Dan and I spent a week at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island in December 2020, during the COVID global pandemic. The resort was at around 35% capacity, we felt totally safe, and we had a lovely time, particularly enjoying the resort without other people! Here is our review of the resort, which may change slightly once COVID ends… In any case, I hope that this helps you plan your trip!
The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is obviously in the Maldives, a national of many, many islands located off the south west coast of India (making it fun to combine with a trip to India or Sri Lanka). The Conrad is in the South Ari Atoll of the Maldives, and is comprised of three private islands. It takes exactly 29 minute to arrive via sea plane from Malé, the capital of Maldives and home to its major airport.
Of the three islands at the Conrad, Rangalifinolhu Island is the main island. Home to the resort concierge, Rangali Bar, the main pool, Sunset Grill, Ithaa Underwater Restaurant, the main spa and its restaurant, UFAA Chinese Restaurant, the Wine and Cheese Bar, all Beach Villas, gorgeous beaches, water sports, the dive center, and the Overwater Villas, we spent most of our time on Rangalifinolhu Island, and you probably will too! Rangali Island is connected to Rangalifinolhu Island via a long bridge and is home to most of the overwater bungalows (most of which were under renovation during our stay), the overwater spa, the adult-only Quiet Zone bar and pool and Vilu restaurant. The third island houses many of the resort’s employees and other “back lot” things (though guests can take a guided tour). Access between the islands is via food, a complimentary golf cart shuttles, or a traditional dhoni boat. We walked almost everywhere, but most guests took full advantage of the complimentary golf cart shuttle. The dhoni boats were not operating during our stay.
As mentioned, Conrad Maldives Ranglai Island is a 29-minute sea plane ride from Malé and sea plane is the primary means of accessing the island. We took a public flight operated by Trans Maldivian Airways (packed in like sardines!), but a private transfer is also an (very expensive) option. The “airport” is on the bridge connecting Rangalifinolhu and Rangali Island. Planes land several times throughout the day and it is quite interesting to watch.
For planning purposes, the Conrad made all of our sea plane reservations. We had no details on the flights except that they were booked after we provided the Conrad with our flight info into Malé. On arrival from Dubai in Malé, a Conrad representative met us, checked us into Trans Maldivian Airways, and walked us to the plane when it was ready. Our seaplane departed very shortly after we landed in Malé, so there was really no wait between flights. If there is a wait, the Conrad has a private longe at the Malé airport where guests can hang out while waiting for their sea plane. We did not access the lounge due to our schedule (no complaints there!).
OUR ROOM – GRAND OVERWATER VILLA!
After arrival, you will, hopefully, be shown to your room pretty quickly. We originally booked an overwater bungalow with a private pool (we found a fabulous deal with Hilton points + 5th night free), but luckily, those bungalows were being renovated during our stay. As a result, we were upgraded to a gorgeous Grand Overwater Villa! Specifically, Villa 418!
Our Grand Overwater Villa is located way out on stilts off Rangalifinolhu Island, close to the Spa Retreat and Mandhoo Restaurant. The “villa” is more like a small house and is totally gorgeous! It opens up to a little sitting area with a mini bar, which opens up into a larger living area with two couches and a flat screen TV. And that flat screen TV is the key to the room – resort news, room service, shopping, information, specials, departure times, etc. was all displayed on that flat screen TV.
Just off the living area is the gorgeous two level deck overlooking the Indian Ocean. On the deck are lounge chairs, a table with chairs, two more chairs, a hot tub(!) and steps leading directly into the water! This is where we spent most of our time during the stay, as should you!
Back to the room, off the living room is a large dressing room with double sinks, mirrors and closets, a WC. Between the deck and dressing room is a huge bath/shower room including a lovely shower and the largest bathtub I have ever seen, both over looking the Indian Ocean. One caveat here, the shower and bath area is totally open – no curtains or doors at all!
On the other side of the dressing room is a little hallway with lots of glass and stunning views of the Sea that led to our huge bedroom, also with LOTS of floor to glass windows! It is lovely waking up here!
Complimentary water, coffee (Nespresso), milk (for coffee), flip flops, hair dryer, plush bath robes, and the cutest light robes are provided for use during the stay.
I can’t speak to any of the other accommodations at the Conrad, but ours was super nice. In addition to these villas and standard overwater bungalows, the Conrad has a number of beach bungalows set romantically on the main island and its newest accommodation, the Muraka. The Muraka is an underwater residence off the coast of the main island. It looks super swanky and extremely exclusive.
