Our Thoughts on the Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Maldives
We stayed at the Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Maldives when the kids were 4 and 6 years old and had the most amazing time. If you’re searching for family-friendly Maldives resorts, we can highly recommend this one. We booked and paid for everything ourselves and this is our honest review of the resort.
When you think of the Maldives, you may think of a super luxury all-inclusive holiday, beautiful clear waters, white sandy beaches and adults only. You’d be right about everything except the adult only part. Nowadays, there are more family-friendly Maldives hotels than ever before.
Family travel is big business these days and some resorts in the Maldives that were once reserved for honeymooners have re-branded themselves as being family-friendly. This is great news for families because the Maldives tops our charts for an all-round great family destination. Everyone needs to enjoy a Maldives beach at least once in their lives!
This doesn’t mean you can’t travel to the Maldives without kids or will have your relaxing break ruined by screaming kids. There are over 132 Maldives resorts and many have retained their adult only status. And if you’re not after a luxury all-inclusive Maldives holiday, there are many beautiful islands that aren’t owned by big resorts. You can actually have cheap Maldives holidays by visiting the real Maldives. So, the Maldives really can be for everyone.
Choosing the Centara Grand
With so many family-friendly Maldives resorts, the choice can be a little overwhelming. A Maldives all inclusive holiday is not cheap and you want it to be perfect. We spent days on the phone to Maldives holiday specialists comparing deals and researching family facilities.
Luckily, we managed to find that the Centara Grand Maldives had a special offer on over New Year so we booked. If you are considering a family holiday to the Maldives, keep reading for our review of the Centara Grand. We paid for everything ourselves and this is our honest review on what to expect from a stay at the Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Maldives with a family.
Transfers from Male to the Centara Grand Maldives
Transfers to the resort are by seaplane. If you go to the Centara desk at Male airport, staff will look after you and take you to the seaplane check-in desk. The flight is around 30 mins and if you have a window seat, you will have beautiful views as you fly over the other islands. We arrived into Male too late to get a transfer that night so we stayed in a cheap airport hotel for our first night in the Maldives.
It’s worth doing this even if you can just make the last flight because you’d be paying for a day that you won’t get to use. We had a VERY early (6.30 am) transfer the next morning. It worked out just fine as it meant that we were on the island for 7.30am and were able to enjoy a full day there.
The seaplane transfer was very exciting for the kids. It’s a very small (and noisy) plane and there were about 6 of us on it. We boarded just as the sun was rising at around 6.30 am so we had beautiful views during the flight.
Arrival at the Centara Grand Maldives
A boat came to pick us up from the pontoon and gave us refreshing cold towels (even at 7 am it is very warm!). It was a lovely touch after an early morning start as we didn’t have time for a shower.
We checked in and were able to grab a few essentials from our bags for the beach. On the walkway to the island from reception, the boys were admiring the little fish they could see in the crystal clear water. Suddenly, they spotted several baby reef shark swimming about. Ernie turned to me and asked, ‘Mummy, is this paradise?’ Well, it certainly was a good start!
We went for breakfast which was a huge spread of delicious options to cover many continents and then headed to the beach. They got our room ready as soon as possible and while we were waiting, we made use of the day area where we changed and showered.
Accommodation at the Centara Grand Maldives
We opted for a family beach villa because there were no over water villas available when we booked. It was 84sqm, split level with a bedroom and toilet upstairs and the lounge with a sofabed. There was an indoor and outdoor shower and a minibar which was refilled daily (including chocolate for the kids).
We were initially a little disappointed with not having the Maldives water villa experience, but in hindsight, the beach villa was better for us. It meant that the boys could run onto the beach in the morning without us having to leave our terrace. With the over water villa, you would need to pack everything up and head out, walk along the pontoon and find a spot on the beach.
There’s also the safety issue of the overwater villa. Some resorts just don’t offer them to families with small children for this reason, but the Centara does offer the choice if you would like to give it a go. There is no doubt that the overwater villa is the image you probably think of when you think of the Maldives, but it is worth considering the suitability. Having said that…… they do look beautiful!!!
Food & Drink at the Centara Grand Maldives
The food was outstanding and is the reason we piled on a few pounds while there. There is a main restaurant (Reef) which serves buffet style breakfast, lunch and dinner. The options change every day but overall it’s the same style. If you’re staying more than a few days, it’s worth making bookings at the other a la carte restaurants for a bit of variety. To be honest, it’s worth trying them anyway as they are really good! Try to make the bookings when you first arrive so you don’t miss out.
Thai (Suan Bua)
This was a great choice for dinner or lunch. We loved it so much we went twice. It is pretty authentic and in the courtyard there are waterlily ponds so it feels quite calm. There’s a kids menu and the boys went for satay chicken with chicken rice. I just cannot express how deliciously fresh it was.
Italian (Azzuri Mare)
This restaurant is set just next to reception, off-shore. The setting could not be more perfect. While eating lunch, you get to watch the fish swim by and the views of the overwater villas are beautiful. The food is divine and very authentic. You cannot go wrong with seafood of course, but they had some delicious pasta and pizza options for the kids and the steak was incredible.
