Review: Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands
When Ritz-Carlton arrived in the Maldives it was one of the most anticipated hotel openings in 2021 globally. With the brand only operating a little over 100 hotels it’s not very common to see them pop up in one of the most iconic destinations in the world. Many may think it focuses mainly on business people and couples looking for a luxurious getaway but you couldn’t be more wrong when looking at this property, boosting one of the finest kids clubs in the Indian Ocean and offering some of the most stunning accommodation for families. As my kids are true Maldivaholics I decided to take the whole family on a journey to the Ritz-Carlton and soon found out it’s a paradise for the whole family. Let me explain…
We were staying in another resort prior to this and from the moment our boat transfer arrived in Malé the Ritz-Carlton staff was waiting on the dock to personally welcome us, label our luggages and take care of everything. We were swiftly whisked away to their own luxury speedboat which brought us to the resort within the hour.
Upon arrival there was a whole host of staff waiting for us with a big smile. One of them was blowing the sangu, an ancient Maldivian tradition to announce the arrival of important guests to the island. It instantly sets the tone and makes everyone feel that tiny bit more special.
The Ritz-Carlton Maldives assigns an Aris Meeha to each guest which in the Dhivehi language refers to the one that takes care of the royal family members. How can you not feel like royalty upon arrival when your welcome is submerged in so much royal history?
As a family of 4 you like to ensure there’s enough space for everyone to relax and unwind and the 2-bedroom beach pool villa we stayed in fits that bill perfectly. With 400 square meters you almost have to put a tracker on your kids to find out where they are, but it equally gives you the luxury of space which isn’t always a given when staying in a villa with 2 energetic children.
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I loved the straight forward design where you walk into the massive living area where the views and light from outside instantly grasp your attention. A giant dining table invites you to have in-room family dinners while the salon provides you with endless seating to hang around in the evenings when the kids are in bed and you just want to escape from it all by putting on those B&O headphones and listen to Joni Mitchell. The floor to ceiling windows that can be found throughout the villa slide open and vanish into the walls, creating a massive tropical canvas on which your eyes feast from the moment you wake up.
You can’t stay in one of these villas without being impressed by the outside space. A massive pool, ample seating space, another giant table to have those long leisurely lunches outside, sun loungers left, right and centre, …let’s just say the Ritz-Carlton has everything covered. The uninterrupted views over the beach and ocean are of course the star of the show and it feels like a private resort within a resort, where your kids can roam freely without being too far out of your sight.
While the kids room has two queen beds and a beautiful bathroom it’s the master bedroom that has some tricks up its sleeve. The perfect example is the oversized bath on the side of the room, allowing you to relax while taking in those gorgeous views over the beach and ocean.
Of course both bathrooms in the villa are equally impressive and topped off with Bamford amenities which are among my favourites. These peaceful sanctuaries are just perfectly designed to create a welcoming space to pamper yourself and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a property of this calibre provides literally everything when it comes to amenities. From the softest gowns I’ve ever experienced to his and hers Panama hats, it’s all here. Even the shoe trees aren’t missing.
I’m not a big fan of taking a bath but rain showers on the contrary are where it’s at and whenever I can shower outdoors I’ll take the chance, no matter if it’s in the Okavango Delta or the Maldives. I was happy to see the Ritz-Carlton had all the options available. There is literally nothing I could fault in the bathroom and I’m a tough client, so that in itself speaks volumes.
There’s literally a plethora of facilities spread across the 3 islands that make up the Ritz-Carlton Maldives. One of the key pillars in a luxury resort like this is the food cause you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy it and especially for families you want to make sure there’s options for everyone. No less than 7 restaurant options are available which isn’t too shabby knowing the resort only has 100 villas. We tried them all and each one of them delivered solid results in terms of quality, presentation, setting and service.
All the main cuisines from around the world are present, going from Italian to Lebanese and from Chinese to North Indian. My personal favourites were the Beach Shack and the chef’s table at Iwau. The latter serves some of the best Japanese food in the Indian Ocean and being able to savour all the wonderful ingredients like wagyu beef, king crab, foie gras and lobster in an al fresco setting under the stars is just mind boggling.
The laid back atmosphere of the Beach Shack felt just perfect and the view of the insanely blue water in the background does give it that extra “je ne sais quoi”. The Mediterranean cuisine that is serves does help to unwind and take it a little slower, which isn’t a hard thing to do on a tropical island as beautiful as this. It’s also one of the best spots to enjoy the sunset.
One of the main reasons why I went to the Ritz-Carlton Maldives is because of the raving reviews I saw everywhere regarding the Ritz Kids club. The Kerry Hill Architects who designed the whole property surely didn’t follow the mainstream concepts of kids clubs and went all out to create a masterpiece, at least in my opinion. From the outside the kids club looks like a hobbit mansion but once you walk inside it has a much more futuristic look. The outdoor pool and play area are the perfect mix of the two styles, making it such a unique place the hang around, even as an adult.
