It’s all in the details: What it’s like to stay at The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands
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The Maldives is a luxury traveller’s oasis.
More than 1,000 tiny islands make up the archipelago nation. And the Indian Ocean is the vast, blue desert that stretches as far as the eye can see.
On arrival, my eyes were glued to the pristine turquoise waters below. A small speck of an island appeared. Then another. And another. Finally, my plane glided onto the runway at Velana International Airport (MLE), the gateway to the region’s famed resorts.
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One of the newest Maldivian properties is The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, about 45 minutes from the capital city of Male by high-speed ferry.
The Maldives has a reputation for being an exclusive, ultra-lavish destination — and the Ritz fits right in. Yes, the prices are just as extravagant as the overwater villas themselves.
But beyond beautiful accommodations, luxurious amenities and a stunning natural environment, this property gets it right when it comes to something else: the little things.
The difference between a great stay and a truly memorable one is in the details — and after a few nights at The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, I can say with certainty that it delivers. I’ll remember this stay for years to come.
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After a slight delay due to the pandemic, The Ritz-Carlton Maldives opened its doors to guests in June 2021. I booked for a mid-September visit, giving the property a few months to get fully up to speed.
Let’s get this out of the way first: The Maldives is not cheap. Sure, there are caveats, and with any place, you can travel on a (relative) budget. But if you’re paying fully in cash, The Ritz-Carlton is not one of them.
Nightly rates start at a cool $1,500 (£1,087) for a base-level room. However, even the most basic of rooms at the Ritz gets you a sprawling, 1,600-square-foot overwater villa with views of a lagoon or the ocean.
As a Category 8 Marriott Bonvoy property, The Ritz-Carlton will range in price from 70,000 points per night during off-peak season to 100,000 points per night during peak season.
Instead of cash, I redeemed 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night for my off-peak stay. Based on TPG’s latest valuations, 70,000 points are worth $560 (£406), so a points redemption is the way to go.
With all resorts in the Maldives, you’ll also have to foot the bill for a transfer between the airport and the property itself. And since you have no other choice, hotels can charge whatever they want.
The Ritz has one of the higher resort transfer costs — $680 (£493) per person for a 45-minute round-trip ferry ride between the resort and the airport. This is not waived on points bookings.
One draw of the Maldives is the relatively isolated nature of the archipelago. After all, most resorts are set on their own private islands, far from other humans.
But there is a catch to all of that. First, everything needs to be delivered to a remote country — and then ferried over to an even more remote island. That doesn’t come cheap.
Second, by its very nature, the Maldives is not the easiest destination to reach. From the UK, there are nonstop and connecting flights between 10 and 18 hours of travel time, depending on the airline.
Therefore, after all that travel, it may be worthwhile to stay at a resort that is closer to the main international airport in Male. At 45 minutes by speedboat, The Ritz-Carlton is indeed one of the closer properties while retaining a relative sense of “remoteness.”
However, it’s important to note that The Ritz is on North Male Atoll, and is far from being the only resort in the area.
In fact, the Fari Island complex consists of several manmade islands with three resorts, creating a quasi-community of high-end properties: The Ritz, Patina and Capella (yet to open).
Transfer to the resort
After exiting baggage claim at the airport, I was ready to begin my Maldivian adventure. A representative greeted me and explained the transfer process. Because there were two other guests arriving on my flight, I’d be sharing the ferry with them to the resort.
Male is in the process of building out a new airport terminal, so the Ritz was not given any space in the old structure for a lounge. Instead, all Ritz guests proceed immediately to the ferry (or in my case, the food court while waiting for others to clear customs).
After about 20 minutes — and a minor scare in the restroom — it was time to head onto the ferry to begin the 45-minute journey.
The interior of the ferry was clearly custom-built, outfitted in beige and grey tones with tinted windows and sumptuous seating. Once we jetted off, I was offered water, Champagne and a few sweets — all of which were delicious and hit the spot after a long travel day.
Let the luxury begin.
If it’s your first time in the Maldives, like it was for me, throw out everything you thought you knew about check-in.
Here, things are done differently.
First, at the Ritz, there’s a bit of pomp and circumstance.
I was greeted by multiple staff members at the ferry arrival pavilion, with one staffer blowing a traditional Sangu horn, a shell signifying an important piece of ancient Maldivian culture. Naturally, it’s ceremoniously blown to announce a special arrival, or in this case, every new resort guest.
Say hello to your aris meeha
I was then greeted by Abu, my island butler. Yes, every guest gets one.
Instead of the term “butler” though, the Ritz uniquely calls them your “aris meeha.” In the local language of Dhivehi, aris meeha refers to a person who is assigned to a royal member of the Maldivian family. And at the Ritz, that royal person is you.
