When you fantasize about the idyllic island vacation, you likely envision something like The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands. Floating in the North Malé Atoll, the remote getaway is surrounded by aqua waters so bright and clear, they look Photoshopped. Secluded overwater villas with wood decks and alfresco infinity pools practically thrust you into the ocean. And a tranquil spa perched on top of the waves pampers you with sublime treatments.
Yet The Ritz-Carlton brand’s first Maldives hotel goes beyond expectations in everything from its distinctive design to its personalized service, which is why it earned its inaugural Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star honor in our 2023 Star Awards.
Here’s why you need to visit this newly minted Five-Star paradise:
You won’t find the region’s popular thatched huts here. Opened in 2021, The Ritz-Carlton showcases striking, modernist motifs, and the organic materials, clean lines, open spaces and neutral color palette evoke a sense of minimalism that complements the island’s tranquil setting. Kerry Hill Architects, which has designed numerous Aman resorts in Asia, took inspiration from the lagoon’s round contours and the swirling breezes for a circular theme that ripples through the resort. The effect is stunning: the hotel’s circular overwater villas encircle a doughnut-shaped spa, a vast round infinity pool propped up with black rocks sits on the ocean, the palm-fringed Mystique Garden features concentric circles made of grass and stones where you can have a private dinner under a nearly 100-foot-tall banyan tree or sway on an ocean-facing rope swing, and even the excellent Ritz Kids Club sports a futuristic spherical shape.
While the dramatic, round overwater accommodations capture the most attention, all villas share commonalities. The 100 indoor-outdoor villas have an Asian-influenced minimalist yet luxurious aesthetic with wood-slatted exteriors and wood-walled, stone-floored interiors. A wall of glass doors opens to a deck, a private infinity pool and either ocean or beach views — all of them breathtaking.
Every villa also comes with its own aris meeha (inspired by those who were assigned to care for the Maldives’ royal court), a 24-hour butler who does everything from shuttle you around the island to help coordinate your itinerary. Other perks include rose-gold-hued bikes, a separate marble soaking tub and a mini-bar area stocked with complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and snacks.
There’s a reason why The Ritz-Carlton Spa at The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands floats in the middle of the overwater villas — it’s the hotel’s centerpiece. This hushed haven immediately relaxes you upon entering its doors. The attentive staff welcomes you with a chilled green-tea-scented washcloth and a cold blood-orange tea with lemon and a touch of brown sugar to help revive you from the intense Maldivian sun and prepare for what’s to come.
The spa is the only one in the Maldives to use products from Bamford, a British company that’s accredited by the Soil Association, the U.K.’s largest organic and sustainable certification body, and B Corp certified, a global designation for companies that uphold high standards of social and environmental performance. For the most decadent treatment, go for the spa’s exclusive Bamford Signature Journey. The 150-minute, jetlag-busting service takes place in the expansive Chien Kien Suite — the largest of the nine rooms with a sitting area, a space with double treatment beds and a full black terrazzo bathroom with its own sauna and a standalone egg-shaped tub. The therapist slathers you with coconut oil and then loosens your knots with shiatsu and Swedish techniques, followed by a rhythmic massage that takes cues from the waves outside. Your face and scalp also get treated with massages. It ends with a hot bubble bath accompanied by a flute of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries.
This refuge is made for wellness retreats. Come with six to eight people and the spa can arrange for a host of activities. We joined a group sound bath, where an instructor played bowls of varying sizes, and the deep, healing vibrations prompted reactions ranging from dozing off to emotional tears among the participants sprawled comfortably on the floor with memory foam mattresses, pillows, blankets and weighted eye masks.
A group masterclass on gua sha, a form of traditional Chinese medicine, armed us with rounded rose quartz, Bamford Rejuvenating Drops (loaded with retinol and vitamins E and F, it’s good for all skin types) and instructions on how to properly hold the stone and gently scrape the face to depuff and release tension. While “scraping” sounds painful, it’s more akin to a facial massage — it was so soothing, we plan to incorporate it into our regular skin care regimen. (Or if you want a solo wellness getaway, opt for the Essence of Balance package, which comes with the gua sha masterclass, a thorough Bamford Wellness Facial — which incorporates gua sha — the Signature Journey, aerial yoga and more.)
