Updated: May 4, 2018
Two beaches bursting with golden sands, but isolated. The Apsara is about 4km from the main road, but within a lovely 1km stroll of a cluster of beachside cafés (with shuttle buses to Khao Lak town on offer). It is on a ‘corner’ where an inlet joins the sea, so there are two delightful beaches offering views of the ocean and forest. The overall design is bright and welcoming, with statues and spouts scattered around extensive lawns. The beachside Infinity pool seems to blend into the horizon, but the general facilities for children are underwhelming. The rooms are in attractive three-level wings, but some face the car park or road rather than the pools and gardens. However, they are still quiet. All feature a sofa, wooden desk and refreshing tiled floors, while those on the ground floor have direct access to a pool. Most ‘sea views’, however, are interrupted by lofty pine trees. The Jacuzzi and Pool Villas are ultra-luxurious but lack the charm of the hotel rooms.
Massive, superbly located and ideal for families. Straddling a quiet laneway in Khao Lak town, with a plethora of tourist facilities nearby, this immense resort offers a multitude of rooms and villas among landscaped gardens. Most accommodation and facilities are across the laneway from the sea, but everything is within 200m of a broad, protected beach, dominated by a lighthouse. The spacious rooms are in elegant three-level wings, while those on the ground floor boast direct pool access. The detached villas secluded behind dense foliage feature gorgeous old-fashioned furniture, plentiful seating, a tiled balcony, marble sink, Thai wall art and polished floorboards. The Pool Villas have a decent-sized plunge pool, and the segregated cluster of Family Residences with children’s pool and playground are superb. The other facilities are also extraordinary, including squash and tennis courts, a library, and four pools with water-slides, spouts, whirlpools and swim-up bars.
Palatial, charismatic and convenient. The lobby oozes colonial charm reminiscent of 1920s Singapore, with wicker chairs, clunky fans and Buddha statues. On a colossal block (in desperate need of signs), the gardens and lawns appear endless. The beachside pool boasts a swim-up bar with thatched roof, while the other is surrounded by raised wooden decking that embraces several lofty palms. The beach is particularly scenic, with a lighthouse and boardwalk, and the perfectly calm sea. The Siam Chalets are in attractive blocks, but a little close to the road and the balconies aren’t that private. But the décor is adorable: elegantly Thai, with a hint of colonial splendour, e.g. polished floorboards and wooden shutters. Equally exquisite are the Oriental Villas, some with genuine sea views and direct access to the beach. A range of activities are offered (many for free), and there’s plenty more to occupy the children. It is on the southern edge of Khao Lak town.
Elegant and quiet, distant but not isolated. The overall design is classy, with whitewash walls and chunky wooden columns, and deceptively large grounds. Along a shady and virtually private stretch of sand, the Beach Club offers yoga, wind-surfing and other activities more interesting than most resorts. The standard Deluxe Rooms feature contemporary Thai décor, with bright paintings (not to everyone’s taste), a huge alcove with sofa, sparkling bathroom and an undersized balcony with delightful views of the gardens and pools, or even glimpses of the sea. Those on the ground floor have direct pool access, and secluded behind elevated walls are villas with private gardens, sea views or Jacuzzis. The beachside Infinity pool seems to merge into the ocean and is surrounded by a raised lounge area with perfect views and plentiful shade. Although about 4km north of Khao Lak town and 1km from the main road, the hotel is surrounded by a number of classy cafés and shops.
Low-key, cosy and affordable; not another mega-resort. Surrounded by several massive international resorts, this family-run and Thai-owned hotel has been renovated extensively. The lovely bungalows feature dark wooden furniture, Thai prints, elephant-shaped lamps, polished floors and an adorable alcove with a sofa. They are detached, secluded and raised, but any possible sea views are mostly blocked by trees. Less appealing, but more affordable, are the rooms in the attractive two-level block to the side. The beach is sandy, curved and empty, the pool is functional but surrounded by a lawn needing some serious attention, and the beachside café is particularly inviting. With seemingly little promotion, it can be eerily quiet in contrast to neighbouring resorts, but is only 1km from the strip of shops and cafés in Khao Lak town.
