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The ultimate hotel guide to Phuket, Thailand for 2022

The Thai island is busy carving out a glittering new reputation beyond its fly-and-flop resorts: discover blissful beachside villas, design dens and stylish camps tucked away in the emerald interior.

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The island of Phuket has developed something of a reputation for sprawling, mass-tourism resorts, there are still plenty of quiet sandy corners to lay your straw hat.

Photograph by AWL Images
By Lee Cobaj
Published 6 Jan 2022, 06:08 GMT

The Pearl of the Andaman Sea is blessed with an intoxicating mix of beaches, coral reefs and rainforest-covered mountains. And while the island has developed something of a reputation for sprawling, mass-tourism resorts, there are still plenty of quiet sandy corners to lay your straw hat. Many of Phuket’s glorious, high-end hideaways are found along the island’s northwest coast, where a smattering of shops and nightlife strikes a balance between relaxed and sophisticated. The far south, meanwhile, has a more bohemian vibe, while the rugged east coast remains pleasingly undeveloped, and what it lacks in beaches it makes up for with easy access to breathtaking Phang Nga Bay. Many visitors opt to stay in one resort for the whole of their stay, but it’s worth setting a few days aside to venture to neighbouring islands, such as Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai, or to head north into Khao Sok National Park’s incredible jungles.

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The teak-and-stone architecture feels as regal as a Thai temple, and wraps around a black-tiled swimming pool and a curl of caramel beach sprinkled with boulders.

Photograph by John W. McDermott

For the jet set: Amanpuri

For the past 30 years, the first hotel in the Aman empire has been luring everyone to Phuket’s northwestern shores, from Leonardo DiCaprio to Beyoncé and Jay-Z. The teak-and-stone architecture feels as regal as a Thai temple, and wraps around a black-tiled swimming pool and a curl of caramel beach sprinkled with boulders. No strangers to the demands of the rich and famous, the staff can arrange everything from super-yacht charters to after-dinner fireworks. Wellness plays a major role here, too; choose from a gala of get-fit activities, mindfulness practices, nutrition plans and spa therapies. Tailored Immersion Retreats, with full medical work-ups, are also available for three nights or more. 
Rooms: Villas from £640, B&B.

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At The Slate, wander through the lush gardens and you’ll find three swimming pools and a gate leading onto Nai Yang beach, which stretches as far as the eye can see.

Photograph by Krishna Adithya

For families: The Slate

Families don’t need to sacrifice style at this fabulous resort just 15 minutes from the airport. Styled by acclaimed designer Bill Bensley, it pays homage to Phuket’s tin mining heritage, joining together peaked roof pavilions with polished concrete, wrought-iron furniture and violet neon lights. Wander through the lush gardens and you’ll find three swimming pools and a gate leading onto Nai Yang beach, which stretches as far as the eye can see. A kids’ club, cookery school, art classes, watersports centre and an extensive spa means no member of the family will ever be bored. 
Rooms: From £115, B&B. 

For traditionalists: The Nai Harn

In its 1980s heyday, this five-star resort played host to all the big names, from Roger Moore to Jacques Chirac, and retains an air of breezy glamour. There are no pool villas here, only rooms, but each comes with a bougainvillea-veiled balcony with plump day beds and knock-out views of Nai Harn Beach — rightly hailed as one of the most beautiful in Asia. The food is another highlight, particularly the bountiful breakfast, while the rooftop bar, with its sunken sofas, reflecting pools and chilled-out vibe, is the perfect place to settle down with a few mai tais in the evening.
Rooms: From £90, B&B.

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At Como Point Yamu, a white-tiled swimming pool overlooks Phang Nga Bay.

Photograph by Como Point Yamu

For design gurus: Como Point Yamu

Behind a brutalist exterior lies a light-filled design haven. Razor-sharp lines frame views of Phuket’s east coast; a white-tiled swimming pool overlooks Phang Nga Bay; and sugar cube-like rooms feature textured walls, Portuguese floor tiles and pops of aquamarine or cobalt blue. The restaurants are equally stylish — Nahmyaa was given a Michelin Plate for its southern Thai dishes, and there’s also a private beach club on a nearby island, which more than makes up for the hotel’s own lack of golden sands.
Rooms: Villas from £208, B&B.

For animal-lovers: Our Jungle Camp 

Set on the mainland around a three-hour drive north of Phuket lies one of the world’s oldest rainforests. Few tourists stray this far from the beach, but Khao Sok National Park is a brilliant side trip offering a completely different take on southern Thailand. Our Jungle Camp’s bamboo huts and wooden treehouses are minimalist and cool enough in the evening to go without air-conditioning. There’s a great little restaurant on site and the camp can arrange a variety of well-priced activities, including nature hikes and rafting along lazy rivers. 
Rooms: From £15, room only. 

For solace-seekers: Sala Phuket Mai Khao Beach

Sitting plum on Mai Khao Beach, Sala Phuket epitomises the laid-back Thai beach break. Everything about this hotel seems to have been designed to make you unwind: the minimalist stylings, the calming white-on-white suites and villas, and the swimming pool sunken into the lawn, with the Andaman Sea just beyond. While away the day on the beach with a book or unwinding at the spa. The food is superb, too — just-baked pastries for breakfast, zingy papaya salads and red curries for lunch and rock lobster for dinner.
Rooms: Villas from £109, B&B. 

Best for sporty types: Thanyapura

Go for gold at this sprawling fitness resort in the island’s jungly heart. Top-tier athletes come here to take advantage of the excellent facilities, including two competition-spec swimming pools, tennis courts and boxing rings. Mere mortals can stay here too, utilising the facilities and dipping in and out of more than 80 classes a week. A medical centre offers full health checks, and there’s a spa for massages. Rooms are simple but have everything you need, including comfy beds, power showers and verandas.
Rooms: Villas from £70, B&B. 

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At Six Senses Yao Noi, thatched-roof villas bring the outside in, with banyan trees popping up through wooden decks, swimming pools that overlook the ocean and oriental pied hornbills providing early morning wake-up calls.

Photograph by Six Senses Yao Noi

For naturalists: Six Senses Yao Noi 

There’s no better place to see the blazing sunrise over Phang Nga Bay than this eco-luxe retreat on the island of Yao Noi, a 45-minute speedboat ride from Phuket. Thatched-roof villas bring the outside in, with banyan trees popping up through wooden decks, swimming pools that overlook the ocean and oriental pied hornbills providing early morning wake-up calls. Wander through the gardens with a free scoop of ice cream, try your hand at one of the more adventurous activities — SUP, rock climbing and cycling, for instance — or indulge in a relaxing treatment at the spa.
Rooms: From £395, B&B.

Best for lovebirds: Keemala 

Situated in the hills above Kamala Beach on Phuket’s glorious northwest coast, some might describe Keemala’s aesthetic as ‘hobbit chic’. Guests are greeted inside giant rattan baubles perched on soaring stilts, waterfalls spill over massive boulders into a swimming pool and wooden decks are cantilevered over the jungle canopy. Villas come in four categories: clay cottages, with romantic netted beds; luxed-up zip-up tents; double-decker treehouses; and rambling bird’s nest villas. All villas are memorably decorated — expect oversized mosaic floors and wooden furniture — with black-stone bathtubs and swimming pools. Don’t miss the spa, which only uses organic products.
Rooms: Villas from £405, B&B. 

Published in the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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