While you can spend all of your time languorously at the beach or pool, the luxury hotel provides many activities to tease you away from the waters. If you want to stay active, try sunrise yoga in Mystique Garden, muay Thai or tennis.
Or head to the ocean for sunset fishing, a cruise or a sandbank excursion. We enjoyed the turtle snorkeling. A boat brought us to a popular site where we found not just turtles, but red-toothed triggerfish with neon-blue U-shaped tails, black-and-white-striped Oriental sweetlips with splashes of yellow and pointy-nosed unicornfish. To learn more about the surrounding nature, partake in the hotel’s Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment program, the first in the Asia-Pacific region. Whichever you choose, make it a priority to get into those alluring waters.
Savor the local culture by taking a cooking class with one of the hotel’s Maldivian chefs at La Locanda restaurant. Don an apron and toque and learn how to make mas huni, a healthy salad-like dish with smoked tuna, grated coconut, onions, curry leaves, chili and lime; kukulhu riha, a flavorful chicken curry; and for dessert, dhonkeyo kaju, banana-coconut fritters.
Take time to venture off the island. The Ritz-Carlton resides among the Fari Islands, a four-island archipelago that’s also home to Five-Star Patina Maldives and Capella (coming in 2025). Ride the short complimentary boat shuttle to Patina’s sandy shores, which contain Fari Marina Village. Open to all Ritz-Carlton and Patina guests, the communal village offers a free-form pool overlooking the ocean that’s lined with cabanas, several shops, a gallery and eight indoor-outdoor dining options, ranging from the pink Tuk Tuk gelato food truck to South American grill Brasa. We recommend the Indian- and Lebanese-inspired street food (and save room for the pistachio cheesecake and pistachio ice cream afterward) at Arabesque’s sunken dining room under a canopy of gold lanterns. Fari Marina Village provides an easy excursion, and you needn’t bring a wallet — you can charge everything to your room.
Before you join in the various activities, drop off your little ones at the Ritz Kids Club. Made for ages four to 12, the club ensures they will have an equally good time with playgrounds, video games, a pool with slides and jets, arts and crafts, cooking classes and more.
The Food and Drinks
Back on The Ritz-Carlton’s own island, choose from five restaurants and bars. In the morning, open-air La Locanada entices with up-close water views and a breakfast buffet (our go-to was the custom dosa station — we packed our Indian lentil-and-rice crepe with potato masala, egg, cheese, coriander and tomato chutney). For lunch and dinner, it shifts to a Southern Italian menu with comforting handmade pasta and local seafood. Don’t miss the mouthwatering truffle-laden risotto, which arrives half covered in a dreamy mascarpone truffle foam.
Enter the moon gate at modern Cantonese restaurant Summer Pavilion for a dinner of dim sum, work-fried rib eye and steamed sea bass with shallot oil while overlooking the waves. Next to the pool, the intimate, alfresco Iwau serves multicourse Japanese menus along with sakes and whiskies. For a more casual toes-in-the-sand experience, head over to Beach Shack for lunch and themed dinners — come for lobster night, when the crustacean pops up in everything from croquettes to Thermidor.
Plan dinner around the nightly sunset ritual at EAU Bar, which fronts the round pool. You will hear the beat of the Maldivian boduberu drum as staff members bring out torches to light up a ring perched at the pool’s edge. While the blue-saturated daytime scenery made the Maldives famous, it’s rivaled by the rich oranges, golds and reds that streak the sky as the sun sinks into the horizon. Sunset is made even better with the picturesque infinity pool, the fiery ring and a Karanfoo, a tropical, spicy libation with coconut and clove liqueur, Plantation 3 Stars rum, falernum, pineapple juice and cinnamon syrup served from a wheel-like vessel with a pineapple round in its spoke. It’s a perfect way to start the evening in the Maldives.