One&Only Reethi Rah in the Maldives lives up to its name: it sprawls across its own island, and has the Maldives’ first PADI National Geographic dive centre, sun spa and climbing wall. Did we mention the eight dining spots, the tennis courts and the 12 beaches? Keep reading.
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An excursion for two: activities range from a shark safari to a sunset cruise in a dhoni, depending on the season
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability and a charge (one night's stay). Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £1969.44 ($2,575), including tax at 23.2 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of $6.00 per person per night on check-out.
Free afternoon tea is served daily at the English-style Lawn Club.
Don’t worry if you succumb to some tropical lurgy: the hotel has a 24-hour doctor stationed on the island. You're also unlikely to burn here, however hard you go at your tanning, thanks to the hotel's sun spa, which offers expert guidance on your skin type, provides you with skin-matched products and even has a fleet of therapists who will reapply sun lotion throughout the day, followed by aftersun. Each villa comes with its own mobile phone, so you can call your butler, wherever you are on the island.
At the hotel
A pick of 12 beaches; beach club; two championship-grade tennis courts; spa; the Maldives’ first ever sun spa; the Maldives’ only PADI National Geographic dive centre; watersports centre; artists’ studio; the Maldives’ first ever climbing wall; golf simulator; luxury boutique; library; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV; DVD player; CD player; minibar.
Our favourite rooms
Let's get this straight, you'll feel spoiled rotten, whichever sleeping quarters you opt for: all the villas are vast, with huge soaring ceilings, and they're all deliciously secluded – even the lead-in category (the Beach Villa) spans 135sq m and has its own pretty-much-deserted patch of sand. Beach Villas also have two sun loungers, a white hammock (idyllically swaying between palm trees) and a table and chairs under a shady veranda, perfect for private breakfasts or antisocial dining. The Grand Beach Villas deliver the same wow, with a living room and an extra bedroom. (Grand and Duplex villas come with their own buggy, so you can be carted from beach to bar without breaking a sweat.) Want to bend it like Beckham? Opt for Grand Beach Villa 142, where the Brit pack like to celebrate Christmas (beats turkey with the in-laws).
Three to choose from: a dazzling infinity pool that cuts into the lagoon and overlooks neighbouring islands; a family-friendly pool shaded by trees and punctuated with mini hammock-toting islets, and a pool attached to the kids club, with a slide, shallow areas and even little sun loungers. There’s also a vitality pool attached to the impressive Espa spa (which also has steam rooms and saunas and a saltwater Watsu pool), plus 12 immaculate beaches at your disposal (we love pretty Turtle Beach best, which is positioned in the middle of the island, with easy access to all the facilities).
Pack light and treat yourself to some glamorous plunder from Neo boutique, which sells the most chic treats, including threads by Matthew Williamson and Stella McCartney, the Reethi Rah bikini by Babajaan and espadrille wedges that were designed by Louboutin especially for One&Only. (Your American Express Black Card will probably come in handy.)
Trendy Londoners will already know of Taylor Taylor hair salon, where East End hipsters get their barnets beautified over cocktails and cupcakes. The hotel has nabbed the brand’s first out-of-London outpost – pop in for a trim or treatment.
Little Smiths will never want to leave. Kids Only is the hotel’s kids club; toddlers aged two to four need to be accompanied by a babysitter.
At Reethi, enjoy lazy lunches at a table by the pool and romantic dinners on the deck, by the swaying palm trees and lapping waves.
Take your style cue from the serene staff, who sport light linen. Gents are asked to don long trousers and shirts for dinner; ladies should throw a tropical sarong over their Reethi Rah Babajaan bikini (stocked in the boutique) for lunch.
Reethi Restaurant has plenty to admire besides its menu: carved wooden doors, flourishing frangipani reflected in the overwater pools and, when the sun sets, lanterns flickering romantically. Breakfast is a creative à la carte affair – highlights include huevos rancheros and crêpes with wild berries and ricotta – and for lunch and dinner, the menu leapfrogs between Asia and Europe. Tapasake (dinner only) serves modern Japanese dishes featuring fish from the Indian Ocean: expect succulent sushi and sashimi, lobster gyoza, black cod and the ilk; at fanciful Fanditha, Mediterranean classics get a Maldivian spin. Puff on shisha pipes, post-meal. The hotel's roster of dining options (eight in total) includes the Beach Club at ClubOne and the Chef's Garden, a candelit patch of the vegetable garden, designed with intimate dinners in mind. The food at the latter is fresh and healthy: grilled and steamed dishes such as yellowfin tuna tartare and fish or vegetables with an infusion (lemongrass and curry leaves, or coconut oil, garlic and lime). No meat is served at the Chef's Garden.
Refresh your inner pirate with vintage rum at Rah Bar, by the swimming pool. The breezy open-air pavilion feels relaxed by day; boozy, fruit-filled concoctions, chilled champagne and live music take things up a notch by night. ClubOne is one of the liveliest spots on the island, with all-day DJs, kids playing and adults enjoying cocktails and conversation. Stake out two of the white egg-shaped chairs dangling from the palms, or hunker down on the huge bean bags. Toast the sunset from Tapasake, lit with traditonal Japanese lanterns.
Breakfast is served until 11am in Reethi Restaurant.