There’s also a Teppanyaki bar in the main restaurant which needs to be booked as the table is for 10 people only. If you go for the Club upgrade when you book your holiday, you can access the Club restaurant (and facilities). We had a slight issue as there was a mix-up with a diving session so we were given access on the day of check out as an apology – and we are so glad we got to try it.
The food was another level up from all the other food on the island and the service was faultless with a better choice of wines and champagnes.
There are also a couple of bars to choose from to enjoy some sunset cocktails. The resort offers babysitting services so you can enjoy drinks after dinner, but with all of the daytime activities, we were content with a couple of drinks on our terrace once the kids had gone to bed.
Activities at the Centara Grand Maldives
With your ultimate all-inclusive package, you will receive $100 credit for spa treatments per day per guest. There are 3 x 30 minute treatments (Head Massage, Head & Shoulder Massage or a Mini Facial) you can have for $100 each. This means no need to spend any more (or you can put it towards longer treatments for some ultimate relaxation).
To be honest, I didn’t want to miss out on all the other stuff going on, so a 30 minute treatment daily was enough for me. If you don’t fancy any spa treatments but are a keen diver, you can swap your spa credit for up to 2 dives per week (more if you are staying 7 days or longer).
There is a dedicated dive centre in the resort and the island is situated close to some of the best snorkelling sites in the Maldives, as well as having a great house reef. You can do your PADI qualifications there but if you’re just going out on an orientation or regular dive, you will need to be a certified Open-Water diver. Remember to bring your PADI card with you to the Maldives.
We decided to try a free snorkelling trip one day. The kids had begged to go into kids club so we took the opportunity to do something we both love but virtually NEVER get to do together these days. You can hire snorkelling equipment from the watersports centre for free. We had masks with us so just borrowed some fins. If you’re not a confident swimmer, you can still go with the aid of a life jacket.
The boat trip was about 30 minutes and we anchored at a nearby reef. There was a lot of sealife, including a beautiful Lion fish and some lovely coral formations, although they had mostly been bleached. The guide showed us where the better corals and fish were but we were pretty much left to our own devices after that.
You can, of course, snorkel away to your hearts content pretty much anywhere around the island. The kids stayed in the calm waters right outside our villa. Their main aim for the holiday was to catch a baby shark. They were clearly never going to catch one so it kept them entertained all holiday.
We took full face snorkel masks for the boys which were bulky and they hated! They’d practised in the bath before we went but when it came to it, they couldn’t get the hang of it. I tried it and must admit, I much prefer the traditional snorkel and mask. Since the holiday, we’ve read that the full face masks may not be safe to use. You can just hire the traditional snorkel gear from the watersports centre to save you bringing it with you.
We recommend reading this guide on the best snorkel gear for kids before you go so that you don’t make the mistake we did.
Other activities offered free with your all-inclusive package are Whale Shark boat trip, Sunset cruise, local island exploration and sunset fishing.
Kids Club at Centara Grand Maldives
A big reason for us travelling together as a family is so that we get to spend quality time together, but we also think it’s important to have some child-free time. When booking our Maldivian resort, a great kids club was very high on our list of requirements.
Our kids can be a little shy and we had never used a kids club before so we weren’t sure what to expect. We thought we would be lucky if we got 30 minutes to ourselves to enjoy a quick drink or a stroll around the island. What we didn’t expect was for the kids to be begging us to go and refusing to be picked up!
The great thing about the Centara is that it attracts lots of families and so there are lots of children to play with. Our boys hit it off with a few of the kids and demanded that we take them to kids club every day so that they could see them. The two lovely ladies running it (sisters) are so great with kids and ran a really fun and varied programme of activities.
There were things like treasure hunts, sand castle competitions, face painting, pom-pom making, sunset cocktails, ice cream excursions and being a pizza chef in the Italian restaurant. The kids club room is bright and colourful with lots to keep younger ones busy and there’s an outdoor area with play equipment.
For older kids, there’s a games room above the main bar called the E-Zone. There were pool tables, air hockey tables, large screens for movies, some games consoles and a chillout area as well as a bunch of board games.
Pools at the Centara Grand
There was one main pool by the Reef restaurant. It’s a large infinity pool and has a shallow separate pool for little ones. The pool area is a little dated with some loose tiles. We highlighted this to the management so we hope that they have rectified this. Nevertheless, our kids had a great time with the large inflatables.
There’s also a separate pool in the Club area but you do need to have paid for your membership to access it.
Some of the villas come with their own plunge pool which is a nice touch but we didn’t feel the need for a separate pool. The ocean is like a large pool anyway with the added bonus of baby sharks!
Our final thoughts on the Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Maldives
Now, if you Google enough, you will be able to find all of this information, so let me say something about our personal experience of the resort. We mentioned that we chose the Centara Grand because they had a deal on and over the Christmas and New Year period. The prices of the other top family-friendly resorts were just extortionate.
We weren’t sure what to expect. We knew it wasn’t the most luxury in its category, but the facilities still looked pretty good. In fact, the facilities turned out to be excellent, but what really made the stay for us was the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff. They made every effort to get to know you and were so good with the kids.
Overall, we had such an amazing, relaxing, fun-filled, active family holiday in one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. You really can’t ask for much more than that. And to answer Ernie’s question as we stepped onto the island, “Yes, it is paradise”.
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