Located off Thailand’s western coast, Phuket has long been known for its family-friendly resorts and vibrant (albeit salacious) nightlife. The Thai city has never struggled to attract international budget travellers — especially backpackers from Britain, North America, and in more recent years, Russia and China — but in the wake of a series of tsunamis (in 2004), the island has been making a lateral move towards more directed, stylish hospitality experiences.
Away from the chintzy neon of beaches like Patong (a complex notorious for its cheap buffets and girlie bars), international and local hoteliers are committing to considered development of Phuket’s lesser known oases: cliffside hotels dot the island’s once-sleepy southeastern coastline; while a handful of villas, high in the northern mountain ranges, yield views of the Andaman Sea that will blow any full moon party out of the water.
For those in search of a fresh new island getaway, here are 10 of the best hotels to stay at in Phuket — tourist traps not included.
Built into the western cliffside of Kamala Bay, Hyatt Regency Phuket puts you within spitting distance of all the more obvious tourist attractions — not that you’ll ever feel a compulsion to leave. Boasting three relaxed dining options, a spa, and one of the longest infinity pools in Phuket, this property has plenty for travellers of every description. Even navigating within the hotel is tantalisingly easy: just request one of the many buggies to ferry you from point A to point B; and be sure to take in the many picturesque views of the Andaman Sea while you’re at it.
In contrast to many of Phuket’s luxury resorts and villas, Anantara Mai Khao is nestled at the northern tip of the island. The property’s somewhat clandestine location offers certain immediate advantages: it’s a breezy 15 minutes to the airport; and is cleverly hidden by a canopy of lush national parkland and private lagoon. All 91 villas include pools and measure at least 186 square metres, though it’s the one-of-a-kind ‘Jim Thompson’ villa — complete with its own lagoon pavilion and offerings of krathong — that you ought to splurge for if you’re travelling with company.
While Andara Resort follows a formula that shall appear familiar to anyone who has visited Phuket — private villas, beachfront access — the quality of execution is in a league of its own. The recipient of multiple international hospitality awards, this bona fide luxury property — from the mind of LKF Group’s Allan Zeman — will appeal to travellers who demand more than just pool access and a charming location during their stay. SILK — the property’s all-day restaurant & bar — is home to some of the most refined southern Thai cuisine on the island; while La Seta, with its custom-built wood fire oven, churns out excellent international fare. Guests can choose from an array of accommodations that include up to seven bedrooms; and each is decorated with natural accents and Siamese cultural influences.
For holidaymakers keen to have their cake and eat it too, BaBa Beach Club injects the quintessential Phuket experience — hard parties, strong drinks, loud tunes — with a dash of Ibizan style. Situated along a pristine stretch of Natai Beach, the property riffs on the traditional resort formula thanks to weekly DJ showcases, featuring a balance of Thai and international talent. Fair warning: light sleepers need not apply, as the hotel’s many dance parties, powered by an industry-grade Funktion One speaker system, have a tendency to unfold across the pool and attendant 200-metre private beach.
JW Marriott is another property that stakes its claim on the relatively quiet northern shores of Mai Khao. Offering an extremely polished take on the classic ‘international chain hotel’, this resort is conveniently close to a number of Phuket landmarks: from here guests can explore Phang Nga Bay (including the location where The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed); Old Town Phuket; and the Royal Marina. Inside the resort, there are nine room categories to choose from (four of which feature private whirlpools) and 11 F&B outlets — a selection that is unrivalled anywhere on the island. This being a Marriott International joint, there’s a teppanyaki grill, trattoria and steakhouse (but of course there is), though Phuket insiders are especially fervent about Ginja Taste — the in-house Thai restaurant that specialises in traditional ‘ancient wild’ recipes.
Not to be confused with its sister property at Panwa Beach, the Pullman Phuket Arcadia Naithon is a veritable all-rounder of a hotel. The Accor Group property is one of the bigger resorts in the region: housing 277 rooms and villas, all of which offer expansive views of the Andaman Sea. Two restaurants and three bars — including distinctive sunken lounges built around an infinity pool — round out the on-site dining options; though the hotel’s ‘Pullman After Dark’ programming gives you access to various other culinary possibilities (i.e. a guided tour of a local street food market).
We were amongst the first to stay at Rosewood Phuket when it opened in November 2017; and suffice to say, after a year and a half of operations, it’s still clearly the poshest resort in the region. The property trades sheer size for privacy: 71 bungalows which vary in size and grandiosity occupy various vantage points over Emerald Bay, all offering unobstructed views of the Andaman Sea. Food and libations are served at four distinctive venues: including fisherman-style village cuisine at Ta Khai; hearty Italian fare at Red Sauce; fresh seafood at The Shack; and meticulous poolside cocktails at Mai. As with all Rosewood resorts, wellness plays a pivotal role: Asaya, the property’s multi-faceted spa concept, does offer all the conventional stuff but a host of holistic wellness experts turn this into a one-of-a-kind sanctuary in Phuket.
A member of Design Hotels that has proved popular with the Monocle/Wallpaper set over the years, The Naka is a marvel of minimalism that sprawls out over 1,740 acres of beachfront real estate. Located on the western coast of Phuket, villas and suites here are clad in a Kondo-esque mix of glass and concrete. Sequestered away from prying eyes by a private hilltop driveway, this is the perfect refuge for well-heeled design heads who are finicky about the details. Three F&B options are available, including The Nava, which serves seasonal local fare; The Wiwa, adjacent to the property’s Olympic-sized pool; and The Meka, an elevated drinking den which possesses panoramic views over Nakalay Beach.
Roman hotel developer ‘The Pavilions’ most recent foray into Thailand is a relaxed, group-friendly affair, carved into the hillside amidst Phuket’s western coastline. Unlike a few of the other resorts which made our list, there’s no direct beach access — the closest is at Layan, about 10 minutes by shuttle. Still, the property makes up for its seclusion in other ways: The Pavilions Phuket is home to the island’s largest swimming pool; there’s a spa that delivers way more than its perfunctory appearance would suggest; and two restaurants to choose from come breakfast time. (Try a bowl of homemade granola at The Plantation Club, you won’t be disappointed.)
Perched high above the eponymous Cape Panwa peninsula, Sri Panwa presents a compelling argument for why you should want to visit the relatively quiet Southeastern tip of Phuket. Most of the property’s villas sit 40-60 metres above sea level, incorporating the surrounding sea and jungle within their ‘tropical contemporary’ interiors. The property’s exhaustive restaurant concept, Baba, offers six different dining experiences: Soul Food is all about authentic share-style Thai; the Poolclub is where you’ll start your day off with an elaborate breakfast; IKI, Hotbox, and Chino specialise in Japanese, barbeque and Chinese cuisine respectively; while Nest is the ultimate location for a sunset cocktail. If you’re keen on more than culinary indulgences, the property’s pool club has plenty that will keep you busy, including a cooking school, games room and even a subterranean disco.