I’ve been to some luxurious resorts in my time, but not many come close to the One&Only Reethi Rah in the Maldives. The ultra-luxury resort opened in May 2005, and it’s been gracing best hotel lists ever since. Located in the North Malé Atoll, the resort is the perfect combination of island life mixed with world-class luxury. It’s also super private which makes it a favourite among A-listers, and is the ideal island for couples and families seeking privacy. They even flew in award-winning actor and celebrity DJ Idris Elba last New Year’s Eve to help ring in 2020!
One&Only Reethi Rah means ‘beautiful island’ in Dhivehi, the Maldivian language. With palm-fringed beaches, tropical jungles and clear aqua lagoons, ‘beautiful’ is almost an understatement. The island is one of the largest private islands in the Maldives and is one of only nine One&Only properties worldwide (five more are due to open soon). If you haven’t experienced the next-level luxury of a One&Only resort, the brand has a cult following and for good reason. Reethi Rah has its own time zone and is one hour ahead of Malé to provide guests with an extra hour of daylight. So as soon as you set foot on the island, you’re on ‘Reethi Rah’ time.
From the moment we met our One&Only representative at Velana International Airport, everything was taken care of, starting with our journey to the island. Whether you’re flying in by seaplane, by speedboat or on-board one of the resort’s luxury yachts, getting to the island is all part of the One&Only experience. We travelled by yacht and during the 45 minute trip from Malé, we were served with cold scented towels, refreshments and snacks. Once we arrived on the island, we were greeted by staff and handed an ice cold welcome drink. We were then whisked away to a buggy that was ready to take us to our room. We drove along the island road, underneath canopies of jungle, glimpsing bright aqua Indian Ocean through the trees, before reaching our incredible beachfront villa.
After that, everything became a real life, island life fairy-tale. Little did I know, our trip to One&Only Reethi Rah, Maldives was about to get even more exciting. It turns out, I wasn’t the only one who noticed that there was something special about this island. Less than 12 hours after arriving, Jason had dropped to one knee and proposed – but more about that later!
With so many 5-star resorts on offer in the Maldives, it can be hard to narrow your choice down to just one. So to help you make the decision, here’s everything there is to know about One&Only and why this island should be at the top of your consideration list.
THE ‘ONE&ONLY REETHI RAH’ ISLAND
Like most high end resorts in the Maldives, One&Only Reethi Rah is set on its own palm-fringed private island. The octopus-shaped island is home to coral atolls, crystal clear lagoons, powdery white sands and the lush jungle foliage. More than 60 per cent of the island is made up of reclaimed land. Acres of land was reclaimed from the shallow lagoon with thousands of tons of sand used to form the island’s 12 hand-carved beaches and dreamy six kilometre long private coastline. This means that the ratio of secluded beaches to guests is just right. It’s also the perfect island to explore by bicycle. One of my favourite things about island life, is the ability to just grab a bike and explore the island.
Designed by Jean-Michel Gathy, one of the most respected luxury hotel architects in the world, the villas are beyond incredible. There are 122 villas on the island that are all discreetly positioned along the sweeping bays of the island. Each villa comes with a personal Concierge and a dedicated Villa Valet, ready to make your island dreams come true. There are huge beachside residences like the exclusive ‘Grand Sunset Residence’which has a private beach, outdoor cinema and two infinity pools on the sand. The property is accessible by a hidden driveway, and has played host to celebrities that include The Beckhams, Tom Cruise and Gordon Ramsay. The Beach Villas all have direct views of the ocean and access to a private beach. The Water Villas are located above the crystal clear waters of the lagoon, and are connected by walkways from secluded points on the island.
We stayed in a Beach Villa with a pool and it was one of the best villas I’ve ever stayed in. As well as a private pool with a carved stone aqua bed, our villa also came with its own strip of private beach, with hammocks strung up between palm trees and comfy daybeds. Inside, the villa was huge – even by ultra-luxe Maldivian resort standards. High bamboo-clad ceilings give the villa a sense of loftiness, and the crispy white ben linen mixed with earthy toned pillows in rust and ochre had my Instagram photoshoot sensors tingling. The bathroom has his and hers vanities, a huge sunken stone tub under a window with ocean views, indoor and outdoor rainwater showers and the dressing table of my dreams. Custom built for Reethi Rah, the dressing table comes with an illuminated magnifying mirror, in-built fairy lights, and a next-level mini beauty fridge to keep your cosmetics from melting. In our villa we also had a yoga mat to use, a beach bag to keep and a mobile phone for making restaurant and spa bookings or for calling our villa concierge. As well as two matching white One&Only bicycles for cruising around the island.
