The Hilton Conrad Maldives is a dream redemption for many people and rightfully so. It’s an extraordinary property located in one of the most stunning places on earth — the turquoise atolls of the Maldives. We stayed in a Retreat Water Villa and also got a taste of a Deluxe Beach Villa on our recent visit. We also tried out many of the restaurants and facilities and got to do some unforgettable diving and snorkeling.
It was all an over-the-top experience and here’s my detailed review of what you need to know about the Conrad Maldives.
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Booking the Conrad Maldives
The Conrad Maldives is one of the most highly regarded Hilton properties in the world, especially for award travel. That’s because it’s a beautiful property but it’s also because the property offers great value for your points. Take a look at the example below for a peak-season water villas booking.
It shows that you could book a water villa for 95,000 Honors points per night and that the cash price for one night (with taxes) would be $3,283. So you’d be getting about 3.5 cents per point which is just insane for Hilton points. Prices are more reasonable during other times of the year but it’s still a great use of your points or your free night certificates.
(Water villas may not always be available to book with points.)
The Conrad Maldives is a perfect destination to make a “base booking” with points and then upgrade with cash. If you’re interested in doing this then check out this very detailed and helpful thread on Flyertalk which breaks down the different prices you can expect to pay for the upgrades and contains a lot of helpful information.
Here are some of the prices listed in that thread:
High & Festive Seasons (01 Oct through 11 May):
Beach Villa to Superior Water Villa – USD 73.92
Beach Villa to Deluxe Water Villa – USD 474.32
Beach Villa to Retreat Water Villa – USD 588.59
Beach Villa to Premier Water Villa – USD 1448.84
Water Villa to Superior Water Villa – USD 45 – 90
Water Villa to Deluxe Beach Villa – USD 122
Water Villa to Retreat Water Villa – USD 225 – 243
Water Villa to Deluxe Water Villa – USD 412.50 – 450
Water Villa to Family Water Villa – USD 730
Water Villa to Premier Water Villa – USD 937.50 – 1013
Water Villa to Sunset Water Villa – USD 1505 – 3200
Low & Shoulder Seasons (12 May through 30 Sep):
Water Villa to Superior Water Villa – USD 90
Water Villa to Deluxe Beach Villa – USD 90
Water Villa to Deluxe Water Villa – USD 200
Water Villa to Beach Suite – USD 1700
Water Villa to Premier Water Villa – USD 1000
Water Villa to Sunset Water Villa – USD 2300
Once you’re ready to book the upgrade, you can call up the Conrad Maldives and talk to them regarding upgrading. They’ll usually get back with you via email with the rates for your request within a day or so and then you can confirm your new booking via email. You can pay ahead of time or wait until check out to pay.
We initially booked a beach villa for three nights with 95,000 Hilton Honors points and paid to upgrade to a retreat water villa. But soon after that, Hilton opened up water villas for 95,000 points so we cancelled our initial booking and then re-booked the upgrade, which allowed us to save a few hundred bucks. The total for the upgrade from a water villa to a retreat water villa for three nights was $1,628 (including all taxes).
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.
Our actual flight journey down to the Maldives 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.
Sea plane transfer
After arriving in the Maldives we were ushered to the Conrad Lounge at Malé International Airport Seaplane Terminal (MLE), which is a lovely little lounge that was more impressive than I thought it would be. It’s free to experience before 5pm. After that, you’ll need to pay $50 per adult and $25 per child.
After snacking for a little but at the lounge, it was time for the sea plane transfer. The sea plane transfer will now cost $590 per roundtrip per person (children aged between 2 and 11 receive a 50% discount). Infants below 2 years old travel for free.
For luggage they allow you 25kg per person + 5kg of hand luggage with a limit of 32kg (70.5 pounds) per piece of luggage. The excess baggage fees are charged at $5.00 + T-GST per kg. We ended up paying $212 total for our overweight luggage for two people roundtrip.
We were able to take a direct, nonstop flight to the hotel but some flights may not be nonstop. The direct flight will take approximately 30 minutes.
The sea planes are small but not as tiny as some puddle jumpers I’ve flown in before. I’m pretty claustrophobic and didn’t really have an issue on the sea plane.
I suggest trying to get a window seat because the views are breathtaking and you can spot wildlife like rays and sharks from the sky if you have a good eye.
