The Maldives, a honeymoon destination like no other. But what if you aren’t on a honeymoon? What if you have been married for 20 years (yikes) and have 12 year old twin daughters yet still want a piece of the blue skies, palm fringed beaches, crystal clear waters and snorkelling heaven? Is the Maldives for you – you bet your beach towel it is!
Choosing a Maldives family holiday is though, to be spoiled for choice. With so many islands how on earth do you decide where to go? Taking the kids narrowed that right down for us and we only focused on the Maldives family resorts. Many islands are adults only or for honeymooners. We wanted somewhere our kids wouldn’t just be tolerated but be welcomed and have the most amazing time.
Centara Grand Island Resort and Spa Maldives was our choice of family friendly Maldives hotel on the South Ari Atoll on an island known as Machchafushi.
I still had the worry, would my 12 year old twins be bored on an island where you can go from one side to the other in 2 minutes flat? Would they sit on their phones all day? Would we spend a small fortune only to regret it? Had we chosen one of the best resorts in the Maldives for families?
Travelling with Emirates via Dubai, the holiday begins as you step onto the seaplane at Male airport in the Maldives. With the pilot wearing flip flops and just a few other passengers, you take off from the airport’s own seaplane terminal opposite a harbour full of colourful boats.
The seaplanes don’t run to a schedule as such, they go when they have enough passengers to fill a plane and we did have to wait for a couple of hours to catch our ride. Then our sea plane soared over the atolls below and the Indian Ocean glistened. The vacation had begun.
We landed at a nearby atoll and motored over to Centara Grand on one of the hotel’s wooden dhow boats. A warm welcome awaited on the truly beautiful island. More stunning in real life than in any photos, your shoulders sink a few inches as toes meet the sand and the long journey ebbs away.
Tour some of the highlights of this Maldives family holiday in this video:
We chose a 2 bedroom luxury beach villa with a private swimming pool, literally on the beach itself. Our bedroom and bathroom were upstairs and the children had a twin bedroom, bathroom and dressing room area downstairs. A spacious lounge area filled most of the downstairs of our beautiful beach-side accommodation. Outside were our small private pool, which we used a surprising amount, golden sand and the bluest of seas with baby sharks playing at the edge of the water. The most paradise spot you could wish to find, this is what holidays are made of. Our villa was a couple of minutes’ stroll from everything else on the island. Siraj looked after the villa whilst we were there and he was a warm, kind and thoughtful host.
Centara Grand occupies the whole of the tiny atoll island, fringed by the softest sand and turquoise sea. We migrated from spot to spot during the day. Perhaps a couple of hours by the main pool after breakfast whilst the kids played with new-found friends. After lunch, a play about on boats from the main beach then a couple of hours outside our villa in our own pool and swimming in the sea, footsteps away from our decking. Snorkelling off the deck at the back of the dive centre was the perfect spot for being immersed with great marine life.
There is a lot of sea-life in the Maldives! My daughter and I thought we would try out our new snorkel masks on the first day. We strolled out through the water past the breakwater in front of our villa. I stuck my face in the water to try out the mask. There, staring back at me, was a five foot shark. First time I put my face underwater! I hadn’t expected there to be quite so many sharks, we only once went in the water and didn’t see any. The good news is that these are harmless black tip reef sharks. They swim past you all day, baby ones to six footers, accompanied by schools of fish. You’ll see rays, Nemo snuggled in anemones, colourful fish of all descriptions. In the evening the resort does a fish feeding session (chucking fish off-cuts into the water). Nurse sharks and massive rays seem to know what time dinner is and head for the bar! Herons fish from the decks and fruit bats fly over in the evenings. Turtles pop their heads up in the sea as you sit by the pool.
In the evening after dinner my kids headed upstairs to the youth lounge. Air conditioned with table tennis, table football, air hockey, dart board, bean bags and computer games, they hung out here with new friends – the Maldivian version of a youth club! Evening entertainment was low key but fun and at one with the resort’s laid back vibe. Highlights included crab racing, local dancing and live music. The crab racing was a bit hit with my children and yes we did win a couple times, it turns out number 13 is quite a lucky number after all!
There is a full activity programme every day but we also made the most of the opportunities for relaxation, for gazing out at the azure sea, for watching herons fishing, swimming in the warmest of waters and, of course, enjoying sundowners in this tropical paradise.
The children played tennis at dusk as fruit bats flew overhead and I enjoyed the fantastic spa treaments – who wouldn’t with a treatment included every day!
For younger children, the hotel has a kids club and a range of organised daily activities.
From children’s cocktails to a children’s buffet, the hotel really does cater for younger visitors. Yes there are of course honeymooners, but families are made to feel very welcome here. See the high chair at the end of the table in the picture below!
What was included? Check your own package but Centara Grand operates on an Ultimate All Inclusive basis.
For us this covered all meals in any of the restaurants, all drinks (including from the mini bar), all non-motorised water sports, excursions, a daily spa treatment and all entertainments. It’s fair to say my children made the most of the mocktails on offer!
The Top Things my Children Loved
Happy kids = happy parents who can relax and enjoy their anniversary! Here, in their own words, are what our kids loved about Centara Grand, Maldives.
The Kids’ Hang-Out
The kids’ hang-out above the bar was a big hit! Here they would meet their holiday friends in the evening and, in air-conditioned coolness, play games whilst parents enjoyed a cocktail in the open air bar downstairs.
Whether snorkelling from the back of the dive centre or any of the beaches or on the reef there was always so much to see.
All 4 restaurants were a hit. The Italian (pictured below); the Teppanyaki communal Japanese show cooking; the Thai; and the sand floored main restaurant where we tended to have breakfast, with its ever changing specialities, children’s buffet area and very cute children’s dining table for when the kids club was in the house. Doughnuts for breakfast anyone? No wonder my daughters loved it!
It’s fair to say I should never have let my daughter watch Jaws – big mistake. She’s been scared of sharks ever since but once we got beyond the first day’s in-your-face shark encounter (#sharkshock), she did really well!
The girls found the best spots for a cooling mocktail!
The banana boat, the pedalos with slides off the back and the bubble maker sessions were hits. If your child wants to take their PADI certificate and get some diving in, this is the perfect place and other children in the resort saw manta rays and more when out diving.
The Villa with our Own Pool
Show me a child who wouldn’t love this! Many Maldives family resorts have a choice of over water villa or beach villa and we were glad we’d chosen the beach villa as we really enjoyed having our own pool. The girls liked hopping from sea to pool and vice versa. Honourable mention also has to go to the all-inclusive mini bar with its Pringles, apple juice and Toblerone – it’s the small things! The girls did also love the main pool – they enjoyed playing with friends and joining in some of the organised pool games.
My husband and I loved this anniversary holiday. And all fears proved unfounded, our children loved this holiday too (phew!) Free to do as much or as little as they wanted, they swam, sunbathed, snorkelled and spent a lot of time watching the sharks.
They made friends, they played water volleyball, went on banana boats and pedalos and nearly got swept out to sea paddleboarding, a whole other story! We went out on a dhow to look for whale sharks. We didn’t see any the day we were out but what a perfect trip, sitting on the roof of a dhow watching the atolls go by. Turtles, sharks and dolphins swam past and we snorkelled off the deck.
Centara Grand really was paradise for us. The perfect place to celebrate a special anniversary, this Maldives family holiday was one to remember. The beauty of the ever-changing sea, the sharklife, the palm trees, the warmest of welcomes and the opportunity to get off the treadmill of life. It was truly bliss. Now we just need another big anniversary so we can justify a return visit!
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