Stylish and personable, with idyllic views and delightful décor. Set in the vibrant area of Bang Niang, the Ramada is considerably smaller than most and instantly welcoming. In elegant three-level blocks facing the lawns, the Deluxe Rooms are large enough for two double beds, and feature contemporary Thai prints, ambient low-hanging lamps, a huge balcony, and unique bathtub shaped like a beer barrel. The Ocean Front Villas have an adorable seascape décor and uninterrupted sea views from a magnificent patio, but direct access to the beach is obstructed by a garden. The pool is lined with cabanas, particularly shady, and as sparkling as the sea just metres away, while the lounge chair area is perched on an artificial beach, offering impeccable views and bountiful shade. Other facilities, such as a coffee shop, library and indoor lounge are also welcoming. Although about 4km from Khao Lak town and 1km from the main road, there are plenty of bistros and boutiques nearby.
Elegant design, idyllic beach and extensive gardens, but remote. This ultra-stylish resort is set among well-designed gardens with ponds, creeks and bridges, but the rooms are in two-level blocks that offer limited privacy. Garden Residences on the ground level feature polished floorboards, floor-to-ceiling windows, a pebble-floor shower and surprisingly undersized TV. In the corner of each block, the Pool Residences have a sizeable plunge pool and pocket of gardens, while the Spa Suites on the second floor boast a balcony, spa and massive lounge room. The beach is bleached-white, and the pool is surrounded by a lush lawn and lined with cabanas of flowing curtains. Activities include croquet, cooking classes and kayaking, but children under 10 are not allowed at the resort. And it is isolated: about 3km from the main road, with only a handful of other hotel shops and cafés nearby, but shuttle buses to Khao Lak town (12km away) are available.
Functional, convenient but unremarkable, and strictly no children! This unrepentant ‘adults-only’ resort is about 500m from all the facilities in central Khao Lak town. The unexciting entrance – down a hill, thereby blocking some traffic noise – belies the attractive layout of motel-style blocks facing a chain of pools. The self-described Malay-Thai décor isn’t apparent, but the bright and cheery rooms are highly functional without being noteworthy. They contain a sofa, extra-long desk, and tiled balcony extensive enough for seats, lounge chairs and a table. And those on the ground floor have direct access to one of several pools. Some bungalows are semi-detached and barely 20m from the beach, but potential sea views anywhere are blocked by lofty pines that offer abundant shade. The beach is partially rocky, and therefore more scenic, with views down the coast to the lighthouse. But note: no-one under 18 is allowed, which is no doubt an attraction to most guests.
Luxurious, convenient, photogenic, and immensely family-friendly. The overall design is contemporary, with most accommodation in unstylish grey blocks. The suites and rooms feature generous balconies overlooking lagoons or gardens, but most of the promised sea views are obstructed by shady beachside trees. Sea Suites contain one or two bedrooms and offer superior vistas from a balcony, while those on the ground floor have a private plunge pool leading to a larger pool. The lawns are immaculate (but space is wasted with unremarkable lagoons), and the beach is very scenic. The adults-only Peace Pool with its swim-up bar is lined with palms that reflect in the water for postcard-perfect photos. Activities offered include yoga and tennis, as well as lessons in Thai cooking, boxing and massage. Families are housed in a dedicated wing, and can use the Kids’ Club, playground and games room. And it’s barely a five-minute stroll to Khao Lak town with all its shops and cafés.
Convenient, sumptuous and outstanding family option. One of few within walking distance of the shops and cafés in Khao Lak town, this boutique-style resort faces a shady, picturesque beach. The overall design is fairly unexceptional, however, with rooms in a separate Family Wing and Beach Wing. Most rooms overlook the chain of pools, while some are angled towards the ocean, but any possible sea views are blocked by shady beachside trees. And rooms on the ground floor have direct pool access. All rooms are spacious and feature a sizeable bathroom, cute sofa, extended desk, fridge, and generous balcony. The accommodation for families – e.g. the Kids’ Suite – is excellent, and the youngsters would relish the water-slide, kids’ club and giant toadstools that spout water. The five sparkling lagoon-style pools feature ‘islands’ of palms, and a swim-up bar, and are surrounded by a raised area of lounge chairs on sand offering idyllic views.