The Best Hotels in Phuket

ThailandPhuket › Phuket Hotels
Updated: June 21, 2023
By Santorini Dave

Our Favorite Hotels in Phuket

• Best 5-star: Shore at Katathani
• Beach resort: Nai Harn
• Budget hotel: Burasari
• For families: Centara
• For couples: Mom Tri’s
• Kata: Shore at Katathani
• Karon: Paradox
• Patong: Amari
• Airport: Dewa Resort & Villas

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The 13 Best Hotels in Phuket

Private pool villa With view in Phuket.

The incredible Pool Villa with Sea View at The Shore At Katathani in Kata Beach.

The 5 Best Hotels in Kata Beach

1. The Shore at Katathani

Best Hotel at Kata Beach
Far enough away from the shopping and restaurant haven of Kata Beach to be peaceful, yet close enough to get there on foot, The Shore at Katathani gives you the best of both worlds. Warm-colored woods blended with white and cream décor make the spacious villas feel balanced and calming while views of the blue sea or lush gardens add a sense of luxurious tropical adventure. Relax in the seclusion of the villas’ privacy or socialize and use the many facilities (putting greens, another spa and even more restaurants) of the larger and less exclusive Kathatani Resort next door.

2. Mom Tri’s Villa Royale

swimming pool with sun loungers overlooking the sea and surrounded by palm trees
Mom Tri, one of Thailand’s better-known architects, has taken his family home and turned it into Phuket’s most luxurious boutique hotel. The location, straddling bustling Kata and quiet Kata Noi beaches couldn’t be better – close to shopping and restaurants or peaceful stretches of sand. The hotel restaurant, Mom Tri’s Kitchen, marries upscale international cuisine and a mile-long wine list with views over the Andaman Sea. Perched above a rocky cove between the beaches at Kata Yai and Kata Noi, and within walking distance of both. All suites are truly classy with a charming Thai décor, while some have genuine sea views, others a pool, and a few are more secluded. Those in the Beach Wing feature a spacious open-plan lounge area alongside the bedroom, substantial balcony and an extra-large ‘oversized’ king bed. Others in the original building retain some colonial-style charm, and the Penthouse Suite is as luxurious as it sounds. Views across to Kata Noi from lounge chairs around the lush gardens and two raised pools are sublime, and an adorable bit of secluded beach is barely 3 minutes away via steps. Adding to the appeal is the library and award-winning Mom Tri’s Kitchen restaurant onsite.

3. Sawasdee Village

Indoor-outdoor swimming pool with a swim-up bar, surrounded by hanging lanterns
Incomparable setting, indescribable luxury, yet convenient. A path lined with giant urns meanders from the entrance to a collection of massive, 2-level stone villas that seem almost medieval in design and setting. Above the entrance at the mezzanine level is the opulent bedroom with a domed ceiling and bathroom with gold-plated sinks and a free-standing bathtub. The lounge room below contains state-of-the-art video and audio equipment, with an attached outdoor shower. The villas boast ‘triple pool access’, so there’s a jet pool inside the lounge room. From there, glass doors lead to a private pool and carved dungeon-style gates then swing open to the villa-guests-only 55m canal-shaped pool lined with waterfalls. Yet somehow it is all elegant, not garish or ostentatious. In stark contrast, a bundle of small, dark but quaint Grand Deluxe Rooms face a separate pool at the entrance, which is incongruously along a busy backstreet in Kata Yai, 500m from the sea.

4. Chanalai Romantica Resort

Chic, modern, Arabic and unusual couples-only resort
Handy, trendy, unusual design, and couples only. The name indicates the preferred clientele, so children are actively discouraged. All rooms are in a five-level white block facing the elongated pool, with direct access from the ground floor. Rooms are modern and tastefully decorated, but sometimes impractically chic (e.g. there’s a window between bedroom and bathroom). They also feature wood paneling, a free-standing bathtub, shower floor with pebbles, and walk-through closet. What sets this resort apart is the self-described ‘Oriental-Arabic’ design, most obvious at the lobby, almost shaped like a mosque with a domed ceiling and gold-plated flourishes across the wall. (The design may be Arabic, but the rules are not: beer and bikinis are allowed.) Facing the main road in Kata Yai but still quiet, it’s conveniently flanked by numerous shops and cafés, and a minute from the beach.

