Staying in an overwater villa in the Maldives had been on my bucket list for a couple of years and so I was thrilled when I go the chance to stay in a Retreat Water Villa for three nights at the Hilton Conrad Maldives.
The villa exceeded my expectations in many ways, especially with the privacy we had in our villa, 419.
Here’s a detailed look at the Retreat Water Villa and what our experience was like during our three night stay.
Getting to the Maldives
Our trip to the Maldives fell in the middle of our 2018 month-long round the world trip.
After staying a night in London at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London, we took the Eurostar to Paris where we stayed at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme for two nights.
Both London and Paris were getting hit with very cold temperatures (with rare snowfall in London), so we were more than ready to head south to a warmer climate.
Our actual flight journey began with visiting the Qatar Lounge at CDG which was a very nice business/first lounge.
We then flew first class on the Qatar A380 from Paris to Doha and in Doha we got to experience the stunning Qatar Airways First Class Al Safwa First Lounge, which is one of my favorite lounges I’ve visited to date.
After that, we flew on a Qatar A350 in business class down to the Maldives. As you approach the Maldives, the views of the atolls are pretty phenomenal, so I highly suggest going with a window seat so you don’t miss out. By the way, if you want to read about the best times of year to visit the Maldives, click here.
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Getting to the Conrad
When we touched down in the Maldives at Male International Airport around 3:00 pm we didn’t have very long to catch our flight since direct flights out to the hotel stopped at 3:45 pm.
If you arrive after that time, you can take a domestic flight from Male airport to Maamigili airport and then a speed boat to the hotel but we didn’t want to deal with that.
In retrospect, I should’ve left us more breathing room but Male International Airport is very small and extremely easy to get around in so we made it through just fine and with plenty of time to spare.
When we arrived, we picked up our luggage and made it through customs very quickly and then were off to check-in for the sea plane (with the help of the Conrad staff).
The sea plane luggage allowance is 25 kg per person plus 5 kg of hand luggage and the maximum weight is 32 kg per piece of luggage. Any excess baggage costs $5 per 1 kg per way (plus taxes). Since this was our round the world trip, we ended up paying a couple of hundred dollars in baggage fees.
While we waited for the sea plane, we were able to relax in the Conrad Lounge at Male International Airport. This lounge was much nicer and bigger than I though it would be, offering plenty of comfortable seating options, wifi, and some tasty snacks.
They even offered mini-massages on a complimentary basis. There was also a pretty nice shower in the lounge.
Sea plane transfer
We waited about an hour and then we were taken to the gate to await boarding.
The sea planes weren’t as small as I thought they might be, though things were still a bit cramped once inside.
This was my first ever sea plane ride and I was surprised at how smooth the take-off and landing felt.
A round trip seaplane transfer from Male to Rangali Island is $560 USD per adult (12 years and above) and children below “11.99 years” are $280 USD per child round trip.
Infants below 2 years old travel for free.
Once in the air, the views are phenomenal as you’d expect them to be.
It was really interesting to see the city of Male from above, which is one of the most densely populated cities I’ve ever seen. Since the country was currently in a state of emergency, I was okay with not visiting Male but it would be an experience to check it out one day.
Once we arrived at the Conrad, the staff took care of our luggage and we were offered a refreshing fruity drink while we awaited to be checked in.
Check in takes place in an open area where the main “lobby” is.
The entire check-in process took a while as we had to wait to be greeted and there was a lot to explain about the island. Overall, they do a good job of covering things like where to eat and where to go to book things like diving, so it’s a pretty helpful orientation.
We were assigned one staff member who was meant to assist us with anything we needed and to answer any of our questions.
One thing he told us that was interesting is that there are no ATM machines on the island. But you can charge your card and receive cash for a fee of 5%. I’m not sure if it would work but in theory you could use the Hilton Aspire Card to “pull out cash” while earning 20X Hilton points (or roughly 10% back + any bonuses).
Just something to think about….
After getting the introduction to the hotel, we were shown to our Retreat Water Villa.
The Retreat Water Villas
The Retreat Water Villas are located on the main island where the Spa Retreat is found.
This is also where Mandhoo Restaurant is located which is where we ate for breakfast most of the time (breakfast is free for Hilton Gold and Diamond members).
Unlike many water villas that you’ll see in the Maldives, their Retreat Water Villas are spaced out pretty far apart from each other. The only drawback is that not all of them are sunset facing so you just have to put in your request and hope for the best.
As you make your way down the boardwalk, you’ll notice that the villas are all in different conditions. Some have fresh roofs and paint jobs, while others look a little worn.
