Lyrics by Mark Hodson
There is a widespread belief that Phuket is overdeveloped and spoiled. That may be true in some parts of the island, but not on the northwest beach of Mai Khao, seven miles of pristine sand fringed by coconut palms and protected by national park status.
The newest five-star hotel to open there is the Meliá Phuket Mai Khao, offering a unique Spanish touch with contemporary Asian flair. The look is whitewashed modernism softened by lush tropical vegetation, and the emphasis is on well-being and total relaxation.
Isolation, cocooning and intimacy are the key words of the Meliá Phuket Mai Khao. Some guests barely step out of their walled suites and you can walk down the beach any time of the day and barely see another soul. Even sun loungers and umbrellas are prohibited under national park regulations. Come if you want to hide away from the world, or a few days of relaxation after a busy tour in Thailand. Sunsets can be spectacular.
The hotel’s footprint is a wedge shape bordered on either side by farmland and palm trees. The slim corner end is a 62-meter-long pool, which ends at the beach, with lounge chairs, umbrellas, and couples’ pavilions along one side. There’s a second, quieter pool, as well as a well-equipped gym, party room, and small children’s playroom.
I was there in November 2022, a year after its pandemic-delayed opening, and the hotel grounds were beautiful. There’s a collection of orchids dotted around, with each variety identified by a QR code. The designers have also taken care of the sound of the property – as well as the chirping of birds and the croaking of frogs in the early evening, there’s a constant trickle of hidden water, plus a complete lack of noisy neighbors.
And, of course, this is Thailand, so the staff are some of the most thoughtful, attentive and polite you’ll find anywhere.
There are 30 suites (78 square meters) and 70 villas (85 square meters), all very private. Some have an outdoor bathtub and a day bed in a small garden hidden by foliage and filigree walls; some have plunge pools. You can even upgrade to a wellness villa with a daily in-room massage and other extras, including a vitamin C shower. Understandably, the resort is popular with couples and honeymooners.
All rooms offer the highest specifications, with extremely comfortable beds, blackout blinds and Nespresso coffee machines. I especially liked the indoor-outdoor rain shower. The rooms are located in buildings with letters ranging from A to P. Building A is closest to the reception and the higher letters (L, M, N, P) are closer to the beach, therefore more desirable.
There are two restaurants. Breakfast is served inside the air-conditioned Sasa with a few tables outside on the terrace. There’s an impressive buffet with everything from freshly baked pastries and guava juice to Asian dishes such as dim sum and congee, plus Spanish touches — chorizo and pan con tomate. Customers can also order à la carte at will.
Lunch and dinner are served in the elegant, open-walled Gaia Beach Club restaurant with a mix of Asian and Mediterranean dishes. I felt the kitchen had struggled to find its footing, but the arrival of a new executive chef, Alec Lomas, fresh out of running a culinary school in Bangkok, brought a new management and seasoned rookies in the kitchen: his signature dish of sirloin with corn and salsa verde was sensational.
The YHI Spa — unique to Meliá properties — has a distinct Thai flavor here with local organic ingredients used among herbal products and treatments inspired by traditional Thai massage. There are five treatment rooms and a relaxation terrace overlooking a watermelon farm where, after your treatment, tea made from pandan leaves will be served. The men’s and women’s locker rooms have their own sauna and showers.
Like most hotels in Thailand, independent vendors have set up shop nearby and you can get a massage on a covered wooden platform on the beach at a cost of 500 baht (£12) for an hour. Many guests experience both this and the hotel spa. Likewise, there is a good family-run Thai restaurant next door, facing the beach.
You can borrow one of the bikes from the hotel collection free of charge for three hours and explore the local villages and beaches. In half an hour you will reach the beach next to the airport where you can stand under the planes as they roar – lots of fun. Five minutes away (or a short taxi ride) is Yenjai, a simple local restaurant named after the owner, who used to be a chef in five-star hotels but is now semi-retired and runs this lovely little place, open every day. days from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. serving authentic Thai dishes. Golf can also be arranged in Phuket.
Getting There – Several airlines fly from Bangkok to Phuket with a flight time of less than 90 minutes. A taxi from Phuket airport to the hotel costs 600 baht (£12) – you can book and pay in the arrivals hall.
Rooms at the Meliá Phuket Mai Khao start at £153 per night for two people, including breakfast and taxes. (High season rates from £200).
Address: 233 Moo 3, Tambon Mai Khao, Amphur Thalang, Phuket, Thailand
Call: +66 0 76 563 550