One and Only Reethi Rah aerial shot over pool

One&Only Reethi Rah
The Maldives


Developed exclusively for ultra-luxury travellers, the One&Only Reethi Rah – an all-villa, all-lavish bastion of Indian Ocean opulence – has a reputation for hospitality excellence and is infamous among the jet-set as the place to be seen in one of the most beautiful locations in the paradisiacal archipelago nation of the Maldives. But in an ever-competitive landscape of idyllic resorts, does it continue to be the top dog?

A sleek, cream-hued speedboat like something from a James Bond movie – the floating equivalent of a private jet – backed up to the pier outside Male Velana International Airport, to the oohs and aahs of the throngs of arriving and departing visitors on their way to their own various island or atoll outposts. Three immaculately dressed butlers stepped off, their neatly pressed uniforms bearing the recognisable One&Only brand monogram. They stood in a line and scanned the crowd, recognising us immediately and addressing us enthusiastically as partners without any prompting. It was a welcomed greeting for a same-gender couple visiting this bucket-list country, where homosexuality is still illegal by law; and it is a testament to the level of personalisation that One&Only as a hospitality super-brand applies to every single one of their guests. Flashback to a few weeks before we departed… an extensive pre-arrival questionnaire was sent out for us to complete. Scans of our passports were sent in advance. Our preferences, needs and wants were logged. The Reethi Rah team wanted to ensure that from the moment we touched down on Maldivian soil, our holiday had begun.

On the yacht journey to the One & Only Reethi Rath, the pampering started immediately. A jasmine-scented cold towel, fresh coconut juice, a glass of champagne, as well as a selection of snacks were brought to us as we relaxed in our large, leather armchairs. Our butler – who would be looking after us for the entire duration of our stay – introduced himself and provided us with an overview of what was to come. Our excitement grew with every nautical mile we drew closer to the resort.

We pulled into a beautiful bay. Everywhere we looked were palm trees swaying gently in the breeze. Little white sand beaches melded into the quintessentially turquoise Indian Ocean. And on the jetty awaiting our arrival were more, smiling resort team members, waving from afar, ready to greet us with a special gesture of putting their hand on their heart, a lovely touch that we later found that all members of staff at Reethi Rath are trained to do whenever they interact with guests.

Our own personal golf buggy (which throughout our stay would just magically appear wherever we went, even if on foot; and would be automatically turned to face outwards ready to be driven straight out again wherever we took it) indicated that we had been upgraded to one of the best villas on the resort. We drove for what seemed like forever to get to our secluded base camp at the far west end of the island.

The property is an all-villa resort, 128 of them in fact, with 58 boasting their own pools and a very special 32 over-water. The smallest space? 135sqm / 1,450sqft! Our ‘Grand Water Villa with Pool’, was exactly as it said on the tin: an overwater residence of epic proportions, a three-section space that totals 291 sqm / 3,132 sqft, with uninterrupted, azure horizon views over the ocean. On its wraparound terrace, there’s a 20m / 65ft long, private, infinity lap pool, with a separate hot tub, hammock and cabana. Steps lead directly into the ocean, to our delight, sea swimming being such a novelty for us.

Indoors, the grandeur continued. The architecture and interior design reminded us of the opulent teak houses in Bali or Thailand, albeit with much more imposing proportions. Building materials were wholly natural: wood and thatch featured heavily. But kudos to the architects, who have made every effort (and succeeded) to frame the perpetually perfect view of the Indian Ocean.

The décor and design may be a little old-school for those with more contemporary tastes, but given the property’s age and the desired ambience, that’s inevitable. There is a timeless elegance to this approach to this sort of design of course, but even we’d have to concede that some of it felt a little dated and could do with a refresh.

The architectural opulence came paired with equally lavish amenities, fresh daily treats, thoughtful, beautifully packaged gifts and souvenirs and a complimentary (and almost magically bottomless) minibar. Each time we returned to the villa, there was something new waiting for us. But what stood out the most? ‘His and his’ amenities in the bathroom on our arrival… something that in our experience of luxury travel, still doesn’t happen in most of the properties we stay in. The Reethi Rah had gone the distance when it came to guest personalisation.

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While you’re Out There
Unlike other resorts, which consider amphibious aircraft as just a method of transferring to and from the airport, the One&Only Reethi Rah presents a unique take on the Maldivian barefoot pilot flown seaplanes with an experience where guests can take to the skies on a birdseye tour of the endless islands and atolls that make up this stunning archipelago. That’s of course if you’re at all tempted to leave your villa!