For a remote island destination, we felt like our time on the island flew by and could have stayed several days more to take advantage of all of the Conrad’s activities. That being said, certain “activities” are very expensive, as is everything in the Maldives, but there are also plenty of free activities to occupy your time!
The Conrad has no shortage of beautiful coast line. Sun chairs are generally spread apart, making the beaches feel almost private, and certainly safe during COVID! Bring towels from your hotel room for the beach. Water is pretty shallow close to the coast line, but you can definitely get into deeper water pretty quickly. A life guard is on duty near the snorkeling area.
The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is home to two gorgeous pools. The first, and the largest, is on Rangalifinolhu Island. This pool is open to all guests and is gorgeous. I’m talking infinity pool overlooking the sea with in pool loungers in the water. Totally stunning and my favorite of the two, which may be an unpopular opinion.
The second pool is on Rangali Island adjacent to the Quiet Zone Bar. This pool is open to adults only, making it Dan’s favorite. While much smaller than the main pool, this pool is also an infinity pool and super relaxing.
Staff man both pools, provide towels, and take orders for food and drinks.
TENNIS, VOLLEYBALL, AND GYM
There is a nice looking tennis court on the main island, as well as an indoor gym and outdoor volleyball court on the beach. We used neither, but they looked nice from the outside (LOL!).
Obviously, waters sports are quite popular in the Maldives! The Conrad has an entire shop next to Rangali Bar dedicated to “water sports,” renting out equipment and showing guests how to use it. As a general rule, non-motor sports are free and motor sports cost money, but this is not a firm rule (as I believe stand up paddle boarding costs money). In the free category are sea kayaks, paddle boats, and snorkeling. Life jackets are also available at the water-sports stand for all guests, but are by no means mandatory.
We took the paddle boat out one morning and crossed to Rangali Island and back. To ride, we simply signed a waiver and took the paddle boat out. Nothing more required. Pro tip – go earlier in the day when the water is calmer.
We also snorkeled. All guests can borrow snorkels, masks, and fins from the dive shop (on Rangali Island) for the duration of the stay. It takes about 15 minutes to get the proper size and sign the waiver. According to the Dive Master, the best snorkeling is just off the main beach near the life guard stand (if you visit, this will make more sense). In short, there is a channel between the coral reef that you can swim through and the best snorkeling is on the outside of the reef, closer to the open sea than land. He was definitely correct about the snorkeling being good in that area. The channel was very easy to navigate and we saw so many cool fish on the outside of the reef! If you are not a good swimmer, take a life jacket, as the water drops off very deep as soon as you leave the channel.
With regard to motor sports, there are numerous, including a glass bottom boat, flyboards, jet skis, water skis, inflatable toys pulling guests around, etc. Ask the water sports center for the most up to date information and pricing. We thought about renting jet skis or doing the glass bottom boat, but we ended up not having enough time!
The Conrad also offers a number of excursions, which, at least when we visited, could be booked same day. We tried a number of times to book a sunset cruise before our stay, but no one emailed us back. We ended up getting distracted on the day it went out, so we actually did not do any of the excursions, which is odd for us! If you are interested, I know the Conrad offers snorkeling trips, a whale watching tour, and deep sea fishing.
There is a full dive shop on the main island offering diving excursions and equipment rentals. We did not do any SCUBA diving, but the dive shop employees were super nice when we picked up our snorkeling equipment.
Conrad Maldives Ragnali Island is home to two spas. The first, and main spa, the Spa Retreat, is located on stilts overwater on the main island. I had a massage here and it was absolutely lovely. The second, smaller spa, the Overwater Spa, is located overwater on Rangali Island. The highlight of this spa is that massage rooms have glass cutouts in the floor to watch fish while having your massage. I really wanted a massage here, but unfortunately it was closed due to either COVID or renovations…
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is home to exactly three shops – a swanky jewelry store, a clothing store selling upscale, pricey clothing, Conrad branded items, some home goods, and children’s things, and a Maldives souvenir shop (surprisingly reasonably priced). Since one cannot leave the Conrad, aside from the airport this is likely the only option to purchase gifts/souvenirs. Purchases can be billed to your room. The Malé airport does, however, have a good selection of souvenirs.
Everyday at 1:30 PM on the dot, staff feeds the sharks off the back of Mandhoo Spa Restaurant. Tons of sharks flock to feed and the site is really cool. Definitely experience this at least once during your stay. If you miss it, we saw sharks are around this area frequently, just in a smaller number.
