The big trip

Reviewed: Thailand’s best hotels and resorts – from Bangkok to Phuket

Book a stylish city break in Thailand’s capital or head to an island for a relaxing retreat

1

Elephants roam the grounds of the camp

Elephants roam the grounds of the camp

Four Seasons

Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle

The Four Seasons Tented Camp is like no other hotel we’ve visited; it’s remote and secluded, sitting right on the banks of the river and featuring just 15 “tents”. As you arrive, you strike a huge gong signalling the start of your R&R.

There are vintage Land Rovers to run you about the grounds (the tracks are a little bumpy for golf buggies), but the hotel is best accessed via the paved path that runs through the jungle; giant bamboo creates an almost cathedral-like canopy and an Indiana Jones-style suspension bridge provides a moment to pause and drink in those epic surroundings. Peering through the trees might provide a magical glimpse of elephants: the hotel doubles as an elephant sanctuary for ex-working or show-animals where the gentle giants can live out a peaceful existence with their mahouts. 

2

The riverside terrace at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok

The riverside terrace at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

Ensconced on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, the main artery that runs through the city, the Mandarin Oriental is one of Thailand’s oldest hotels at nearly 150 years and a true Bangkok icon. It’s been a temple to all things luxury since 1876 and its doors have seen royalty, celebrities and cultural icons pass through them. 

That said, these aren’t the same doors – the hotel saw a huge renovation in 2020. The lobby feels a bit of a short sell for the spectacular space you enter – a huge, two-storey tall affair full of bold colours, water features and unique flower displays – the perfect place to take high tea, full of light and a wonderful respite from the sticky heat outdoors.

The hotel is split across three areas, two adjacent to each other on the eastern side of the river and the spa situated in a teak longhouse on the opposite bank, accessed via a river shuttle, next to the newly-built residences.

3

Rosewood Phuket hotel in Thailand

Rosewood Phuket is most expensive resort in Thailand ever constructed

Rosewood Phuket

Behind a set of truly gargantuan, imposing doors, the Rosewood Phuket immediately establishes itself as a temple of tranquillity; it’s a deeply intimate hotel built in a blend of traditional and modern styles, village-like, incorporating elements of traditional Thai design – where the only other guests you might come across will be at breakfast or its fabulous restaurant, Ta Khai.

It’s a masterclass in understated opulence, being the most expensive resort in Thailand ever constructed. The hotel is built into a steep hill running down to the ocean – small pools dotted with sun loungers lead up to a low hedge. Head through one of the gates to a perfect crescent of sand and turquoise seas fringed with picture-perfect palms; it’s almost a cliché. Emerald Beach is 600m long and sees few tourists – you’ll have it just about to yourself.

4

The Peninsula Bangkok

The Peninsula is a serious temple to premium hospitality

The Peninsula Bangkok

Situated on the banks of Bangkok’s central artery, the Chao Prya River, the location coupled with its height provides The Peninsula with spectacular views across the city; these are particularly rewarding late at night or very early in the morning (should jetlag claim you as its victim). The hotel opened in 1988 and boasts 37 floors housing 367 rooms and suites, though it remains remarkably quiet and intimate, a peaceful retreat from the heady heat and buzz of the city. A grand entrance hall sets the tone as soon as you arrive – this is a serious temple to premium hospitality.

Service is both formal and friendly and overall, brilliantly efficient – a must for this level of “city-luxe”. There’s always someone on hand to help with finding your way around or bringing you an icy drink by the pool – a three-tiered 88m beauty right on the bank of the river.

5

The Hilltop at Six Senses Yao Noi

The Hilltop at Six Senses Yao Noi

Six Senses

Six Senses Yao Noi

One of two Six Senses luxury destinations in Thailand (the other is on Koh Samui), the hotel feels like a James Bond backdrop as you arrive. The resort is set into a hill in what appears from the outside to be dense jungle; thatch-roofed villas are dotted around a steep hill that runs down to the sea. You’re greeted at the pier by a team of welcoming staff and whisked straight off in a buggy to your spot and you’ll start to get a feel for the size of the footprint, both spread out and intimate all at the same time. 

The Hilltop is the hotel’s most chic dining spot. All smooth, rounded, organic shapes, it has a spectacular pool and its entranceway provides utterly breathtaking views – it’s one of the most show-stopping spots we’ve ever come across. The food moves across Thailand, India and the West with some playful desserts on offer. 

