The big trip

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas review: a fun and funky beachside retreat

This all-pool villa resort in Phuket is set around a lagoon

A movie-set style resort set around a tranquil lagoon with flaming torch-lined bridges leading off to restaurants, villas and the sea, Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas is a fun and funky spot perfect for families but equally quiet enough for couples who want a bit of seclusion.

The grounds are full of wildlife (a rather grumpy duck followed us round for a bit) with red eagles flying overhead and charming little hoopoes digging around for treats.

The western side of the hotel abuts the stunning Mai Khao beach, a huge swathe of sand perfect for quiet walks. Depending on the time of year and the weather the sea can get quite wild – but there are signs up to let you know it’s safe to swim. 

Sala Pool Villa at Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas

Sala Pool Villa at Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas

Anantara

Rooms and suites

Anantara Mai Khao has 83 villas tucked away around a tranquil lagoon; all come with good-sized pools, shallow at one end to suit the kids. Sides are stepped to provide sub-surface seats for those sweltering Thai days so you can sit and chill in the water with your holiday read. 

Entry level villas are high-ceilinged and huge, but Sala Villas are the pick of the crop, with salas (Thai open pavilions) jutting out over the lagoon. Teak and white linen are the mainstays inside with bright blues and oranges providing some splashes of colour. We’re particular fans of the in-room incense (hidden away under the minibar) – light one up and bring those calming scents inside.

SeaFireSalt restaurant

SeaFireSalt restaurant

Anantara

Eating and drinking

SeaFireSalt is the hotel’s Med-themed beachside restaurant which, on the poolside, has a swim-up bar for sunbathers. It’s family friendly and lively with music pumping out creating a friendly buzz in the evening. Mainly a grill restaurant, lunch sees a range of burgers, the omnipresent (and rightly so) club sandwich, pizzas and pastas while things get fancier in the evening with upmarket offerings like scallops with corn and chorizo fritters, caper crumbs and pumpkin. Stars of the show are the sizzling platters, a luxe fusion of surf and turf – steaks, chops, rock lobster, tiger prawns, crab, scallops, mussels and a bunch of tasty dips. 

For top notch Thai food, La Sala restaurant is where you want to head. Located in the midst of the hotel grounds and backing onto the lagoon, the dishes look as fancy as they taste. There are a bunch of Thai favourites on the menu as well as some regional treats like Moo Hong, a slow-cooked pork curry, redolent with whole black peppercorns and cinnamon. There are some enjoyable cheffy twists, too, like Massaman Nuea made with sous vide beef short ribs and crispy tempura flowers.

Tiffin By La Sala

Tiffin By La Sala

Anantara

You can also order from its Tiffin By La Sala menu in the same spot which is rather novel. In-house Indian chef, Bharat Singh, has a bunch of knockout dishes done in quite some style – spiced chickpea-crumbed “fish fingers”, yoghurt-marinated salmon cooked in the tandoor with coconut sauce and cumin rice; must-order is the signature black dhal, a deep, earthy and ultra rich dish best scooped up with a buttery, garlicky naan bread, straight from the oven. The restaurant was recently recognised by the Michelin Guide.

If you want to brush up on your own cooking skills, you can book yourself in on a one-to-one cookery class at the Spice Spoon Cooking school – you’ll make your own three-course lunch so it works out great value. 

Tree House is Phuket’s premium Omakase House; built around an old Banyan tree, this Japanese counter-dining spot serves up brilliant sashimi, nigiri and grilled dishes alongside a range of carefully chosen sakés and a few killer cocktails. The best seats in the house are around the central kitchen where you get a premium view for watching the chefs work their magic. 

Mai Khao beach

Mai Khao beach

Anantara

What to do

Northern Phuket is home to two national parks. Khao Phra Thaeo National Park is a worthy day trip featuring wonderful waterfalls with serene pools to cool off in. It also houses Phuket Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre, a rescue centre for gibbons reclaimed from poachers. There are mangrove swamps (Anantara organise tours) and sea turtle nesting sites (the hotel donates $1 per night per room to Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation).

The beach is perfect for swimming, weather permitting, and there’s so much of it you’ll easily find a quiet spot. There are some food sellers and the calls of “massage” may lure you in for a foot rub in the shade with the breeze flowing in and the sounds of the sea soothing you to sleep. Some intrepid individuals have been surfing in these parts but there are better breaks further south. 

The hotel has plenty of bikes to zip around the grounds on or to go for longer trips. There are Muay Thai classes (kick-boxing), golfing trips and a lovely spa with a signature warm oil treatment that fuses Thai and Swedish massage styles with indoor and outdoor baths and showers. There are plenty of activities to keep the kids entertained too, so you’ll get a bit of R&R.

A particular boon if you are travelling with little ones is the easy access to this part of the island from the airport making getting here a doddle, but rest assured, though you might see the planes taking off in the distance, but you won’t hear a thing. 

Villas at Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas start from 16,024 THB (around £370) per night for a pool villa with breakfast and taxes; anantara.com

The swimming pool at Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas

The swimming pool at Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas

Anantara

 

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