THE BARS AND RESTAURANTS
We’d heard that One&Only Reethi Rah was THE island of choice for foodies, so our expectations were high. But we were blown away at just how incredible the food was, every meal was faultless and made using only the most high-quality ingredients. There are seven diverse restaurants on the islands, serving natural, sustainably sourced cuisine.
- Tapasake– a Japanese fusion restaurant positioned on the ocean’s edge where outdoor Teppanyaki pavilions come with their own private chef for the ultimate live cooking experience.
- Reethi – by day it serves up one of the most epic breakfasts you’ll ever have – there’s a gourmet buffet, plus you can order as much as you like of the extensive a la carte menu. By night, the restaurant offers three distinct dining experiences: Earth (French cuisine); Fire (pan-Asian dishes); and Aqua (Italian cuisine).
- Fanditha – an exotic beach restaurant and bar, with carpets in the sand specialising in Middle Eastern food.
- Botanica by Brent Savage – a restaurant in partnership with Australian chef Brent Savage from The Bentley Group. Set in a hidden garden lit by flickering candle light, Botanica serves natural ‘garden-to-table’ cuisine.
- Rabarbaro– overlooking the iconic infinity pool, Rabarbaro serves casual, freshly prepared Italian fare.
- Rah Bar– by day it offers a menu of healthy salads, wraps and snacks, and night it transforms into a chic cocktail bar.
- The Beach Club at ClubOne– feast on salads, seafood and grills with your feet in the sand with incredible views across the turquoise lagoon.
We were only on the island for two days, but during that time we feasted on local lobster and fresh jumbo prawns at The Beach Club. The lobster was so good, we ordered it again the next day at Rabarbaro, along with an incredible Wagyu steak. Reethi for breakfast blew my mind – we hit up the buffet and also ordered the traditional Maldivian and Japanese breakfasts off the al la carte menu. But the culinary highlight (and life moment highlight) came at Tapasake, a Japanese fusion restaurant where we had a romantic dinner we’ll never forget – which brings me to the proposal…
We’d spent the afternoon at our villa, swimming in the ocean off our private beach and watching the sunset. It truly is the most romantic island, but little did I know it was about to get even more romantic. All I knew was that a buggy was coming to collect us to take us to our 8:30pm dinner booking at Tapasake. Our visit to the island was a work trip for my brand This Island Life, so all our dining experiences had been organised by the resort. Jason hadn’t told them anything about his plans, because he didn’t really have a plan. He’d been carrying the ring around for a while. He had it with him on our Hong Kong trip, but it didn’t feel right. He’d brought it on our Maldives trip, hidden in his camera bag, not having any set plans or ideas. But that all changed when we walked into Tapasake.
Walking to our table was like something out of a James Bond film – there were wild sharks feeding next to the walkway out to the Japanese garden where our table was waiting. ‘Table’ was an understatement. We had our very own Teppanyaki situation with a sunken semi-circular dining table surrounding a grill with our own private chef, located in the most idyllic Japanese garden with views of the Indian Ocean.
We were booked in to have Tepasake’s signature teppanyaki menu, which is a five course degustation that included:
FIRST COURSE: AVANT-GARDE NIGIRI
Negi-toro, unagi & foie gras, wagyu beef with truffle teriyaki sauce.
SECOND COURSE: FOIE GRAS & SCALLOP
Seared scallop & foie gras, vanilla den miso.
THIRD COURSE: ALASKAN KING CRAB LEG
Baked in salt.
FOURTH COURSE: JAPANESE SAGA BEEF
Champagne & cognac flambe truffled teriyaki served with fried rice.
FIFTH COURSE: ‘WOW’ DESSERT PLATTER
Chocolate fingers, mocha ice cream, seasonal fruits, yuzu cheesecake.
With such an incredible selection of dishes on offer, we ordered a bottle of Louis Roederer Champagne to accompany our meal. Jason was studying the Champagne menu particularly hard, but I didn’t think too much of it.
Every single thing on the menu was absolutely exquisite. We’ve been treated to some incredible meals on my press trips, but this was hands down the best of the best. Not only was the food faultless, the garden setting with ocean views, the reef sharks, and the live cooking experience made the dinner unforgettable even taking the proposal out of the equation!