5. Metadee Resort & Villas

Tropical gardens and wraparound pool at tranquil resort
Serene tropical setting, but not beachside. Club Med almost completely dominates the beach at Kata, so it makes sense to utilise space inland. So, with an entrance only 300m from the main road in Kata Yai with all its facilities, and another 200m from the beach, the setting is genuinely tranquil. The deceptively large grounds contain tropical gardens and a glittering pool that almost wraps itself around all blocks of rooms, so those on the ground floor have direct access. Totally secluded behind lofty stone walls and dungeon-style wooden doors, the villas are accessible along a winding path. They are stylish and roomy, and feature a huge double-sized sofa, high ceilings, 4-poster bed, walk-through closet and balcony with extensive decking. Standard rooms in tasteful 2-level blocks are also lovely, with teak furnishings and wooden beams. Some villas are ideal for families, with up to 3 bedrooms and a private pool.

The 6 Best Hotels in Karon Beach

1. Centara Grand Beach Resort

Crystal clear swimming pool, surrounded by palm trees, sun loungers, and bungalows
Endless opulence, unique beach frontage, outstanding for families. Spread across low-level hills facing the beach and quietly hidden from the main road, the Centara is truly remarkable. The self-described ‘Sino-Portuguese’ design is charmingly colonial-style with tiled roofs, chunky columns and splashes of pink everywhere. The four lagoon-shaped pools with ‘islands’ of palms and even ‘beaches’ never seem to end, tropical plants invade every possible space, and the vast beach is virtually private. While most rooms face the sea, the ocean can be 100m away and views are often blocked by trees. Rooms are elegant and spacious, with more colonial-style touches, some featuring a plunge pool or Jacuzzi on the balcony, and an extra bedroom. And the young ones would adore one of Phuket’s finest kids’ clubs. In the far northern end of Karon, it’s the only resort directly fronting the beach. It can feel a little isolated but is only 10 minutes along the beach to downtown.

2. Le Meridien Beach Resort

Best Luxury Hotel at Karon Beach
Modern and clean with white linens, wood floors and plenty of large windows to let in the seaside light, this resort is tucked into a private white sand cove. The massive complex is a world unto itself with 10 restaurants, two swimming pools that take up the same amount of space many places dedicate to gardens, and on-site facilities galore from tennis courts and a driving range to a children’s park, mini-golf, and trampolines. Some guests never leave but the hotel offers taxi or shuttle services to the shopping and party areas of nearby Karon and Patong beaches.

3. Andaman Seaview Hotel

Good Mid-range hotel on Phuket with good location.
A good-value resort with a modern-tinged colonial feel, breezy coridoors connecting the 161 guest rooms over four floors. Designer maritime-inspired colors like dusty blue, mint green, and aqua set off wooden four-poster beds and antique-looking ceiling fans. The resort encircles a large pool with plenty of lounging space and busy Karon Beach is a five-minute walk away. It’s a good choice for families and couples not needing too much peace and quiet.

4. Paradox Resort Phuket

Beautiful swimming pool surrounded by statues and palm trees
Family-friendly mega-resort that doesn’t feel like one. A narrow entrance along the main road belies serene grounds so enormous that guests need buggies and can get easily disoriented. There’s an extraordinary range and number of rooms in 5-level blocks and villas dotted among tropical gardens. The design and layout of the villas differ greatly: some more modern, others with thatched roofs, a few facing the immaculate lawns, others overlooking a creek, and a handful with a private garden, plunge pool or extra bedroom. All rooms feature a likeable Thai décor, with exceptionally long desk, and bamboo curtains across the sizeable balcony. Very few rooms or villas however, have genuine sea views. The 3 lagoon-shaped pools are shady and immensely inviting, with a children’s pool and bar attached. And it actively welcomes families with numerous activities, a kids’ club, playground, and games room. Midway along Karon, it’s flanked by classy bistros and boutiques, and a short stroll to the town centre.

5. Thavorn Palm Beach Resort

Manicured gardens and waterslide resort swimming pool
Exceptional style, graceful gardens, not just another resort. One of the first proper hotels on Phuket, the Thavorn is truly different: proudly Thai-owned for 3 generations, the gardens are more reminiscent of an English cottage than a tropical resort, the design is more colonial than Thai, and it’s the antithesis of a bland motel-style resort. The charm continues inside with a lovingly co-ordinated mix of Thai décor (colorful prints and elephant-shaped lamps) and old-world furnishings (white wooden table and elegant seats). A few contain 2 or 3 bedrooms, and some on the top floor may offer sea views. The 4 lagoon-shaped pools feature spouts, bridges and ‘islands’ of palms, but the public beach over the road is surprisingly scruffy. Understandably popular with families and returnees, it’s in southern Karon, walkable to the town center and neighboring Kata beach, with a better selection of facilities.

