All Articles Our go-to guide for Phuket hotels

Our go-to guide for Phuket hotels

Whether you want to be close to the action or as far away from it as possible.

Chris Schalkx
By Chris Schalkx03 Apr 2024 7 minutes read
Amanpuri pool light up at night
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

I'll admit: it took me a while to warm up to Phuket. On my first visit more than a decade ago, I made the mistake of sticking to its busiest districts, staying at a dime-a-dozen hotel, and eating at restaurants you could find in just about every city in the country. As Thailand's largest island, it's one of its most popular spots for a fly-and-flop vacation, but frankly, I wasn't sure what the hype was all about.

But when I moved to Thailand in 2013, I frequently grabbed the opportunity to explore the island at a more leisurely pace. I discovered secret coves and fishing villages in the still-quiet south, and found destination-worthy resorts and boutique hotels that offered much more than just a place to sleep. Despite rampant over-development, Phuket still has plenty of postcard-worthy corners—you just have to know where to look.

The island is deceptively large and traffic can be dreadful, so choosing your home base wisely will pay off. Opt for a hotel on (or near) the quiet beaches in the north or far south if you're after a toes-in-the-sand vibe, or book a place near the buzzy beaches along its eastern coast if you're on the hunt for nightlife and sightseeing. Below, I've selected six of my favorite hideaways for every type of traveler.

For wellness with a touch of whimsy: Keemala

Bird's Nest Villa expansive bathroom with a standalone tub and views of the sea and rainforest
The view from a bird's-nest-like 'Rung-Nok' villa
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Eons ago, a merchant caravan sailing the Indian Ocean got caught in a storm, shattering the ships to bits and pieces. The survivors, members of various clans with names such as Pa-Ta-Pea and Khon-Jorn, marooned on Phuket, and settled in a patch of hilly rainforest just above Kamala beach. Never heard of 'em? That's because it's all made up—smart marketing make-believe by Keemala's founders. That doesn't make this jungle hideaway any less enticing, though: the hillside villas are among the most unique ones you'll find in the country, while the top-notch spa and restaurant underscore that they're not messing around when it comes to hospitality.

Room scene: Choose your own adventure: each fictional clan built a small village of dwellings that represented their beliefs. The 'Pa-Ta-Pea' created thatch-roofed cottages along the stream that snakes around the base of the mountain, while the nomadic 'Khon- Jorn' pitched canvas-roofed tents. The 'We-Ha' built Hershey's Kiss–shaped houses among the treetops, but I prefer the whimsical 'Rung-Nok' creations, built like giant birds’ nests with stone bathtubs and lots of wood. Whichever type you choose, you'll have your own plunge pool and outdoor deck.

Restaurant report: There's only one restaurant, but its menu is dotted with both Thai, Western, and Indian dishes, so you can choose a different dinner every night. Many of the ingredients, such as galangal, chili, kaffir lime, and breadfruit are grown in the on-site organic garden.

Don't miss: There's a roster of complimentary activities to keep you busy between beach breaks and pool-lolling, ranging from cooking classes to yoga sessions, guided garden walks and meditation workshops.

Who should go: Couples looking for a truly unique stay.

For families: Rosewood Phuket

Ta Khai restaurant during the evening
Rosewood Phuket's Ta Khai restaurant
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Don't let Rosewood Phuket's proximity to Patong, the island's nightlife district, fool you. Its perch on a jungled cape puts it seemingly miles away from the buzz. This is a kids' idea of Eden, where swimmable lagoon pools line the beach and an indoor-outdoor kids club keeps little ones occupied with dance classes and pizza-baking workshops. (Parents, meanwhile, can sneak off to the jungle-clad Asaya spa.)

Room scene: Rosewood's designers excel at making the accommodations look like homes away from home, and the villas here are no exception. Each one feels like a breezy beach house owned by a well-traveled (and hideously wealthy) aunt, with loungey, linen-clad furniture, lots of books and decorative knick-knacks, and a well-stocked bar. You'll likely spend more time on your private terrace, though, alternating between dips in the plunge pool and snoozes on the plush padded daybeds.

Restaurant report: The three restaurants are a boon for fussy eaters. Ta Khai, a village of Thai-style houses built from reclaimed wood, specializes in southern Thai food and allows guests to choose their fish and crustaceans from a mini pool at the heart of the kitchen. Red Sauce, overlooking the pool, deals in Italian comfort food such as homemade pasta and ocean-fresh carpaccio, while The Shack hits the spot for poolside nibbles.

Don't miss: The spa is a must. It's a full-fledged wellness retreat center, with dreamy private treatment suites, a Watsu pool, and in-depth wellness assessments to get weary minds and muscles back on track.

Who should go: Families seeking a toes-in-the-sand beach break.

For classic luxury: Amanpuri

View of the pool at Amanpuri
One of Amanpuri's ocean pool pavilions
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Frequented by sheiks and supermodels, the Aman hotel group is known for its ultra-luxurious resorts. But the brand found its beginnings here in Phuket, when it opened Amanpuri, its first outpost in a bamboo grove back in 1988. This ultra-plush retreat—with a semi-private beach, state-of-the-art spa, and superlative service—has evolved with the time, of course, but it still remains the paragon of classic tropical luxury.

Room scene: There are no rooms, just villas. Each one is designed like a Thai temple, all pointy roofs and polished teak, with a spa-like bathroom that takes up half its floor plan. Other amenities vary depending on which villa (though, Amanpuri calls them 'pavilions') you book—some come with dazzling views of the Andaman Sea, others with private pools and garden-clad lounge salas.