There seemed to be constant maintenance going on for some of them so it seems they are pretty committed to keeping them in good condition.
We were placed in villa 419 which was located at the end of the boardwalk, allowing for us to have maximum privacy.
While it is a bit of a walk to get all the way to the end, the level of privacy afforded to you makes it worth it, in my opinion.
Plus, you can easily get a golf cart ride back and forth to the villa which is how we usually got around. Simply give them a call and you’ll have a golf cart show up (free of charge) within 15 minutes or so.
If you do choose to walk be sure to wear sandals or shoes because your feet can easily get torn up from walking over the wooden planks.
As you can see from my drone shot below, the villas are relatively close to the house reef. If you’re comfortable in the water and a good swimmer, you could swim straight out to the reef from some of the villas but we usually just walked down to the beach and then swam out from there.
The house reef is rich in marine life and we saw a manta ray, eagle ray, eels, parrot fish, trigger fish, clown fish, and tons of other fish. The coral wasn’t quite as vibrant as I’d thought it’d be though.
Inside the Retreat Water Villa
We made it into our retreat water villa which was even more spacious than I had imagined.
When you first enter, there’s a sofa with a small table and large open windows. This is a good spot to lookout for your golf cart from a distance so you don’t have to wait outside in the heat.
There was a welcome note with champagne, fruits, and chocolates in a wooden box at the front table when we arrived.
We saved the champagne for the last night but consumed the chocolate pretty quickly.
There’s also a little desk area with a writing pad and some reading materials.
The bed area
The bed area is opened up to the entire villa and there’s a large cushioned bench in front of it with plenty of pillows. There’s also a phone next to the bed, which had horrible sound quality and made it very difficult to communicate with the staff at the hotel.
On either side of the bed, there are glass walls with doors/windows that open up and allow you to take in the sounds of the ocean as you drift to sleep (although it might be a little too warm to do that).
The villa ceilings are very high and come equipped with a ceiling fan.
I’d read reports of water villas getting very hot in the Maldives but that was never the case with us. Our room stayed as cold as we ever wanted it to be and the temperature was never an issue during our stay.
There’s a large TV (with Blu-ray player) that’s pretty far out in front of the bed.
There’s also a mini-fridge in the room with very expensive drinks inside.
The staff should refill your two to three water bottles for free everyday, so it’s not hard to stay hydrated for free so long as you stay on top of your water supply.
From the bed area you can see out into the water so you can keep your eye out for interesting wildlife swimming up to your villa
But if you’re not into the views you can control the blinds and dim out the room via a remote control if you need to.
The bathroom is divided up with the sink areas in one room, toilet in one room, and the shower and bathtub in another room.
I liked how bright and open the sink area was. Seeing that turquoise water through the glass flooring is a constant reminder of where you are and it’s just amazing to see.
The mirrors are set a little off from the sinks so shaving can be a little difficult but there are smaller mirrors you can use to help you.
This is where you’ll find the large closet (pictured below) with robes and rain coats inside. (They also have umbrellas outside the front of the villa.) It never rained on us, but I know they get a fair amount of showers at certain times of the year (June).
There’s a small room just for the toilet with bidet.
The bathtub is absolutely huge and takes about an hour to fill up.
It opens right up to the ocean with multiple windows and great views of the ocean all around you.
It’s got to be one of the best bath experiences you can ask for with these killer views.
The shower is right next to the tub and comes with two shower heads, which you can see from this photo taken from the outside.
You can use the second shower head to fill up the bathtub a little faster but it’s still going to take a long time (30 to 45 minutes).
With the large windows, it feels quite exposed while in the shower/tub but given that we were at the end of the boardwalk, we weren’t worried about people swimming up on us and it was never an issue.
The spa room
Although we booked the Retreat Water Villa, we never actually ordered spa treatment but we still checked out the adjoining room.
You access it via short outdoor walkway.
It’s a pretty cool little bridge to pass with great views.
Inside there are two massage tables and a small sofa.
As you can see, the views from the massage tables are pretty exceptional.
There’s a little bit of exercise equipment in there and a couple of mats if that’s your thing.
There’s also a small sink area.
And of course, some fancy robes.
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The sun deck
The sun deck is one of the major highlights of the Retreat Water Villa.
The upper deck consists of two sun beds, a small table, and a large umbrella. When there’s a breeze blowing through, it feels just perfect to be in the shade.
The staff will usually set up the outdoor cushions but you can always set them up yourself.
