10 Photos: Ithaa Undersea Restaurant in the Maldives
Perhaps the Maldives' best-known attraction, Ithaa restaurant is located at the Conrad Rangali Island. TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig had a chance to dine there last week.
From overwater villas and five-star facilities to incredibly friendly staff and jaw-dropping natural beauty, there's a lot to love about the Maldives. It's a long trip from the US — my girlfriend and I took a very indirect route, flying United to Sydney to catch Etihad's A380 Apartment to Abu Dhabi, but you can expect to spend at least 24 hours in transit, including the seaplane transfer from Male. Once you arrive, however, your travel woes are very quickly forgotten.
That is until the sticker shock sets in: Everything except the fish is imported, and that means sky-high prices for food and drink. You can categorize restaurants in the Maldives as either expensive or outrageously expensive, and Ithaa definitely falls within the latter. The restaurant is located at the Conrad Rangali Island, which TPG reviewed in 2013, and because of the requisite seaplane transfers, it's very difficult to visit Ithaa unless you're staying at the hotel.
Here's what you can expect once you arrive:
There isn't much to see from above. You access the restaurant through this small hut, which also contains a restroom (shared with another restaurant) and a small food prep area.
Scuba divers clean the outside of the restaurant just before each meal. Debris accumulates quickly, so be sure to take your pictures as soon as you arrive.
Dinner costs $390 (including tax and service) before factoring in drinks — arrive early (or at least on time) to make the most of your time undersea.
You don't have to pay to enjoy the view from above. Frequent feedings attract a variety of sea life, including colorful fish, sharks and even massive stingrays.
A bottle of wine will run you the same price as elsewhere at the resort, but the bottles on Ithaa's menu run well into the thousands of dollars. We settled on the same bottle we had with our cheese fondue the night before — a Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc that costs about $25 (retail) in the US, but ran us a whopping $146 (including taxes and service) at the resort.
You'll likely have a few encounters with this friendly guy. Stingrays move quickly, so be sure to have your camera ready at all times!
For many guests, food is an afterthought at Ithaa, but at $390 for dinner (or $238 for lunch, pictured above), the restaurant takes each course seriously. Because the hut above Ithaa is so small, hot items are cooked at another restaurant just a few feet away.
The meal begins with a complete caviar service. My girlfriend is a vegetarian (veggie meals cost $305 at dinner), but we still received a full tin.
The bright lights inside and around the restaurant creating an unusual undersea glow at night.
Dinner begins at 6:30pm on most nights, but it's at 8:30pm on Wednesday and Sunday. You'll see far more fish during daylight, so you'll want to opt for the earlier seating, if possible.
If you're looking to travel to the Maldives, I recommend flying The Apartment from New York for 90,000 AAdvantage miles after Etihad launches A380 service there in January. You can also redeem AA miles to fly British Airways (seasonal), Cathay Pacific or Qatar, Delta miles to fly Korean Air, United miles to fly Austrian (seasonal), Lufthansa (beginning in December), Singapore, Swiss (seasonal) or Turkish, or Alaska miles to fly Cathay Pacific or Emirates.