cellar and fondue nights. We didn’t get to try this place out, but always leave with a reason to go back, hey?
We did get to try Ithaa, which was the world’s first underwater restaurant, opening in 2005 to much publicity. It is a great experience, since it is built into one of the busiest parts of the reef, and staff feed fish at service times, meaning you will see sharks and possibly manta rays swimming over you as well as inquisitive Clown fish and Angel fish gliding by.
We also loved the beach BBQ Grill, an open-air BBQ buffet, including fresh lobster and coconut shrimp. Tables were at the waters edge, so you could dine barefoot and watch the moon rise. And the Sunset Grill, which is on stilts on the same pier that lead to Ithaa. Here is the finest selection of fresh local fish, including Jackfish. If you love Japanese food, you can’t miss the Koko Grill, which offers a 10-course open grill experience, where sushi dishes are made live in front of 12 people maximum.
Even in-room dining is on a whole new level, here. We loved heading back to our over water villa late afternoon with some snacks and a bottle of wine and chilling out on the terrace or in our Jacuzzi, watching the sun set. It is worth having a chat with the hotel when booking, as some rooms have a sunset view and some don’t. Ours was kind of side on, but led down to the clearest part of the lagoon. So, your choice depends what you are after.
The Koko Grill, above and below
Fresh fish at the Sunset Grill
A little dhoni boat runs back and forth between the islands, if you don’t want to walk across the bridge
The smaller of the two islands, with the sunset over water villas, has the adults-only bar and pier with infinity pool at the end of it. The sea and sand are at their purest here. Think wooden swings, daybed retreats and peaceful relaxation.
Looking out over to the Spa Retreat villas on the bigger island
Activities – what is there to do in the Maldives?
Yes, there is far more to do in the Maldives than just sunbathe. You can take a boat trip to other local islands, to get a slice of what life is like outside of a luxury resort. And if we had been here longer, then we would have taken that trip. As it was, we indulged in all sorts of water-based activities, as well as plenty of dining.
Don’t get me wrong, you won’t find things like temples, waterparks or museums in the Maldives, but it doesn’t have to be a ‘fly and flop’ holiday. I would start with a walk around both islands, which, with lunch stops and wildlife spotting breaks, will take you a whole day, if you want it to. Snorkelling at the house reef is fantastic. We took one of the snorkelling trips, which take you to deeper waters to try to spot turtles and whale sharks, but we actually saw more wildlife at the house reef at the resort. The waters are shallow and clear and are home to fish, including sharks, and manta rays.
Our favourite trip was the Lucky Dolphin cruise. As if sailing off into the sunset, drinking Ruinart champagne wasn’t beautiful enough, we didn’t have to wait long before, what felt like, hundreds of Spinner dolphins had surrounded our boat. Magical!
Jumping for pure joy at the Spa Retreat villas
Until next time, Paradise….
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