The marbled Japanese Saga Beef was the most incredible thing I’ve ever tasted. It’s hard to put into words just how crazy good it was. Jason is a foodie and I swear when he was eating that steak, it’s the happiest I’ve ever seen him. He was literally speechless and halfway through the dish he excused himself to use the bathroom. When he came back, he dropped to one knee, opened a ring box with the diamond ring of my dreams, and asked me to marry him! I said ‘YES!’ immediately, and then the rest of the dinner was a bit of a love-bubble blur! I keep joking now that the Saga Beef tipped him over the edge – it sealed the proposal deal because he knew it couldn’t get any better!
Our chef then free-handed a super sweet ‘congratulations’ message at unbelievable speed on the grill. I looked away for a second and an entire message had been written out in salt or sugar, and a special cake appeared in front of us. We took a few quick photos on our phone (so please excuse a few iPhone shots below), but out of nowhere a huge tropical storm hit! We were moved to one of the alfresco pavilions on the balcony for dessert just as the heavy rain hit, and their signature glow-in-the-dark ‘WOW’ dessert platter arrived. But before we could take a single bite, the rain turned torrential and the pavilion started flooding around our table. The staff ran back in and said they would need to move us again, this time into the main restaurant. But to get there we had to walk back across the walkway with sharks below. Jason and I had two waiters each, one either side of us with huge golf umbrellas shielding us from the rain that was coming in from both directions. It would have been no more than five meters, but we were so saturated, it was like we’d jumped into a pool in all our clothes. The whole thing was hilarious, until we were given the tragic news – our ‘WOW’ dessert didn’t survived. In our waiter’s words, “it went into the wind”. Our dining experience at Tapasake will forever be the most fun and memorable meal of our lives!
The morning after the proposal, we floated into the island’s world-class ESPA spa where treatments range from facials and massages, to five-day wellness programmes. We were continuing the romance with a 60-minute couples massage. What I loved about this massage is that while we were having our feet soaked and massages, we were asked to choose a crystal to keep on us throughout the massage. I’m a big believer in crystal therapy, so I loved this touch. We then enjoyed a personalised full-body aromatherapy massage and a warm rose quartz crystal scalp massage. It was absolute bliss, and my only complaint was that 60-minutes wasn’t long enough. But if I’m honest, I think even if this was a two-hour treatment, I’d still want it to be longer – it was that good!
This island is so extra that Christian Louboutin designed a collection of limited edition espadrilles exclusively for One&Only Reethi Rah. After my proposal story, this was the second thing I told my friends about when they asked what Reethi Rah was like. When one of the most famous designers in the world, designs a collection specifically for a tropical island, you quickly realise the level of luxury and exclusivity you’re dealing with. The designer visited Reethi Rah to capture the exotic beauty of the island, and interpret it into three different espadrille designs. The boutiques stock an incredible range of designer resort wear and accessories. For the ladies there’s Camilla, Zimmermann, Missoni, Melissa Odabash, Mary Katrantzou, Stella McCartney, Matthew Williamson and more. And for the gents, there’s Sundek, FMR, Swims, Daytona, Ocean Tec, Frescobol, Hartford, RayBan, Orlebar Brown, Danward and Kestin Hare.
There aren’t many remote tropical islands that I’d trust to cut and colour my hair, but guests can rest assured at One&Only Reethi Rah knowing their manes are in good hands. Well-known London salon Taylor Taylor have a salon on the island, so you can pop in for a blow dry before dinner, or touch up your balayage to come back from vacay with the ultimate sun-kissed locks. For the guys, there’s Barber&Blade offering a curated menu of grooming options. And there’s even a nail salon by world-renowned beauty master, Bastien Gonzalez.
One of the things I look for when deciding on where to stay, is how eco-friendly a resort is. The surrounding coral reefs of the Indian Ocean which are part of the 8th largest coral reef system in the world, and there are several endangered marine species that live there. To preserve their incredible environment, One&Only Reethi Rah have minimised their environmental footprint by implementing sustainable initiatives and action plans to reduce the use of energy and water as well as effectively managing waste. They have set up in-house solar power, composting and recycling, and are committed to achieving best practices of environmental and social sustainability. To help them do this, they have partnered with EarthCheck in 2018, the World’s leading scientific bench marking, certification and advisory group for sustainable travel and tourism.
HOW TO GET TO ONE&ONLY REETHI RAH, MALDIVES:
The journey from Velana International Airport to One&Only Reethi Rah is all part of the experience. You can choose a shared yacht service or the ultimate arrival by private seaplane.
- Private or shared seaplane
Duration: 15-20 minutes
- Private or Shared Luxury Yacht Transfer
Duration: 45-50 minutes
- Private or Shared Speedboat Transfer
Duration: 45-50 minutes
More details here.