Inspired by the island’s tin-mining heritage, The Slate boutique hotel in Phuket delights in its industrial-inclined decor, care of American designer Bill Bensley. You'll be mining a rich seam here, with super-luxe suites and villas taking pampering to new heights, dreamy dining, a cocooning spa and a blissful beach in reach.
Noon, but flexible subject to availability. Check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £126.75 (THB5,698), including tax at 18.7 per cent.
Rates include daily buffet breakfast; guests staying in the Pearl Shell Suite or Private Pool Villas will also get a fruit basket and in-villa snacks. On 31 December, rates exclude an optional Gala dinner (more fun than it sounds).
Charter a yacht to go island-hopping, deep-sea fishing or rom-com sunset cruising, with trips tailormade for you. Butlers will hop onboard to pamper you with snacks, drinks and gourmet meals, and spa therapists can pummel you as you sail.
At the hotel
Coqoon Spa, gym, tennis courts, dive centre, watersports, florist, boutiques, kids' club, concierge, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: satellite TV, CD/DVD player, minibar, wine cellar, beach bag, own-label toiletries. Private Pool Villas also offer a pool, double spa room with sauna and steam bath, Jacuzzi tub, coffee machine, fully stocked bar, pantry, personal 24-hour butler service, Blue-ray player and mobile phone. The Coqoon Spa Suite boasts a pool, sauna and steam room.
Our favourite rooms
We love the One-bedroom Private Pool Villas, encased within lush walled tropical gardens. Living and sleeping areas are split between two pavilions, linked by dark timber decking dotted with exotic blooms and frangipani trees. Sunloungers and day-beds abound, and there’s a cosy corner for every mood. With your own pool, bar, dining room, Jacuzzi, spa, sauna, steam room and a 24-hour butler service, there’s little reason to leave. Villas 2006 and 2007 are the most private. We're particularly fond of the Pearl Shell Suites too.
With two dramatic adults-only pools, and one family-friendly oasis, you're spoilt for water larks. We love the monumental, stone-sided infinity lap pool, but the curvy, foliage-fringed watering-hole is a must, too. Bagged a Private Pool Villa? Then sink into your own striped pool for secret skinny dips and Jacuzzi bubbles before lazing atop sunken, water-lapped loungers. There’s even a swim-up bar.
Coqoon Spa features eight treatment rooms-for-two, including the spectacular woven Nest suspended in an age-old banyan tree. Massages, scrubs, wraps and other lavish beauty therapies are all up for grabs, or ask about in-room pampering.
Don’t let books take up bag space – just bring one to swap in the library when you’re done. Perfect for Kindle-less technophobes! Fitness fans should pack kit for watersports, yoga, t'ai chi, Pilates, Fit Ball and muay Thai boxing.
Very welcome: there's a kids' club, free baby cots and extra beds for two children under seven, and babysitting costs from THB250 an hour.
Private Pool Villas, which come with one or two bedrooms, are a family-friendly option, as they can sleep a maximum of two children (up to 12) for free on converted day-beds. Two-bedroom Pearl Shell Suites are spacious, too.
Tin Box, the kids' club, is open from 8am to 6pm daily. Hourly activities such as mask-making, cookery, face-painting and junior yoga keep children up to 12 entertained, although tots under four must be accompanied by a parent or nanny (see below). The beachside kids' corner at Côtémar bar is open 9am to 3pm daily (but again, no under fours) for sandcastle-building smalls. It's a public beach, but is just two minutes' walk from the heart of the hotel. Beyond Indigo, elephant trekking through the jungle will enthrall and children will love the dazzling special effects of Thai cultural show Siam Niramit, held nightly except Tuesdays, which features over 100 all-singing, all-dancing performers.
Only one of the three hotel pools permits kids, and this one, with its shallow-end ‘beaches’, water features and separate kids' pool, will be adored by infants. Lifeguards are on duty from 8am to 7pm.
Children are welcome in all the resort's restaurants, at any time. The kids' menu lists many familiar faves including mini burgers, fish & chips, pasta and ice-cream.
Pearl nannies are available from THB250 an hour.
No need to pack
Baby cots, strollers, baby toiletries, blankets, bottle brush and warmer, car seat, crib, infant bath tub and bottle sterilizer. The hotel does its level best to provide anything you might need, and, where possible, free of charge.
The day-beds in Private Pool Villa bedrooms convert to beds for infants and are designed to sleep kids up to age 12; those in the two-bed Villa come with arm-rests that double as safety rails. The two-bedroom Villa suits independent kids best as the bedrooms are in separate pavilions, however all villas interconnect. The pool of the two-bed Villa comes with a special paddling section that will be a hit with toddling smalls.
The Green Pearl committee encourages eco-friendly practices within the hotel and organises beach clean-ups and awareness workshops in the community. The Slate also backs Phuket Sunshine Village, a foundation supporting tsunami orphans.
