Our second hotel during our fortnight stay in Hua Hin couldn’t be more different from the boutique charm of The Rest Detail (read our full review here). In terms of sheer scale, the Grand Centara Hua Hin Beach Resort and Villas wins hands down.
History of Grand Centara Hua Hin
This colonial-style hotel is steeped in history dating back to 1923. Originally known as The Railway Hotel it was opened to accommodate visitors to King Rama VI’s summer palace once the new railway route from Malaysia transformed the sleepy fishing village of Hua Hin (read an overview of Hua Hin here) into a Royal beach resort. And you can still see original artefacts from that era displayed in the grounds. The location has also been the setting for several Hollywood movies including the Oscar-nominated movie The Killing Fields.
When we entered the long driveway up to the hotel lobby, we were blown away by the grandeur of the building with its pristine marble steps and sweeping landscaped gardens that extend over 13 acres alongside Hua Hin beach. It felt like we were stepping back into a bygone era.
Everything about the Centara, from the teak furnishings, traditionally dressed staff to its whisky bar and famous afternoon tea, radiates a classic and timeless elegance which has clearly stood the test of time.
Inside the Centara Grand
The Centara Grand’s sheer scale was slightly overwhelming at first. I admit, it took us several days to grow accustomed to it having been in much smaller quarters. It has 207 rooms, as well as 42 deluxe private villas which are separated from the main section of the hotel. There are four swimming pools to choose from, a playground, a kids’ club and several dining options throughout. Not to mention the fitness centre, putting greens, tennis courts…
We also had access to the Executive Club – exclusive use for the hotel’s residents who pay an extra premium for wi-fi in their rooms, a daily newspaper, one item to be laundered daily and a turndown service. The main reason we opted for these privileges was for free soft drinks and food that were available throughout the day; daily afternoon tea and nibbles; and the real draw – happy hour on all alcoholic drinks from 5pm-7pm. Needless to say, this was our favourite part of the day!
But all that aside, I was most enamoured with the beautifully maintained landscaped gardens – and we spent sometime over the week exploring the different topiary from turtles to dolphins and a giant peacock. Monkey loved Lucky the Elephant which has been on the grounds since the original hotel was built. It’s meant to be like its name – which is why you have to walk under him in order to bring yourself good fortune. We walked under it several times…
Centara Grand Location
The Grand Centara Hua Hin is in a prime location in terms of walking into Hua Hin central (read top things to do in Hua Hin here) . We were only a 10-minute stroll to the famous Night Market and a five-minute stroll to the nearest shops and restaurants. Meanwhile, the beach was a stone’s throw from the hotel grounds. And unlike the sand at our previous location, this section of the beach was much more pleasant – and much more lively, full of locals and tourists alike enjoying the warm waters.
The Rooms at Grand Centara
Out of everything at the Grand Centara Hua HIn, I felt it was our room that let this hotel down. On being shown to a ground floor chamber, I was shocked at the size – perhaps it was the dark interiors that made it seem quite small and poky. On first inspection I was disgusted to find a dirty toilet seat and stains on the bedroom wall, a wonky minibar fridge that didn’t stay flat and the view from our terrace overlooking… a bush. Considering we were supposed to be in a Deluxe Club Room, there was nothing deluxe about it.
Ask my husband, I never complain. But this time, I had to – I couldn’t stand the thought of staying in a room I was paying for and not being comfortable in it. To the hotel’s credit, we were moved straight-away, to a similar room but this time overlooking the Garden Pool. A much better view and it was clean.
However, even though our room had two double beds (Monkey got one all to himself!), and all the mod cons as you would expect from a 5-star luxury chain, the marble bathroom had seen better days – such as the mouldy grout on the corners of the bath – while the interiors need redecoration, from wear and tear over the years. My biggest gripe, though, was the lack of space to put away our clothes. Even though we had our own dressing area and a large rail to hang clothes on, there were absolutely no drawers, none. So, I had to keep most of our belongings in the suitcase.