My aris meeha, Abu, acted as my personal reception desk. Any requests, dinner reservations, activity bookings, etc. were funnelled through him. In fact, you’re given their mobile number so you can message or call your aris meeha at any time.
Abu ensured my bags would be taken care of and gave me a quick tour of the property by buggy.
Exploring the property
The Ritz-Carlton Maldives is essentially three narrow, manmade islands, each connected by a small bridge.
There is one main, sandy path connecting the entire property that is flanked by palm trees and vegetation on either side. And since the Ritz is still relatively new, the greenery will only get lusher and more jungle-like as time passes.
To walk from end to end, it would take you about 15 to 20 minutes — or a quick three-to-four-minute buggy ride. However, during the majority of my stay, I utilized bikes that are assigned to each villa.
Instead of the “barefoot luxury” look of some other Maldives properties, the Ritz has a contemporary and modern design, yet feels homey and warm at the same time. It doesn’t feel over the top; in fact, it’s one of those places where you immediately feel at ease upon arriving.
There are also sustainability standards built into the resort, including solar panels on each of the 100 villas. Notably, there’s also no single-use plastic.
The iconic boardwalk-style circular path leads to the main neighbourhood of overwater villas. At the centre is the gorgeous ring-shaped spa.
Things to know: If your villa is facing the lagoon side, you’ll get sunrise views, calmer seas and fewer obstructions to your view. This was where my villa was located.
If your villa is on the ocean side, you’ll get sunset views, but because you’re on open waters, the seas can be a bit more turbulent for swimming purposes. In addition, ocean villas have the other two resorts (Patina and Capella) in their line of sight. While they are still quite a distance away, it does take away from the feeling that you’re in the middle of nowhere.
No matter what view you have, if you have a one-bedroom villa, they’re all designed the same way. And they’re gorgeously modern.
Once you step inside, you’ll immediately notice how the interior and exterior blend together in harmony. The floor-to-ceiling glass doors can fully retreat, creating an indoor-outdoor space of more than 1,600 square feet.
Everything is where you expect it to be and the design feels integrated and seamless. Angled wood slats are a thematic element of the entire resort, and their shadows create a very photogenic scene.
There are no gimmicks — no glass-bottom bathroom, waterslide into the ocean or floating breakfasts. I appreciated this restraint. The Ritz did everything well, and it didn’t feel like it was trying too hard.
The entryway featured lounge-like seating, a large glass table and a minibar. All nonalcoholic items are complimentary. Any time I needed a refill, I could text my aris meeha. (The grapefruit soda was amazing.)
A plush king bed took up the centre of the room, with bedside access to automatic controls for the blackout and sheer blinds. However, I kept my blinds fully up, letting the sunrise and sounds of the ocean wake me every morning.
Next to the bed was a large soaking tub and the glass wall of the outdoor shower.
The bathroom kept the same contemporary wood, glass and marble design. And as a self-appointed bathrobe snob, these were some of the best I’d ever tried on.
The Ritz uses Bamford amenities, a high-end Australian brand.
The highlight of the bathroom is the two showers — one of which is fully outdoors. It wrapped around the exterior of the building to the star of the villa: the infinity pool.
Each villa has its own pool that overlooks the ocean, and it’s breathtaking. Next to the pool are a chaise lounger and more seating.
While there are other villas in close proximity, you still have a relative sense of privacy thanks to the curvature of the structure and the angle of the wooden slats. However, voices do easily carry as I could hear conversations in the villa beside mine.
But that’s not all. Below the pool is another quintessential Maldives feature — a catamaran net perched above the crystal-clear waters.
Another set of stairs leads down to the lagoon itself.
I could write up a laundry list of amenities, and you’d be still here reading hours later. Instead, I’ll highlight some of my favorite amenities — and ones that didn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Also, know this: Almost anything that you can imagine — within reason, of course — can be done at the Ritz. The level of customization and detailed planning is what sets a resort of this calibre apart from others. It all comes at a price, but for many guests, that is beside the point.
For instance, how about chartering this superyacht? (You can.)
An area of the resort that I came back to time and again was Eau Bar, home to the resort’s pool.
The pool was completely round and was designed in a way to seemingly blend into the Indian Ocean. Ear Bar just exuded class, and best of all, it was private with nary another guest during most of the day.
Ear Bar was also home to afternoon tea (free for Marriott Gold status holders and above) and the Ritz’s daily Maldivian sunset ritual.
While I didn’t have a spa treatment, I took a peek at the unique, circular structure with nine treatment rooms all named after cardinal directions. I was surprised to see the majority of the building was actually hollow, with the ocean at the centre.
Oddly, there are no shared facilities at the spa. A steam room and sauna are located by the gym, at the complete opposite end of the resort.
The Ritz doesn’t shy away from catering to families. The kids facility is massive, with a hobbit-style design built into the side of the earth.
