STYLISH BEACH GETAWAYS – For the sun-worshipper Phuket and Khao Lak offer the ultimate in exotic getaways.
By Gaby Doman
When it comes to island getaways in Thailand, few places beat Phuket, Thailand’s biggest island, which is, undoubtedly second only to Bangkok in terms of luxury accommodation, gastronomy and spas in Thailand. Nearby Khao Lak – just 60kms north of Phuket – offers similarly stunning beaches and luxury accommodation, but on a more low-key, secluded scale. Here’s our pick of the area’s most exclusive locations for a Phuket getaway.
Private infinity pools, a private beach, smooth grooves, a beautiful spa and ultimate luxury await you at Sripanwa. Villas lend themselves perfectly to a very chilled getaway, with terrace bathtubs big enough for two, stunning ocean views and a poolside bar that spins house tunes that make it almost criminal not to indulge in sundowner cocktails. Live life in the slow lane at this blissful retreat, where your every need is catered for – extra touches include a fleet of yachts, a cooking school, floating yoga pavilion, jogging and biking trails, pre-loaded iPods and a deck to-die-for. Just a little word of warning: when it’s home time, you’ll have to be dragged kicking and screaming from this little slice of heaven.
Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa, Mai Khao
Mai Khao Beach is a hard destination to top and, with the added plus of Renaissance’s renowned knack for service, its utterly stunning – and dramatic – architecture and a choice of restaurants that include Thai cuisine, barbecue, pub food and lighter options, it’s easy to see why Renaissance sees so many repeat guests.
Our tip? Opt for one of the resort’s 25 villas with private whirlpool spas – and be sure to make use of Quan Spa to add a little more luxury in your getaway. As well as a full range of scrubs, wraps, massages and facials, the spa also offers fitness counseling, therapy baths and plunge pools.
Who wants to share a pool when you could have one of your very own? Every suite and villa at Trisara has its own pools and ocean views over its own private bay, making it a top choice for a really private getaway. Its hillside location further adds to the intimacy of the spot and, it’s sophisticated style make it a favourite of those seeking an elegant, un-showy retreat.
The venue is home to one of Phuket’s best spas – with treatment suites overlooking the ocean and a signature six-handed massage. But, Trisara also has plenty to offer if you’re looking for it, a more active retreat, with tennis coaching on two floodlit championship courts, a 45m saltwater chemical-free lap pool, jet ski, kayak or dive gear hire and resort yachts to charter.
While many of Phuket’s luxury resorts opt for modern chic, Amanpuri takes traditional Thai as its inspiration. Set in the middle of a lush coconut plantation, the beachside resort is elegant and peaceful, with a pristine private beach, a fleet of yachts and some of the island’s best dining, including Naoki, which combines French fare with Japanese artistry.
But it’s the resort’s spa, Aman Spa for which it’s best known. Six Thai-style pavilions of wood and glass offer a private steam room, shower, bath and outdoor sala for meditation. There’s also a sauna and steam room and, as part of the package, guided yoga and meditation sessions are offered in the teakwood salas on the hillside.
The Surin Phuket
Simple and sophisticated, The Surin Phuket has been given a new lease of life by one of the US’s top architects, Ed Tuttle. Among the surrounding coconut plantations, this pretty location complements its surroundings, making it a timeless, elegant spot. Shunning pretention for comfort, this is a spot that’ll make you feel instantly at home.
Lomtalay, meaning sea breeze, offers Thai specialities overlooking the sea – and makes a lovely spot to enjoy a dramatic sunset. The resort also offers a spa with a striking black-tiled pool, fitness centre, tennis courts and a choice of three nearby golf courses.
Phuket isn’t just a great spot to lounge around in pool villas and be massaged. Twin Palms Phuket caters to a younger crowd with two world-class beach clubs and three bars, which are ideal for a spot of barefoot beach dancing throughout the evening and into the night.
The location is also noteworthy for its beautiful, shady 1,600sqm pool and the resort’s modern architecture, which makes it for those jealousy-inducing Instagram snaps we all want on holiday.
Other highlights of the hotel are daily Thai cookery classes, lush gardens, Surin beach access and private room terraces, which lend themselves well to afternoons spent working on your tan.
The sign of a great Phuket resort is when you want to stay exactly where you are for the duration of your trip and, Andara’s spacious pool villas and suites are some of the most beautifully designed on the island – you’ll feel as though you’re staying at your millionaire friend’s exquisite ocean-side pad.
If luxe living in your villa gets too much, you can always relax at Andara Spa, where Asian-inspired massage techniques, including Thai, Ayurveda and Javanese are employed. Treatments are even available in the comfort of your room, if you can’t tear yourself away from your infinity pool. www.andaraphuket.com
Point Yamu by Como
Point Yamu by Como has a reputation for some of the best food in the Andaman. Nahmyaa restaurant dishes up hard-to-beat traditional Thai cuisine with a focus on seafood, while La Sirena offers tasty Italian dishes. The resort is one of the more stylish in the area, with interiors by the ultra-cool Paola Navona.
Not to be missed is the Shambala wellness retreat, which is worth travelling for in itself, with its holistic approach to health. The spa offers a yoga studio, two double and five single treatment rooms, four Thai massage alcoves, steam rooms, a Jacuzzi and a gym.
Contemporary and oh-so-cool, this is our pick for the most effortlessly chic venue on Phuket.
JW Marriott Khao Lak
A favourite for weddings, this beautiful spot has everything going for it. As well as a stretch of white sand beach, the property is surrounded by thick greenery, making the tropical paradise comparisons inevitable. The resort is also home to South East Asia’s longest pool, a lagoon-esque 16,000 square metres, which you can slide into straight from your room if you book for a pool access room.
The resort, which was acknowledged by Conde Nast as being one of the world’s top new hotels in 2010, is also home to some fabulous restaurants, including Thai, Japanese and Mediterranean cuisines.
Iniala Beach House is one of Phuket’s most memorable resorts. The beach house has just three villas and a penthouse. Each of the 10 suites within the villas is uniquely designed by a different designer giving it an incredible, art gallery feel. The resort has no reception and, instead, each villa has its own service team, including driver, butler, chef, spa therapist and housekeeper.
Still not convinced? Perhaps Aziamendi, the sister of Spain’s three-Michelin starred Azurmendi restaurant, with its focus on progressive Basque cuisine, will convince you. Not only the best restaurant on the island, but one of the best in Thailand, too. It also boasts award-winning sommelier, Fabien Etienne.