ANIMAL AND PLANE SPOTTING
Surprisingly, one of my favorite activities on this vacation was walking around the island spotting interesting animals and the sea planes coming and going. Cool birds and fish are everywhere – keep your eyes peeled! The best place for plane spotting is on the bridge crossing between islands and at Rangali Bar. It was so cool to see them land and take off (or maybe I’m just an avgeek…)
FOOD AT THE CONRAD RANGALI ISLAND
Although one cannot easily leave the Conrad during your stay, the Conrad is home to no less than ten restaurants on site, plus in-room dining and private beach events and parties. We dined at six of those restaurants during our trip. All in, the food was albeit good, albeit expensive (as expected).
Sunset Grill. Sunset Grill is a popular restaurant on the main island. Set just off land over water, Sunset Grill offers a primarily seafood menu and stunning sunset views, as its name suggests. We split scallops and Maldivian lobster at Sunset Grill our first night. Since Sunset Grill is small, reservations are encouraged.
Koko Grill. Koko Grill is a Japanese experience on Rangali Island, next to the Quiet Zone bar. With room for just 12 people (less during COVID) at a kitchen “bar” built into the sand, the chef cooks 7 courses for guests between the hours of 7 and 10. Its quite a romantic experience and the food was delicious. Pro tip – get a happy hour beverage from the Quiet Zone just before 7 to start your meal. Reservations are 100% mandatory at Koko Grill. When we visited the cost was around $260 per person for the tasting menu.
Ithaa Underwater Restaurant. Ithaa is the Conrad’s most famous and posh restaurant, and its located 5 meters underwater! The entrance is located just behind the Sunset Grill (check in is at the Sunset Grill) and Ithaa offers different lunch and dinner tasting menu, as well as a “visiting hour.” We opted to do both the visiting hour and the dinner, as we wanted to see the restaurant during the day and at night. I’m going to write a separate post on this experience because it was THAT cool, but both were totally awesome and money and time well spent at Ithaa! The food was delicious and the setting was amazing. Go for the visiting hour on a budget (still $85 per person), which comes with a glass of champagne and two small bites, or dinner for a big splurge. Reservations mandatory as the restaurant only seats about 12 people per sitting.
Vilu Restaurant and Bar. Vilu is Rangali Island’s casual bar and grill, and where we ate breakfast every morning. Breakfast was fantastic and consisted of a made-to-order menu where guests could order whatever and how ever much they wanted from the menu. We tried a lot of things and it was all really very good. There are some pictures below under Diamond Member Benefits, and here are a few more.
We also had dinner at Vilu one night. Guests go here for drinks and a casual meal. Its the Rangali Bar of Rangali Island (if that makes any sense!). The menu is standard international fare with options for everyone. I had spinach pasta and Dan tried the pork ribs. When we visited, Vilu was the only restaurant open after 6 PM that did not require reservations, aside from room service. Not sure if this is always the case.
Rangali Bar. Rangali Bar is what I viewed as the main hub of the resort: a fun bar with outdoor seating, close to the concierge and the main pool, the most accessible casual restaurant. People went here for a quick and casual bite, for drinks, and to socialize. We ended up here every night for the Hilton Diamond Member happy hour, which expands to every guest with 1/2 price drinks between 5:00 and 6:00 PM. Rangali Bar’s kitchen also prepares room service. While we only visited Rangali Bar for happy hour, we did order room service a couple times. While expensive, the food was good and came fairly quickly and warm in a special golf cart!
Cheese and Wine Bar. The Cheese and Wine bar is a tiny wine cellar (through different than the Wine Cellar restaurant) that does a couple speciality dinners, including a cheese fondue dinner for about $120 per person (actually “cheap” in the Maldives). We did the fondue dinner, which consisted of blue cheese soup, cheese fondue, and a dessert. It was fun and something different than our normal routine of seafood. The fondue dinner is not offered every night; check with the hotel and make a reservation.
The Atoll Market was closed during our stay due to COVID and we missed eating in the Wine Cellar (regret!), UFAA Chinese Restaurant (another regret, but it was closed for some of our stay!) and Mandhoo Spa Restaurant. All received high marks from fellow guests. We just didn’t have enough time to eat everywhere!