For the young — or young at heart — there’s a game room with ping pong, pool, board games and a full-sized tennis court.
Each morning, I woke up to practice sunrise yoga, a complimentary activity on the Ritz calendar of events. Maneesh was an expert instructor who gave personalized attention.
Meanwhile, speaking of physical activity, the gym was well equipped (although it was lacking a Peloton.)
Next to the gym was the steam room and sauna, separated by gender. The design was, once again, gorgeous. For COVID-19 protocols, the facilities must be booked in advance — and you’ll get the entire place to yourself.
There was incredible attention to detail, such as the design of the curved ceilings and recessed lighting.
Across from the gym was the main beach area of the resort. In fact, this was the only place where you could access the beach if you weren’t staying in a beach villa.
It was the most popular spot on the property with guests.
As you can expect, there are watersports galore at the Ritz.
There’s a special dive shop and watersports centre at the far end of the resort by the beach. While most activities cost extra, nonmotorized ones including kayaking and paddleboarding are free.
During my stay, I did a Jet Ski-to-a-remote-sandbank experience — and while it was pricey at $400 (£290) per person, including gratuity and the service fee, it was well worth it.
Welcome to paradise.
Food and beverage
Twenty-five dollar fruit platters. Forty-dollar pizza. One hundred and fifty dollars for brunch. As a first-timer to the Maldives, sticker shock, especially for food and beverage, was real.
However, while expensive, the things that I did sample were incredible. After all, acclaimed chefs from all over the world live on the property. The Ritz has five restaurants, with one additional restaurant, Arabesque, at the neighbouring Fari Marina Village (and more eateries to come).
One of my favourite meals was at Summer Pavillion, a Cantonese-style restaurant that served Chinese classics in a waterfront setting. I grew up on Cantonese food, and these dishes reminded me of home. Comfort food in the Maldives was not what I was expecting.
There were tacos at Beach Shack, Middle Eastern classics at Arabesque, Italian dishes at La Locanda and teppanyaki at Iwau.
However, what seemed a bit harder to find was more local, Maldivian specialities. Wherever I travel, no matter how nice the resort, I want to try the local food.
Insider tip: You can preorder a Maldivian breakfast (or any cuisine of your choosing). Surprisingly, it was the most affordable meal of our stay: $40 (£29) for two people, including beverages. The next morning, we had a preset Sri Lankan breakfast. Both were incredible.
The breakfast buffet was extensive and cost $60 (£43) per person, including drinks. A la carte options were also available.
One morning, we ordered breakfast to be delivered to the room. There aren’t many non-Western dishes for breakfast unless you preorder or order from the in-room menu. My Japanese bento box hit the spot — and it couldn’t have been presented any more beautifully.
Farther afield from the Ritz, you can take the scheduled eight-minute ferry ride to Fari Marina Village, home to Patina and several high-end boutiques, restaurants and galleries.
While this area is still in the process of being built out with more shopping and restaurants, it’s nice to be able to wander off the property. One of the stores was The Rake, the first brick-and-mortar store of the luxury menswear magazine.
The Maldives are renowned for hospitality. And the Ritz is no exception. Take this one example as a representation of the service I received throughout my stay.
On my first night at the Ritz, I was curious as to whether I could see any sea life in the dark. I asked my aris meeha whether there was an outdoor light near the catamaran net below the villa. Unfortunately, there wasn’t.
However, the next day, I was amazed to discover that a staff member had installed a spotlight below the deck, with an extension cord that stretched to an outlet near the pool.
Abu went above and beyond, and there were many other examples of this type of service. And it wasn’t just for me, either. Other guests that I spoke to received similar, white-glove hospitality.
A note on accessibility
According to the property, all 100 villas at the Ritz-Carlton Maldives are accessible-friendly. In addition, the property’s restaurants, fitness centre, recreation room and spa are accessible. The ferry that transports guests between the airport and the property does not have a ramp but one can be set upon request. The beach also lacks a rollout mat.
There’s getting away. And then there’s getting away to the Ritz-Carlton Maldives.
The property checks all the boxes for a stay of a lifetime. A stunning setting. Gorgeous design. Luxurious amenities. And attention to detail that would impress even the pickiest of travellers.
I enjoyed my time at the Ritz, not because of how glamorous it was but because I felt truly cared for in a way that I’ve never felt at any other hotel in the world.
That was in large part due to our charismatic aris meeha, Abu. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the five-star resort just oozes luxury in a classy, contemporary and restrained way.
Of course, all of this comes at a high price tag. From $35 (£25) California rolls to $350 (£254) massages, the Ritz’s pricing isn’t for the faint of heart. But for a special occasion — or a splurge on points after countless months of being at home — the Ritz-Carlton Maldives is a worthwhile choice.
Excuse me, while I go dream up my next Maldivian adventure.
Featured photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy.
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