ESCAPE TO THE SPA RETREAT
- An indulgent escape for the senses; relax at an adults-only spa village
- Pamper yourself with zen-inducing indigenous treatments in glass-floor suites
- Dine at the spa’s restaurant, serving organic dishes geared to balancing your energy flow
There are many reasons why the Conrad Maldives is a sybarite’s dream destination, and chief among them is the Spa Retreat, an indulgent escape for the senses with that encompasses both a spa and organic restaurant, off the tip of Rangalifinolhu Island. The adults-only spa village was designed by Harvard-trained Thai architect Lek Bunnag. Though the floor-to-ceiling glass walls and plunge-pool-size bathtubs of the 21 water villas on stilts are plenty enticing, treat yourself to a one-of-a-kind Zen revelation and walk over or snorkel to the Retreat. The dramatic arrival through the spa’s long, unlit tunnel, facing out to sea, truly jump-starts the island-idyll vibes. In the sunny overwater treatment rooms with glass floors, you’ll be pampered with indigenous Maldivian treatments (we love the muscle-melting massage with hot coconut sticks and the organic body scrub made from pineapple and papaya). Next, it’s time for lunch at Mandhoo Spa Restaurant, where dishes are made with organic and biodynamic ingredients based on traditional Chinese medicine’s “five elements” philosophy and geared to balancing out your energy flow. Between your crabmeat salad and your panfried sea bass, you’ll be craning your neck at the waters’ edge, watching baby sharks, trumpet fish, and the occasional stingray swim past. Linger over made-to-order Indian lassis made with apples, kiwi, pineapples, and mint, all filled with antioxidants and vitamins to fight inflammation. Once you’re feeling and looking your best, suit up and snorkel back to the “big” island, passing kaleidoscopic schools of blue and yellow angelfish and iridescent green and violet parrot fish in transit.
SPEND THE EVENING OVER AND UNDER THE WATER
- Eat with the sharks at a fine-dining experience set 16 feet below the ocean’s surface
- Enjoy panoramic views of marine inhabitants at the glass-ceiling eatery
For the ultimate social media bragging rights, it’s time to dine with the sharks…literally. Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is the first of its kind anywhere in the world: a fine-dining experience set 16 feet below the surface of the Indian Ocean. It offers 180-degree panoramic views of thriving coral gardens and electrifying marine inhabitants: Meyers butterfly fish, red lip parrot fish, spotted unicorn fish, and clown fish. Arrive at “cocktail hour,” between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.—feeding time for finned swimmers. You’ll descend Ithaa’s spiral staircase as Conrad’s marine biologists feed the manta rays and reef sharks who swim past the restaurant’s curved glass windows. At least a week’s worth of Facebook posts await. Stay for the modern Maldivian dinner—reservations are a must, as there are only 14 seats—and don’t take your eyes off the all-glass ceiling as Napoleon wrasses and titan triggerfish zip past. (If you can’t get in for dinner, book a table for lunch, when sunlight adds a glorious shimmer.) Next up, walk off that decadent meal with a jaunt to the center of the footbridge between the two islands. Nine o’clock is prime time for spotting catching a glimpse of reef mantas whose wingspan can grow to 11.5 feet. For this impromptu aquatic performance, they glide gracefully, occasionally slapping the surface and sending refreshing sprays in your direction.
TAKE A WALK ON THE LOCAL SIDE
- Go island hopping through the local atolls, home only to Maldivian people
- See native fisherman and smoked-grass weavers as you experience the local way of life
Around 10 percent of Maldivian islands are inhabited by resorts; the others are either uninhabited or known as “local islands,” meaning they are home to Maldivian people. Only within the last few years has the government eased restrictions on foreigners visiting some of these islands, which include three that are easily accessible on short boat jaunts from the Conrad. If you go decide to visit Dhigurah, Dhangethi, and Mahibadhoo, pack your bug repellent and something to cover your shoulders and knees (remember that the Maldives is a traditional Muslim society). On each of these strips of coral sand, you’ll notice the roads are unpaved, and there are few if any cars or cafés. You may see fishermen wading offshore, smoked-grass weavers, and people of all ages reclining in a joli, or rope swing. One way to engage with locals (only a few of whom speak English) is to ease yourself into a joli that will have you sitting directly alongside locals. If school is in session, listen for the singsong tones of children calling out in Dhivehi, which encompasses linguistic elements of Arabic, Sinhalese, Hindi, and Indian regional dialects. Ask your guide to let you taste bondi, a sweet made with coconut and sugar or jaggery then wrapped in a dry banana leaf. Back on the speedboat, it’s time for a gourmet picnic lunch and some snorkeling to cap off the day.