HILTON DIAMOND MEMBER BENEFITS
While there is no Executive Lounge at the Conrad Rangali Island, a number of benefits are extended to Hilton Diamond Members. For example, Hilton Diamond Members receive a welcome amenity at the Conrad Rangali Island. Ours was a bottle of chilled sparkling rosé, a plate of fruit, and the tastiest chocolates! A very welcome treat after a long day of travel.
A huge benefit of being a Hilton Diamond Member at the Conrad Rangali Island is the complimentary breakfast for two adults per room, which usually costs close to $100 per person (!). The only option for breakfast during our stay was at Vilu, but the Atoll Market usually offers breakfast to Hilton Diamond Members as well. As mentioned, Vilu has a menu of numerous plates, juices, pastries, etc. (both healthy and not) and guests can order whatever and how ever much is desired. We tried most everything on the menu and it was all very good. Pro tip – they do serve hash browns that are not on the menu! You just have to ask. Here are some pictures of breakfast dishes on various days – it all was truly tasty!
Our very favorite Hilton Diamond Member benefit, however, was the complimentary Happy Hour every day from 4:30 – 5:30 PM at Rangali Bar! During this very happy hour, Diamond Members are treated to complimentary red, while, and sparking wine, Heineken, Corona, and Tiger beer, a cocktail of the day, standard mixed drinks (gin and tonic, vodka soda, etc.), mocktails (to which you can add booze), water, sparking water, and soda, among possible other beverages! The possibilities are endless. Pro tip, arrive a few minutes before 4:30 PM to maximize your time, and order sodas here if you drink them ($10 elsewhere!). Small plates of two canapes are also distributed, as well as freshly fried banana chips (so good!). The happy hour is truly unlimited and we frequently ordered a drink just before 5:30 to enjoy before dinner.
Hilton Diamond Members receive random other benefits depending on when you visit. Be sure to check your room TV for surprise offers. For example, there was an offer on our TV for an extra 15 minutes tacked on to any massage, so I took advantage of that (I was getting a massage regardless), and ended up with a 105 minute massage!
TIPS AND THOUGHTS FOR THE CONRAD RANGALI ISLAND
- When we visited the Conrad Rangali made up its own time zone, 1 hour ahead of the official time in Malé, to take advantage of the sunlight. Be sure to ask when you check in to confirm the time!
- The hotel not provide sunscreen or aloe, and it costs like $50 US a bottle!! Be sure to bring a lot of reef-friendly sunscreen from home!
- With the exception of Ithaa, all reservation times are flexible. Just ask if you want to do dinner at a later time than advertised.
- A lot of stuff is available at the Conrad if you just ask. No one is going to give you a list of everything available, so just ask if its available. For example, at breakfast I wanted hash browns and bananas, which were not on the menu. We asked and it was easily prepared. For another example, we did not like the wine list at one of the restaurants, so we asked to see the main wine cellar list and had a bottle brought over from the main wine cellar for our dinner (we did this every day after).
- Everything is billed to your room, and the hotel takes a $3,000 US hold on your credit card on sign in.
- If you want to tip, bring cash to the resort.
- I recommend brining small snacks from hotel to get you between breakfast and dinner (to avoid a pricey lunch).
- Wifi was good, but not what I would want for a WFH set up.
- Alcohol is very expensive on the island and you absolutely cannot bring it from home (the airport will confiscate it) or buy it at the airport coming into the country (but you can buy it leaving). And on that note, there is no alcohol for sale to drink in the Malé airport.
- The Conrad Rangali Island offers PCR COVID testing if required for departure at $150 US per person. We needed one to get back into Dubai and the whole process took maybe 10 minutes. We received results back within 24 hours. An odd and interesting fact, in the Maldives the test goes “down” your nose rather than up. What strange times we live in!
STEAL OUR TRIP
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island: Website has good information and a link to the Conrad Rangali Island’s “app,” which provides even more information.
ON A BUDGET
The Maldives islands are generally quite expensive, and the Conrad Rangali Island is no exception. Be prepared to spend a decent amount of money, even if you are a Hilton Diamond Member. For what its worth, this was probably the most expensive we have ever taken.
I would also note that sea plane transfers are extremely expensive, about $600 per person round trip. Calculate that into your budget – its added to your bill at the end of your stay. Trans Maldivian also charges for excess luggage. I’m not quite sure what the limits are, but we paid $44 US total for “excess luggage/weight” and between the two of us had two checked bags, 2 backpacks, and 2 small personal items. Not terrible.