Travel Inspiration By A Pro Trip Designer

The Conrad – Hilton’s Crown Jewel

Beach, Family, Travel Tips

Nov
10
2009

Conrad Rangali Island Resort & Spa

Maldives

November 7th, 2009

One of the first luxury branded properties to boost Hilton’s reputation abroad, the Conrad Rangali Island is also Hilton’s oldest property in the Maldives. Occupying two private islands in the central Atoll’s, the Conrad requires far less transit time (a mere 30 minute sea-plane ride from Male right to the resort’s dock) and guarantees the smooth service of a well-honed professional.

Trees only bend like that in Paradise, or so it would seem

Trees only bend like that in Paradise, or so it would seem

The example by which the other properties strive to follow, the Conrad guarantees the Hilton guest (also a spot to use your Honors Awards) plenty of option from rooms (beach, over the water, even mansion-size) to cuisine (french to japanese to casual bar fare) to activities (from top-level spa to water sports to tennis).

the lush beach pathways at Conrad

the lush beach pathways at Conrad

The windsurfering instructors strutting their stuff at the resort

The windsurfering instructors strutting their stuff at the resort

More like an all-inclusive resort (meal plans do apply) or a high-quality cruise ship, the Conrad is a well-oiled machine with all the requisite amenities one would expect from a five-star resort. Including, those few over-the-top amenities that let you know you’re somewhere the owners/staff are intent on wow-ing you and making a mark on your memory. At Conrad, the wow-factor is Ithaa, the Maldives’ only underwater restaurant.

Under the Sea

Under the Sea

With just twelve seats, Ithaa requires advance booking and comes at a competitive price – $195 a head for lunch and $320 for dinner. The meals are three course and the food is exceptional, though, it is a tad strange to be eating fish as they swim by. We did joke that they probably see US as the attraction and come swim around the sunken restaurant (50-meters below the surface) for some daily people-gawking. Well, that and there’s someone that tosses chum overhead, ensuring the fish swarm at least once throughout the meal.

one of the less savory characters that swam (or swiveled) by

one of the less savory characters that swam (or swiveled) by

Suitable for both families and couples, the variety of water sports and dining options alone fill a week’s activities while the varying options of accommodations are well suited to everyone’s needs. For me, the place to stay is on the smaller island where the adults-only pool and chic new tented bar and private dining area are located.

Just like Temptation Island...okay, not at all, but the bartender under the tent does make a mean martini

Just like Temptation Island...okay, not at all, but the bartender under the tent does make a mean martini

The ‘other island’ is also home to the over-water spa (there are two spas at the resort – one on the big island, known as the Spa Retreat and the other, smaller one with just four treatment rooms).

The unassuming entrance to the over water spa

The unassuming entrance to the over water spa

The blissful treatment rooms

and behind it, the blissful treatment rooms

Above is the site of one of my favorite massages I’ve ever had. The room on the far left is where the magic happened. I’m not sure whether it was due to the exceptional quality of the room-there’s a glass peephole in  the room’s floor right below the massage table – or the masseuse herself – a wonderfully strong woman from Thailand – or most likely, the winning combination that did it. I was transported to heaven with the noise of the water lapping and the strong hands (and elbows) working out every possible kink. The center villa is the relaxation room with open walls out to the sea and a hot tub. I could have spent hours there quite happily.

The talented spa ladies on the dunnie (the boat) back to the main island

The talented spa ladies on the dunnie (the boat) back to the main island

The treatments are based on the colors and their chakras and you’re allowed to modify and combine as you see fit. I enjoyed the red, which focused on my bottom chakra and included a foot massage. Again, heaven.

As for where to sleep, I fell in love with the Deluxe Water Villas (shocker), also on the adult island.  Although their contemporary-Schraeger-esque decor is not quite my taste, I was enamored with their 115 sq meters of open space, natural wooden walls and ceiling and expansive views.

The modern decor

The modern decor

The views of the villa from the bed are spectacular

The views of the villa from the bed are spectacular

There was a particular villa that struck all of us on the trip as ‘the one’ to rent. Number 348 – its corner location was the envy of all others.

The inviting entrance - welcome home

The inviting entrance - welcome home

And last but not least, the piece de resistance – every woman’s most important element to ensuring a pleasant stay;  the bathroom

The doors to the left open out but the bathroom is nice and protected should the weather be too much (our experience)

The doors to the left open out to the deck, but the bathroom is mercifully sheltered should the weather be too much to bear (our experience)

At Conrad, the water sports – fishing, snorkeling, diving, sailing, banana-boating, windsurfing, wakeboarding etc. – are so abundant the array of water toys are practically challenging you to participate.

Flippers on the boat

Flippers on the boat


Our hosts had kindly booked a mid-day snorkeling adventure on the Conrad’s plush fishing yacht with the promise of finding one of the area’s famed Whale Sharks.

photo courtesy of Nat Geo

photo courtesy of Nat Geo

Eager to spot whatever was out there we were delighted to be off on the boat. Our guide, Tomas, explained to us the docile nature of the Whale Shark (a vegetarian) and their recent elusiveness. It appeared he was setting our expectations to avoid disappointment.

As luck would have it – we found one! Naturally, the French were already there crowding the fish and swimming far closer than Tomas had told us possible.  Yet, despite the crowds I was also able to swim right alongside the magnificent beast.

If you look closely you can see the dark spot in the center of the snorkelers - that's her (the whale shark)

If you look closely you can see the dark spot in the center of the snorkelers - that's her (the whale shark)

My favorite angle was from the back. Swimming directly behind the shark and recognizing just how long and large the animal was, not to mention how gracefully it cut through the water, was one of the more amazing things I’ve ever seen – and with just a snorkel mask. I have to say, I felt like it was my own mini-version of the Abyss.

I must admit, I also enjoyed sunning on the boat’s bow on the way home.

My view on the way back to the resort

My view on the way back to the resort

At Conrad there were so many things to do, see and eat. The four days flew by and even though the weather sometimes did this…

Typhoon style rain and wind

Typhoon style rain and wind

It also gave us this….

conradsunset

I will forever remember the Maldives as a spot of remarkable beauty, intrigue and genuine warmth. Thank you Hilton for bringing me here to see it firsthand. Now, all of you reading – trust that this is a tropical island experience unlike any other.

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Published by Meg, Tuesday, November 10, 2009 No Comments

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About Meg

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Meg is the founder of luxury travel consulting company, Friend of a Friend Consulting. Her three books, Italian Hideaways, Caribbean Hideaways and England's Hideaways are published by Rizzoli. Passionate about travel, hotels and wine, she continues to write freelance travel pieces and is currently pursuing a Masters in Wine through the WSET.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own and do not reflect separate business relationships with the subject. Whenever posts are supported financially, they are designated as such.