A 30-minute flight and boat transfer is required to reach the resort
A la carte restaurants can fill up quickly without early reservations
Buffet food is just average
Some dishes and cocktails aren’t all-inclusive
Dirty grout in some guest bathrooms
Built in 2009, this 112-room luxury resort is an exceptional
value for the Maldives. Room rates are competitive compared to other high-end properties,
and few offer the all-inclusive perks of Centara. Alcoholic drinks, a la
carte meals, daily 30-minute massages, water sports rentals, supervised kids' activities, Wi-Fi, and excursions are covered in the all-inclusive rates, making this resort stand out from the crowd. The
resort’s biggest drawback is its out-of-the-way location, at least 30 minutes
from Male Airport by plane. The slightly less luxurious sister property Centara Ras Fushi is adult-only and offers a range of meal plans, for couples hoping to spend a bit less.
After a scenic flight and speedboat ride, guests are
welcomed to Centara Grand Island with check-in paperwork and glasses of
champagne. The resort is roughly half a kilometer long, and guests can walk around
the island using shady, palm tree-lined pathways. Nearly half of the resort is built
over the lagoon on stilts, including the fitness center, lobby, lobby bar, an
Italian restaurant, and most of the rooms.
Heavily renovated in 2014, Centara mixes colorful, modern
decor and traditional Maldivian resort elements, like high ceilings and
thatched palm roofs. With the exception of some dingy shower grout and a
weathered-looking tennis court, the resort feels fresh and contemporary.
A Thai company owns Centara, and the vast majority of guests
are from China and other parts of East Asia (so much so that the signage is
subtitled in Mandarin). Most people spend their time snorkeling, taking
advantage of their free daily massages, going on diving or boating excursions,
or relaxing on the white-sand beaches or poolside. The island was relatively quiet
during our November visit, with plenty of empty recliners up for grabs. In the
evening we saw a musical trio meandering through one of the bars, serenading
guests. Those who want an extra level of privacy can buy their way into a club
area, which has its own pool, restaurant, beach, and better all-inclusive
Fun fact: Centara hosted the first underwater wedding in the
Maldives on a shipwreck just off shore.
On its own private
island, 30 minutes from Male Airport by plane
Centara is located on its own private island, about 65 miles
southwest of Male in South Ari Atoll. The island is about half a kilometer long
(if you count the rooms built over the lagoon), and guests can easily walk
anywhere in under 10 minutes. The cheapest way to reach the island is by taking
a 30-minute domestic flight from Male International Airport to the local island
of Maamigili, and then catching a 15-minute boat transfer. Those willing to pay
more can fly by seaplane (which offers a better view). The seaplane drops
guests at a floating pontoon, and a speedboat ferries guests the rest of the
way to the resort. A 270-person staff lives and works on the island year-round.
Water Villas, Beachfront Suites, and villas with private plunge pools
Centara has six room categories, including Beachfront Suites, the one- or two-bedroom Luxury Beachfront Pool
Villas with private plunge pools, and overwater villas with steps leading into
The most basic room types are Beach Suites and Deluxe Water
Villas, which offer plenty of space at 936 square feet (87 square meters). These units are
bright are contemporary, with hardwood floors, blue and orange throw pillows,
and large bathrooms with soaking tubs. Beach Suites are two stories and have a
bedroom and additional bathroom on the second floor, making them feel more like
beach houses than suites. All rooms include minibars (with free items),
stereos, DVD players, flat-screen TVs, private patios, bathrobes, electric
teakettles, free bottled water, tea, instant coffee, and free Wi-Fi.
Centara is one of the few resorts in the Maldives that will
accommodate families with children in overwater villas (many properties err on the side of caution and make overwater villas adult-only for safety reasons). Their Deluxe Family Water
Villas sleep up to five guests and have kid-friendly perks like bunk beds,
Playstation game consoles, and locks to stop toddlers from crawling off the
overwater patios. The
largest two-bedroom Luxury Beachfront Pool Villa (1,711 square feet, or 159 square meters) come with its own butler, called
a “villa host,” who will arrange excursions and make restaurant reservations.
Infinity pool, spa, fitness
center, private club, and free kids' club
Centara has a solid range of amenities. Highlights include an
attractive beachfront pool with a shallow kids’ section, a nice but pricey spa (guests get a daily $100 spa credit that buys a 30-minute massage), and an ocean-view fitness center built over the lagoon. Guests can snorkel
right off the beach at a beautiful coral reef, and a sunken shipwreck right
next to the island is a popular diving spot. A kids' club with a playground is
available free of charge, and a game room offers snooker, billiards, foosball,
table tennis, and air hockey. Other offerings include beach volleyball, a tennis
court, gift shop, and emergency medical clinic.
A private club is available for those willing to pay for
extra privacy and better drinks. It has its own swimming pool, restaurant with
indoor and outdoor seating, cabana beds, board games, multilingual library,
business center, and small beach. It was almost empty during our visit, and
guests frequently have the place to themselves.
lounge chairs, and an off-shore reef
Like most resorts in the Maldives, Centara is surrounded by
lovely white-sand beaches and a clear, turquoise lagoon. Guests can take their
pick from numerous lounge chairs (some are a bit faded, and some have palapa
umbrellas), and beach towels are provided in rooms. An
impressive reef is located just offshore, and guests can easily wade out to
view colorful fish. Less-than-picturesque walls of sandbags are used to prevent
erosion in some areas, but for the most part the beaches are attractive. The
water temperature was perfect (warm but refreshing) during our visit. We
couldn’t find a speck of trash anywhere.
All-inclusive a la
carte and buffet food in three restaurants
Centara technically has four restaurants, if you count the
private restaurant in the club area, but most guests only have access to three.
The main buffet restaurant, Reef, serves champagne breakfasts, lunch, and
dinner. It’s the only restaurant that doesn’t require advance reservations --
but it also has disappointing food for a luxury resort. Most of the dishes we
tried were mediocre and lukewarm. Instead, we recommend dining at the two a la
carte restaurants: Azzuri Mare (Italian and seafood) and Suan Bua
(Thai). There’s also a live-cooking Teppanyaki table at Reef restaurant where
guests can reserve seats.
Centara’s all-inclusive plan covers drinks and cocktails
throughout the resort, snacks at the two bars, most minibar items, and food at
all three restaurants. The only exceptions are premium alcoholic drinks and
some higher-end menu items.
Room service, excursions,
free daily massages, water sports rentals, and Wi-Fi
Few resorts offer as many free services as Centara. Guests
get a $100 daily spa credit (equal to a 30-minute massage), non-motorized water
sports rentals (snorkels, kayaks, and peddle boats),
banana boat and tube rides, windsurfing lessons, property-wide Wi-Fi, and one
free excursion (such as a sunset cruise, fishing trip, or snorkeling tour). Parents
can also drop children at the kids' club, free of charge. Those willing to pay
extra can buy additional excursions, like private a picnic on a nearby deserted island
or a diving lesson at a sunken shipwreck. Guests can also pay a premium to go
parasailing or rent Jet Skis. Laundry, babysitting, and 24-hour room service
are available on request.
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