When I first sat down with my fiance to map out our honeymoon plans, there was one location that she just couldn't let go of: The Maldives.
"Oh sh*t," I thought. Not because I didn't want to go, but all I'd ever heard apart from it being pure paradise, was that it was extremely expensive. Could it really be worth it?
A twist of the arm, a couple of Google image searches and several credit card applications later (jokes) — flights to the Maldives were booked. Growing up on Australia's incredible beaches and enjoying all the fruits of Europe and Asia over the years, I wondered how good could it really be? Was the hype and price tag really worth it?
A few months later, I'd get to see what all the fuss was about as we touched down in Male. Another flight and boat trip followed, before we checked-in shortly after midnight to the Conrad Hotel on Rangali Island. Here we were taken to our beach front villa, a place I can only describe as the most luxurious beach hut I'd ever seen.
Morning came and a few steps out of bed later, I was on the beach. Literally, in less than 10 steps my feet could feel the fine, white Maldivian sand between my toes. In front of me was the crown jewel, the aqua blue waters of the Maldives. Before arriving I'd asked myself if it could really be that blue? Or was it just an over-hyped mirage built off Instagram's many filters? It wasn't.
I'd never seen water like it. It was the most perfect pool of aqua blue I'd ever laid eyes on. Fish wove in and around my feet, while baby sharks cruised on by.
This couldn't be real, could it? It felt like a total dream sequence. A very good one, and it didn't take long before I started to think this place could actually live up to its lofty reputation.
Not many things beat the beach, but food is one of those things. And the only thing better than being on a tropical island, is being on a tropical island with five-star food.
Our first meal is at the Mandhoo Restaurant, and it's pretty much exactly what you'd imagine when thinking about a perfect island setting. A stunning wooden hut stands out over the crystal blue water as you eat your meal watching the fish swim by. It doesn't really get any better.
Weather is the one thing you can't control and unfortunately when it rains in paradise, it pours. It rained for days. We're told this is 'incredibly rare', which is really, just my luck.
The tail of a cyclone hitting Sri Lanka whipped through the islands with winds so strong you could barely walk against them and rain so heavy you were soaked in seconds. Fortunately on Rangali Island, there's a whole world beyond the beach.
There's an endless choice of amazing restaurants and bars, all serving incredible food and cocktails, which is clearly the best activity in any wet weather.
The Conrad offers a whole line of restaurants, from seafood to Chinese and even the world famous Ithaa Restaurant — famous for being the world's first underwater restaurant.
Sipping champagne while fish swim all around you is just one of those "Maldives moments", you can't quite believe you're doing it, but you are.
Our wet weather food and wine tour led us directly to The Cheese & Wine Bar, which was as you'd imagine, no ordinary cheese and wine bar. Here, walls of the world's finest wine surround you as you walk on black volcanic sand imported from New Zealand. Why? Because, Maldives.
There's a whole range of activities on the islands from snorkelling to cruises and even cooking classes. Unfortunately due to poor weather, water activities were out, but the food and incredible service made up for any disappointment.
It's the beauty of staying at such a well set up resort; when the Gods don't shine on you, there's still plenty to do. This advice comes from someone who's been stuck on a deserted tropical island in torrential rain before.
Fortunately, the rain cleared just in time for us to see the Maldives in all its glory, and it really is something to behold.
There are a few places I've been fortunate enough to see that can literally take your breath away and this is one of them. There's blue water and then there's the Maldives, it truly is in a category of its own.
Sitting on the back deck of our overwater bungalow, looking out over the water is another "pinch me" moment. The design and fit out of the overwater bungalows is a serious architectural feat. They've got everything you could ever need, from coffee machines to TV's, spa baths and even electric blinds. It's hard to believe you can kick back watching Netflix here, let alone get hot running water.
The secret of the Maldives is most definitely out, with Australians flocking to the region in their thousands every year. It's become one of the most popular honeymoon destinations and after seeing it, it's not hard to see why.
It's also no secret that it comes at great cost, which isn't surprising given that celebrities such as Sir Paul McCartney and Kris Jenner have stayed here. Villas here can go for upwards of A$10,000 ($11,000) a night. Yep, you read that right. But there are far more modest options, with beach villas starting closer to A$1000 per night.
No matter, which way you do it, it's still going to put a fair dent in the piggy bank. So is it worth it? It was the big question I started my trip with, and it didn't take very long to answer. Yes. The Maldives is luxury beach paradise at its finest, and if you can ever put away enough pineapples to get you there, do it. Forget Disneyland, this is the happiest place on Earth.
You can score flights to the Maldives with a host of airlines including Scoot, Air Asia and Singapore, starting from under A$1000 return. So what are you waiting for?