Hotel Review: Ritz-Carlton Fari Islands, Maldives
The much anticipated opening of the Ritz-Carlton Fari Islands had us extremely excited. This modern, architectural marvel blends into its surroundings, while still managing to look a lot like a Bond villain’s private island. The food & beverage, style and location blew us away. Read on to find out what to expect at this brand new resort in the Maldives.
The Ritz-Carlton Maldives is located in North Male Atoll, a 10 minute seaplane or 45 minute boat ride away from Velana international airport. The advantage of being in the North Male Atoll is that guests are able to easily access the property any time of day or night, making the stress of arrival or departure times not as important as with many properties in the Maldives.
The Ritz sits on the edge of the atoll, meaning, from one side of the property, there is quite literally nothing in view until you hit Indonesia. The Ritz-Carlton is part of a bigger complex, Fari Islands, that is made up of Patina Resort, RC and Capella (opening soon). The three hotels share a “marina” with some shops and dining options as part of a new luxury concept. Fari Islands allows guests to move between the marina and hotels to move away from the “one hotel one island” concept. If you are fearful of getting a little stir crazy, this concept may be just for you.
Lobby & Check in experience: 4.5/5
Max and I were arriving from another hotel property and were greeted at the boat dock by a representative of the Ritz-Carlton who immediately took us to the waiting speed boat. The Ritz-Carlton offers a few different options to get to the hotel: speedboat ($550 per person), yacht ($800 per person) or seaplane ($1,300 per person).
The speedboat is a small pontoon-style boat and is not quite as sexy as the neighboring Waldorf Astoria’s yacht at $650 a person. To be frank, we were slightly disappointed at the method of transportation and not just because of the size of the boat or lack of beverages (no coffee? tea?) and basic amenities like water glasses, but also because the staff onboard spoke no English and new nothing about the Ritz-Carlton. They didn’t really interact with us or provide the level of service we’d expect from this caliber of hotel. We determined that the boat and staff were a shared resource between the resorts at Fari Islands and must be why there was such a stark contrast between the amazing employee we met on the dock and the very quiet gentlemen on the boat.
Regardless, the moment we arrived to the dock, things were back on track. We were greeted with welcome beverage by management and a traditional greeting via conch shell. We met our Aris Meeha (butler) and were taken straight to our room to check in. The first impressions of the property are beautiful. Between the lush landscape and the stark contrast of the dark, round circular structures, it’s overwhelming and beautiful.
We were in the “standard” room, an Ocean Pool Villa and after seeing a number of other room types, we feel like this is probably our favorite between the lagoon, beach and ocean pool villas. We were in villa #225 and that stretch of rooms is really a prime location. The Ocean Pool Villas have private walkways from the land to the villa, whereas the Lagoon Pool Villas are all connected by the long walkway. One of the advantages to the Ocean Pool Villas is there are no carts that come driving by. If you’ve been in an overwater villa before, you’ll be familiar with the sound of carts on the wood planks. The Ocean Pool villa configuration is really unique and we found it extremely private and enjoyable. On the sunrise side, as well, there are unobstructed views of nothing but open sea.
Every room has the same exact layout, whether you’re on the beach or in the ocean versus lagoon villa. They all feature drop-dead gorgeous design and architecture as well as modern amenities. The only difference between the room types is the exterior. Beach villas will have more surrounding “land” and direct access to the lagoon via the beach. The ocean and lagoon villas will feature ladders that go down to the lagoon.
The two-bedrooms feature a rectangular shape and a large living room between the two bedrooms. Otherwise, the larger suites have the same style of bedroom.
Most of the villas are designed in a circular shape, with floor to ceiling and wall to wall doors that completely open up to the outdoors. Even the pool is shaped to match the circular design with an infinity edge to the abyss. The view is framed like a movie screen by a privacy structure designed to let beautiful light into the villa, while still providing a privacy barrier between the next villas. The king bed is the feature of the room, directly facing the view. The luxurious bathroom is behind the bedroom and features an open closet, indoor and outdoor shower as well as a double vanity with Bamford products. There is also a soaking tub in the bedroom that takes advantage of the stunning views.