You can also get to the hotel by taking a short domestic flight plus a speed boat or even a yacht. Note that the last flight operates at 6:30pm resort time which is 5:30pm Male time (it’s a weird time difference, I know). So if you are arriving after that time, you’ll need to look into the speed boat route or stay a night in Male. Read more about how the scheduling for the flights work here.
The Conrad Maldives Resort Map
The Conrad Maldives is located on the South Ari Atoll Atoll and consists of two islands (and an additional island for the staff). The smaller island is Rangali and the larger island is Rangali Finolhu Island but collectively they are known as “Rangali Island.”
The larger island is the main island which houses most of the facilities like the reception desk, main pool area, the gym, dive center, and a number of restaurants including the famous underwater restaurant. Connected to this island are the Spa Villas (or retreat water villas).
The smaller island is home to most of the water villas including the standard water villas, superior water villas, deluxe water villas, premier water villas, and sunset water villas. It also has a number of restaurants and a spa.
You can also check out an interactive map here.
Conrad Maldives check-in
After our sea plane touched down they ushered us into the arrival/departure lounge, which is a small building connected to the sea plane platform with some seating to relax on.
They offered us a slushy type drink and took our luggage and loaded it up for us.
We then made our way from the arrival lounge via golf-cart to the check-in area over the narrow bridge that connects the islands. Two golf carts cannot fit on this path and sometimes it even feels close when walking as a pedestrian, so keep an eye out for golf carts while on this bridge.
Speaking of golf carts, you can call for a golf cart to pick you up from pretty much anywhere. They were usually very prompt and would show up fifteen minutes after we made the call almost every time, though one time we had to wait over half an hour for them to show.
The check-in area is in a large open area with sandy floors, which forces you to stop and remember to relax when you arrive. Your luggage will all be handled by the staff and at this point you’ll be greeted by a staff member who will sit down with you and give you an in-depth overview of the property.
While the resort is mostly cashless, you can withdraw cash with your credit card through the hotel. While I didn’t try it, I think you might be able to get that to show up as a charge on your bill which could mean that you could earn Hilton points on that withdraw which could actually be lucrative with a card like the Hilton Aspire.
Retreat Water Villa
After the introduction, we were given a ride to our retreat water villa, which was 419 and at the very end of the pier. This meant we had optimal privacy at all times which was fantastic and added a whole new element to the experience. But it also meant that there was a long walk to get back to the island from our villa (we usually just called for a golf cart).
The retreat water villas are huge and simply stunning. I’ll just go over some of the highlights here but if you want a more in-depth review of the retreat water villas then check out my full review of them here.
The villas have great air conditioning so you’ll never have to worry about it getting hot inside. Just do your best to wash your feet off with the buckets of water because your floor will get sandy very quickly.
The bathroom is divided up into three areas with the toilet, shower/tub, and sink area all in different areas.
The tubs are absolutely huge and take close to an hour to fill up. You can open up the windows all around the tub to admire the views and allow a breeze to blow through. It does feel a bit exposed but since we were at the end of the pier, it still feel pretty private. The shower is right next to the tub so you can easily hop in or out as needed.
There’s also the spa room which is its own little villa connected to yours and it offers fantastic views. If you want a massage you’ll have to pay a service fee in addition to the cost of the massage so keep that in mind. We were quoted at $520 for a 60 minute couple’s massage but that didn’t include the additional fee, which I believe was around $100.
The highlight of the room is the deck which is pretty spacious and comes with a relaxing area to sit in the shade as well as a hot tub.
From suite 419, you have a direct view of the sunset which is pretty amazing.
The stairs from the deck will lead you directly into the ocean where you can encounter some wildlife. While there’s no major coral reef nearby, we still caught some marine life coming through, including sharks.
Conrad Maldives Deluxe Beach Villa
We requested late check-out since our flight was departing a little late but they weren’t able to offer us that. Instead, they offered to allow us to check in to a Deluxe Beach Villa and spend a few hours in that room while we awaited our flight. I thought it’d be cool to experience a beach villa so I agreed to move in temporarily.
The villas have a mini sandy court yard when you first enter with a huge door for the suite.
There are floor to ceiling windows that make up most of the walls, allowing for you to really soak in the lush, tropical paradise while letting in plenty of natural light.
The villas also have almost everything outdoors for the bathroom like this shower. Personally, I think it’s a pretty amazing shower myself though I wonder what happens when it rains?
