It’s been just over a month since we landed back in The States after an incredible holiday in the Maldives. If I didn’t have all the photos I’ve been looking at on repeat, it would feel like a dream. For accommodations, we decided on the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island and booked the stay with a combo of points and cash. I’ll do a price breakdown of our trip soon, so stay tuned, but this post will be an in-depth review of our experience at the Conrad.
Why the Maldives?
The Maldives has been a bucket list destination for travelers for years. The republic is an archipelagic country made up of over 1000 small islands located in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Known as the “flattest country in the world”, the Maldives islands are remnants of extinct volcanoes that have essentially sunk into the ocean over thousands of years. This is evident by their unique shape. Most of the islands are protected by reefs with a lagoon in the middle. The beaches are also coral based, giving them their unmistakeable white appearance. The islands are also small enough that one island = one resort for the most part. This makes for a remote getaway with pristine beaches and what is largely considered the clearest seawater in the world. Our 5th wedding anniversary seemed like an appropriate time to tick this destination off our list.
We chose the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island mostly because of award availability with points. (The Maldives is NOT cheap.) Conrad is a Hilton brand, and we are part of their Hilton Honors rewards program. Hilton now has 4 different resorts in the Maldives and the Conrad is by far the most well-renowned. It has been around for many years and has consistently delivered impeccable service that has earned it several awards and favor among the travel community.
The Conrad Maldives is a proud achiever of “world firsts”. They are home to the first over-water villas constructed at a resort, the first undersea restaurant, and the first undersea residence. If you’ve seen tourism advertisements for the Maldives, it’s likely you’ve seen photographs of the Conrad at some point.
Three islands connected by bridges make up the resort. Two islands are intended for guests, with one dedicated to adults-only and the other more family friendly. The third island is another “first” the Conrad boasts. It is intended solely for accommodations for their staff. The remote nature of the Maldives makes it nearly impossible for staff to commute in daily, so they all live in the accommodations provided by the resort.
All of this space also means there is plenty of room for restaurants and other attractions which is a plus when you’re spending an extended period of time on a remote island. For us, all of these things made the Conrad Maldives the perfect choice for us.
The Maldives are quite far if you’re planning a trip from the United States. It takes a solid 1-2 days of travel just to get there, so it’s best to plan for an extended stay to make your time getting there worth it. We booked a total of 6 nights at the resort on points. By doing that, we were able to get one night for free, as Hilton Honors members get a free 5th night when booking 4 nights on points. Then we opted to cash in an extra night of points to extend our stay. This gave us a total of 7-days and 6-nights at the resort.
Our original booking was the Sunrise Water Villa, as it was the most affordable water villa at the time the we could book on points. The beach villas looked incredible as well, but with it being our first trip to the Maldives, we had to splurge for the water villa.
After watching prices and discussing it a bit, we decided up upgrade to the Deluxe Water Villa. It was a bit extra, but we felt like it would be worth if for the price. About a week before our trip, the resort sent R an e-mail asking if we would like a complimentary upgrade to the “Grand Water Villa with Pool”. We later found out this was due to construction and updates to the Deluxe Water Villas, but we were appreciative nonetheless. If you can swing this category of villa, I would highly recommend it! I would also encourage you to ask specifically for room 421 for the best and most unobstructed views of the sunset. We got lucky and ended up here, and it was absolutely breath-taking! Multiple members of the staff even said it was the best villa at the resort!
The villa was a spacious 1,614 square feet and recently renovated to feature an infinity pool out on the deck. It has a living/lounge area, massive bathroom, separate tub and shower, bedroom and a massive deck with panoramic views of the ocean. It was luxurious without being stuffy and the perfect place to call home for the week!
We were welcomed with a bottle of wine, some sweet treats, and a handwritten note from the staff! Our resort host gave us a complete walkthrough of the entire villa to get us acquainted with everything as well.
Grand Water Villa
The living area was the perfect place to escape the heat and the sun after being on the deck, and it was a cozy spot to eat room service when the weather was bad. It also had a mini bar stocked with snacks, sodas, beer, and liquor for charge. It also came stocked with complimentary coffee, tea, milk, and water which were restocked daily and as needed.
The deck was my absolute favorite place to hang out. Out by the pool, it had two lounge chairs and a small table with a large umbrella to hide from the intense sun. Alternatively, there was also a dining table closer to the villa and in the shade. There were stairs leading down into the ocean as well as a water nozzle to rinse any sand off as needed. You can also access the villa via the living area or the shower if you prefer to bathe first.
The bathroom had two full-sized wardrobes, dual sinks, a full-length mirror and the usual amenities including shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, body wash, cotton swabs, toothpaste and bug spray. I loved the fluffy robes, and the slippers provided too! They had a large beach bag to use on the resort to tote things around, and there were also life vests located in the closet as needed for swimming in the ocean if the currents were a bit strong.
The bedroom featured a king-sized bed, another wardrobe, a TV, and a lounge chair. I loved the full wall of windows with endless ocean views. The bed was extremely comfortable, and one fun thing the resort did was ask what types of pillows we preferred. There are 8 different options to choose from, so they definitely have something for everyone!
Overall, the villa was fantastic. We opted to spend a lot of time there because it was so hard to leave. I was thankful for the opportunity to upgrade beyond what we had originally planned! Watch a full walkthrough of our villa here.