6. Destination Resorts

Sparkling blue pool against a lush, green mountain backdrop
Dazzling design, breezy location, wonderfully family-friendly. With sizeable grounds and a serene setting in the uncrowded northern part of the bay, the sparkling-white exterior blends in perfectly with the sparking-blue pools. The main pool is lined with inviting cabanas, and features ‘waterfalls’, ‘islands’ and a swim-up bar. Another huge pool with a loopy water slide is popular with families. All rooms and villas overlook gardens, lawns or pools, so none have sea views. Of the 7 room types, the Plunge Pool Suites have an adjoining lounge room, 2 walls of windows in the bedroom, an inviting patio and massive bathroom. They are clustered tightly, however, so complete privacy is not always guaranteed. The spacious Deluxe Rooms feature a likeable contemporary décor, but balconies may not offer total seclusion either. Catering well for families with a children’s pool, kids’ club and family rooms, a lovely beach is just across the road and it’s only 5 minutes’ walk from downtown.

The 10 Best Hotels in Patong

1. Amari Phuket

Best Luxury Hotel at Patong Beach
This 380-room beachfront (and jungle hillside) resort features modern rooms and suites decorated in neutrals with bright accents; large (mostly seaview) windows let in lots of light. Splash around on the resort’s slim white beach or in the busy swimming pool, snorkel off the jetty or walk five minutes to the very bustling Patong beach for larger swathes of sand and a party vibe.

2. Holiday Inn Resort Phuket

1 of 4 pools with bar at massive and elegant resort
Family-friendly resort in the heart of Patong’s restaurant, bar, and beach scene. The hotel has a special wing for families with suites that include dedicated children’s bedroom complete with bright, cartoon-style landscapes painted on the walls, a chest full of toys and beds made to look like mini ships; the children’s bathroom even includes kid-sized bathrobes. Rooms are as comfortable and functional as expected of this international chain, but also spacious and with a vague seaside holiday theme. The separate adults-only Busakorn Wing features classy studios and villas, and those on the ground floor have direct pool access. Of the 4 mammoth pools, the main one is noisy and crowded, while the others are more relaxing and elegantly designed. With access from the esplanade and quietish side-street, it’s very convenient to the beach and a myriad of tourist facilities.

3. DoubleTree by Hilton Phuket Banthai Resort

Inviting pool with bar and spacious rooms at Banthai
Spacious and downtown location, ideal for the party crowd. The gardens are minimal, and the lobby is as welcoming as a shopping mall, but it’s all about the pools and location. In a massive block 150m from the esplanade, the rooms are in 4-level blocks in 3 wings, all overlooking separate pools – and each with a noisy swim-up bar. The overall design is appealing however, with sizeable balconies, and most on the ground floor have direct pool access. Standard rooms are functional but unremarkable, with wooden furnishings and some Thai-style décor. And the suites (with 2 or 3 bedrooms) spread across 2 levels are so big there’s not enough furniture to make it feel homey. But the location is the overwhelming attraction: midway along Patong, close to renowned fast-food outlets, and with endless shops and bars in all directions, but distant from traffic and crowds. Free shuttle buses to Phuket Town are a pleasing addition.

4. Millennium Resort

Larger pool and tasteful rooms at Millennium Lakeside
For shopaholics: two hotels for the price of one. Wedged within the world-class Jungceylon shopping center, the Millennium is based in two buildings about 200m apart and different in style, facilities, appeal and name: ie Beachside (although it’s 500m from the ocean) and Lakeside (although no lake is nearby).The former soars 5 floors above the shopping center with cinemas, department stores, cafés and boutiques meters from the bottom of the hotel lift. The pool is smaller, but has better views, while some rooms face the car park or street, which still may be quieter than those overlooking the shops. Bland corridors lead to colorful rooms with oriental décor, generous balcony, and inviting curved sofa. Separate, but still accessible from within the shopping center, Lakeside is classier and has a larger pool, with a kids’ pool attached. The décor in these rooms is more tasteful, and some on the ground floor have direct pool access.

