Okay, I know what you’re thinking. It’s the Maldives – possibly the most beautiful place on earth. Of course, there are going to be out-of-this-world hotels that will fill anyone’s Instagram feed full of dreamy pics, but the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is different. In fact, I’m not sure there’s anything you can even compare it to because it’s in a league of its own. I think I may have found actual heaven on earth. And that I might be a little bit in love.
Since returning from my stay, I cannot stop gushing about, well, everything. The soft white sand, the crystal-clear water of the Indian Ocean, the sumptuous spas, the decadent villas, and the delicious food. I keep finding myself closing my eyes and transporting myself back to the endless stretch of beautiful beach, dipping my toes into the turquoise water and inhaling the tropical scents that linger in the fresh, sea air. I should probably stop that as it provokes some strange looks, but I can’t help it. The resort has officially stolen my heart, and this is why…
My magical Maldives experience started from the moment I touched down in the capital Malé, thanks to the Conrad Rangali lounge. Forget sitting around in a stuffy airport terminal while you wait for your seaplane because, here, you get the five-star treatment as soon as you walk through the doors. I was greeted with a refreshing cold towel and escorted through to the relaxation area, where my post-flight knots were kneaded out by the in-house masseuse. I tucked into a hearty breakfast and lay back on the reclining lounge beds, watching the planes come and go. So far, so good.
Once onboard our seaplane, it was a short hop, skip, and a jump over to the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort, with the 30 minutes whizzing by in a haze of turquoise sea and clear, blue skies. Arriving at the welcome deck, which sits on a 500-meter bridge that links the resort’s two tropical islands – Rangali Island and Rangalifinolhu Island – I was handed a bowl of homemade sorbet (another bonus point there) and whisked away in one of the many golf buggies that transport you throughout the hotel to my luxurious over-water villa.
Again, I know what you’re thinking. An over-water villa. In the Maldives. How original. But I promise: if you step inside one of these rooms, you’ll be left speechless. It took me a good few minutes to close my gaping mouth and actually move as I was rooted to the spot, taking it all in. With ocean views at every angle, a huge cloud-like bed, glass-paneled floors beneath my writing desk that reveal the magical ocean world below, a private deck with loungers and steps down to the water, and a bathroom boasting a tub that looks out to sea – that was the moment it hit me. I was in heaven.
Perfectly private despite the open and airy feel, I was in a world of my own – not only did the slatted wooden walls keep me hidden from my neighbors, but also because this was like nowhere I’d ever seen before. The deluxe villas even have their own on-deck Jacuzzi, while the Sunset Water Villas (only accessible by boat or a private walkway) have their own infinity pool and a private 24-hour host on call. Enough said.
Over on Rangalifinolhu Island (accessible from Rangali Island with a traditional dhoni boat service that sails you straight over), there are also breathtaking beach villas, which offer a really unique and very special Maldivian experience. Dividing my stay between here and the water villa, I can honestly say I wouldn’t be able to pick a favorite as both offer something totally different.
The beach villas have the bonus of getting you right on the soft sand in a couple of steps, a private plunge pool, an outdoor shower, and floor-to-ceiling glass windows that flood the room with natural light. Once I managed to drag myself away from my room (it’s harder than you think), it felt like mere seconds before my feet sunk into the white, silky sand.
With no other person as far as I could see – apart from the occasional fellow who treated me to fresh coconut water and iced fruit – it was pure beach bliss. This chilled-out vibe reverberates throughout the hotel, where you’re encouraged not to wear shoes and just go with the flow of island life. Sigh…
This relaxed and welcoming vibe is present even in the resort’s top restaurants, of which there are a whopping 12 to choose from. Needless to say, as a big foodie, this was the way to get straight to my heart. I got to dine under the stars with my toes in the sand, tuck into fresh sashimi at the sunken Koko Grill whilst gazing out at the pink sunset, and even try my hand at making dim sum at world-renowned Chinese celebrity chef Jereme Leung’s eatery Ufaa By Jereme Leung.
But, for me, the star of the show has to be the multi award-winning Ithaa Undersea Restaurant. Upon entering what looks like a normal over-water hut, I made my way down the spiral staircase that leads to the small and intimate dining room, situated five meters below the sea’s surface.
The eatery is essentially a glass tunnel that offers 180-degree panoramic views of the vibrant and bustling coral gardens, so nothing quite beats tucking into an indulgent meal whilst watching ocean life swim around you. Open for lunch and dinner, it also hosts a mid-morning canapé-and-beverage session so you can experience Ithaa’s magical marine glory without having to splash out on a pricey meal. As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. And you’re totally spoilt for choice for them at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.
For those who say that there’s nothing to do in the Maldives but lie on a beach, this is the place to bust that myth. In fact, there’s so much to do and see that your sun lounger might not get as much action as you think. For the more active, there’s a state-of-the-art gym, a yoga pavilion that hosts daily classes overlooking the azure water, tennis courts, and two infinity pools.
For the more adventurous, the incredible watersport center offers countless activities and excursions – think: diving, snorkeling with whale sharks and turtles to catamaran trips, sunset dolphin cruises, and big-game fishing during which your catch is cooked up for your dinner that evening. If you’re there with someone special, you can take a private yacht to a deserted island, where a romantic meal on the beach has been prepared for you.
Or, you can simply relax at one of the two stunning spas. There’s the Over Water Spa on Rangali Island that will, quite literally, take your breath away. Situated on stilts at the end of a walkway that leads you right out into the ocean, it has only a handful of rooms – all of which boast glass floors – as well as a secluded serenity deck with an open-air Jacuzzi. Need I say more? Thought not.
Rangali Island is home to the Spa Retreat, which not only has huge secluded spa suites, spa villas you can stay in throughout your trip, and every treatment you could possibly want (ranging from skin-saving facials to holistic chakra rituals). It’s also where you’ll find the Mandhoo restaurant, with its open sides and over-water location.
There really is no better place to dine on organic, locally produced fare from a menu that has been designed to help nourish, detoxify, relax, or even energize – depending on what you’re booked in for and how you’re feeling. There’s a daily shark-feeding session here, too, during which you can stand on the restaurant’s edge and watch the sharks enjoy their evening meal right under your feet. Priceless.
The hotel is so picture-perfect that it even conducts an Instagram tour during which guests are taken around to the best snapping spots. Your guide will help you find the best poses, angles, and lighting, taking that perfect #Wanderlust post for you. Needless to say, #NoFilter needed here. The spa toilets are a particular favorite (they’re out in the open on your own private deck), as are the secluded beach swings and jaw-dropping Quiet Zone Pool.
It’s also worth mentioning how incredible the staff here are. Genuine, passionate, and always smiling – who wouldn’t be if they called this place home? There’s not a request or problem they can’t handle. With an average ratio of three staff to every guest, the personal touch and service you receive here at every turn makes you feel like a true superstar.
Whatever you are – be it a beach bum, one half of a newlywed couple, an adrenaline junkie, an avid explorer, or a serious foodie – I can honestly say that you can’t help but fall in love with this place. The extraordinarily high return rate and the fact that some regular guests are now on their 50th or 60th trip back says it all. Once you’ve lost yourself to the serene, sublime, and stunning world of Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, it will capture your heart forever.
Rangali Island, Maldives
(+960) 668 0629