Fancy some of the world’s most idyllic beaches (at reasonable prices)? Phuket is back.
Bars and nightclubs may be closed for now — but the authorities are considering a relaxation of rules from December onwards, dependent on Covid cases remaining low.
More than a million Britons visited Thailand in 2019, making it one of our favourite long-haul destinations. Here, we round up some of the most enticing packages aiming to lure us back.
The Shore at Katathani, pictured, is staggered on a tropical hillside and its villas have superb views over Kata Noi Beach
The Shore at Katathani is at the southern end of Kata Noi Beach, offering highly affordable luxury. The resort is staggered on a lush, tropical hillside and its villas have superb views over the beach, nearby Ko Pu Island and the craggy coastline below. It comes with a selection of bars, beachside restaurants, a spa, tennis courts, infinity pools and a fitness centre. Good Thai restaurants are within walking distance.
Don’t miss: Sunset drinks on the sea view terrace of the hotel’s Nest Beach Club.
Book it: Seven days’ B&B in a pool villa with London flights from £1,489 pp this winter (flightcentre.co.uk).
Total harmony: The Big Buddha of Phuket – which is 147ft tall – can be seen all over the island
THIRTY-SIX BEACHES AND JAMES BOND…
- At just over 200 square miles, Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, with no fewer than 36 beaches.
- Its population of about 400,000 swells to a million in December when tourists fly in for Christmas.
- Many of its buildings were rebuilt in the wake of the 2004 tsunami which claimed the lives of 250 people on Phuket.
- Hollywood loves its landscapes. The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was shot on islands a short ferry hop away, and the 1974 Bond film The Man With The Golden Gun was partly filmed in Ko Khao Phing Kan, an island to the north.
- The home of the Bond baddie Scaramanga in the film, it is now popularly referred to as James Bond Island.
- Throughout Thailand, the royal family is revered. When the national anthem is played in the streets twice a day, stand still and show respect. Equally, kissing and cuddling in public is frowned upon.
Between the tropical trees of the jungle-covered hillside at the far northern end of busy Karon Beach, you will find the Centara Villas. These are a great place for those who want to avoid the crowds but still have an option to join the fray.
The resort has two restaurants, a bar and swimming pools. It’s a short walk to the beach.
Don’t miss: Take the 1.5-mile hike uphill to Phuket’s 147 ft-tall white Buddha, which can be seen all over the island. Amazing views.
Book it: Seven days’ B&B in a sea view villa including London flights from £839 pp (flightcentre.co.uk).
The Phuket Marriott Resort & Spa rests beside the secluded, virtually private Merlin Beach in the Tri Trang Beach area. It is close to the craggy Patong Beach Cape, between the busy resort towns of Karon Beach and Patong Beach. Rooms are simple but elegantly furnished. There are bars, restaurants and a spa.
Don’t miss: Walk to the nearby Coconut Heaven restaurant for a fantastic meal (especially the seafood) and a lovely ocean view.
Book it: Seven days’ B&B with London flights from £1,116 pp in January (tui.co.uk).
The peaceful Sansuri Phuket is on the quieter, far southern side of Phuket — on a hillside with a jungle backdrop and a view of a lake. Nai Harn Beach is 500 yards away, and has been ranked as one of the best in Asia.
There is a contemporary Asian feel about the hotel design and decor, plus there is a huge pool and several restaurants and bars.
Don’t miss: A day trip to Phuket Old Town, a dozen miles away.
Book it: Seven days’ B&B including London flights from £1,286 pp in December (tui.co.uk).
Tucked away in a tropical forest between the Patong and Karon Beach areas, you will find the stylish boutique Avista Hideaway. With its three pools, rural Thai-themed architecture and seclusion, this is a peaceful spot. Views over the nearby bay are superb, especially at sunset from the Sizzle Rooftop restaurant, one of the island’s best.
You are a short taxi ride away from the main resort towns and even closer to Tri Trang Beach.
Don’t miss: A longtail boat ride around the Cape from Tri Trang Beach to Freedom Beach.
The stylish boutique Avista Hideaway is tucked away in a tropical forest near Karon Beach, pictured above
Book it: Seven days’ B&B including your flights from London is from £1,127 in January (tui.co.uk).