All the technology in the room is brand new and exceptionally simple. The master switch next to the bed turns off all the lights with a touch of a button. The lighting can be changed to reflect your mood, whether its a soft and dim or bright. Of course, the curtains can be controlled by the touch of a button as well. The room key is a bracelet, so you never have to worry about leaving your key behind. One of the most extravagant features of the room technology is the self-opening blinds upon entry to the room. The sheers open automatically when you enter after being away, almost drawing more attention to the outdoors and the view.
Every villa has bicycles with your room number on them to explore the property, and of course, you can always call for a buggy or wander the wide pathways by foot.
If you’re looking at deciding which room type to book, here are a few examples. As you can see, the rooms all look very much the same. What you should consider is what your needs are. If you prefer wandering into the water from the beach, go with a beach villa. If you don’t mind climbing a ladder and prefer the views of nothing but blue, go with the ocean or lagoon villa. If you’re between a Lagoon or Ocean villa, that really comes down to price or personal preference. We loved the proximity of the Ocean villas to the rest of the property. Keep in mind the Lagoon villas are going to add at least 8-10 minutes to your bike rides to restaurants or amenities.
Ocean Pool Villa:
Overall, we really like the level of service that Ritz-Carlton is known for. Employees have a level of professionalism that is often lacking at similar caliber hotels and many of them execute it perfectly. Once they know your name, they address you as such for the duration of your stay. Everyone, and I mean everyone, says hello and puts their hand over their heart in a heartwarming gesture every time you pass. The housekeeping service was incredibly well done. Every night, there would be a note with a special treat or thoughtful moment crafted for guests. On our last night, they had drawn a bubble bath as a farewell. This was 100% a 5 star housekeeping experience.
It is worth nothing that there are a number of inconsistencies related to service that we hope is just a kink getting ironed out as the hotel fully opens. At this level of property, a guest’s expectations are above and beyond just “good”. What you would expect, particularly if you’ve stayed at similar properties in the Maldives is anticipatory service. Service that gets you what you want and need, before you even know you want or need it. That level of service is rare, but expected at this price point and is frankly offered by other properties in this price range, and below.
That’s not to say anything was “bad”, it just wasn’t exceptional 100% of the time, which it must be at this caliber hotel. Take an example that we think accurately reflects the inconsistency. Guests have access to the Fari Islands Marina on the Patina property. We had dinner reservations at Arabesque, located in the Marina. Our Aris Meeha reminded us that we had dinner there that evening, but beyond that didn’t offer to take us to the Marina or tell us how to get there, where the boat left from or what time to leave to make it for sunset. We eventually found out that the boat left from the arrival pavilion and he took us at the time I requested. When we arrived to the Marina, there was no one on the other end to greet the guests who took the boat over. There was a bit of confusion once we docked about where to go as there are no signs. Without someone there to explain what the Marina was, how it worked and where to go, we felt a bit like outsiders. On the other hand, when we returned from the Marina to the property later that evening, there was a buggy waiting for every room who returned on the boat, which was a fantastic show of anticipatory service. That experience with the Marina just felt a bit inconsistent.
An even smaller, but relevant example, is before arriving to the property, guests are asked how they’d like to be addressed. We said, “just call us Max and Maren”. The expectation was that the staff would then all know your name before you meet them, as has happened at many hotels we’ve been to before. However, every staff we interacted with for the first time asked us how we’d like to be addressed. This small example is an indicator that there is a disconnect between the training and execution.
These are minor blips in time that really don’t add up to anything less than good service. We are confident that with time and great occupancy, the training will increase and that perfect service experience will prevail.
Dining at the Ritz-Carlton was exceptional – through and through. Every meal we had on property and at the marina was beyond our expectations. Starting with our first lunch at Eau Bar, we knew we were in for a real treat on property during our stay. Every delicate dish was perfect, from the sushi to the mochi icecream. It’s hard to pinpoint a favorite meal, because they were all just that good.
Beach Shack was our favorite setting for lunch because we love the toes-in-the-sand atmosphere and incredible dishes of lobster, crab, sliders, salads and more. We were treated to the most extravagant meal by the incredible staff at Beach Shack – I feel like we got to try the entire menu! We can attest, it was truly delicious, as was the Whispering Angel wine.
Summer Pavilion features Chinese delicacies in the form of small plates over the water in a beautiful, serene setting.