Speaking of the staff, they came by twice a day to clean and were very warm, helpful, and professional — I was very impressed by them throughout our stay.
There’s also a cushioned bench which is adjacent to the bathtub, another great place to lounge in the shade.
The hot tub is on the lower deck, which is just a couple of steps down.
One thing about the design of the deck that I wasn’t crazy about were the steps.
There are large gaps on either side of the steps where you could fall directly into the water if you were clumsy or drunk (or both).
Also, the wood can easily cause splinters so you need to be cautious about walking around your deck with no shoes on.
Those two things are not major issues, though — just something to be aware of.
In addition to the sun beds, there are also two chairs and a table to relax on and even a lifesaver that hopefully you won’t need.
Knowing how warm it would be in the Maldives, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the hot tub. But in the evenings it was actually nice and cool and with a breeze coming through it felt heavenly in the hot tub.
Ours malfunctioned for a time but a mechanic promptly fixed it for us. You can put the jets on different settings and even play around with the lighting.
Also, we visited in early March and we didn’t have any issues with bugs or anything like that so it was always pleasant to be outside.
It’s a pretty amazing feeling to have steps that lead you right down into the ocean — you just need to be on the lookout for the crabs that like to come out in the mornings.
They are much more scared of you than you are scared of them but they can be pretty sneaky and make their way up to your deck so be on the lookout.
The difference between low tide and high tide is pretty dramatic here. I made the mistake of trying to jump in the ocean during close to low tide and almost jacked up my knee.
At high tide, it was much safer to jump in as the water was close to chest-high.
I advise to use a lot of caution when jumping off the deck to make sure you’re not going to land on anything that could cut your feet up and that you don’t jump into water that’s too shallow.
When the water is covering the rubber stair covers, it’s probably at high tide or near high tide.
There weren’t any strong currents or anything while in the water so I never felt like it was dangerous getting in, especially during low tide.
At high tide the water does become rougher and if you’re not an experienced swimmer (and not tall) you might want to be careful not to get too far out.
At the end of the Retreat Water Villas, you’re pretty far away from the house reef so there’s not a lot of wildlife in the water.
But you’ll still be able to see some.
We saw a lot of parrot fish and trigger fish swimming through our area and while we didn’t see any rays, we saw a few sharks swim by including the one pictured below that seemed to be waiting to devour us at the bottom of the stairs.
(The sharks are mostly black-tip reef sharks and harmless.)
As stated, we had all the privacy in the world for our villa.
However, that’s not the case for other villas. Even though these water villas are spaced out a lot compared to some other resorts in the Maldives, some of the sight lines reduce the privacy.
Take a look below and you can see that from our entry area, I could see pretty much the entire deck of another water villa. This won’t bother everyone, but I personally loved that no villas had a view of us since we were at the end.
Retreat Water Villa 419 has a direct view of the sunset and it’s a stunning one.
We had two amazing sunsets during our stay at the Maldives and it was just perfect admiring it from our villa.
I’ll never forget this one that we saw on the first night.
Even just strolling around you’ll get some unforgettable views of the sky.
Once the sun goes down the views don’t stop.
There’s very little light pollution out there so if the skies are clear, you’ll have a full sky of stars to admire at night.
Sometimes you can even find bioluminescence at the Maldives so I’d give it a shot by trying to splash around in the ocean to see if anything lights up.
Booking the villas
There are a few different water villas at the Conrad Maldives.
In order of the their cost:
- Water Villa
- Superior Water Villa
- Retreat Water Villa
- Deluxe Water Villa
- Family Water Villa
- Premier Water Villa
- Sunset Water Villa
We originally booked a beach villa for 95,000 points and then upgraded to the Retreat Water Villa.
But the Hilton Conrad began allowing guests to book Water Villas for 95,000 points after we booked our stay so we cancelled that booking and re-booked a Water Villa for 95,000 points per night.
We then upgraded those to the Retreat Water Villa for 1,628.40 total inclusive of all taxes.
That comes out to about $542 per night, which was about $1,500 off per night. So we received about 1.5 cent per point for out Hilton points and cut the total cost down by about $4,500, which was a deal I was happy to take.
I plan to write a more comprehensive review of the property as a whole at a later date but while there we were able to try out their famous underwater restaurant, Ithaa, which was a cool experience.
Overall, this was one of the rare occasions where my expectations are very high going in and the experience actually exceeds those expectations.
Our four days there flew by in the blink of an eye and I did not want to leave.
So I was very pleased overall and would most definitely return (although there are a few other Maldives properties I’d like to check out before).
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.