Take an upmarket approach to island hopping by spending four nights at the Santhiya Resort & Spa on the island of Ko Yao Yai — the resort has a private beach and is surrounded by jungle. From there, hop on a boat to Kata Beach on Phuket island for five nights at the Kata Palm Resort near Kata Beach. Finish up on Ko Phi Phi island for five nights at the Saii Phi Phi Island Beach Resort, by a half-mile-long beach.
The island of Ko Yao Yai, pictured above, is home to the Santhiya Resort & Spa, which has a private beach and is surrounded by jungle
Don’t miss: Snorkelling and scuba diving in the Andaman Sea; there are excellent Padi Dive Centres on the island.
Book it: 15 nights’ B&B from £3,499 including London flights during January and February (hayesandjarvis.co.uk).
Bay watch: Phang Nga bay. Take in spectacular views of the bay, which is near Phuket, on a six-night catamaran cruise
Pack a sense of adventure and prepare for the trip of a lifetime around Phang Nga Bay, Phuket, and the surrounding islands aboard a 80 ft sailing catamaran. Kitted out with comfortable cabins and packed with stops that are a roll call of the region’s highlights, this makes a brilliant voyage.
Phuket, Phang Nga Bay (including James Bond Island, as seen in The Man With The Golden Gun), Railay Beach, Ko Ha Yai, Ko Phi Phi, Ko Racha Noi and Ko Yao Yai are covered.
Don’t miss: A stroll to the night market at Railay Beach to sample Thai street food.
Book it: Six nights with en-suite cabin half-board, plus some other meals and several activities, from £1,069 excluding flights (about £500 extra) during February-March (gadventures.com).
Elephants & easy life
Bang Tao Beach (pictured above) is one of the longest beaches on Phuket. It lies on the north-western side of the island, along with an elephant nature reserve
Uncrowded Bang Tao Beach on the north-western side is one of the longest on Phuket (five miles).
Saii Laguna Phuket sits right beside the sea and has six pools.
It is a relaxed place with simple, affordable rooms away from the crowds — well suited to families as well as couples.
Don’t miss: The Nature Phuket Elephant Reserve, a ten-minute drive away.
Book it: Seven nights’ B&B including London flights from £1,099 pp (flightcentre.co.uk).
Settle down and watch the sunset from the shores of the ‘idyllic and peaceful’ Nai Harn Beach, pictured
COVID RULES AND REGULATIONS
Fully vaccinated Britons may now enter Thailand without the need to go into quarantine (as previously).
Proof of a negative PCR test taken before arrival is required, as is a further PCR test on arrival.
Details are on the ‘entry requirements’ page for Thailand at gov.uk.
A link here takes you to a Tourism Authority of Thailand web page with details of which documents need to be completed — and other requirements for entry, such as travel insurance cover.
Local seafood in the Nai Harn Hotel, which occupies a prime location towards the southern tip of Phuket
On a lush hillside at the end of the idyllic and peaceful Nai Harn Beach, Nai Harn Hotel occupies a prime location towards the southern tip of Phuket.
The views across the bay from its terraces and rooftop bar are fantastic, especially at sunset. Rooms are elegant with a fresh and airy feel.
Although the location is peaceful, it’s only a short taxi ride from the bustling Kata Beach area.
Don’t miss: Paddle in a sea canoe beneath the stars and through the hongs (sea caves) for one of Phuket’s greatest travel experiences. John Gray’s Sea Canoe, the island’s leading operator, is due to re-open to groups soon.
Book it: Ten nights’ B&B including London flights from £899 pp (trailfinders.com).
If you are looking for a relaxing beach holiday well away from the hordes, then Pullman Phuket Arcadia could be just the place for you. Located on Naithon Beach at the far north-western corner of the island, the hotel is a good distance from the beaten track — and the beach is lovely and quiet.
This swish and tasteful modern hotel sits on a small clifftop just above the beach, and there are great views across the bay.
The hotel has a high-end Italian restaurant and wine bar — and for a meal out, try the excellent Coconut Tree, a Thai restaurant.
Don’t miss: Spend a day at Banana Beach, a small and undeveloped slice of old Phuket that’s a little hidden treasure where you can sip fresh juice and eat just-caught seafood on the sand.
Book it: Seven nights’ B&B with London flights from £1,382 pp (tui.co.uk).