Restaurant report: In the mood for Thai? Italian? Japanese? With a handful of restaurants spread across the resort, there's a dish to fulfill every craving. Arva, the farm-to-table Italian restaurant, has my favorite menu, but Thai restaurant Buabok, with its nightly traditional dance performances, is hard to beat if you're a first-timer.

Don't miss: Sunsets here are sublime, so make sure to be back at the resort around 5:30 p.m. for sundowners at one of the two bars. Also, Aman's hyper-bespoke hospitality means that few requests are too crazy—have a chat with your guest experience manager if you're celebrating a special occasion.

Who should go: As one of Phuket's priciest stays, this is the spot for anyone with a big budget.

For total privacy: Trisara

Lavish villa with private pool
Private pool residence at Trisara
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Relaxation is serious business at Trisara: there's a lounger-lined saltwater pool that spans almost the entire beachfront; a sprawling spa for muscle-melting rubdowns; and a host of go-slow activities ranging from sunset cruises to temple tours. And even when the resort runs at full capacity (as it did during my last visit), it never feels busy.

Room scene: Trisara's 39 villas are temples of relaxation. They smell of jasmine flowers and tropical fruits and are tastefully done up in a soul-soothing palette of wood and cream. The infinity pools hugging each veranda are among Phuket's very best (Those views? Unreal!), while the lush gardens surrounding them ensure that nosy neighbors don't stand a chance. For larger groups, the private pool residences—which come with up to eight bedrooms—are the ones to book.

Restaurant report: The resort is home to one of the island's most ambitious fine-dining restaurants, Pru, where chef Jimmy Ophorst turns hyper-local and often homegrown produce into wildly innovative tasting menus. One bite of its signature soil-cooked carrots or pickled duck egg, and you'll understand why it was the first Phuketian restaurant to earn a Michelin star. Cielo, the Mediterranean restaurant by the beach, hits the spot for casual lunches and dinners.

Don't miss: Trisara's jazzy Sunday brunch attracts guests from all over Phuket with free-flowing champagne, a seafood barbecue, and a fabulous beachfront setting.

Who should go: Couples and families who appreciate privacy and the finer things in life.

For boutique hotel aficionados: Hotel Verdigris

Plunge pool on the private rooftop terrace of the Verdigris Suite
The Verdigris Suite's private terrace
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Taking its design cues from Phuket Town’s Sino-Portuguese shophouses, Hotel Verdigris is a brilliant base from which to explore the city’s candy-colored architecture and fantastic food scene. Rootsy design touches and a library filled with history books provide a welcome dose of cultural context, while the zig-zag tiled pool is a perfect spot to cool down after a day around town.

Room scene: With just 14 rooms, the Verdigris is an intimate affair. If you have the cash to splash, book the Verdigris Suite, which comes with heaps of space and a snug plant-fringed plunge pool on its private rooftop terrace.

Restaurant report: The hotel serves breakfasts (a choice between continental classics and local specialities) in its light-flooded lounge. It's closed for lunch and dinner (unless you book a private dining experience), but in this restaurant-packed corner of Phuket Town, that's hardly an issue.

Don't miss: With its perch at the heart of Phuket's historic quarter, this is a base camp for neighborhood exploration. Ask the friendly staff for their insider intel on the smartest coffee shops and best alleys for street art.

Who should go: Those looking for cultural immersion and a peek into Phuket beyond the beach. Leave little ones at home, though: the hotel only welcomes kids older than 12.

For design lovers: The Slate

Interior view of a pool villa at The Slate
The Pool Villas offer a seamless blend of art, nature, and luxury
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Set in the quieter northern side of the island, The Slate delivers a welcome break from the tried-and-tested design formula of polished teak and Thai wickerwork. Instead, celebrated hotel designer Bill Bensley drew inspiration from Phuket's bygone tin-mining industry and infused the place with industrial accents (think: heavy-duty light fixtures, copper bathtubs, lots of nuts and bolts). Steampunk-like installations pop out from between the palm trees. Another plus: the airport is just a 10-minute drive away.

Room scene: The tin-mining theme subtly extends to the suites and villas, which meld industrial-chic accents with eye-popping art. Their breezy balconies (or patios on the ground-floor suites) make for lovely nooks to spend time with a book. If you're planning to spend a lot of time here, it's worth splurging on a villa, which comes with a private pool and lots of outdoor space.

Restaurant report: Black Ginger, the resort's Thai restaurant, is a destination in itself—and that's not just because you reach its entrance by raft across a lotus-dotted pond. Taking over a traditional Thai mansion, the restaurant specializes in playful Thai fusion food. Order the family-style tasting menu to sample the highlights, and don't miss the sweet soup-like tu-bo dessert.

Don't miss: From CBD-infused dinners pop-ups to music festivals, DJ sets, and fashion shows, the resort's event calendar is packed with happenings throughout the year.

Who should go: Weekend-trippers flying over from Asia's urban hubs, and sun-seekers looking for an unconventional—but supremely comfortable—stay.

Chris Schalkx
Chris Schalkx is a freelance writer and photographer with a focus in travel and design. In 2013, he swapped his native the Netherlands, for a new adventure in Bangkok, from where he explores Asia and beyond to sniff out up-and-coming designers, under-the-radar destinations and time-tested classics. His words and photographs have appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, HTSI, Vogue, The New York Times and more.