Named after the 'heaven of heavens' in Sanskrit, Paresa boutique hotel in Phuket perches high on the cliffs of Kamala Bay, with sandy beaches within easy reach and god-given views of Andaman Sea sunsets from all of its contemporary rooms. Relax in the seductive day spa, learn Thai culinary tricks in the smart cooking school or just chill out by the jaw-dropping infinity pool. Overwater dining day-beds put the 'I do' into proposals.
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A Thai set lunch with a glass of house wine for two at Talung Thai Restaurant
Noon; check-in, 3pm, but both are flexible subject to availability. Late check-outs up to 6pm will be charged at 50 per cent of the room rate.
Double rooms from £439.47 (THB18,630), including tax at 18.8 per cent.
Rates include à la carte and buffet breakfast, daily snacks, unlimited access to the gym, sauna, infinity pool and Paresa Beach Club, and free shuttle bus to and from Kamala Beach.
Dine away from prying eyes in the Khao Sok forest; ask the Adventure Team and they'll set up a linen-topped table on a raft underneath the tree canopy. A little more labour intensive, but no less magical, fishing for your own supper in the Andaman Sea is a rewarding way to sample local fare.
At the hotel
Spa, gym, sauna, Muse library with books, DVDs, board games, guest computers and good selection of newspapers and magazines, cooking school, free WiFi throughout, concierge, gardens, beach club and private beach. In rooms: flatscreen TV, CD/DVD player, espresso machine, Bluetooth speakers, free bottled water. Cliff Pool Villas and Grand Residence Pool Villas come with well stocked wine cellars, and Grand Residence Pool Villas also have a kitchen.
Our favourite rooms
All Paresa's pool villas offer seductive sea and sunset views off Phuket's west coast, but for a private plunge pool opt for an Ocean Pool Suite or any of the categories above it. We're pretty partial to the Spa Pool Suite, which comes with a private outdoor treatment sala, steam room, and a freestanding island bath tub with wraparound pool, as well as a free daily massage treatment each. For all-out luxe, the Grand Residence Pool Villa boasts its own dining pavilion, kitchen and wine cellar.
Paresa's streamlined infinity pool is a thing of beauty, flanked by a vast wooden deck delivering Andaman Sea views. Poolside food and bar service means you won't go hungry or thirsty lapping up those views from your lounger or beanbag, and the heady cliffside setting means you can survey your holiday kingdom from on high. Bossa Nova tunes will keep your toes tapping, or shake things up in the Energy Flotation Pool, a small, black-terrazzo number on the sun-deck with a rose quartz crystal obelisk for positive vibes. The pool is open between 9am and 7pm; after that, it's the setting for romantic dinners.
If ever there was a time to splash out on a fashion-forward bikini or pair of board shorts, it's when you've booked a sojourn at Paresa. A pool this dreamy deserves a sartorial style statement. Bring a notebook for jotting down Thai cooking class tips, yoga gear if you plan to get bendy, and boat shoes for hiring out the resort's yacht.
During peak season, a five-night minimum stay applies, and there's an optional Gala Dinner for guests staying on 31 December (THB9,000 a head). Smoking is allowed on room balconies only; pets are not welcome.
All ages welcome – baby cots are free; sofabeds for kids aged five to 12 are THB1,750 or THB3,500 for over-12s – the price includes daily breakfast, too; babysitting is available for THB800 per child with a minimum of two hours (more after 11pm).
Set atop the cape headland, Paresa has been sensitively designed around existing trees to make the most of its 30-acre coastal setting, with a natural palette of stone, timber and green slate roofs so it blends in with the bush.
We love swimming and dining, so imagine our delight when we discovered Paresa's ultra-romantic 'infinity dining' concept. Snaffle a day-bed for two suspended over the infinity pool and waiters will wade out to serve you supper.
Relaxed by day, racy by night. There's something about oh-my-god ocean views that cry out for a bit of dramatic dressing up.
Sitting on a cliff-top setting, Talung Thai Restaurant shares the same dining space and serves authentic cuisine with a southern Thai slant, with a gorgeous outdoor deck for saluting the sunset. Plus, there's a stellar drinks list with cool cocktails and wines from around the world.
Paresa serves drinks at the dramatic Infinity Pool Bar, the perfect spot for a sundowner. There are no DJs, but you can chill out to Latin sounds and lounge tunes. 'Rush hour' kicks in from 6pm, when guests gather to pay homage to the sunset.
Breakfast runs from 7am to 11am, lunch is 11am till 6pm, afternoon tea is served from 2pm to 5pm and dinner runs until 11pm, although the restaurants stay open from 6pm until midnight.
Available 24 hours a day, mirroring the restaurant menu.
Clinging to the cliffside at Kamala Bay on Phuket's west coast, super-central Paresa perches on a lofty headland between buzzy Patong and Surin bays, but is an exclusive escape from the crowds.
Fly into Phuket International Airport (www.phuketairportonline.com), which receives regular international flights from dozens of destinations. Try Thai Airways (www.thaiairways.com), Cathay Pacific (www.cathaypacific.com) or Air Asia (www.airasia.com) if you're coming from Europe or Asia, or from Australia check out Virgin Australia (www.virginaustralia.com) or Jetstar (www.jetstar.com). Bangkok Airways (www.bangkokair.com) offers domestic connections. The hotel is 45 to 60 minutes away by car, and transfers can be arranged; it's BAHT1,500 each way for a private hotel car (maximum three people) or BAHT1,900 each way for a luxury van (maximum six people).
Although trains on the mainland can be an efficient way to travel, Phuket island isn't served by train, so we recommend hopping there by air.
Parking is available at the hotel for self-drivers. If you're coming from the nearest town, Patong, it's a 25-minute journey.
Worth getting out of bed for
The jaw-plummeting ocean and jungle views here are enough to make you jump out of bed each day. If you need a little more coaxing, Paresa's Adventure Team are on call from 9am to 9pm to regale you with local knowledge, and plan a bespoke activity programme. What's your whim? Canoeing through cave-sheltered lagoons, treks to hidden temples, elephant-scouting in Phang Nga Province's jungle, cooking with local rice farmers, Bhuddist blessings in a nearby pagoda, snorkelling, fishing and heritage tours are on the action-packed menu.
We're also pretty wowed by the Recipe, the Paresa's state-of-the-art Thai cooking school. Accompany the chef to the local morning market to select your produce, then cook and eat it in the show kitchen (you'll receive your own apron to take home). Though most guests tend to hang out at the hotel, it's worth pottering down to Kamala Beach at least once during your stay, a beautiful little strip of sand with safe swimming, and smart service thanks to the Paresa Beach Club, which offers lunch, drinks and day-beds. There's a free shuttle-bus, but it's only a 10-minute walk down the street.
Spa treatments are a must, with five double treatment rooms up for grabs, with steam rooms, showers, and sea views from private relaxation balconies for chilling out afterwards. Products are by Thai brand Panburi, and there's a salon for pedicures, manicures and hair styling. Serious detox devotees can book in for Experience Premchit, a three- to 28-day wellness programme including music, scent, breathing and movement therapy.
Beyond the hotel, enjoy a guided shopping excursion to Kamala Market to sample village-style shopping and street food, Surin for upmarket handicrafts and stores, or take a luxe SUV to Patong for more urban thrills. Paresa also offers an island-hopping day trip taking in Phang Nga's famous bay, as well as swimming, snorkelling and a beach lunch at Koh Phi Phi island. Animals lovers can also spend half a day elephant trekking in the lush island interior. Top your stay off with a swish charter trip on the Paresa's yacht. Landlubbers can take their pick from three golf courses, including Blue Canyon Country Club, Red Mountain Golf Club and Laguna Phuket Golf Club.
The tropical sophistication and jazzy soundtrack at Siam Supper Club attracts the island’s more discerning expats. It serves an easy-going menu of pizzas, grilled fish and meat, and cocktails. Pad Thai (121 Srisonthorn Road, Surin Beach) is a chichi spot where you can dine poolside or in the air-con comfort of a private room.
Dare to venture to Patong – if only for one night – where there’s a guaranteed party crowd and it's entertaining people watching. Local hotspots are Seduction (39/1 Bangla Road, Patong), the open-air Club Lime (+66 (0)85 798 1850) and Banana (+66 (0)76 340 306; both Taweewong Road).
Think The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert on steroids. It’s our last night in Phuket and we have VIP tickets for Simon Cabaret, famous for its lady boy stars. The costumes are incredible and, despite the fact that most of the performances are mimed, the ‘girls’ look stunning with bodies my gal pal and I would kill for. There’s even a little bit of Kylie Minogue thrown in for added camp. We walk out with faces aching from smiling.