5. Burasari Phuket Resort & Spa

Turkish-design rooms with pool access at Burasari
Unusual design, prime location, trendy and likable. The instantly appealing Turkish design in the lobby doesn’t extend to the interior (an attractive brown and white) but does continue inside the rooms. All are in 3-level blocks facing inwards and overlooking the pools, so none have sea views, but they don’t suffer from traffic noise either. Rooms are brightly-colored with plenty of windows; even the bathtub has views across the balcony. Most on the ground floor have direct access to a pool, while rooms on the upper levels feature an unusual extended balcony with a cushioned sofa. And the villas are opulent and hidden behind elevated walls. Both pools are particularly elegant, with statues, spouts and palms, and swim-up bars blaring music that can be heard on all balconies. More suitable for the younger crowd, it’s along a quietish side-street only 100m from the esplanade and within walking distance of everything Patong has to offer.

6. Impiana Resort Patong

Swimming pool lined with palm trees and lounge chairs
Rare tropical gardens and beach frontage, yet convenient. The Impiana offers only 70 single-level bungalows among lovingly-designed lawns and gardens in an area that could easily accommodate a multi-storey mega-resort. It is also one of very few boasting genuine beach frontage, rather than facing the busy esplanade. Bungalows are in small clusters alongside a meandering path lined with palms, and a few face the sea. They are all compact, comfortable and stylish, with a sofa, lovely wooden desk, sizeable bathroom-cum-closet, and some Thai decorations. The delightful café and breakfast area is virtually on the sand, while the beachside pool is also very attractive. The resort directly faces a serene stretch of sandy beach, devoid of jet skis and with hammocks and lanterns swinging among shady mangrove trees. But a few rooms do suffer from traffic noise because it’s central, e.g. only 300m to infamous Bangla Road.

7. The Kee Resort & Spa

Unconventional architecture and spacious rooms at noisy resort
Central and noisy, funky but not always functional. This combined shopping plaza and resort is distinctly unconventional. The spa is remarkably elegant, while the dismal kids’ club is squeezed alongside a bar. The exterior of the rooms are shaped like boxes and the self-described ‘Sino-Portuguese’ theme is not remotely apparent. Most rooms face the crowded pool and raucous attached bar, while those above the shops and facing the street would be even noisier. Ground floor rooms have direct pool access, upper floors have pool views, and the Plaza Rooms have neither. All are spacious, but the décor and furnishings border on the bizarre: suites feature a garish crimson sofa, and rooms contain a purple desk, brown sofa and orange art, as well as a movable screen that doesn’t guarantee complete privacy between bathroom and bedroom. Nonetheless, most guests care more about the unbeatable location: midway along Patong, and 200m from the esplanade and notorious Bangla Road.

8. La Flora Resort Patong

Rooms with pool access and sea view at modern and convenient resort
Contemporary, rare beach frontage and oh-so convenient. One of very few directly facing the sea, this is elegantly modern without being impractically chic. Rooms are in 2-level blocks overlooking 1 of 2 pools, and those on the ground floor have direct access. Each is spacious, with a décor of fashionable dark wood, a TV hidden behind an extended mirror, and feminine touches around the wall art and bathroom layout. All contain a veranda/balcony large enough for 2 inviting cushioned chairs, but most face another room just across the pool, while those near the road and lobby would be noisy. With some of Patong’s finest sea views, the 1- and 2-bedroom villas are particularly romantic and secluded, featuring a private pool, dining area, sundeck and living room with a home theatre system. But for many the attractions are the setting and location: facing a quiet stretch of sand shaded by mangrove trees, it’s also along the esplanade and barely 100m from the infamous Bangla Road.

9. Paripas Patong Resort

Rooftop pool at hip resort ideal for young travellers
Quieter, more personable, for the younger crowd. Positioned in the more relaxed southern section of Patong, this boutique resort is set back from the main road and most rooms face inwards, but those with ‘city views’ would be noisy. Most rooms in the 6-level block overlook the pool, with a swim-up bar attached and direct access for those on the ground floor. A smaller pool on the rooftop offers delightful views of Patong and at a distance, the sea as well as a raucous bar. The comfortable rooms feature seascape paintings, colorful linen, and an oversized TV, but lack overall warmth, with stark furnishings of mostly black and white. With fewer rooms than neighboring mega-resorts, service is more personable, and it’s ideal for the younger set who want to be within walking distance of the beach and bars, but not stay among the crowds.