Our last night, we ate at Arabesque at the Marina and it was the perfect final meal. The service by Chef Mohammed and management were beyond our expectations. This is a must-try restaurant if you stay at the Ritz-Carlton.
Lastly, breakfast is served at La Locanda, the property’s “living room” style restaurant set overwater. La Locanda is located close to the Ocean Villas, making it an easy bike ride in the morning. They serve the food in a buffet, with a wide selection of options from fruits to charcuterie and more. There is also an a la carte menu for guests to order eggs or other popular dishes from.
Overall, the dining on property (and off) is exceptional.
The Ritz-Carlton Fari Islands has everything you want for a vacation in the Maldives and more. The marina concept brings a new perspective on what a vacation in the Maldives is like. Having the option to explore the Marina “off property” allows guests looking for a little something extra to feel like they can avoid the island fever, particularly for a longer stay. While I’m certain the kinks with accessing the Marina will be worked out, it is a great little outdoor village with bars, restaurants and shops that are fun to explore.
On property, the resort is broken out on a few different islands connected by bridges. On the far end of the property is the “fun” beach with the water sports center, scuba and excursions center, beach shack restaurant and the state of the art fitness center. The middle island is home to most of the restaurants, like La Locanda, Eau Bar and Summer Pavilion and the final island is mostly villas and the Spa on the jetty. The property is easy to explore on the provided bicycles, with wide pathways along the entire property.
The Spa is beautiful, set in the middle of the jetty between the Lagoon Pool Villas. We had the opportunity to try a 60-minute bespoke massage and the service was excellent. The massage room was dark, delicious and beautifully decorated with a shower and changing area. The only thing the spa is lacking is a relaxation area. After your treatment, there’s nowhere really go to and relax. We’d love to see the butlers coordinate a “post-massage relaxation” in guest villas, perhaps offering to pick up guests after treatments and have a bubble bath and tea waiting for guests upon completion of their spa treatment. That would be a nice alternative since the sauna and steam are not available in the spa. Otherwise, it was an amazing experience.
The hotel also offers a number of activities on property, including morning yoga, reef snorkeling, scuba diving, jet skis and more. The fitness center is large and features high end equipment, personal training and a steam and sauna. There is really no way to be bored on property, unless you want to be. Lastly, one of our favorite activities is the nightly sunset ritual. Each night at 7:15, the hotel has a traditional dance and music ritual that says goodbye to the day and hello to the night. It’s a lovely way to enjoy a cocktail while the sun sets in front of the pool.
There is no doubt that the Ritz-Carlton Fari Islands is an architectural wonder. The stunning circular designs, modern structures and lush jungle (despite being a brand new island and hotel), make this property truly stunning. There is a beautiful silence on property as you walk around or bike across the islands. The bars and restaurants play relaxing, chill music and everywhere has exceptional lighting.
The rooms are the most incredible haven of relaxation and comfort, with frette linens and mood lighting with nothing but the beautiful lagoon ahead of you. We found it incredibly hard to leave the villa, much less the whole property on our last day.
Overall, we love the Ritz-Carlton Fari Islands and highly recommend it. We look forward to returning once the property is running on full occupancy and the service kinks get worked out, as we know this hotel has the potential to be the best hotel in the Maldives with an incredible marina concept that blends the privacy and seclusion of the private island with the easy access to shopping and dining offsite.
COVID-19 Safety Rating: 4/5
Finally, our hopefully temporary COVID-19 Safety Rating. This rating is not factored into our overall rating system, but will give you a good idea of what to expect on property.
Overall, the Maldives is an incredibly safe place thanks to the fact that hotels are on their own private islands and everything is outdoors. It’s easy to social distance when the property is expansive and exclusive. While there is a buffet for breakfast, the hotel supplies masks at the door of the buffet. There is hand sanitizer throughout the hotel as well and there are masks in your room should you need one. The hotel does not test on arrival or have any other arrival requirements.
In general, most of the staff wore masks, especially when they were around guests and it felt like a generally safe place to vacation. The rooms are meticulously clean and we felt confident that actions were taken to ensure high-touch areas were sanitized regularly. The one note is that because you have access to the marina and there is no testing upon arrival to the property, there is marginally higher risk.
Disclaimer: We were hosted by Ritz-Carlton on a media stay. Please know the opinions expressed are all our own and may not reflect the hotel’s own views.