THE BACKGROUND: This is the first property outside Thailand for leading Thai hotel group Centara Hotels & Resorts.
WHERE IS IT? South Ari Atoll, Maldives, 25 minutes by seaplane from Male or 85 minutes by speedboat.
THE ROOM: My Luxury Sunset Water Villa, Island Club room was a sizeable 110 metres. Part-bedroom, part-living room it featured a king-sized four-poster bed, couch and coffee table, large flat screen TV, ipod-docking station and glass-fronted drinks fridge. Floor-to-ceiling sliding doors give amazing views of the ocean (and the sunsets). There's an extensive outside terrace and a lower deck with sun loungers. A spiral staircase leads from the terrace to an upper balcony and private steps go directly down into the ocean and the coral reef. The bathroom features a heavenly rain shower and an island bathtub.
THE RESTAURANT & BARS: ‘Island Club’ guests have access to all the resort’s four restaurants – The Reef (buffet style), Lotus (Thai), Azzuri Mare (Italian) and the Island Club Lounge. Azzuri Mare was my favourite although The Reef served up one of the best buffets I have experienced, with a different international theme every evening. The house wines were surprisingly good and free flowing!
THE FACILITIES: There's a sunken shipwreck for dedicated divers but the snorkelling is also excellent. A gym with floor-to-ceiling windows lets you check out the marine life while you exercise. At the Thai-style Spa Cenvaree I loved the Maldivian Signature Massage. For small children there’s Camp Safari and for teenagers, a mezzanine floor in the Coral Bar has a pool table, table football, dart board, etc. Island Club guests have access to a separate swimming pool and club lounge – where they can have breakfast, lunch and dinner and enjoy premium brand drinks. The whole resort is wireless.
HIGHLIGHT: Sitting in the Aqua Bar and seeing three baby reef sharks in the sea where I had been swimming earlier.The Cost: A Beach Suite in November starts at US$725 per room per night all inclusive and for a Luxury Sunset Water Villa Island Club US$995 per room per night all inclusive. Return seaplane transfer is US$310 per person and speedboat US$250 per person. See the website for offers and rates for the other room types.
RECOMMEND TO: Couples, honeymooners, families wanting affordable barefoot luxury.
THE DETAILS: The Centara grand Island Resort & Spa, South Ari Atoll, Maldives; Tel: + 960 668 8000; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For my first visit to the Maldives this was a great introduction. Excellent accommodation, outstanding food and service and diving facilities and great value for money.
Contributer, Selling Long Haul