Because the Maldives can be a pricey place to travel, we had a game plan when it came to food. In order to minimize cost when it came to food, we ate a large, late breakfast, packed some lightweight snacks in our suitcases to much on for a light lunch during the day, and then we had dinner reservations most evenings.
We took advantage of the free breakfast at Atoll Market provided with our Hilton honors status which is available for gold/diamond members. It is a massive international buffet that features cuisine from all over the world. They had everything from traditional Maldivian cuisine, to classic American staples, to sushi, and even ice cream! We were very impressed with selections, and we had so much fun trying all the different types of foods.
The Atoll Market is another spot we came back to in the evening from 4-5 p.m. for the complimentary cocktail hour for Hilton Honors gold and diamond members. They served house wines and beer, Prosecco, and a different cocktail and mocktail every evening. They also provided a small plate of various hors d’oeuvres to accompany the drinks as well. It was a great way to cool off after a hot day in the sun before heading back to the villa for dinner.
Note: the cocktail hour is usually hosted at Vilu, another restaurant on property. However, it was undergoing renovations during our stay. It is set to re-open as an Italian restaurant per the staff.
The Wine Cellar
Our first dinner reservation was at The Wine Cellar for a tasting menu completely made up of tapas. The presentation was very impressive, and I was very thankful for the accommodations to alter the dishes for my shellfish allergy. We really enjoyed each dish as well as the service here.
As the name would suggest, the restaurant is located within what happens to be the largest wine cellar in the Maldives!
The next night we opted for in-room dining, so we ordered a very casual pizza with a side of French fries. I usually have a low expectation for room service food, but it arrived promptly. It was quickly set up in the living area of our villa by two of the staff who instructed us to call them to pick up the trays once we finished eating. The fries were delicious, and I ended up ordering them again later in our stay.
Our next dinner was at Sunset Grill. We had an early reservation, so we were able to choose a table with a beautiful view of the ocean and the island. There is a coral reef surrounding the restaurant, so there were fish swimming all around us during the meal. I had the pork chop with the garlic sauce and really enjoyed it. It came with two sides as well, and I chose the mashed potatoes and roasted veggies. The portions were massive, and I couldn’t eat it all even though I was starving before dinner.
Next up for dinner was Ufaa by Jereme Leung (pronounced oo-fah), which featured traditional Chinese cuisine. It was the least expensive meal we had at a restaurant during our stay, and it was also one of our favorites. We heavily debated going back again we loved it so much. To start our meal, we were served several lovely different types of dumplings. For our main course, we chose the Wok-fried chicken with cashew nuts as well as the fried rice noodles with beef. The dishes are family-style, so we easily shared it all and had leftovers.
Our final dinner at the resort was at Mandhoo Spa Restaurant. It is a favorite among guests as well as the staff. R and I both ordered the chicken and risotto dish and it was absolute perfection. All the dishes are inspired by different elements including water, fire, air, and earth. The concept is to serve dishes that are healthy, high-quality, and balanced. The staff and reviews online had us really excited to eat there, and it definitely lived up to the hype. If you pick one nice meal to have at the resort- I’d splurge on this one.
And lastly, it wouldn’t be a trip to the Conrad Maldives if you didn’t pay a visit to Ithaa, the world’s first undersea restaurant. It’s located next to Sunset Grill (you have to walk through the restaurant to get to Ithaa). They do serve lunch and dinner here, however neither of the menus were anything we wanted to splurge on. We ended up redeeming Hilton points to visit during their daily cocktail hour at 11 a.m. just prior to their lunch service. We were served some small appetizers, as well as a glass of Champagne to enjoy while we took in the incredible view from under the ocean. It’s surrounded by a coral reef, so there are lots of sea creatures to watch during the experience. For us, it was worth the short visit to get a glimpse of this iconic restaurant.
A few notes about the restaurants at the Conrad Maldives: there are several other places to dine at the resort, we just chose to be selective in order to save some money as well as pick things we knew we would enjoy. It’s important to make reservation in advance to ensure you can get in. The restaurants are all quite small, so it’s not always guaranteed that they will be able to accommodate walk-ins. Several of the restaurants have dress codes as well, so it’s important to pay attention to that before you go.
Lastly, water is not included with meals. As with many other places in the world, water is charged per bottle ordered for the table. We usually ordered one bottle of sparkling water to keep us from tearing through several bottles of still water like we usually do. We tried to just hydrate well with the complimentary water in our room prior to dinner.
One of the experiences we chose to splurge on was a couples massage at the Spa Retreat. There are actually two spas on the resort. One of them, the Over Water Spa, is located over on the “adults only” island. Our villa wasn’t too far from the Spa Retreat, so we opted to go there. We booked a 90-minute experience that included a foot soak, full-body scrub, as well as a fantastic full body massage. It’s something we don’t do often, but we always really enjoy. I’d definitely recommend it if you have the extra funds to do so!
Not surprisingly, The Conrad Maldives is one of the best vacations we’ve ever had. We came with high expectations, but they were met and even exceeded at times. I keep telling people that is one of the few places that live up to the hype. The photos you see on Instagram are every bit the reality. It is just as beautiful and luxurious as we imagined it to be, and I’d love to go back someday. Have specific questions? Drop them in the comments below and I’d love to answer!