Aim for a lagoon-side pew at Black Ginger. For more privacy, try dining by the pool or sala in your villa. Your butler can also suggest romantic spots for a beach barbecue or park picnic.
Havaianas for all occasions; informality reigns.
All-day dining, including international buffet breakfasts, is served at giant, open-sided Tin Mine, a monotone-chic space with a global menu, Thai street-food cooking stations and speciality cuisine evenings twice a week. For fine dining, take a raft across the lily pond to Black Ginger, The Slate's signature Thai restaurant, open for dinner only. Two traditional peaked-roof wooden salas and an azure-underlit bar set a seductive scene for gourmet grazing. Also open in the evenings is the Rivet Grill, an intimate venue where vintage horse carriages have been transformed into booths for supping on Japanese cuisine – from fresh sashimi to tender Wagyu.
Above Rivet Grill is Rebar, where resident DJs spin chilled tunes and stainless-steel tables stand on floors constructed from old railway sleepers. Tapas-style seafood, Black Angus tenderloin and other tasty snacks are served alongside New World wines and sultry cocktails, including the delicious coconut liqueur-based Crystal Passion (catch the 7pm happy hour). A second ‘whiskeys of the world’ bar, Tongkah Tin Syndicate flaunts custom-made punkah fans and tin-mining memorabilia, and has snooker tables and TVs tuned to sport. Côtémar, right on Nai Yang’s silky sands, is only open until 7pm, with a happy hour from 4pm for sunset sips.
Dine at Tin Mine, Rivet Grill and Black Ginger (reservations required) until 10pm. Drink in Rebar and Tongkah Tin Syndicate until the clock chimes midnight.
Available 24 hours. We love the idea of snacking on scrumptious à la carte breakfasts in your suite or beside the villa pool.
The Slate fringes Nai Yang Beach on Phuket's north-west coast, near the international airport and forests of Sirinat National Park.
There are regular flights to Phuket International Airport (www.phuketairportonline.com) from Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Japan and Australia. Indigo Pearl is a 10-minute drive west of the airport. If you're staying in a Private Pool Villa, you can buy VIP fasttrack service, with personal attendants assisting you to clear immigration, collect luggage and access lounges (THB1,500 a person for your arrival or THB3,400 with departure, too). Normal airport transfers cost THB350 a person, but book with Smith and you'll get them for free.
Although trains on the Thai mainland can be an efficient way to travel, Phuket island isn't served by train, so we recommend hopping there by air.
It's a 30-minute drive from Phuket town to the hotel. If you're arriving with your own wheels, free on-site parking is available.
Worth getting out of bed for
Love adventure? Your butler will tailormake trips based on surf or turf, including sea kayaking and rafting, eco tours, island-hopping, sea cruises, elephant trekking, ATV tours, bicycle rides, big-game fishing and even private windsurfing lessons, just as you like them. Divers should make a date with the on-site PADI centre and board their catamaran bound for the Similan Islands, one of the world's top dive sites.
To get to the roots of the hotel’s theme, visit the island’s only tin-mining museum for an insight into the history of Phuket’s industrious past. Culture vultures can take historical art tours, trek between temples or dive into Phuket’s colourful markets.
Back at the hotel, enjoy a Thai cooking class, learn about floristry and photography, play tennis, work out in the gym or indulge at award-winning Coqoon Spa. If your suite or villa comes with its own massage room, then the spa’s massages, wraps, scrubs, steams and facials can all come to you, but for something spectacular, book yourself into the Nest, a private treatment room tucked into the branches of a centuries-old banyan tree.
Sleepy Nai Yang Beach is worlds away from the buzz and glamour of other coastal resorts further south. Here rustic, local snack-style restaurants are the norm, with seafood, barbecued meats, wood-fired pizza and Thai dishes swiftly served to tables on the sand beneath feathery casuarina trees. At the northern end of the beach is the prime picnicking ground of Sirinat National Park – ask your butler to pack you a gourmet hamper to go.
Ten minutes to the north of the hotel is Sala Phuket, located inside the Sirinat National Park on Mai Khao Beach. Make a beeline for the beach bar and nab one of the curvy white cushioned loungers for optimal ocean views. If you're feeling peckish, head on up to the rooftop restaurant to sup on seafood and Thai dishes.
Mrs Smith and I are jetting off to a destination wedding in Thailand – not our own, mind – so a little holiday on the side at boutique retreat The Slate seems de rigueur. Besides, I muse, when has a wedding in Phuket ever not been a gorgeous sun-drenched affair?
Our first hint of The Slate’s personal service comes as we step off our aircraft into the Phuket terminal to find a representative from the hotel’s VIP fasttrack arrivals squad there to meet us. Ushered quickly through immigration, our bags are collected by a porter before we are escorted to a waiting vehicle, mindful of curious stares as we skip the many queues.
