Weaving around a lily-padded lagoon beside Phuket's longest beach, Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas embraces its natural environment but doesn’t neglect your need for sophistication. Seek privacy in the walled surrounds of a pool villa, laze by the water or explore the spectacular local coastline and culture.
Lagoon meets seaside in a secluded natural wonderland
Gourmet food and wine, including a salt sommelier
Watch baby turtles hatch on the beach
An hour's unlimited Anantara signature cocktails for two
In the know
Also need to know:
Staff like to play cupid, so don’t be surprised to find a secret note or whispered message offering to help plan a fabulous, romantic treat. Smoking is only allowed outdoors.The hotel can arrange a multitude of tailored trips, based on land or sea, including jungle exploring, wildlife watching, sailing and sea cruises, rafting, diving, elephant trekking, art tours and even private surfing lessons.
Ear plugs will be handy for urbanites unused to the sound of early-morning birdsong; some mosquito spray, just in case (you're in the tropics after all).
Relaxed but chic is what you need: work that white linen.
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
The entrance is so discreet you wonder if a Special Ops team would be able to locate it (though why one would want to is quite another matter). Imagine the pain, then, of our taxi driver. He manoeuvres the vehicle down a narrow laneway flanked by high stone walls before pulling up at a modest gap in the bricks. The only sign that this is indeed a doorway to a friendlier world is the appearance of a smiling bellboy. As Mr Smith and I breach the fortress-like walls, the Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas' interior reveals itself like a grand cinematic experience. My eyes pan across a large waterlily-covered pond, inhabited by schools of fish, paddling ducks and hovering dragonflies, all edged with lush flora.
We are tired and famished, having arrived on a hot, breeze-free late afternoon. Not even gulping down the chilled welcome drink in the open-air sala during check-in can stop me from staring at the fluffy white ducks in the pond and imagining them roasted in honey, their glazed crispy skins and plump dark meat gently laid slice by slice on a white plate...
My culinary daydream is interrupted by a softly spoken woman bearing a nametag simply stamped with ‘A’ – she has come to guide us to our private Pool Villa. Hidden from the prying eyes of passers-by, the villa’s tall wooden fence conceals a glassy green pool, a waterside sala and a well-stocked wine fridge, all of which hold promises of drunken skinny-dipping sessions with Mr Smith.
As Miss A leads us to the bedroom, I am intrigued by a strange terrycloth origami arrangement – ‘towel-a-gami’, if you will – placed atop a wooden chest at the foot of the bed. At first glance I think it odd to shape white hand towels into two croissants placed side by side, pointy tips facing outwards and fat mid-sections bound together. But as we explore the villa further and find turtle mascots everywhere – a turtle-shaped shower knob in the bathroom, an iron turtle perched on the pool’s edge – we realise the towel-a-gami is, in fact, a sea turtle.
Because Anantara is located on a protected sea turtle nesting area, the shelled creature is an important motif. We read with interest from the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation pamphlet that the resort is set at a specific distance away from the beach to protect the sand and its lighting is designed to be invisible from the beachfront so as not to disturb the female turtles as they come lumbering out of the water to lay their eggs.
A door slides silently open to reveal our spacious dark-wood walk-in wardrobe complete with floor-to-ceiling mirror. I unpack and hang my colour-coordinated holiday attire neatly so that when I’m done it looks like a display rack straight out of a hip fashion boutique. Mr Smith takes the more avant-garde option of strewing his clothes dramatically both in and around his open suitcase.
The Phuket sunset is famously over in under half an hour. Blink and you’ll miss it. So, after exploring every nook and cranny of our villa, Mr Smith and I literally run to the beach just in time to catch the glowing saffron egg yolk slide down behind the horizon. Vast swirls of strawberry, lemon and blueberry stretch across the sky above ripples of a rapidly darkening sea as night falls. And Anantara at night is simply magical.
