A first for the Ritz-Carlton brand, its new Maldivian resort awaits those looking for luxury in paradise. The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands opened in June to great fanfare.
With 100 villas in overwater, beachfront and hybrid (suspended over the water, but with a private beach by the door) categories, guests sometimes choose to spend a few nights in each to have a different experience.
You’ll notice a circular theme running throughout the resort, which is based on Kerry Hill’s modern design, the late Australian architect who planned the property. His idea was that circles represent infinite perfection as well as the circular motion of the wind and sea. Most of the villas are round just like the spa, the entrance to the kids’ club, and main swimming pool. The entire resort’s modern setup is in stark contrast to the more traditional resorts found elsewhere in the Maldives. It will surprise and delight Ritz-Carlton regulars who may be used to a more traditional look when staying at the Marriott brand’s other properties.
This resort will appeal to island fans and a younger clientele with its design while guests of all ages will recognize the high levels of service. The “Ladies and Gentlemen” of Ritz-Carlton (the way the brand refers to its staff) work hard to remember guest names and personal preferences while offering genuine hospitality. The Ritz-Carlton ethos is to never say no, and staff are trained to find ways to serve guests as best they can, which is what creates such brand loyalty for repeat guests. With every interaction, the staff greets guests by placing their hand over their heart.
Of the hundreds of reasons to stay here, these are the top five to entice you for a visit.
The 100 villas vary between overwater villas within the lagoon quay, which sits on stilts connected by a bridge and beachfront villas with patios that lead directly to the shoreline. Unique are the hybrid villas that mix both categories offering a private beach as well as pathway to villas suspended over the water just like those in the lagoon quay. Each has its own private plunge pool just off the curvaceous outdoor, furnished patio. All are enormous with the “smallest” starting at 1,615 sq ft.
Glass walls slide open to combine the al fresco private space with the beautiful interiors. Many guests opt to spend a few nights in different categories to enjoy the multiple settings. In addition to private plunges and day beds on the patio, all villas have both indoor and outdoor showers.
Butlers, called “aris meeha,” handle every guest request from the moment they arrive. The name means someone who takes care of a royal person in the local Dhivehi language, and they personify the doting service of all Ritz-Carlton “Ladies and Gentlemen” philosophy. Referring to its staff, Ritz-Carlton’s ethos has always been ladies and gentlemen caring for ladies and gentlemen, and that sentiment is in full force at this stunning resort.
Each of the villas has an enormous bed with plump duvet and Frette linens, bedside power and USB outlets, day bed with dining table, swiveling flat-screen TV and complimentary non-alcoholic minibar. Double vanities in the enormous bathrooms feature a skylight, plentiful storage and unpacking space, a variety of soft and hard clothes hangers, a water closet and an ample supply of organic Bamford toiletries made from geranium and peppermint. During turndown service, housekeeping delivers reusable bottles of water, cushioned trays (ideal for working or having coffee in bed) and special gifts like an aromatherapy Bamford pillow spray.
In addition to the one-bedroom villas, there are two-bedroom overwater and beach villas plus a three-bedroom estate with large living area and private beach. The latter has its own wine cellar with upgraded wines.
Every vantage point of this resort enjoys incredible scenery surrounding it. For example, one side of the various islands looks toward the open ocean and a narrow island with palm trees behind which the sun sets daily. The other side looks toward the breaking reef where waves recreate the look of a beach in the middle of the ocean.
From the main, infinity-edge swimming pool, it appears as if the pool spills directly into the ocean. Many guests nosh on healthy fare like salads, quinoa and sushi from Eau Bar at lunch with lap trays providing comfort and convenience as they dine. At sunset each evening, a traditional Maldivian drum ceremony illuminates various torches and a flaming circle that seems to frame the sunset.
Palm trees abound all over the resort, and an ancient banyan tree provides shade over the yoga pavilion. In keeping with the sustainability efforts of the resort, all of the trees were replanted from other places where they may have otherwise been chopped down. In the coming year, the resort plans to add QR codes to each of the villas, which explains where the repurposed wood used to build each villa came thanks to detailed records kept during construction.