But as most guests spend their time in their own spaces, there was a quiet, discrete air about this 44-hectare island. At times we felt that we had it all to ourselves and even when we didn’t, we could buggy off to a place – often one of twelve white-sand beaches –where we were alone, which just upped the romance stakes.

When we had enough of each other, we headed to the Beach Club, the beating heart of the resort. This little village has a complimentary ice cream shop, water sports centre and all manner of recreational facilities and games. Lined in front of a perfect swathe of beach are sunloungers where resort residents come to see and be seen in their swimwear. Those in the know will be sporting Missoni: the One & Only Reethi Rah often collaborates with fashion brands. At the time of our visit, their choice of partner was the Italian fashion house, whose iconic zigzag pattern was emblazoned across the parasols, loungers and cabanas, not to mention at the DJ booth and pop-up boutique. Our butler told us that the pattern also decorated various furnishings and fabrics in the One&Only Reethi Rah Treehouse and select residences, as well as some paddleboards and bicycles.

As we don’t really enjoy showing off, we preferred the sun loungers at the Reethi restaurant beach. But they are first-come-first-served… and on the two days we went looking, it seemed a number of like-minded guests had beaten us to them.

There were various other great collaborations, too. We relaxed in the resort wellness centre (another standalone, small village) to a number of soul awakening therapies, like Nature’s Resonance, a programme developed exclusively for One&Only Resorts by ESPA, designed to reinvigorate our senses through eco-therapy and vibrational energy. Our immersive treatment drew from the benefits of binaural beats, the Solfeggio scale and the rhythms of nature, apparently harnessing the positive energy of our planet’s natural resonance and vibrations. We found this transformation spa concept to be something rather unique, our 90-minute experience directly reforesting five trees, a product of ESPA’s partnership with eco-tech platform more:trees. After we were done, we headed to the ‘village’ barber, for a little snip and shave, thanks to a partnership with London grooming brand, Gentleman’s Tonic.

The choice of food and beverage at Reethi Rah was no less extravagant. Whether it be a cocktail while watching the sunset at the Moroccan-themed Fanditha, or – our favourite – the Tapasake Japanese restaurant, set in a magically intimate overwater ‘chashitsu’ (tea-house). Here, reef sharks basked in the water nightly – as if putting on their own geisha show – while we enjoyed authentic omakase cuisine. We were told that there was soon to be an evolution of the space and that as that happened, Hoshi, another Japanese dining concept founded in Reethi Rah’s Malaysian counterpart, One&Only Desaru, will take pride of place in Reethi, the main, multi-cuisine conceptual dining space. We do hope they bring back Tapasake in time, as our meal there was particularly memorable.

We also enjoyed Botanica, an outdoor herb and vegetable garden restaurant under the stars, which at the time of our visit was helmed by plant-based guest chef Matthew Kenney. There we found out that while Botanica will eventually shift back to being a farm-to-fork restaurant that serves meat, Reethi Rah will continue to collaborate with Matthew to curate vegan options across the resort’s restaurants.

Breakfast each morning was like travelling to multiple destinations as an elaborate, world buffet is offered. Many guests will want breakfast cooked and delivered to their villa, but we just adored coming to browse what was on offer each day.

There is a good reason why the One&Only Reethi Rah is known to be among the Maldives’ best – if not the best – luxury resort. What is on offer here is sharp, generous and ultimately swanky. This spirit of abundance and generosity, as well as the resort’s dedication to truly understanding who it is that arrives at their pier, is what makes Reethi Rah very special. That, to us, is timeless. You can build fashionable, contemporary competitors, a dime a dozen, but it’s all pointless if you can’t get this very essence of luxury right. In our experience, there are a lot of properties in the Maldives where you just feel ‘nickel and dimed’ and every little added luxury comes at an extra cost. Here, true to the very philosophy of One&Only, they are unfaltering when it comes to delivering pure, unadulterated, personalised luxury. And that is what makes them top-dog.

Photography courtesy of One&Only Resorts

At OutThere, we believe in boundless travel. But we understand that some destinations can pose challenges to travellers that complicate visiting them. We advise all visitors to inform themselves about local legislation and customs, and to work with a trusted travel provider in order to ensure a safe and pleasant holiday.

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