10. Patong Merlin Hotel

Huge famiy-friendly resort with multiple pools
Immense, quiet, rare tropical gardens, ideal for families. The substantial grounds stretch from the main road to the esplanade in the more relaxed southern part of Patong, distant from the unsavory Bangla Road. The overall ochre-and-brown design is attractive, the balconies drip with bougainvillea, and the twisting paths are lined with palms and vines. Some rooms overlook the road and car park, but most face inwards, diminishing traffic noise, and none have sea views. Rooms are compact, functional (like a motel) and colorful, with a sizeable desk and lovely sliding doors leading to the balcony. More spacious and appealing are the Superior Rooms, while those on the ground floor have direct access to a pool for those guests only. The other 3 lagoon-shaped pools feature tiered sections packed with inviting lounge chairs. And the amenities for families are numerous, including 2 children’s pools, a colorful kids’ club with engrossing activities, and playground for toddlers.

The 4 Best Hotels in Bang Tao

1. SAii Laguna Phuket

Opulence and charm at beachside kids-friendly resort
Luxurious, convenient, beachfront and excellent for families. One of few with a genuine Thai design and facing the beach, this place oozes opulence and charm. Rooms are in 3-level blocks, while a few villas and suites are scattered elsewhere, but less appealing is the accommodation facing the ‘tropical lagoon’ (an unexciting man-made lake). All rooms feature stylish Thai influences, with lots of colorful rugs and cushions, as well as a tiled floor, charming alcove sofa and unusual shower-cum-bathtub. Many boast world-class sea views from a balcony close enough for waves to be noisy at night. The wide beach faces a headland and offers extensive views in both directions, and the numerous sparkling-blue pools raised for maximum views feature spouts, waterfalls, and slides. Facilities for families are excellent, e.g. there’s a kids’ club and numerous activities and courses, and it’s within 100m of a huddle of beachside cafés and easy to reach along an access road.

2. Amora Beach Resort Phuket

Large pool and motel-style rooms at Amora
More affordable and convenient than most. Each of the 3 wings of rooms faces the gardens, creeks or separate pools, so none have sea views. The standard rooms are motel-style in design and décor, but spacious, with appealing wicker chairs and a few photos of Bang Tao on the walls. Rooms with pool views offer more space for an extra single bed, while the Family Room features twin bunk beds. But the balconies in all rooms are unnecessarily small, often barely large enough for two people to stand. A vast lawn peppered with pines angles down from the main pool to the broad beach, with extensive views to the headland and beyond. There’s a shady playground, but better facilities for families can be found elsewhere. The location is more notable than most, however: at the end of an access road and within 500m of a bunch of beachside cafés.

3. The Pavilions

Best Hotel for a Honeymoon in Phuket
On a hill in Phuket’s quiet, lush jungle and blue-sea blessed northwest corner, come here for an intimate romantic escape far from the mini-skirt-clad bar scene of Phuket’s southern beaches. There’s a free shuttle bus down to nearby, mellow, golden-white Layana beach, but this resort is designed as a place you never need to leave, with each villa holding a personal plunge pool; fine dining, spa service and much more are available on-site. Villas are all you’d hope for with bathrooms rivaling the size of the bedrooms, dizzying views over jungle to turquoise waters, and elegant, light-filled modern-Sino style.

4. Sunwing Bangtao Beach

Extremely family-friendly resort with 6 lagoon-shaped pools
Convenient, beach frontage, and ideal for families. The rooms (called ‘studios’) have views of the gardens and bright-blue pools, while many are angled towards the ocean for hopeful glimpses, and those on the ground floor have direct pool access. Rooms are more spacious than those in other resorts, with charming Thai influences among motel-style furnishings (e.g. fridge and microwave) and a sizeable balcony. Curtains separate the bedroom from the lounge area with a colourful sofa that converts to a single bed. The 6 lagoon-shaped pools feature ‘islands’ with palm trees and a swim-up bar, and part of the shady beach is cordoned-off from jet skis. And the facilities for families are extraordinary: evening entertainment, a kids’ club, special pools, playground, games room and a range of absorbing activities. It’s also within a short stroll of a bunch of beachside eateries and a few shops along the main road.

