Meeru probably satisfies more people per annum than any other resort. It is one of the largest, it’s always full and once people have visited they very often come back again and again and again.
Perhaps Meeru can be best summed up with the phrase 'affordable dreams'. The big, happy resort has a hundred ways to fulfil a hundred different wishes and expectations. From the fully active party couple to the privacy seeker and from the splurging couple to the careful couple, Meeru seems to deliver on so many people's dreams.
The over 800 staff are extremely well looked after and the result is a friendly, happy service that guests frequently comment on. Friendships are made and cemented over years of returning. The FIFA regulation artificial grass pitch that was brought in from Italy is just one obvious staff benefit, though guests do get the chance of a weekly thrashing. The hotel groups’ top management is based on Meeru and they are always around, looking, thinking and improving. You can almost feel the place fizzing with activity and ideas.
Three Distinct Zones
The idea of making an up-market resort within the resort, called The Village, must not have worked so well as the island is now back to being one big resort again, which works perfectly well. Having said that, there are three distinct zones with different feels. Each is based around a swimming pool, bar, lounge and food outlet. The original area is on the west side facing into the atoll, around the middle of the island. On the opposite side, facing east out to the deep water is the smart casual Pavilion bar and pool with the Hot Rock restaurant. Then at the northern tip is the Maalan restaurant and Uthuru bar and pool. Surrounded by the most expensive rooms this latter area, which used to be The Village, still has the most refined look and feel.
Children and families are encouraged to base themselves around the original centre, where you have the Dhoni bar and pool (with kids’ pool and daily water polo), Kakuni bar, coffee shop and main restaurant. This is the area that stays lively during the day and long into the evening. Couples or groups who prefer the adult spaces of the other two centres come here in the evenings for the entertainment and the atmosphere.
The Room Categories
The room categories are straightforward: Beach, Jacuzzi Beach, Water, Jacuzzi Water and Honeymoon. The standard category Beach Villas and Water Villas (which are half on and half off the shore) are on the open ocean side which faces sunrise rather than sunset and didn’t have a good beach. Now, however, successful sand pumping has ensured a very good beach all around the island.
The Jacuzzi Beach Villas run the length of the west side of the island. The Jacuzzi Water Villas are on two jetties, one off the tip of the island and one going out from the middle of the island. What this means is one line of villas faces east, another west, another north and another south. You really want to get a west facing one for sunset or a south facing one for sun all day long. The rooms themselves are first class, unquestionably luxurious.
Trying out an alternative room category is encouraged on this big and varied island, where different rooms in different locations can give different holiday experiences. Guests can seclude themselves away in a quiet corner or take a room near all the action by the swimming pool, bars, 'front' and dive centre. A bonus for the resort running full is the frequent offers of two nights ‘free’ on the safari boat. Many guests love this option and, upon return, they are more than likely to get an upgrade rather than their old room back.
So Much to Do But Nothing Pushed
Importantly, every room has a complete catalogue of what there is to do throughout the holiday. A long list of excursions includes a full day cruise on a sailing yacht (called the Love Boat), various fishing options, a sunset dolphin watch and a Male shopping and sightseeing trip. Loads of daytime resort activities include water polo, tennis, badminton, a first class gym and a great new pitch and put to go with the driving range and classes from a golf pro. Your evenings might be filled with disco dancing, live bands, crab racing, Boduberu, a table tennis tournament or sipping cocktails and making new friends in one of the 5 bars on the island.
One treat everyone should give themselves is a spa treatment. Unusually for a mid-market resort such as Meeru, the two spas are seriously good. Like the spa of a five star resort, you can sense a distinct shift of atmosphere when you step across the threshold of the spas here. Even beyond the cultural calm and spirituality of the Balinese and Thai masseuses, there is a collective desire to make this a special experience. It is not about muscle relief or sunburn or jet-lag but about a richer mental, even spiritual reward. Everyone floats out the doors oohing and aahing.
As I mentioned the beach is now very good all the way around this large island. The lagoon is also ideal, crystal clear and sandy bottomed, apart from some sea-grass and sometimes milky water on the west side near the main jetty (and main bar and swimming pool).
Snorkeling and Diving Options
There are some coral blocks (natural and man-enhanced) in the lagoon that afford some snorkeling, but this is really one of the only areas where the resort is disappointing. A boat is put on every day to take guests to the house reef but you must pay for this and it's not a great reef. The dive centre organises snorkeling trips to better reefs. The best is had on the full-day snorkeling trip, which includes the fascinating Kagi Island.
Diving is less important to the resort than it used to be but it is still a major draw for many guests. It is a great dive school — managing to be very welcoming and friendly while remaining 100% professional, with an emphasis on safety and no surprises. Guests with no experience at all, including children, can do simple introductory courses, while other guests with hundreds of dives can fulfil their desires with multiple tank, night and full-day diving. With more than 50 sites carefully catalogued, every variation of dive is possible.
Now The Cuisine is Outstanding
Of all the improvements, one of the biggest and most obvious is the cuisine. What used to be regular fare lined up on long tables is now extraordinarily good cuisine for a resort of this level. The presentation, the variety and quality won’t disappoint anyone.
One gripe that some guests have had is that there are a few niggling, unexpected charges, even for all-inclusive guests. If you are aware of this and act accordingly then nothing should stop you having a great holiday on Meeru, and coming back to repeat the treat again and again and again.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville