Life’s a beach at Rosewood Phuket: the pearl of Emerald Bay. Holidays here are spent unwinding at the blissful, herb-tastic Asaya Spa, pootling between the trio of ravishing restaurants (tick off Italian treats, Thai classics and from-sea-to-barbecue fish), and saying hello to the local fishies, elephants and monks. This type of eye-popping beautiful tropical luxury often comes with an ‘adults-only’ tag, but this particular Eden is for all ages: little Smiths might come home versed in the art of Muay Thai and traditional kite-making…
Get this when you book through us:
A Ta Khai dining experience: a three-course set dinner for two, excluding drinks
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability and a charge (50 per cent of the nightly rate, if you stay till 2pm; 100 per cent of the nightly rate from 2pm–6pm). Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £434.66 (THB17,864), including tax at 18.7 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast (buffet and à la carte options), select minibar treats (restocked daily), high-speed WiFi and 24-hour access to the fitness centre.
Design fans have plenty to admire here, from the lashings of pale wood to the plush fabrics, lamps and cushions; the hotel has also seamlessly blended its inside and outdoor spaces. The overall effect is incredibly relaxing.
At the hotel
Access to Tri Trang public beach; tropical gardens; incredible kids’ club; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, minibar, La Bottega bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Opt for a room with direct beach access for maximum seaside smugness; if your budget allows, splash out on one of the villas and pretend you own the place – if only briefly.
The hotel has cleverly sliced its paradisiacal pool, perched above a blissful stretch of white-sand beach, into different sections. There’s a sporty stretch for lengths, a kids’ section for all-ages frolics, a quiet section for lovebirds, and so on. Hit up the handy poolside Shack when you need light refreshments. Picture the scene by night, when it twinkles magically with lights…
Your body really is a temple at Rosewood Phuket’s Asaya spa, which is designed to be a true sanctuary for wellness. There are yoga areas, tranquil treatment rooms, a herb laboratory and an extensive list of spa rituals. Pluck fresh-as-can-be herbs for your treatments in the spa garden; you’ll even be shown how the essential oils are extracted.
Bring finery for Ta Khai restaurant and an appetite for seafood.
Guests who have time to kill between check-out and the woeful flight home can use the hotel’s swimming pool and luggage-storage area.
Furry Smiths weighing in at 15 kilogrammes (or less) are very welcome: they’ll even get an on-loan bed, bowl, water, a toy and a homemade treat. Ask staff about the dog-walking service, puppy menu, pet beds and in-room doggie dining menu. Woof. See more pet-friendly hotels in Phuket.
Little Smiths will love the Rosewood Explorers Club. Under-12s can stay for free in their parents’ room; over-12s can stay with parents from THB4,500 a night (includes breakfast; excludes tax and service charge). Babysitting is available on request.
The hotel has impeccable green credentials: it harvests plain water for its water supply and uses a solar renewable-energy system. Landscaped rooftops mean that more than 75 per cent of the interior spaces are exposed to daylight; buildings star recycled and reclaimed materials. Learn about the local area by visiting a local fish farm, going snorkelling or joining a Phuket Elephant Sanctuary tour.
Sit under the shade of the beautiful bodhi tree at Ta Khai.
Add sparkling gems and lustrous pearls by night for Ta Khai to match the glittering sea and stars (Mr Smiths could don a pearl-white shirt, perhaps). Anything goes at the other two...
This ravishing resort has a trio of star-turn restaurants: beachfront Ta Khai, designed in imitation of a traditional village (the buildings are former houses, bought from the locals in exchange for new dwellings). A huge bodhi tree – which has sacred significance for Buddhists – stands guard at the very front of Ta Khai. Breakfast is served at relaxed Red Sauce; the pizza oven and and pasta counter cater to guests’ all-day dining needs (and are sure to go down particularly well with smaller Smiths). Completing the triumvirate, the Shack does what it says on the tin: this casual beachfront joint is designed for laid-back lunches and poolside snacking. Order oysters and fresh fish – barbecued to perfection.
My, oh Mai (bar): this serene space is impressive by day, and utterly knee-weakening by night, when it’s lit with lamps and flickering candles. Cushions are strewn invitingly for guests to recline on (gracefully or otherwise), cocktail in hand. Every so often, a live band serenades lucky listeners…
Breakfast is available between 7am and 11am; Ta Khai closes at 10pm.
You’ll forget what hunger feels like here, thanks to the 24-hour in-room dining service, which spans all-day breakfast, items from the restaurant menus and an edited, late-night selection available between 10pm and 7am.
The hotel occupies a peaceful beachfront patch of Phuket’s Emerald Bay, which is every bit as dreamy as it sounds.
Phuket International Airport is 40 kilometres away. The hotel can arrange fast-track airport service (for international direct flights only) – it starts from THB1,100 or THB2,200 if your flight arrives between 1am-6am.
The hotel has valet parking and plenty of on-site parking spaces. That said, taxis are fairly cheap and holidays are for relaxing, so don’t feel obliged to come with wheels.
Worth getting out of bed for
Set off on a romantic stroll across the beach and through the hotel’s dreamy tropical gardens. Borrow bikes or try non-motorised watersports; ask the staff to arrange a private island-hopping tour, or get a bird’s-eye view of your surroundings by embarking on a chopper tour. The hotel runs a variety of wellness programmes: pick from one-, three-, five-, seven- or 14-day options – and take part in Thai boxing, body stretch, Tabata workout, abs training, Pilates, morning yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkelling, tow-in skimboarding and more. Further afield, explore Phuket Old Town, visit a local fish farm or elephant sanctuary, and admire Chalong Temple. Catch a local Muay Thai boxing show, visit the Phuket Mining Museum, or hop to Koh Rok Island and Similan Islands. Sail away on a luxury yacht cruise along Phuket’s southern coastline to a tiny island, where you will be blessed by monks (yes, really), before sailing to a deserted beach for a champagne picnic lunch. Don’t miss the sunset views from Promthep Caves (the hotel will zip you to the caves and back). NB all this is just a taster – Rosewood Phuket can arrange a dizzyingly diverse array of adventures…
Head into Phuket town, where a holiday’s worth of edible temptations awaits. Try popular Raya Restaurant (+66 76 218 155) for its crab coconut curry or moo hong: a slow-braised pork dish; try Tu Kab Khao (+66 76 608 888) on Phang Nga Road for Southern Thai flavours (don’t miss the mackerel soup with tamarind and the spicy fish cakes); try Blue Elephant Restaurant for Thai food served in splendour (an opulent mansion, to be precise). Over on Kamala Beach, have a sunset dinner at Café del Mar(+66 63 081 2488); the Bangkok outpost of this Ibiza institution does the family proud.
Go for cocktails and dancing-on-sand sessions at Xana Beach Club in Laguna. The club’s lengthy lures include a 35-metre swim-up bar, a private rooftop terrace and a state-of-the-art sound system.
I’d heard a lot of things about Phuket before I went there. Stunning. Shabby. Divine. Debaucherous. Breathtaking. Vomit-inducing. It felt like one of those places that had been both discovered and destroyed before I ever got the chance to set foot there; a paradise over-trodden with Australian tourists taking selfies and shots. And on the hour-long ride from the airport all of my worst fears were confirmed.
Driving down the main drag of Patong Bay we actually saw a German couple in underwear (not swimsuits), stumble out of a bar and collapse in the middle of the street. It was just after noon.
But then something magical happened – our driver turned off the main road, kicked his minivan into a lower gear, and drove what felt like straight up the side of a soaring jungle-encrusted limestone mountain. Then another. And another.
