An account of a two-day stay in a luxury Indian Ocean island retreat.
Water villas are surrounded by nature
Sight unseen I wondered what would make it "the best luxury resort in the Maldives," but after two days as a guest, I understand how the Conrad Maldives has earned that reputation. Encompassing two sand fringed islands, with eight types of villas, seven restaurants, and four bars, the Conrad proves why it's a contender among the more than 100 resorts that support the important tourist industry of the Maldives Islands. This small country, lying just west of India, is a string of 1,200 islands each a jewel of tropical foliage ringed with white sand beaches just barely peeking above sea level in the striking turquoise Indian Ocean. Lying in 26 atoll rings, only 250 of the small islands are inhabited, many of them are merely resorts, generally one per island. To reach them you travel by water or air from Male the capital city.
To the Conrad the trip is by seaplane and the experience begins in the resort's comfortable airport lounge in the private plane terminal where a buffet of sandwiches, salads, dessert, lattes, fruit juices and excellent wifi is provided for travelers awaiting the seaplane's departure. Then it's down to the dock where the captains and steward, barefoot or in flip-flops, stow you aboard for the half-hour flight. When the seaplane pulls up to the dock, staff team members lead you to the reception desk in a lobby set up right on the sand—the hotel advises against packing shoes.
Guests wait for the seaplane in the Conrad's comfortable airport lounge
Sandwiches and snacks greet guests at the Conrad Lounge at the Male Airport
Desserts follow snacks at the Conrad Lounge
Seaplanes wait to ferry guests from Male to the Conrad Maldives
Barefoot stewards welcome guests boarding the seaplane
Seaplane arrives at the Conrad dock
At the seaplane dock staff team members greet arriving guests.
Conrad Maldives Reception Desk in the sand
Guests await room assignment in the Conrad lobby
Guests are welcomed with a coconut drink
I was dispatched to a beach villa with a spacious bedroom and bath surrounded by a yard with an elevated outdoor bathtub, an outdoor shower, and in front a jacuzzi lap pool and deck with a path leading right to the beach. A wide screen TV with excellent reception, speedy free wifi, and Aromatherapy Associates amenities were included.
Thatched entrance to Beach Villa
Gurgling fountain on Beach Villa patio
Wine and fruit set out for arriving guests
Bathroom amenities by Aromatherapy Associates
Beach Villa seating area
Beach Villa room looks back to patio
Beach Villa king size bed
Bathrobes hang in Beach Villa dressing area
Double bathroom with marble fixtures
Outdoor shower on Beach Villa patio
Elevated bathtub on Beach Villa patio
A long wooden footbridge and charming ferry connect the Conrad's hideaway water villas on Rangali island and the livelier main island with tropical beach villas, the main facilities and an elevated spur over the sea which makes up the spa retreat—treatment rooms, water villas, and a restaurant.
Adjacent to the lobby, also with a floor of sand is the Rangali Bar. A gift shop is part of the main complex, and nearby the fitness center is stocked with machines and a room for yoga and stretching. The diving center supplies wet suits, snorkels, masks and fins. There is also wonderful snorkeling when you step off the beach. Other activity options include big game fishing, tennis, and excursions or browsing in the gift shop.
Chaises in the Rangali Bar
Lounges in the Rangali Bar
Yoga room in the Fitness Center
Workout machines in the Fitness Center
Drinks are served at the Rangalli Bar
Looking out from the Conrad lobby
Beachside water sports
The Gift Shop adjoins the Reception Area
Souvenirs and novelties are sold in the Gift Shop
Garments are sold in the Gift Shop; Selection of shell accessories in the Gift Shop
Breakfast is served in the main Atoll Market, an expansive buffet of buffet ethnic dishes, elaborate selections of fruits, muesli, almond muffins, cereals, pancakes and heart-shaped waffles. The evening dinner buffet has sections devoted to Chinese, Indian, Italian, and Indonesian cuisine, plus extensive selections of salad, sushi, and seafood.
Morning news updates at breakfast
Atoll Seating is indoors and out
Fruit salad selection at breakfast buffet
Fresh fruist in the Atoll buffet
Breads are fresh baked at the resort
Fruit salad selection at breakfast buffet
Atoll dinner by candlelight
Chinese dishes in the Atoll buffet
Indian dishes in the Atoll buffet
Sushi and sashimi in the Japanese buffet
Salads in the Atoll buffet
Fresh pizza in the Italian buffet
Sauces in the Atoll buffet
Delicacies in the seafood buffet
Wine selection in the Atoll buffet
Desserts and pudding desserts in the Atoll buffet
In the spa's Mandhoo restaurant, the menu is based on ingredients related to air, earth, fire, water and plants such as fried sea bass, crabmeat salad with tiny cubes of avocado and mango plus a grapefruit and blueberry granite listed under "air."
Other dining options include casual specialties at the Sunset Grill, and fine dining at the Vilu gourmet restaurant. For diners preferring privacy, there is in-villa dining or special meals can be arranged in the wine and cheese bars. For a special experience, meals are served in the Ithaa Undersea restaurant where diners can watch fish swimming by.
Candlelit waterside dining in the Mandhoo Restaurant
Crabmeat salad with mango and avocado is an "air" inspired Mandhoo appetizer; "Water" sea bass is a Mandhoo main course.
Entry to the Ithaa Underwater Restaurant
Ithaa Underwater Restaurant
Diners' view from the Ithaa Restaurant
Fish swim by diners in the Ithaa Restaurant
Guests staying in the spa retreat water villas can have treatments in their rooms, I walked over from my beach villa in my robe and after soothing tea from the five options of oils I selected "air" and lay listening to the wind and sea during a soothing massage which was followed by a serving of tea and a biscuit.
Entrance to the Spa Retreat
Reception at the Spa Retreat
Spa attendants are helpful and caring
Atrium at the Spa Retreat
Water views surround the spa treatment rooms
Guests select from five different treatment oils
Tea is served following treatment
Walking across the boardwalk, I explored the spa facilities on the connected island, toured the presidential suite and paused for a swim at the pool where only adults are allowed in the quiet zone.
Children aren't allowed on the Quiet Zone beach
Beachside lounges in the Quiet Zone
Villa view from bedroom to deck
Spacious villa bathtub
Plunge pool on villa deck
Spa Retreat water villas are suspended over the sea
Immaculate villa bathroom
Seaside deck plunge pool
Water villa dressing room
Boardwalks link water villas to the beach
Deck side bedroom
View to deck
Circular lounges deck side in the Presidential Villa
Infinity pool on the deck of the Presidential Villa
Sea view glass floor in the Presidential Villa
Spacious bathroom in the Presidential Villa
Oversea seating in the Presidential Villa
My second and last evening, Resort Manager Karim Schadlou invited us to sunset cocktails on the beach. Because the sun set ordinarily happens too early, the Conrad sets its clocks ahead one hour, establishing its own version of day light savings time to ensure pleasant cocktail views.
Carrying my shoes next day to the seaplane departure, I could tell I'd embraced the resort's motto "where barefoot luxury meets unpretentious style."
Scene of the beach side party
Scattered water pots with dippers are provided for rinsing sand from bare feet