The visitor arrives at the Centara by sea and, for most, the first impression is of awe at the magnficence of the resort's setting, nestling on its own beach and backed by towering karst cliffs rearing majestically skywards.
Nothing about this superb resort subsequently dispels the great first impression. Built on a hillside that's not too steep for the able-bodied, most rooms benefit from seaviews, some of which are spectacular.
Somewhat surprisingly for such a large resort, the Centara retains a peacefull and natural atmosphere, where the sound of cicadas chirping is all that competes with the gentle whirr of the golf-carts ferrying people around. Some people may find the lush foliage which forms the resort's backdrop slightly over-manicured by the small army of gardeners, but everyone will agree that the tall coconut palms swaying majestically overhead give the resort the archetypically tropical setting that many expect from a Thai beach resort.
The Centara occupies a position which some will love, and others loathe. Monopolising its own good swimming beach, the hotel is a perfect hideaway. However, for those who want to walk around Ao Nang during the evenings, checking out the restaurants, shops or just people-watching in a bar by the bustling beach road, the Centara is not a good choice, as access to Ao Nang is difficult.
The visitor either has to take a boat to Nopparat Thara beach and then a tuk tuk into town, or to walk the strenuous path over the headland separating the resort from the town. Taking this headland walkway a couple of times a week after a night out in Ao Nang will for most people not be too much of a problem, but those who want to party every night are not advised to stay here, they are better off staying in Ao Nang.
The resort's amenities are as comprehensive and as high quality as is to be expected from this hotel chain. The spa is tastefully decorated and enhanced by such features as water running down chains into a Koi carp pond.
Exotic aromas entice the visitor inside to indulge in a pampering session, maybe on the spa's water terrace, which is so tranquil it seems almost to be suspended in animation, just as it is suspended in the jungle, amid large fan palms and towering coconut trees.
Of the many cuisines on offer, tripadvisor.com contributors report that the Japanese restaurant is particularly memorable. The children's play area has a comprehensive activities schedule arranged for tots, while slightly older games are played out every night at the resort's trendy and high-tech Deep Blue bar, where drinkers can watch the swimmers in the pool through the thick glass that covers one wall of the club. While the Deep Blue bar is a cool place to hang out after the Sunset Beach bar closes, and to maybe hook up with members of the opposite gender, it is not a particularly lively place - for dancing and a lively night out, you need to go into Ao Nang.
The resort has an optional Club that can be joined, for an additional nightly fee. The extra facilities to which the Club members are entitled are, however, of marginal benefits, so most people will not feel that the extra expenditure is worthwhile.
For most room types, there are rooms numbers with better seaviews, and those whose seaviews are not so good.
As a locally-based travel agency we know many of the staff who work at the resort. This isn't surprising, as the resort employs fully 480 staff in high season, which is about one staff member for every guest, when the hotel's 190 rooms are fully booked. As we know this resort and its staff intimately, we can request the best room numbers when we book rooms.
'Deluxe Garden View' and 'Deluxe Ocean View'
These two room types have the same layout, although some of the Garden View rooms have small seaviews. Beautifully designed, furnished and equipped, these rooms offer the high standards to be expected from this leading chain of Thai luxury resorts.
Attractive, semi-transparent Venetian blinds provide optional shade or privacy for the chaise longue on one of the verandahs, while on the other verandah a pair of supremely comfortable loungers faces the sea. Adjacent rooms have connecting terraces, thereby making a pair of these rooms a good option for the medium-sized family.
When reviewing a hotel room, it is unusual to write a whole paragraph about the exterior of the rooms, but these rooms are good enough to inspire such praise.
Inside the rooms the excellence continues. Inside the rooms the gleaming hardwood floors, while noticeably no longer new, are as attractive, spotlessly clean and tastefull as the rest of the rooms. A hot tub is provided as an alternative to the shower. Pastel hues are in precedence, with cushions, bed throws and tasteful Asian art donating splashes of colour.
Premium Deluxe Ocean View
These are the same as the Deluxe rooms, but have better ocean views. They are a fair hike up the hill, but there is no need to walk up or down, as free golf cart transfers to the beach and shared amenities are provided 24 hours per day. While this will suit most people, some people may not like the inability to quickly pop back to the room for a forgotten book or pair of glasses.
These units are similar to the previously described ones, but also benefit from a jacuzzi on the balcony.
The seaviews from the best units aren't any better than the seaviews from the best of the Premium Deluxe Ocean View rooms. The Spa Deluxe Ocean View units with the worst seaviews have worse seaviews than the best of the Premium Deluxe Ocean View units.
So, for those who can do without a jacuzzi in addition to a hot tub, the Spa Deluxe Ocean View units are not great value for money and are not reccommended. A better choice, for people for whom a jacuzzi is inessential, is one of the Premium Deluxe Ocean View units with the better views.
One Bedroom Ocean Facing Villa with Pool
A fabulous seaview is combined with superb facilities and furniture to form one of Krabi Province's most understatedly opulent choices.
The plunge pool has underwater seats with back-rests contoured to the human back, and even jacuzzi spouts to give the back muscles a good water pummelling. These units have totally private pool terraces, in addition to a second private balcony with an even better seaview.
A great honeymoon option, the amorous options are endless - a huge bed, a large sofa, 2 poolside loungers and 2 balcony loungers.
One Bedroom Beachfront Villa
This is the best choice for those who want to be on the beach and next to the pool, and who aren't too concerned about privacy.
Two Bedroom Beachfront Villa
Separated from the beach by a narrow strip of lawn and close to the pool, these units are a good choice for those with young children, and for more mature people who don't want the bother of getting shuttled to and from their room in a golf cart.
Typical Thai elegance is in precedence in this superb 2-bedroom pool villa, the only one of its type in the resort. The resort's most opulent unit has a view as good as any unit in the resort, and a price tag to match the superlative fittings and furniture.
Green Season Special offer - stay 4 nights, pay for only 2 - on free nights, guests must pay for American Breakfast (adults 790, children free)
The above rates are net per room per night and inclusive of service charge and breakfast for 2 people.