Scroll back two days and I can sense Mrs Smith’s excitement as our plane flies in over the densely forested island. She’s my best friend and is soon to celebrate her fortieth birthday, which is what brings us to Thailand. We only have two nights on Phuket and are staying at Paresa to kickstart our holiday in luxurious style.
Perfectly poised on a cliff-edge overlooking the Andaman Sea, Paresa is a 45-minute car transfer from the airport. After a speedy check-in we’re invited to bang the huge brass gong to announce our arrival. Oh boy, have we arrived… the view of the rainforest-cloaked coastline and sparkling turquoise sea from the terrace takes our breath away.
The sharply angled buggy-ride down to the villas, tucked away amid towering trees and tropical gardens, is not for the faint-hearted. My suggestion that we could walk back up to the bar for sunset drinks is met with amusement. Stilettos and steep paths are not a good combo.
After our white-knuckle rollercoaster ride to our super-private Aqua Pool Suite, we survey our serene, expansive space complete with enormous king-size bed and bathroom. Useful given we’re two girls travelling together! The huge bath tub is in prime position for soaking up tree-framed sea views. Even more exciting are the outdoor shower and our own infinity pool. I promptly stretch out on one of the two sunloungers on the terrace. Mrs Smith slips into her bikini and into the pool just as the sun slides beyond the horizon. The only sound is the waves crashing onto the rocks below and the only signs of life are the distant lights along the coastline. Total bliss.
Later at Paresa’s spa we both luxuriate under the expert hands of our Thai masseurs. The treatment begins with a gentle foot wash and ends with fresh pineapple and lemongrass tea on a sea-facing terrace. I’m really starting to feel like I’m on holiday.
As our buggy rocks up at Diavolo Restaurant, the beautifully dressed staff show us to our table on a sweeping deck under a canopy of giant banyan trees. Our waiter points out the faint twinkling lights in the darkness, which turn out to be fishing boats. All this talk of fish makes the seafood platter from the Italian menu a natural choice – you can also select delicacies from the local menu af Talung Thai Restaurant in the same space – and we pair our meal with a surprisingly delicious Thai wine. Plugging in our iPod back at the villa post-dinner, we pour ourselves a glass of wine from the minibar, recline on the sunloungers and admire the star-filled sky.
During a leisurely breakfast, which takes in Asian and European treats including an amazing purple dragon fruit smoothie, we plan our day. The hotel provides an enticing array of free activities such as Thai cookery demonstrations, wine tasting and cultural tours. Mrs Smith explains to Moncy, the flamboyant and funny guest relations manager, that she has her heart set on elephant trekking and shopping. It’s all arranged in minutes, along with the aforementioned cabaret tickets.
We spend over an hour riding through the jungle on Owen at the nearby elephant camp (you’d think they would give the animals more exotic Thai names!). We feed the elephants bananas afterwards and marvel at what enormous but gentle creatures they are. Next stop is Kamala Beach, where we discover some fun boutiques for summer wear, fantastic antique shops and a chic store called Lemongrass House, selling handmade spa products. We intend to lunch at the cool and brilliantly located Catch Beach Club on Surin Beach, but we’ve both over-indulged at breakfast so settle on a lemongrass martini instead. What is it with lemongrass today?
As a birthday treat for Mrs Smith that night I’ve lined up Paresa’s signature ‘infinity dining’ experience – a table set up in the main infinity pool filled with LED lights that mirror the twinkling stars. By day, the three sets of sun-beds sit in shallow water at the pool edge; by night, they’re the perfect setting for a ‘cough’ romantic dinner for two. Sandals off, we wade through the water to our aquatically alluring table where, reclining on the sun-beds, we enjoy a delicious five-course candle-lit dinner of freshly caught prawns, sweet Phuket lobster and coffee panna cotta. The numerous cocktails we consume make for an amusing wobble to the safety of dry ground at the end of the meal.
Our night out on the town with the lady boys brings our Phuket sojourn to a saucy end. The next morning, we depart at a horrible hour to Koh Phi Phi Island, but luckily the gorgeous hotel staff supply us with a breakfast box to take on our journey. Bless them. Lounging in the luxury of the Paresa SUV, while chowing down on our picnic, we remark on how relaxed we feel despite our jam-packed schedule. We make a pact to return to Paresa, but next time to do absolutely nothing – except for a spot of cabaret…