The 24-hour room service spans the full restaurant menu; there’s a special selection just for little Smiths, too.
You need a transfer to reach this hotel. For approximate costs, see location information
One&Only Reethi Rah occupies a private island (one of the Maldives’ biggest) on the North Male Atoll. Sixty per cent of the island is manmade, but you’d never know it, thanks to the lush vegetation and lashings of space.
Fly into Male International Airport; from there, it’s a 75-minute transfer in one of the hotel’s five super-sized yachts.
You're on an island – you need a car like a fish needs a bicycle (and you'll have one of them, anyway).
Worth getting out of bed for
Splash, the beach club's watersports centre, offers a full range of liquid thrills – banana boats, canoes, paddle board, water-skiing and windsurfing. (Non-motorised activities are free; motorised options cost extra). Swap your view for that of the seagulls with a 15-minute seaplane over the atolls. The hotel has the Maldives’ only PADI National Geographic dive centre, and one of the country’s best shark sites is close by. At the dive centre, you can also plant your own coral, which will be labeled with your name (post-stay, you’ll be emailed photos showing its progress). Plenty of boating excursions can also be arranged: try a sunset cruise in a traditional dhoni or stake out your own local island for the day. Most of the resort's facilities are housed within ClubOne, the beach club. Start with a game of billiards, darts, table tennis and volleyball, then continue work on your ball skills with a session at Swing, the impressive golf simulator, where guests are given real golf clubs and balls to lob into a screen (if you’re in the zone, you can have even have lunch delivered here). Browse for beachwear at Neo boutique, stocked with Heidi Klein bikinis and Orelbar Brown trunks, plus the hotel’s own Reethi Rah two-piece. Top up your tan on one of the hotel’s floating sun beds in the pool. For the best snorkelling, hop on one of the bikes or take a short canoe ride to the house reef. There’s also the Artist's Studio, where you can take part in pottery classes and Venetian mask decoration. The Lawn Club, on the middle of the island, has badminton courts and a bowling green (don't miss the free afternoon tea).
Any hotel that calls itself One&Only is setting itself up for stratospheric expectations. Reethi Rah has been serving up luxury to seekers of Maldivian picture-postcard perfection for 10 years, so it's had plenty of time to get it right. Has it improved with age like a fine wine, or has it gained a few wrinkles with its double-digit years?
If the short luxury yacht transfer from Male airport is anything to go by, they’ve certainly thought of everything, down to the sea-sickness pressure-point bracelet I’m offered and gratefully wear, as the seas are a bit choppy.
On arrival, we’re greeted by several beaming staff, whose signature hand-over-heart greeting gesture is specific to One&Only. Initially, it looks slightly cultish; during our stay, it feels very heartfelt, and a nice way for the team to acknowledge glances from afar.
We’re whisked off on our buggy through the most beautiful tropical landscaped pathways – I'm definitely going to get lost here. Someone must have been up early pruning the foliage and raking the sand walkways to get them this level: we’re impressed.
We arrive at our thatched cottage villa, which is elegantly decorated with lots of honey-hued wood and a bamboo ceiling with the structure exposed: classic luxury, island-style. Our new home is a two-bed villa with a generous pool and a garden that sweeps down to the beach. There’s really no reason to leave the villa all day, but One&Only has so much more to see and do.
The island is big by Maldivian standards, but still only several minutes end-to-end by buggy. There are three restaurants in the main dining area next to two stunning pools, one of which is adults-only: a minimal rectangular infinity pool, stretching out to the sea with green-grey slate tiles that echo the foliage. It’s perfect for lengths – if you make it off your sun lounger; the other (more freeform) pool is set amongst the trees.
We visit Fanditha, an Arabian Nights-inspired restaurant and bar with beautiful sunset views. There’s a chef’s garden set amongst the trees, with rows of fabulous lettuce, plus an orchid garden where fresh flowers are picked daily for the restaurant tables.
Our favourite restaurant, though, is Tapasake, which has several Teppanyaki tables and serves Japanese food with views out to the ocean. Our very own chef for the night cooks the most succulent seafood and Wagyu beef, and fries rice right in front of us. We're even informed that the Japanese 'invented' rice, not the Chinese!
The Spa is calm, serene and very beautiful, set amid a sprawling central grassy area. You can feel your knots unwinding just by being here. The fact that there are no kids around may also have something to do with it. Bliss. Naturally, the therapists are extremely well-drilled – we don't have a bad massage during our stay.
Once you’ve recharged, there’s also an activity beach that has all the watersports you could wish for, including glass-bottom canoes, inflatable climbing walls, a trampoline tethered to the ocean floor and an on-land golf-simulator cabin. There’s also an artist in residence, who runs great art classes, including coconut-painting.
Of course, there's also unbelievable diving and snorkelling on your doorstep – some of the best in the world. We highly recommend the sunset hand-line fishing trip: my favourite excursion. Another highlight is driving the buggies around. One night, after a few excellent glasses of wine and a fantastic evening meal, we end up in one of the perfectly manicured bushes. (Not so perfectly manicured now, thanks to us.)
Even if you tried your hardest not to have fun, you can’t not have an incredible time here. If you like your luxury with all the bells and whistles, this place won’t just deliver, it will exceed your expectations. I wonder if they’ve fixed that bush yet? Of course they have.
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