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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.

Posted in: Beach, Family, Travel Tips

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

Iru Fushi – the Budget Conscious Option

Beach, Hotel Reviews, Travel Tips

Nov
10
2009

Maldives

November 3-5

Here at Iru Fushi, the Hilton’s largest property in the Maldives, the Hilton Honors Award program is in full effect. Wise and adventurous members save up their points and pool them for an unforgettable adventure in the Indian Ocean, and it appears they often bring their kids as well.  The family-friendly resort has an even bigger kid’s club than the Beach House plus more restaurants, pools, spa treatment rooms and as presumed, square footage. It also has a beautiful beach.

that's sincere white powder sand

that's sincere white powder sand

I checked out the property’s beach villas and must say, I spent the entire night wishing I was back over water. Not to say the beach villas aren’t great – your own private path to the beach, a separate beach gazebo, and an outdoor bathroom with center-stage freestanding tub.

the decor of the beach villa

the decor of the beach villa (photo courtesy of Hilton)

The tub

The tub (photo courtesy of Hilton)

Yet, there’s something about those over the water villas that kept me captivated and wanting more…Perhaps I’m just a water-freak, but how often is it that you can spend the night over water like that?

Alas, we only spent one day at the property and my favorite moment was walking the beach in the morning and touring the over the water villas, which, if you time it right, can get down to around $205 a night!

The beach chairs outside my room and the path out to the water villas (taunting as it did!)

The beach chairs outside my room and the path out to the water villas (taunting as it did!)

Striking a pose on the restaurant deck near the over the water villas (can you tell I'm obsessed?)

Striking a pose on the restaurant deck near the over the water villas (okay, I'm obsessed.)

Posted in: Beach, Hotel Reviews, Travel Tips

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

Paradise Found

Travel Tips

Nov
04
2009

Maldives

November 1, 2009

Please forgive the tragic cliche of a headline above, but truly, I found one of paradise’s costumes right here in the Maldives. This long strand of islands, or Atolls as they’re known, out in the middle of the Indian Ocean features some of the most picturesque island-fantasy scenery I have ever imagined. Lo and behold the proof from my camera:

You can't make the water color up

You can't make the water color up

I’ve been here for all of two days (1 of them rained) and already I’m vowing – writing promises in the sand – to return. It’s no wonder travel mags run loads of Maldivian spreads – the place is a lazy photographer’s dream. Every shot is stunning. I may even venture that your computer’s tropical screensaver is indeed from here – this place is almost impossible to make look unappealing.

Do you like Pina Coladas

view on my morning walk

From the variant shades of turqouise water to the simple wood and thatch-roofed architecture to the Indian influenced spicy cuisine, the Maldives are a study in effortless vacation. Too bad they’re so darn far away…..

The famous over-the-water villas

The famous over-the-water villas

THE CAVEAT – GETTING HERE:

Okay, they’re SUPER far away. They’re pretty much in the middle of the ocean and the closest neighbor is Sri Lanka. It takes upwards of 30 hours to get to them and even then you have some domestic travel. But, here’s some good news – British Airways has just announced a new direct flight from London to Male, the Maldives’ main hub, making travel from Europe far, far easier.

Just so you know, I came from London through Doha on Qatar Airways and though they are the “Five Star” airline, as they suggest, and my layover in Doha was incredibly easy (40 minutes in a nice lounge), I was exhausted by the time I arrived in Male, and then we still had to take a transfer plane and another boat.  Depending on your resort, once you arrive in Male you either have a boat ride, regional flight on Maldivian air, (or both like me) or if you’re lucky then its just a quick (and fun) ride on one of the many Sea Plane taxis.

Our ride

Our ride

As a first time Sea Plane rider, this was hands down one of the best parts of the trip. I LOVED landing on water, think it takes away much of the fear. Not to mention the views from the plane are mesmerizing and allow for a greater perspective about this long stretch of Atolls. Short of being on a boat, its the best way to travel and see the area.

where we boarded

where we boarded

For the eight days I’ll spend here, I am going to check out three of the Hilton properties  – the Beach House, part of the Waldorf Astoria collection, Hilton’s Iru Fushi and Conrad Rangali Island.  Stay tuned for individual posts.

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Posted in: Travel Tips

Published by Meg, Wednesday, November 4, 2009 No Comments

about meg

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.