Food at Centara Grand
We were able to take our breakfast at the Executive Club – which we did on our first morning – but we actually opted to eat in the main Railway Restaurant instead, because the food choice was much more extensive. The food was fantastic here, and the types of dishes on offer plentiful and fresh – from sushi, to soup noodles, dim sum and smoothies made to order. And, of course, all the breakfast favourites of bacon, eggs, sausages, and hash browns to pancakes, fruit, cereal and yoghurts. I have to say, I was slightly obsessed with the pork siu mai (Chinese dumplings) – they were so delicious, it was impossible not to walk past them without grabbing a plateful!
There are several other restaurants on site including The Palm Seafood Pavillion and the traditional Thai Suan Bua. But because of its fantastic location, there wasn’t really a need for us to stay in the hotel to eat, as so many restaurants were on our doorstep outside of the complex. We were also able to grab snacks such as fruit and sandwiches from the Club, if we were ever peckish.
We did, however, try The Museum – the Grand Centara Hua Hin’s elegant café which serves delicious cakes and pastries made on site by a patisserie chef, and the hotel’s signature afternoon tea. Monkey was drawn to the glass shelves and their assortment of goodies, so much so that we couldn’t resist treating him…
The Grand Centara Hua Hin pretty much has everything – boardrooms for meetings; bikes to rent, Tai Chi classes, water aerobics (which was pretty funny to watch…), a Jim Thompson boutique and cooking classes – they even have a golf desk concierge for all those wanting to tee off at several of Hua Hin’s popular golf courses. For anything you can’t get, I am sure the hotel will be happy to arrange for you.
My main port of call, especially on my birthday, was to visit the Spa Cenvaree. I was lucky enough to enjoy a two-hour spa treatment – a full body massage and facial. It was heavenly and the Cenvaree and its staff were wonderful, while the facilities there including the steam room and showering facilities were top-notch.
Oh, and did I mention there were four swimming pools… with kids’ pools attached?
The Grand Centara Hua Hin is very family-friendly. From the four kids’ pool to the giant chess board, and the small maze – and the children’s menu – including milkshakes – there is plenty for kids to get up to. The grounds and gardens alone were a wonderful roaming playground for Monkey. He loved hiding in and amongst the topiary and spotting all the lizards and geckos that came out at night.
For him, and us, the Camp Safari was his favourite go-to. We were surprised how much he enjoyed going there, but this might have something to do with all the Lego he could play with, and the ever so patient staff member called Pancake (yes, that’s his name) who looked after him. Or the fact that Pancake also has the Big Hero 6 DVD. He never stayed more than a couple of hours, but it was enough for him to break up his day and give him a change of scenery – and for us to enjoy Happy Hour!
It’s not very large, but they do various activities throughout the day from crafting and painting, which costs extra – otherwise, you can just turn up at any point in the day to drop the children off for free.
Verdict of Grand Centara
So the Grand Centara Hua Hin Beach Resort could do with a little TLC, it is 80 years old after all. I also got the sense some of the staff were slightly overworked and would rather be somewhere else – the maids and the breakfast waiters, in particular, scowled a lot more than smiled. I suppose being such a large hotel, you cannot always get the one-to-one service of a smaller establishment. That said, we met some very pleasant individuals who went out of their way to be friendly and helpful.
I also think that they should make the wi-fi available throughout the whole hotel, without charging their guests for it – this is a real bugbear of mine.
At first, I thought I’d made a mistake booking this hotel, and the debacle with our first room didn’t help. Over the week, however, the Centara Grand worked its charm on me – slowly seducing me into submission…
The Centara Grand Resort and Villa is very popular with its guests – many of whom are repeat customers. We met several people who have been staying here annually for more than a decade. And I can see why. It has an old-world charm about it that at first lingers around like a puff of floral perfume, then permeates through your skin the longer you stay there. It’s definitely a grower and I’m glad I gave it the opportunity to shine.
Prices for a superior double start from £130 per night; Prices for the Deluxe Club from £240 per night. You will find discounted prices via hotel comparison sites such as booking.com