Sandy feet, salty hair, and sunkissed skin… The Maldives has long been lauded as the go-to destination for heliophiles and beach fiends, but The Conrad ups the islands’ luxe factor infinitely. Twice voted The Best Hotel in the World, it’s not hard to see why; offering surreal underwater lodging, decadent dining and an endless list of activities, the hotel perfectly pairs island vibes with exquisite service and see-it-to-believe-it opulence… Wallets at the ready!
Lauded for its kaleidoscopic blue waters, pristine shores and exquisite villas peppered across two verdant islands, the Conrad may be a beloved classic and author of the Maldives signature wooden stilt villas, but it is far from complacent. The hotel’s relentless quest for a spicy edge over its counterparts (the first to launch an underwater restaurant Ithaa some 14 years ago) reached its climax this year with the launch of THE MURAKA, a once-in-a-lifetime butlered residence and affront to tired ideals on luxury, submerged five meters under the Indian Ocean with Bond villain panache. Guests are privy to a near-psychedelic flush of marine life from their sumptuous bed, shower, walk-in-wardrobe, even loo.
As a barefoot luxury veteran, the resort’s spas, restaurants and villas are sewn delicately into the lush, celestial landscape: the infinity pools play on the sea’s vibrant hues, the Over Water Spa embodies the treasured edge of the Maldives cliché and even the tennis court is wrapped in exotic bloom. While recently fine-tuning their nutritional offering for (gluten-free) brownie points within the wellness canon, notably at the Mandhoo Spa restaurant, 10 exceptional gastro-haunts, tasting menus, wine pairings and the cherished lobster and champagne Saturdays, are more than enough to satiate the hedonists.
Low-key chic pervades. The hotel has mastered and refreshed the key amulets of barefoot luxury without crossing into gimmicky territory. iPad menus with compelling images make poolside ordering a breeze (and a gamble), no smoothie is too ‘woke’ for the well-seasoned bartenders and the resort oscillates effortlessly between exquisite menus such as the world-famous underwater Ithaa restaurant’s and more relaxed fisherman’s catch barbeques every Wednesday evening. Even THE MURAKA’s high-octane offering is tempered by its contemporary design against a magnificent Indian Ocean canvas. Several grades of villas, an ‘adult pool’ area (on a separate island from the main pool area) and numerous focal points and corners attest to the hotel’s knack for catering to all shapes, sizes, schedules and whims.
What to Do…
Naturally, The Conrad Maldives has a dizzying roster of aqua-sports including the capricious paddle board and jet skiing, but their seafaring prowess and daytrips are second-to-none. From deep sea fishing and sunrise yoga aboard a traditional yacht to snorkelling with majestic whale sharks, turtles, manta rays, the balmy Indian Ocean teeming with marine wildlife is their playground and the diving centre ensures it becomes the guests’ too. Nearby reefs provide snorkelers with a level of marine drama that is usually the reserve of divers.
Alongside its idyllic wooden stilt villas, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island has transformed its popular Deluxe Beach Villas, submerged in the dense vegetation lining the beach, into vast and sumptuously simple retreats. Collaborating with designer Yuji Yamazaki, natural light floods the tech-clad rooms and a Japanese-inspired garden with an outdoor shower offers a private sanctuary and discreet path leading directly onto the pristine white sand. Drowsy afternoons play out in the Spanish-style hammock or on the throne-like temple sunbed that takes elevated simplicity maxim at face value.
Those itching for the hair-raising edge of tropical luxury would be wise to check into THE MURAKA, though with pockets as deep as the room itself. A masterclass in cutting-edge design and luxury’s revised parameters, THE MURAKA is the first residence to venture beneath the Indian Ocean while above surface, two bedrooms, an acclaimed private chef, butler and perfectly formed sundeck await. The minimalist, incongruous image of a bed, furniture, carpet all encased under the blue swell captivates and confounds even the most insouciant of luxury travellers.
Panoramic glass ceilings and walls peel back a colourful marine theatre of bate fish pulsing like glitter on speakers, of parrot fish inquiring while you shower and barracuda gliding over your bed as you gaze up from the depths. In the morning, the sun pierces through the ripples, magnifying and illuminating the surrounding ocean like dazzling circus spotlights. It’s bucket list stuff – a passion project and architectural triumph that serves up a thrilling level of dislocation found only five meters underwater.
The hotel sniffs out sustainable and ethical edges wherever it can, steering clear of empty buzzwords and ensuring they minimise or offset environmental impact with new projects. This is implicit in the island’s water filtering system and glass bottles, as well as the coral regeneration program (placed around its Maldivian namesake, THE MURAKA). The ethically produced ‘Robe de Voyage’ kimonos in the rooms are the epitome of conscious fashion and a light alternative to the hefty white robe.
The Star Spa Treatment
The 90-minute traditional Maldivian massage at the award-winning Over Water Spa is the ultimate long-haul remedy, warming up your body with an invigorating scrub before rolling out the knots (quite literally, with a ninja rolling pin). The view’s not bad either, even from the treatment bed where a glass floor opens up the reef below during your pummelling. The grand finale arrives as gut-friendly tea and sweeping views across the Indian Ocean from the serenity deck. Along with its other spa, The Spa Retreat, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island has woven its paradise setting into the architecture and treatments, tapping into the healing power of nature and venturing further into ‘mind treatment’ science.
The Dish Not to Miss
Not your typical Maldivian seafood number, but the fresh pasta Carbonara at the Vilu Restaurant summons overwhelming emotions. The seasonal crab and fresh seafood salads at the organically-wired Mandhoo Restaurant are as lip-smacking as they are healthy, and the Japanese teppanyaki restaurant Koko Grill’s lobster riff on the katsu curry receives excessive air time from staff and guests. Exotic fruits are the order of the day – rambutans, snake fruit, dragon fruit– whether smoothies at breakfasts or colourful plates by the pool, and the wine lists (notably in THE MURAKA and the wine and cheese cellar), give Parisian restaurants a run for their euro.
A Final Tip
Guests arriving by seaplane not only shave an hour off their transfer time from Male airport but are afforded a glimpse of the unique shape of the hotel’s islands joined by picturesque bridges and flanked by majestic palms. Mapping out the trip from the plush seaplane lounge in Male to the Conrad Rangali Island over blue-fringed islands and iridescent turquoise lagoons lets the ethereal setting fully sink in.
BOOK IT NOW: Double room ratestart from £589 for a Deluxe Beach Villa for two on a bed and breakfast basis and are POA for THE MURAKA, with a butler and extra exclusive experiences available; conradmaldives.com