Making our way back to the heart of the resort is like a moment in a film when the hero, who has been struggling through dense jungle, parts the leaves with his quivering hands to unveil an idyllic village: secluded villas emanate glowing light; trees and flowers rustle lushly around a lily-padded lagoon; guests recline on plush cushions in pavilions set over calm ponds. The cool night air pulses with
a meditative chorus of baritone bullfrogs. Look up, and the black silhouettes of slender coconut trees frame a clear sky sprinkled with a dusting of stars.
The key element that gives this Shangri-la the wow factor is its fabulous use of lighting. Bright enough to see yet dim enough to tease, it is of the soft, warming variety – it glows from damask lampshades or from iridescent fibre-optic chandeliers that resemble fine jellyfish tentacles dangling from the ceiling. Spotlights add dramatic contrast, highlighting strategic parts of trees and buildings, while rows of flickering fire torches along wooden boardwalks set off faint tribal chants in my head.
However, of all the features at Anantara, the one that captures my imagination (and holds it to ransom) is the Tree House tapas bar. No, let me rephrase that. It is the entrance to the Tree House. A grand, spiralling wooden staircase wraps around an age-worn Banyan tree lit with floating lanterns, as if it had been ripped from the pages of Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood. My dream retirement home is a tree house by the sea. That night, I get a preview of its charms.
The resort has a timetable of activities – yoga lessons, Thai language classes, even specific Rainy Day Activities – designed to entertain guests throughout their stay, but Mr Smith and I decide to create our own special Nighttime Activity and invent a version of the Turkish bath within our villa. In the outdoor tub, right beside the pool, we sit sipping wine and soaking in a hot bubble bath until we are just about cooked, then we swing our legs over and plunge into the chilly pool. A few more repetitions ensures our circulation is pumping rather nicely, thank you very much.
In ancient Sanskrit, the word ‘anantara’ means ‘without end’. With all the relaxation and light-hearted fun Mr Smith and I were experiencing, I was sort of hoping to be absolutely over all the loveliness and luxuries, so that when the time came I wouldn’t mind if it ended. Of course, there’s no such luck.
888 Moo 3, Tumbon Mai Khao, Amphur Thalang, Phuket, Thailand 83110
2.5 mi / 4.1 km from city centre
- Valet parking
- Aerobics instruction
- Exercise gym
- Internet services
- Tennis court
- On-Site parking
- Complimentary in-room coffee or tea
- Room service
- Onsite laundry
One of four eateries, La Sala evokes the feeling of a casual colonial-style club, with rattan chairs and potted palms. It's the go-to spot for tasty buffet breakfasts, followed by Italian and Thai all-day dining with local Phuket specialities. The blue glass light installation and modern interior at poolside Sea.Fire.Salt turns heads, but sit outside to enjoy the sea breeze. Open-fire barbecue cooking with seafood and salt is the speciality here (there’s even a salt sommelier). For grazing on tapas in lofty surrounds make for the Tree House, accessed via a winding staircase wrapped around an aged banyan tree. Anantara is proud of its wine collection: discover why with an individually designed menu matched to tipples at the Tasting Room.
Head for the outdoor decks at La Sala and Sea.Fire.Salt, or the Tree House's veranda come sunset. You can also book a private dining experience in your room, at your sala, by the beach or beside the pool.
Breakfast at La Sala is from 7am to 11am, lunch from 11am to 3pm and dinner from 6pm to 11pm. Sea.Fire.Salt offers day-long dining from 11am to 11pm, as does the Tree House. Infinity bar serves drinks and light bites from 8am to 12 midnight.
An extensive selection of dishes, drawn from the restaurants’ menus, is available 24 hours, from breakfast through to TV snacks and late-night fixes. Picnic lunch hampers and bespoke requests are also yours to command.
Perched above the resort, the Tree House bar is a magical hideaway. Choose a cleansing juice, coffee or sorbet tea by day or a retoxing mojito by night. Infinity is the swim-up pool bar offering juices, shakes and cocktails, as well as light bites such as wraps, salads and charcoal sticks.