The 3 Best Hotels in Chalong

1. The Vijitt Resort Phuket

Palm-surrounded infinity pool overlooking the sea
Superlative elegance and very family-friendly. Magnificent villas dotted among landscaped gardens of palms and ponds vast enough for guests to need buggies. Some feature a private pool and 2 bedrooms, but views vary considerably and promised sea views may disappoint. All villas are beautifully designed, spaced apart along meandering paths, and fitted with gates and fences ensuring total seclusion and serenity. Other features include high thatched ceilings, a lovely tiled floor, 4-poster bed and complete windows on 2 sides. And the private pool is not just a plunge pool. Guests can enjoy Thai yoga and botanical walks through the hotel gardens, and children would relish the kids’ club, games room, and playground. The infinity pool facing the beach has edges that seem to blend into the ocean, while the extended beach is scenic and virtually private.

2. Le Piman Resort

Self-catering and comfortable bungalows at budget resort
Good value and ideal for self-catering, but dreary area. Nowhere near as vibrant or scenic as Patong or Kata, Chalong Bay is based along a very busy road, with surprisingly few tourist facilities, and the beach is thin, gravelly and mostly commandeered by major resorts. This budget-priced bunch of bungalows is cushioned from traffic noise by a 50m lane, and doesn’t face the beach. They feature a spacious lounge/kitchen/dining area with a sofa (that can convert to a single bed), as well as a fridge, cooking facilities and table, and an undersized bedroom at the back with minimal views. The floor is covered with soothing mosaic tiles, while the commodious balcony with overhead fan overlooks the shady and inviting pool. Ideal for those who want to self-cater and escape the crowds, and have their own transport, the closest beach is 10 minutes on foot, while the far better Nai Harn beach is 5 minutes by vehicle.

3. Serenity Resort & Residences

Chic and serene resort with large pool
Unashamedly chic, good for self-catering, but lacklustre area. This is another resort desperately searching for a patch of beach frontage, but Chalong Bay is narrow and gritty and stretches along a busy road with few facilities. Nonetheless, the Serenity is appropriately named, with traffic noise buffered by walls, and attractive grounds. While the sea may be uninviting, views of the scruffy harbour and islets are captivating. The large beachside pool features extensive wooden decking and a splash area for kids, but nothing else is set up for children. But it’s mostly about the views, which vary considerably, from those facing a wall to sublime panoramas from a private pool on top-floor suites. Standard suites are spacious and very modern, with floor-to-ceiling windows on 2 sides, a dining table, kitchen facilities, massive balcony, sofa and all the latest audio equipment. It’s on a noisy corner, convenient for transport, but only a handful of facilities are within walking distance.

The 3 Best Hotels in Kamala

1. Novotel Kamala Beach

Superbly located and family friendly resort with beachside pool
Unappealing exterior, but lovely position and family-friendly. The location is superb: directly facing a serene beach at the northern end of the curved bay. All rooms feature a contemporary décor, with some indistinguishable Thai prints, extensive windows, and unimaginative motel-style appliances and furnishings. Barely 20m from the sand, the Ocean View Superior rooms have almost perfect sea views, while the Pool Villas (some with 2 bedrooms) are higher up, offering broader panoramas of the ocean. The infinity pool facing the beach could get crowded and the attached bar is sometimes noisy, but it’s mostly about the views, probably the finest in Kamala. And with plentiful activities and adjustable bedroom layouts, it’s ideal for families. It is about 15 minutes via the beach to downtown Kamala, but a few cafés and shops are closer, and a free minibus shuttles guests to Patong.

2. Sunprime Kamala Beach

Luxuious adult-only resort with 4 pools
Luxury in a delightful low-key area, but adults only. One of very few resorts facing this pleasingly undeveloped beach, the Sunprime offers hundreds of rooms in attractive low-level blocks across grounds so colossal that guests frequently become disoriented. Most Deluxe Rooms overlook gardens and/or pools, with promised ‘sea views’ marginal at best. Rooms feature attractive dark-wood furnishings, polished floorboards and colourful cushions and linen, but are unremarkable otherwise: more like a functional motel. The balconies/verandas are spacious enough for 2 comfy lounge chairs, but many face other rooms or busy paths, significantly affecting privacy and peace. Fronting a particularly scenic section of the curved bay, the views are extensive and the shade plentiful. 2 of the 4 sparkling pools have swim-up bars, and some indoor activities are offered. It is in a very handy area, between a dead end street and the center of Kamala, but note: no-one under 16 years old is allowed.