A short ride later, we’re greeted by The Slate team at the hotel entrance and switch to a golf buggy. Check-ins for the villas are carried out in-room, allowing you to slip in undetected. Oddly, each villa has an imposing look to it: tall concrete walls with an iron gate and an intercom for maximum privacy. It feels like we’ve discovered a separate resort within a resort.
Ushered into our One-bedroom Private Pool Villa, we realize that our paradisical pad is in fact not singular, but plural: one villa for entertaining and another for sleeping. Imagine two beautiful homes for different times of the day and you're halfway there. We’re given an elaborate explanation of the electronic security system, which allows you to permit or bar people from entry via TV screens placed throughout the grounds. It’s the kind of high-tech sanctuary that would be a hit with visiting Hollywood royalty, although I’m not sure I’ll be indulging my inner security geek when there’s a balmy beach nearby.
Our villa is stunning and super-chic, with grey concrete floors that remind us of a bar in New York’s Meatpacking District that Carrie and the Sex and the City girls might have frolicked in (in the original TV series – not the horrendous films, natch). Occasional odd angles break up what might otherwise be a plain floor plan, and the private pool features funky racing lines along its floor.
As we primp and preen, Mrs Smith finds trouble in paradise (or rather in the stylish but compact bathroom). 'This is not a female-friendly resort,' she sniffs. 'So much sunlight and not a spot where I can sit and do my make-up in natural light.' I’m waving my arms incredulously at how I can't get away from the sunshine and space, when she adds, 'and why is there no full-length mirror?' Maybe I’ve actually come on holiday with Carrie Bradshaw by mistake!
Our friends’ wedding beckons, so we head out to their hotel, where the ceremony is set on a private beach at sunset. It’s romantic, but roaringly hot (cue much sweating from guests trussed up in jackets and ties). A buffet dinner is followed by the lighting of floating wish lanterns and then about half the wedding party strips off to their undies to swim in the ocean. By midnight the bash gets shut down, but we hear later that the bride and groom stayed up all night and swam out to a diving platform at dawn to lie out and watch the sunrise.
Heads aching, we wake up back at The Slate, but ordering a scrumptious Thai brunch on room service definitely lifts our spirits. We eventually emerge for a swim, but as we peer into the hotel’s three pools, I voice out loud what we’re both thinking, ‘Thank god for the villa.’ The luxe pools have their charms, such as a wet bar and waterfalls, but when we visit all three are chock-full of guests propping up the bar, downing daiquiris and shots – before noon.
It’s hotting up, but the staff immediately come to our rescue in a buggy and whisk us off to the private beach club. After a cooling dip in the ocean, which is tranquil apart from the jumbo jets climbing steeply off the shoreline, we sit down to lunch at beachside Côtémar. The pizza and calamari are OK but aren’t piping hot, perhaps because the kitchen is quite a way off. Mrs Smith is underwhelmed by her hot dog, too, as it isn’t house-made, but it works on our hangovers with gusto.
Jet skis, Hobie cats, scuba diving and other distractions await on Nai Yang Beach, but I'm content with a good book on a sun-bed and the faint smell of coconut in my hair. The water is clear and calm, the occasional raspy sputter of a long-tail boat the only disturbance.
Alas, there is no buggy to magic us back to our villa, but it gives us a chance to explore the spacious resort. Monolithic structures break up the larger grassy areas and the edgy, striking aesthetic continues in the restaurants and reception. We love the fantastically designed Tongkah Tin Syndicate, which successfully blends Phuket junkyard chic with sports bar escape: pool table plus a billiards table, large-screen TVs and a boules court outside. As we sip on a cocktail, refreshed by elegant individual canvas fans wafting in unison, the bar reminds me of the whimsical airship from the movie Stardust.
Spa pampering is our next healing pit stop, and I opt for an Indian head massage in the treatment room of our villa. A 30 per cent surcharge for in-room therapies raises an eyebrow, but it's not often one has the luxury of cocooning oneself away so happily in a bubble.
Dinner at Black Ginger is a must, set on a lagoon and reached via an enchanting rope-pulled boat ride. We settle back in the glossy-black, modern interior (there are also seductive tables out on the deck) and enjoy innovative Thai food that beats many a five-star restaurant I’ve sampled. Service is attentive, if not overly slick, and the fire torches dotting the grounds get us musing about what a gorgeous backdrop it would make for a wedding.
Before we can start planning another destination nuptials it’s the next morning and we’re packing to leave. This is when the sheer size of the villa may prove problematic as you race through the rooms trying to locate swimsuits and souvenirs you’ve absent-mindedly left lying about. A quick phone call to our personal butler would probably get the job done much faster – provided I can remember how to let him in through security…