But where the true value of the kids club shines through is the endless array of activities for the little ones and the energetic staff that goes all out to give the kids the best time ever. Scavenger hunts that literally takes them to all the corners of the resort, Maldivian shirt art painting, marine biology introductions, …it’s literally all there. What I like most is the fact that there a lot of educational activities which is in line with the fact that the Ritz-Carlton Maldives is a Jean-Michel Cousteau ambassador but more about that later. Another thing that struck me was the amazing communication that goes on in the back between the staff from the Ritz Kids and your Aris Meeha. I would get regular Whatsapp updates about how the kids were doing and if they needed or wanted anything which in itself is great to put your mind at ease and enjoy the time in this paradise yourself.
I have to admit…all those raving reviews about Ritz Kids were true and I couldn’t be more happy about it!
The spa is an architecture masterpiece and you must have been living under a rock if you haven’t seen any picture of the famous round-shaped spa facility yet! Located overwater with a turquoise lagoon underneath it is hard not to feel the serenity and peacefulness when you enter the building. There are 9 luxurious treatment rooms in total and their design perfectly compliments the overall experience. I was on cloud 9 after my treatment and if I close my eyes I can still smell those Bamford products which they used. Aaaaaaah, pure bliss.
For many the Maldives equals one of the best diving spots in the world and the Ritz-Carlton’s dive and watersport centre is fully equipped to provide the best experience possible for those willing to discover the marine wildlife, irrelevant if they are professionals or beginners. One of the things I really enjoyed was the fact they organise complimentary snorkel and diving initiations for the younger guests, allowing them to get their first feel of what the underwater world looks like. Due to the size of the resort and the vast amount of activities on hand, these initiations look more like private lessons which only adds to the luxurious atmosphere that hangs around the resort.
I can go on about the facilities for a very long time, but think of one you like and I bet you they’ll probable have it. From a professional tennis court and great gym to an insanely cool games room and drone flying lessons, you name it, the Ritz-Carlton Maldives has it.
The resort is located in the Fari Islands archipelago which in itself is situated in the North Male Atoll, about an hour away by speedboat from Velana international airport. As it is relatively close to Malé you don’t loose that much time upon arrival as the boat transfer is waiting right at the exit of the airport, allowing for a swift change of transportation. If you really want to experience flying with a seaplane though, you can choose to do so. The flight itself will take around 10 to 15 minutes.
Another interesting thing about the Fari Islands Archipelago is the fact that guests from the Ritz-Carlton are able to take one of the many scheduled boat transfers to Fari Marina Village, a place which is shared with 2 other luxury resorts and where you can find some amazing boutiques, wonderful restaurants, bars and even an impressive (and immersive) art installation made by James Turell. Being able to leave your resort and visit another neighbouring island is a luxury rarely seen in the Maldives and to be fair…I love it.
Other nice touches
It’s hard to pick just a few when there are countless during your stay at the Ritz-Carlton Maldives. One of my favourites must be the daily sunset ritual at the main pool which they fittingly call their “defining moment”. Guests gather around the massive round pool (which is by the way a superb place to hang around during the day if you ever get bored of your own villa) where they light the ring of fire while the drums cover the whole scene in a dramatic blanket.
Another fun event to meet up with fellow guests while enjoying the sunset is at the weekly cocktail reception. Local craftsmen show their skills, the fireplace is burning, soft vibes filling the airwaves and the staff that pass by every other minute with new drinks and canapés. I specifically liked the laid back atmosphere which was omnipresent as it’s certainly not always a given in these top tier luxury resorts.
I mentioned earlier that the Ritz-Carlton Maldives are Jean-Michel Cousteau ambassadors of the environment, the first of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region which in itself already says a lot. It allows all guests, irrelevant of their age to learn more about the natural treasures which are all around us. It’s amazing to see how much we all can learn from nature, and I’ve rarely seen my kids more excited after they went to do some research on plankton with one of the naturalists on the island.
The price for an ocean pool villa (which for an entry level villa is absolutely stunning) starts from around 1.764 USD including breakfast. Our 2-bedroom beach pool villa can be booked from around 7.840 USD a night including breakfast.
But being part of the global Marriott brand this is also a great place for those who are already members of their Bonvoy loyalty program as you’ll be able to enjoy member benefits like free breakfast, upgrades and so on. And if you’re sitting on a stash of Bonvoy points this might be the perfect resort to redeem them at a rate starting around 92.000 points/night.
The best bit
Without a doubt the fact that the Ritz-Carlton Maldives will do everything it can to make your stay as memorable and comfortable as possible because they truly care. Nothing is too much, even when one of our family members got so sick they suddenly had to be rushed to the hospital in Malé in the middle of the night. They organised everything within minutes, followed up wherever they could, helped out where needed the following days, … The fact that it’s done in such a relaxed and comforting atmosphere only reiterates their professionalism and love for the job.
Working in the hospitality business is a lot of fun but can often be tiring and stressful which regularly shines through in the service, general interactions and so on. Not here, not in the slightest bit!
The final verdict
While it may be one of the more expensive options in the Maldives, the Ritz-Carlton surely delivers in a way I’ve rarely seen in my 4 decades of travelling around the globe. It’s the complete concept that just works and I can’t think of a better place to spend some family time and create lifelong memories.
There are so many things to discover, experience and most of all enjoy at this resort, that even after having spent several days here, it still feels like I only scratched the surface. I guess there’s only one way to change that and I surely hope to plan a visit again soon. After all, this is truly a place to call paradise for the whole family.
Disclosure: Our stay was sponsored by The Ritz-Carlton Maldives.