The tub is also one of the cooler looking tubs I’ve seen.
I can deal with the novelty of an outdoor shower, but my only issue with these villas is that the sink area is outdoors. I don’t how people could stand to get fixed up outside in the humidity like that. I was told that they are renovating these and putting the bathrooms back indoors so that was good to know.
There’s a nice outdoor patio that’s also covered. It would be a great place to relax during a rain shower.
There’s also your own little pool in the back as well. The water color honestly reminded me of a pool in need of some cleaning though.
The beach villas have these picturesque walkways that lead down to the beach via a sandy path surrounded by lush vegetation, which I loved.
The pathway then pops out right on the beach where you have your own chairs and umbrella to relax on. It’s a beautiful set up although there’s no privacy for your beach experience. I think it’d be much better if they had cabanas set out.
Overall, I was very impressed with the Deluxe Beach Villa. Aside from the bathroom being outdoors, I think I would love to stay in one for a couple of nights and then stay in a water villa for the remaining nights. It seems pretty common for people to split up their visits at the Conrad between different suites so that’s something to consider for your visit.
The service and staff
The service at the hotel was some of the best I think I’ve received. Everyone we encountered was very warm and inviting and very helpful. They definitely make you feel right at home. I also really loved their stylish white outfits.
Also, I thought I’d point out that the workers really seem to be efficient out there. I hope they’re getting compensated well because they were out for hours in the hot sun digging trenches and fixing roofs nonstop.
I was amazed at how quickly they were accomplishing some of their tasks and they really seemed to have the concept of teamwork down.
Diving and snorkeling
One thing that needs to be worked on is how they organize the diving trips. When diving at the Maldives you have to do a mandatory orientation unless you’ve gone on a dive recently. This is a essentially a standard intro to scuba course except on the shorter side (thankfully). That course takes place in the morning and then you can make a mid-afternoon dive that day.
Well, I’d contacted the hotel to schedule this course and dive for the second day we arrived but they said I would just need to schedule it when we arrived. So once we arrived I mentioned this to the staff and we realized that the dive shop was closing in 15 minutes.
We had to scramble to make it happen the next day and luckily it did, but I felt like the Conrad could avoid issues like this by allowing guests to schedule dives in advance via email like pretty much every other hotel/dive company does. I guess because people (especially divers) tend to stay at the Maldives longer than we did they don’t see an issue with it?
Scuba diving at Manta point
Our lone dive was out to Manta Point and it was a fantastic dive. They ran everything very smoothly and the reef was teeming with fish and vibrant coral. We also encountered manta rays (up close) which was a bucket-list moment for me. You can read more about the scuba diving experience here.
The snorkeling at the Conrad Maldives is fantastic for marine life. While snorkeling we saw a lot of different animals including: an eagle ray, manta ray, eel, clown fish, parrot fish, sea cucumber, and many others. You can read about our full snorkeling experience here.
The only issue with the reef is that thanks to El Nino from 2016, many of the shallow-water reefs in the Maldives were bleached and the coral killed. Unfortunately, the house reef was affected by this. This means that the coral reef is not going to be vibrant and you’ll see a lot of dead coral. Still, for a bleached reef, I thought the wildlife was still very good.
Conrad Maldives Spas
the Hilton Conrad Maldives has two main spas: the Overwater Spa and the Retreat Spa.
The Overwater Spa is one the smaller island while the Retreat Spa is one the main island. I’m a big spa person now but when we visited I wasn’t into them so I didn’t given them a try (which I now am kicking myself for). You can find out more information about the spas here.
Also, we were given a complimentary 15 minute massage that could be added on to standard massage as Diamond members, so if you have Hilton elite status you might be able to get a free massage.
The Conrad Maldives has some solid restaurants. You can see a list of all of the Hilton restaurants and bars here.
Ithaa is the fine diamond at the Conrad Maldives. It was the world’s first undersea restaurant and you can have lunch or dinner there (I think they also have some sort of cocktail hour) but we chose to try it our for lunch, which you can read more about here. The total for lunch for two people came out to $566, so be prepared to drop some cash.
As soon as you walk in to the restaurant, the scenery is mesmerizing. It’s located right by a reef, so you’ll see a lot of different marine life make appearances including sharks, puffer fish, clown fish, and many more.
The cuisine is also very fine as well. Brad went with the charcoaled reef lobster.