Minutes later, when we turned into the Rosewood Phuket’s hidden entrance, it felt like we’d stepped into a completely different world. Perhaps, I thought to myself hopefully, this was the Phuket that some lucky traveler had first stepped into hundreds of years ago (well, the Seventies if we’re being honest) and begun the craze that had created the horror of Patong. Barely before we’d had time to sip our chilled tropical cocktails, we were whisked down the jungle-laden hillside to our lagoon-side villa.
When we walked through the door, there was immediately something special about it, something that made it feel less like a hotel room and more like a friend had loaned you their place in Phuket for the night. A very rich, very cool friend with better taste in gin than you. But a friend nonetheless. There were little touches everywhere that made the space feel lived in – stacks of well-read books, the aforementioned gins on a tray with everything you need to put together a stiff cocktail, and a little drawer full of candles and bath salts to set up around the outdoor soaking tub for a romantic evening with those books and cocktails.
Also, and this was one of our favorite things throughout the stay – pretty much every time we left the villa, we’d come back to find it cleaned and a new surprise hidden somewhere. Would there be delightful little pandan choux in a box set out on the deck before sunset? Milky green tea custards with tiny bamboo spoons to enjoy before bed? One time, and this almost brought tears to my eyes, I came back to find that the raggedy old folded map I’d been using as a bookmark in my novel had been very gently replaced by a gorgeous marbled-paper bookmark. And yes, it was still on the right page.
That said, Phuket is not the kind of place where you want to spend all day exploring your room, trying to find hidden delicacies. You come to Phuket in large part for the beach. And the one here was great.
Literally steps from our front door we could walk down a little lava-stone path, push through a few tropical plants, and emerge on the white sand of the semi-private Tri Trang Beach. There we’d rush straight into the crystal-clear turquoise blue lagoon water for a quick cool off, a long float, or a snorkel with the reef fish. The one negative was that the beach is shared with the £40-a-night Diva Tri Trang Resort (that is actually it’s name, we double-checked.) So, while they mostly kept to the Diva-side of the beach, there’d always be a few Russian models who frolicked and selfied their way down to the Rosewood section and set up shop for the day. Again, for many this could be a people-watching plus, but when Mr Smith and I wanted to enjoy a gin and tonic while watching the sunset, it was the one minus to an otherwise great beach experience.
So, villa that feels like a friend’s fancy crash pad? Check. White sand beach on a picture-perfect lagoon? Check. Spectacular grounds with restaurants, pools, spas and bars galore? Check. But my one quest when I arrived in Phuket was to find something from that hidden past that first inspired our trip there – the most perfect traditional beachside Thai restaurant.
I had pictures in my head of coconut trees and fishponds and an old Thai couple happily chatting away as they served up fresh fish caught that day by their kids. Maybe it was a big ask, but I was confident I was going to find it. But everything was either too modern or too touristy or too not-beachside. Finally, Mr Smith dragged me away from my computer as the sun was setting to begrudgingly head to dinner at one of the hotel’s restaurants. And you can imagine my surprise, when no more than a hundred feet from our villa, we walked through a bamboo forest to discover one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve ever seen in my life.
Words do no justice to the magic we stumbled upon that night – lanterns and tables set up around and inside several gorgeous upscale glass and wood fishing huts, all crowded beneath the boughs of ancient banyan trees along the white sand beach. At the center of it all, a beautiful open kitchen where Uncle Nun and Aunt Yai were busy preparing a traditional Thai dinner from ingredients they fished and foraged for that day.
The restaurant of my dreams, the one I’d spent all day searching for on my computer, was right beneath my nose. Needless to say, we ate there every night of our stay. And I’d eat there every night for the rest of my life if I could.
It was then that I realized that I didn’t need to find the Phuket that had first enchanted Western travelers, because I’d found something better. Someplace where a kind and lovely old Thai couple could make me one of the best meals of my life while chatting with me about their kids and their island. But where I could also stumble back through the jungle to a palace-sized bed with 1000-thread-count sheets and a little box of milky green tea custard thoughtfully waiting for me.
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