At night, the twinkling stars above the villas illuminate the sky thanks to lack of light pollution.
Food here is a standout with as many as 23 restaurants projected in the coming years. The Ritz-Carlton and the two other resorts of the Fari Islands (Patina Maldives and the yet-to-open Cappella) will share the restaurants and offer reciprocal dining privileges between their respective guests.
At present, Ritz-Carlton guests have a huge variety of choice. La Locanda is where the beautiful breakfast spread plus a la carte menu is served each morning. Included in most paid rates, the morning meal offers beautiful island views with outdoor and indoor seating plus an endless supply of Champagne or Bloody Marys. Fruit is chopped to order, and each morning, one station serves a different type of international cuisine including Chinese, Indian and Maldivian breakfast specialties.
Later in the day, La Locanda serves Italian fare include freshly made pasta served perfectly al dente, grilled meats and seafood, cheesy pizzas and hearty salads including a selection from a traditional Italian antipasti spread offering all the meats, olives, veggies and cheese you can imagine.
Open for dinner only, Summer Pavilion serves authentic Chinese food while Iwau offers a Japanese “chef’s table” concept. Beach Shack is the casual option open most of the day for lighter Mediterranean fare on the sand. Don’t miss the island creamery serving homemade ice cream or the Sunday brunch with unlimited Champagne and gigantic food portions ideal for lounging all day on the beach.
At Eau Bar, the lunch menu includes a tasty mix of Japanese and Mediterranean fare with a focus on healthier and lighter ingredients by the pool. The hookah experience later in the day, when the DJ enlivens the area, is a big draw.
Soon to open are two options on another island, which guests can reach by complimentary boat ride. They include Arabesque for Lebanese and Indian dishes or Tum Tum, a food truck serving noodle dishes, dumplings and other specialties.
The resort’s sommelier oversees a cellar of 600 wine labels, and plans are in place to expand the display area to showcase more of them for guests. Portable wine chillers can also be delivered to guest rooms for those that want to sip in the privacy of their villa.
There is no shortage of activities here although the preferred option for most is taking a dip in their private villa plunge pool or lounging by the beach. Motorized and non-motorized watersports abound including snorkeling, kayaking, diving, dolphin cruises and jet skis. On land, there’s also volleyball, tennis and a panoramic fitness center with yoga studio, personal trainer and beach views.
A weekly calendar for guests explains all of the activities, which can include Maldivian cooking classes, beach patanque, cricket and badminton, palm leaf folding and marine biology talks. Once a week, guests can watch a movie under the stars at the Beach Shack.
The spectacular spa with nine treatment rooms is suspended over the lagoon and surrounded by the overwater villas. Treatments use Bamford products, and guests can take in views of the reef below the spa as they enjoy the experience.
Families will appreciate Ritz Kids with its supervised activities like aqua Zumba or arts and crafts, playground, pool and waterslide. The kids club incorporates educational and environmental activities making it especially enjoyable. These can include everything from scavenger hunts to collect items that wash ashore and learning how to repurpose it to marine biology lessons.
Known as Ambassadors of the Environment and in partnership with the Jean-Michael Cousteau Ocean Futures Society, the eco-friendly program for guests is incredible. It puts reef protection front and center as well as a greater understanding of how we can practice better habits back at home, too.
Cousteau-trained naturalists lead guests on a variety of activities including a complimentary drone session where they can study the reefs from above. The drone program is also part of a research effort to study the changes in the reef and how the resort can better help protect and regenerate it.
The property itself was built using as much reclaimed wood as possible with villas pre-fabricated to minimize the impact on the reef. Also commendable is the resort’s recycling program and energy-efficient systems plus a no single-use-plastic policy to the extent possible. It’s clear that at The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, the commitment to a great experience covers both hospitality and the environment.
Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist covering hotels, cruises, airlines, and loyalty programs from around the globe.