I went with the “Sous vide bresse chicken with chanterelle mushroom risotto and blue stilton froth.” A mouthful for sure but delicious.
And if you’re in the mood to splurge, there’s Dom Perignon waiting for you.
Mandhoo was our favorite spot to grab breakfast. It’s a beautiful restaurant situated right over the water and in the same areas as the retreat water villas so it makes sense to choose this place when staying in a retreat water villa.
It’s a beautiful place with the walls opened up.
The popular spot to sit is this little section the protrudes over the water. If you’re not staying in an overwater villa, this is a great place to get that “over water experience” as you dine.
We stuck with western breakfast items which were very tasty.
The fruit was extremely fresh and I really liked the passion fruit. They serve a dish with french toast and passion fruit and it really hit the spot.
In addition to the fruit, Mandhoo has some amazing pastries that you can pull from the buffet.
Every pastry I tried was great and I tried quite a few of them, since I couldn’t resist.
Quite Zone Lounge Bar
The Hilton Gold and Diamond happy hour was held at the Quite Zone Lounge Bar. It’s a beautiful open-area bar that’s right on the beach of the smaller island on Rangali Island. We stuck with the Hilton Honors menu while there but they’ve got a lot of different items to choose from.
There are some day beds you can relax on in the shade just yards away from the ocean.
Overall, the Quite Zone is a great place to have a happy hour.
Atoll Market felt a bit overrated to me. We tried it at breakfast and then one night for dinner and it was probably my least favorite place that we ate at. However, it wasn’t bad for breakfast (though I did prefer Mandhoo).
But for dinner, it felt overpriced and I just wasn’t really feeling the “global” buffet which consisted of the following:
- The Grill
- The Deli
- The Bakery
It’s not that the food was that bad, it’s just that I didn’t feel like the quality lived up to the price. For $263 for two people, I just expected better.
Here’s a look at what the breakfast looked like.
Rangali Bar is a great place to grab lunch. It’s a pretty spacious area with both indoor and outdoor seating and they have a pretty wide range of selections — I was a big fan of their club sandwich and wraps. They also have a very extensive menu selection for drinks as well.
The Sunset Grill
We didn’t eat at the Sunset Grill but you pass through it on your way to Ithaa so we got a good look at it. It looked like a great place for a bite to eat and I loved the tables set out on the decks overlooking the water.
I loved the chairs.
Out of all of the restaurants we didn’t try, I think Koko Grill would have been the one I’d be most interested in trying. They serve up a 10-course Japanese dinner right in front of you in an outdoor restaurant it looks like a great dinner experience.
Vilu is yet another open-air bar and restaurant reportedly known for its wine pairings. They also serve breakfast but I’m not sure if they open up breakfast for Gold and Diamond members.
Conrad Maldives pools
The Conrad Maldives has two pool areas. The main pool is located on the main island. It’s a beautiful area with lots of day beds lining the pool. During the day it was pretty active with families.
There’s also a pool for small kids, too.
Then there’s the Quiet Zone pool which is the adult-only pool. This pool is much smaller but it’s a pretty striking pool, located right over the water.
There are only about three sets of chairs to relax on so this pool is best to visit when there aren’t many people, or better yet, when you can have it all to yourself.
Conrad Maldives Gym
The gym at the Conrad Maldives is located in the heart of the main island. It’s also where you can find the Tsunami assembly point.
It’s a pretty nice gym with a floor where you can practice your hopscotch skills
There’s a lot of cardio equipment so regardless of what type of machine you prefer, you should be able to find something here.
The collection of weight machines was a bit more limited but you should still be able to put a decent workout together.
Apparently both islands make up a jogging route (with recommended directions to jog in). As tempting as it looked to run around these islands, we opted to just stick with the golf cart rides.
Conrad Maldives shopping piazza
The shopping piazza has three shops: Italian designer wear, jewelery, and a gift shop. We checked out the gift shop and it had some interesting souvenir items. We didn’t purchase anything from the shop but there’s a good variety there with a very wide price range.
The Conrad Maldives is a special place. The scenery is just as stunning as you would imagine it to be and the service is great. There’s some really cool dining experiences available like dining underwater and if you’re a Hilton Gold or Diamond member, there are some extra perks for you. I really want to try out some other Maldives resorts but I’d still be 100% okay with returning to the Conrad Maldives.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the digital smart wallet, 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. 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.