Kim and I went back on forth while planning our trip to the Maldives on whether we'd visit the Conrad or the Park Hyatt. On one hand, Conrad boasted lots of activities including whale shark snorkeling, underwater dining, and jet-packing. Yet on the other hand, the general consensus was that Hyatt was more exclusive and offered much better diving and snorkeling. We decided to do both so we could see them side-by-side.
-The Big One! Introduction/Giveaway
-Day One: Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport Review
-Day Two: United First Class B737-800 SFO-IAD summary
-Days Three through Six: D.C Area recommendations: Smithsonian, National Harbor, Baltimore Aquarium
-Day Seven: Lufthansa Business Class Lounge IAD summary, Lufthansa First Class A330-300 IAD-MUC Summary
-Day Eight Part 1: Six hours in downtown Munich, Lufthansa First Class Lounge Munich Summary
-Day Eight Part 2: Lufthansa First Class A330-300 MUC-DXB Summary
-Day Nine Part 1: Dubai Exotic Limo brief review part 1 & Abu Dhabi recommendations: Ferrari World, the Grand Mosque
-Day Nine Part 2: Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Review
-Days Ten through Twelve Part 1: Park Hyatt Dubai Review
-Days Ten through Twelve Part 2: Dubai Exotic Limo brief review part 2 & Dubai recommendations: Burj Khalifa Sky
-Days Ten through Twelve Part 3: Dubai Recommendations: Tea at the Ritz Carlton Jumeirah Beach, Atlantis Monorail, Dubai Mall
-Days Ten through Twelve Part 4: Dubai recommendations: Platinum-Heritage Falconry Heritage Tour. The Dubai Museum
-Day Thirteen: Emirates 777-300 DXB-MLE summary, Moonima Lounge MLE summary, Park Hyatt Maldives transfer summary
-Days Thirteen through Sixteen Part 1: Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa Review
-Days Thirteen through Sixteen Part 2: What to do at the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa
-Day Seventeen: Maldivian Dash-8/Boat Transfer Park Hyatt-MLE summary, Conrad Rangali MLE Lounge summary, Trans-Maldivian Twin Otter transfer MLE-Conrad Rangali Island
-Days Seventeen through Twenty-One Part 1: Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Review
-Days Seventeen through Twenty-One Part 2: What to do at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Resort
-Day Twenty-Two Part 1: Trans-Maldivian Twin Otter Conrad Rangali Island-MLE summary, Conrad Lounge MLE summary, Leeli Lounge MLE summary
-Day Twenty-Two Part 2: Turkish Airlines Business Class A330-300 MLE-IST summary.
-Day Twenty-Three Part 1: Turkish Airlines IST Lounge Summary, six hours in Istanbul
-Day Twenty-Three Part 2: Turkish Airlines Business Class B777-300 IST-SFO summary
-Day Twenty-Four: Hyatt Regency San Francisco Embarcadero Review
-Trip Summary/The Numbers
-The BIG Question: Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa or Conrad Maldives Rangali?
So how did it all stack up?
A calm evening at the Park Hyatt and a beautiful day at the Conrad Rangali
Both transfers were similar in cost at around ~500 per person. The Conrad charged me for overweight luggage on the inbound, but not on the outbound. The Hyatt did not charge me.
The Hyatt required a one hour plane ride and another 30-40 minute boat transfer, such is the cost of their exclusivity though. Getting to the Conrad required a short, but a bit hot, 30-minute seaplane ride.
Conrad's private lounge was spacious, comfortable and cool. The food selection was comparable to that at the Hyatt's shared Moonima Lounge. The Hyatt lounge was overcrowded and underserved. It was also very stuffy, depending on where you sat. There is no contest here.
Between the two, the only real service difference during the transfer process was the availability of a free massage at the Conrad lounge, but that falls more under the "lounge" category.
Category Winner: Conrad
Depending on time of day, your check-in experience may vary. Our personal hosts at both resorts were very cordial, yet we had a bit of a wait at the Conrad to get through the check-in process.
Category Winner: Hyatt
Copious space featured at the Park Hyatt Beach and Pool villas VS closer quarters at the Conrad Rangali
The Conrad beach villas sell for noticeably cheaper than their Hyatt counterparts, but our base rooms at both resorts were purchased with points and free night certificates, so we essentially paid the same to get two different things. Not factoring our pool upgrade at the Hyatt, I can clearly vouch for the Hyatt in this regard. Your points/certificates are going much further at the Park Hyatt, netting you a room separated from all others, while at the Conrad you may end up with neighbors sharing a wall on either side of your room. Since visiting, all the Conrad Beach Villas have been remodeled, and I'll grant they are a vast improvement from what we stayed in (we had a chance to preview the upcoming remodel on our stay). But they still share close quarters on the beach and don't have quite as spacious a feel as at Hyatt. Other beach villa amenities at both resorts are comparable, with an outdoor tub and shower at both. The Conrad has quite a bit more room surrounding their outdoor shower and tub.
We stayed in a Park Sunset Water Villa at the Hyatt and a Deluxe Water Villa at the Conrad. I felt no advantage in having a Park Sunset Water Villa over a Park Water Villa at the Hyatt, and it's more appropriate to compare the lower end anyways, given the price similarities. For around the same upgrade price from a Beach Villa you can move to a Park Water Villa at the Hyatt or a Deluxe Water Villa at the Conrad.
So which was better? The Park Hyatt Water Villa definitely felt more spacious inside, with a vast bedroom and a good sized bathroom, and two separate airy rooms for the shower and the toilet. The Conrad room was more elegant and modern, with ambient lighting around the bed and hardwood throughout. A Jacuzzi on the outside balcony was very much appreciated but little used.