6

Sala Pool Villa at Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas

Anantara

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas

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 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. 

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. 

7

Inside a one-bedroom private pool villa

Inside a one-bedroom private pool villa

theslatephuket.com

The Slate, Phuket

The Slate’s owners made their fortune from Phuket’s tin-mining industry and the hotel is a playful homage to this – it’s a fusion of mining paraphernalia with a steampunk aesthetic that delivers industrial chic. This theme lives all the way through to the cutlery, custom-made with spanners, sockets and bolts all making an appearance. 

It’s a sizeable hotel with paths that snake through it, twisting and turning with Black Ginger, the hotel’s restaurant, at its core. Despite this size, it feels intimate and village-like and buggies are ever at-the-ready to whisk you about. 

8

Rayavadee Krabi Thailand

Rayavadee Krabi

Located on the idyllic Phranang Peninsula in south Thailand, Rayavadee has been built into the jungle with the aim of causing as little disruption to the local wildlife as possible. This means that on your way to breakfast you’re likely to catch a glimpse of one of the three families of monkeys that live here, though fair warning, be sure to stay clear of the macaques as they’ll steal your morning croissant in a heartbeat. 

The big advantage of being on a peninsula, aside from the speed boat entrance, is that Rayavadee is also home to three separate beaches, as well as a massive outdoor heated swimming pool, tennis court and everything else you would expect from a five-star stay.

9

Anantara Bophut

Anantara Bophut, Koh Samui

Moments from the historical alleyways of Fisherman’s Village, a short cab ride from the throbbing streets of Chaweng and right in the middle of a two-mile stretch of golden sand, Anantara Bophut is both at the heart of Koh Samui and an idyllic retreat from its excesses.

Surrounded by tropical gardens and separated from the main coastal road by a long, fountain-lined driveway, the five-star hotel and spa lets you dip your toe into the boisterous charms of the island – the cafes and nightclubs, the boxing tournaments, the street markets – and then seek out the shade of a palm tree by the pool.

10

Rosewood Bangkok

Rosewood Bangkok

The Rosewood is simply stunning to behold from the street. It boasts an asymmetric, pyramid-like design that is truly unique to the Bangkok landscape and hints at the opulence that awaits guests inside. 

The spa facilities here are extensive, including five treatment rooms and a salon. Each is decorated with lavish marble surfaces and dark woods, a mix of modern Western luxury and traditional Thai decor. As with the bedrooms, technology plays a key role in your choice of treatment. 

11

Four Seasons Koh Samui

Four Seasons Koh Samui

A hillside village of dark-wood villas secluded in a coconut forest, the Four Seasons Koh Samui represents Thailand at its most tranquil.

And its friendliest: whether you’re tucking into expertly prepared Thai curries, sipping local rum cocktails on the beach or slinking off to the serenity of the spa, a small army of obliging waiters, waitresses, chefs, drivers and therapists are on hand to enhance your visit – and greet you with Thailand’s traditional prayer-like salutation.

The villas, each generously proportioned and furnished with a sundeck and swimming pool, are dotted across the steep slope between a panoramic restaurant at the top of the hill and, at the bottom, a 50m swimming pool overlooking the resort’s private cove and beaches.

12

Kata Rocks, Phuket

Kata Rocks, Phuket

High on a rocky headland overlooking the Andaman Sea, Kata Rocks is a breed apart from most Phuket beach resorts.

Not only does it offer unparallelled luxury, it does so with none of the faux rustic dark wood and floral drapes that characterise Thailand’s more traditional five-star resorts. Styled to evoque the lines of a superyacht, the contemporary villas face west literally as well as figuratively, so you can watch the sun go down from your sleek white pool deck.

13

Santiburi Koh Samui

Phil Clark/HELICAM Co Ltd

Santiburi Koh Samui

Once you step off the plane, you’re given an instant taste of a typical Thai resort. Instead of the familiar grey walls and blue-tinted glass panels of the average airport, on Koh Samui you land amid grand wooden huts adorned with lush plant life – a fitting warmup to our destination – Santiburi.

The resort, one of the first retreats to launch on the island in 1992, is situated just a stone’s throw away from the quiet village of Bo Phut on the blissfully sandy shores of Maenam beach. Around 30 minutes away from the buzzing beach town of Chaweng, Santiburi is a popular destination for those looking to experience the quieter, more relaxing side of the island.

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