The other major difference was the water around the villa. While the edge of the Park Hyatt's house reef was just 50 or so feet from the room, the Deluxe Water Villas at the Conrad are nowhere near the Conrad's reef, which is on the other side of the adjacent island. The terrain around the Deluxe Water Villas is shallow water and sand, hardly justifiable to snorkel in (it's also advised not to snorkel around the Deluxe Water Villas, as the current is strong in that area).
Lastly, the room temperature. I've heard plenty of complaints about the water villas at the Hyatt being too warm for comfort. Kim and I did notice it was a bit warm, but we were happy enough, and at night the temperature was perfectly comfortable. The Deluxe Water Villa at the Conrad easily cooled down, much moreso than the Hyatt.
It's a tough judgement call, but I feel the main highlight of any water villa is the snorkeling off the room.
Category Winner: Hyatt
Both resorts were as expensive as you'd expect for secluded islands in the middle of an ocean. While we felt the general cost was cheaper at the Hyatt, our bills stacked up high at both resorts. I did think that $400+ for lunch at the Ithaa Underwater restaurant was excessive given the menu and the service, and that I got a lot more value from our similarly priced private beach dinner at the Park Hyatt. (Then again, the Conrad also offers a private beach dinner at a competitive price). Comparable menu items are listed as more expensive at the Hyatt, but don't necessarily take into consideration quality or quantity. Though it would make more sense for food to be more expensive at the Hyatt, given the resorts distance from Male.
We tried a variety of options at both resorts, and felt all of our food was terrific.
Hyatt had a breakfast zone, a grill, and a bar, along with in-room dining. The Conrad featured multiple dining options on both of its islands including Atoll Market, Vilu, Mandhoo, Ithaa, Sunset Grill and Rangali Bar among others. On top of this -despite a reasonable buffet at the Hyatt- the breakfast buffet at the Atoll Market at Conrad was extensive beyond belief.
Category Winner: Conrad
The activities at both the Hyatt and the Conrad were appropriately priced, which is to say they were crazy expensive. We lucked out at both resorts with an underpriced private trip to the equator at the Hyatt and a group-unexpectedly-turned-private yacht sunset cruise at the Conrad.
The only option Hyatt offers that the Conrad does not is a trip to cross the equator. On top of everything else that Hyatt has to offer, the Conrad features Whale Shark Snorkeling and Jet-Packing, among other things. The expanse of the Conrad was also conducive to local-based kayaking/paddle-boats and even jet-skiing. The coral surrounding the Park Hyatt made such activities unfeasible, though they do offer both motorized and non-motorized watersports at the nearby Mutteyfushi island. (20 Minutes by boat from the Park Hyatt)
Category Winner: Conrad
This may boil down to personal preference, but KimPro and I both loved the calm, relaxing setting of the Park Hyatt. Rarely other souls in sight, pristine beaches and soft sand flowing across the island, the ambience of the Hyatt could melt the heart. The Conrad was always a bit busier, even if ultimately still relaxed. You could avoid most of the bustle of the bigger island by sticking to the quiet zone at Rangali (smaller island), but the presence of others was never fully out of our peripheral. Further, in many spots at the Conrad we found the sand to be rather coarse, while the Hyatt stayed consistent throughout.
Category Winner: Hyatt
This category needs to be addressed in the comparison given that one of the Maldives biggest draws is the beautiful Indian Ocean that surrounds it.
Rich Reef could be found surrounding the entire island at the Park Hyatt
Snorkeling: I've already gone over snorkeling off the rooms, but the house reef itself is a different story. My limited opportunities to explore the water led me to find little sea-life of interest at the Hyatt, but the reef itself was much more vibrant and alive than at the Conrad. At the Conrad we saw a fair amount of creatures while snorkeling, including some spotted eagle rays. Based on my experience alone I might give this one to the Conrad, but my expert-diver fiancée knows more about reef than I do, and she is adamant that the Hyatt was the place to be.
I did not participate in any diving on our trip. KimPro says:
The Dive Company
Both companies left on time, set up and cleaned up the gear.
Boat and Boat Captain
The boat captain from the Hyatt spoke little english, however he learned that I used to go fishing with my dad, so he had a boat-hand set me up to fish Maldivian style. He suggested that I take the tiller so that they could snap some photos. Overall the Captain was incredibly friendly.
The boat captain at the Conrad seemed annoyed that our group was small and didn't offer much personality.
The boats themselves were well maintained at both resorts.
While both dive masters were very knowledgeable regarding the surrounding reef and dive sights, the Conrad dive master was much more friendly and willing to have an earnest conversation.
The Hyatt offers a variety of dive sites with healthy reefs and many hard corals, but at the same time the more coral there is, the more hiding places there are for the fish in the reef.
The Conrad surrounding reefs held more soft coral including very large leathers, with fewer hard corals and more fish out and about. Even my dive-master thought the plethora of fish on the first couple of dives was abnormal for the location.
Category Winner: Tie
Our trip was exactly what I had hoped for: a mix of romantic ambience, enjoyable activities, excellent food and beautiful scenery all around. As you can see from the above, these two resorts are pretty evenly matched, and I wish I could say definitively you should choose one over the other. As far as diving and snorkeling, if you want to see a healthier reef and ecosystem, the Hyatt is the place to be. But if you want to see more fish and marine life, you should check out the Conrad.
I would be more likely to recommend the Hyatt to a couple on their honeymoon who wanted a stress-free romantic getaway and I would push a family or a couple that wanted to try a variety of activities in a tropical paradise towards the Conrad. But at the end of the day I recommend you try them both!