3. Capital O 959 Wabi Sabi Boutique Hotel

New and quirky hotel with spacious rooms and good pool
New, serene, family-run and convenient. Very few hotels in Kamala face the beach, so the next best location is a quiet cul-de-sac still close to sand and shops. With a limited number of rooms in a 5-level block, the service is highly attentive and views on the upper floors are extensive from 2 (or even 3) floor-to-ceiling windows and elongated balconies. Vistas are however of hills, trees and distant buildings, so promised sea views may disappoint, while those on the ground floor have direct access to the pool. Some rooms feature a queen and single bed, yet still feel spacious, and a few have 2 bedrooms. And it’s charmingly quirky: some rooms have no wall between the bedroom and bathroom, and most appear unfinished (e.g. unpainted ceilings) but are otherwise faultless. A little hard to find among the backstreets, it’s 1 minute to the main road lined with shops and cafés and the same distance again to the beach.

The 2 Best Hotels in Panwa

1. Amatara Wellness Resort

Resort swimming pool lined with umbrella loungers, set against a lush mountain backdrop
Opulent and massive 5-star resort, focused on wellness and tranquility, and located in sleepy Cape Panwa for a relaxed vibe. All the rooms, suites, and villas are well-designed and well-appointed, and all offer fantastic bay or sea views. World-class facilities include a huge, well-equipped gym; a first-of-its-kind Thai-Turkish hammam; 2 infinity pools including the massive main pool that needs to be seen to be believed; and a holistic treatment center for guests with an on-site doctor and a physiotherapist, nutritionist, and nurse on-call. The multiple restaurants and bars serve a variety of cuisines, focusing on healthy eating, and one of the bars even turns into a rooftop nightclub in the evenings. The spa is equally huge, and offers an excellent array of treatments. Private beach, organic herb garden, welcoming lounge, complimentary kayaks and paddleboards, kids’ center, and large boutique ensure that all guests are spoiled for choice.
• Hotel phone: +66 76 318 888

2. Pullman Panwa Beach Resort

swim-up pool bar at a lavish resort pool
Luxurious tropical resort with an amazing beach frontage, and an equally amazing multi-level main infinity pool in the quiet neighborhood of Panwa. Rooms, suites, and villas are modern and feature all the expected creature comforts. A multi-cuisine restaurant, a Thai fine-dine restaurant, and multiple bars that serve exciting cocktails with varying happy hour menus keep guests happy. Amenities include a well-equipped and huge gym, steam and sauna rooms, pool table, kids’ club, 3 pools, children’s pool with slide, and complimentary use of kayaks and paddleboards. Several facilities are located just opposite the hotel entrance.
• Hotel phone: +66 76 602 500

The 3 Best Hotels in Surin

1. The Chava Resort

Apartsment-only resort with excellent design and functionality
Spacious apartments, handy location, ideal for groups and families. Only apartments are available, from 2 to 5 bedrooms, each with their own bathroom. All are very spacious and airy, with as many floor-to-ceiling windows as possible, some openable for welcome breezes. With a living area, dining table and fully-equipped kitchen (including freezer and dishwasher), they are wonderfully designed, with contemporary furniture, polished floorboards, and all the latest gadgets. Wall decorations would make it feel homier, and some of the smaller rooms are a little dark, but it is ideal for families – especially apartments with separate lounge rooms for adults and children. Most face the hills or overlook the sparkling-blue pool lined with cabanas of flowing white curtains, while those on the ground floor can boast a private plunge pool. Halfway along Surin (which is markedly smaller and more relaxed than Patong), a perfect uncrowded beach is only 150m in front.

2. Manathai Surin Phuket

Oriental and modern decor at friendly resort
Cosy, relaxed, friendly, but some unappealing rooms. Halfway along the main street of Surin (which is so much quieter than Patong) the Manathai offers only 52 rooms. The spacious and cheerful rooms in the larger block feature an unusual design with mosaic tiles and a balcony of cushioned benches, as well as tasteful Thai décor with statues, prints and purple dominating the furnishings. But rooms in the smaller block are less charming: cramped, with an oriental (not Thai) décor, and a second entrance door shared with a neighbour. These rooms are also considerably smaller, with a veranda/balcony so tiny that it’s barely usable, while those on the ground floor have direct access to the second pool that is sunless and uninviting. However, there is a welcoming sense of overall serenity, with plentiful lotus ponds and gracious staff. While it faces the sea, no hotel in Surin overlooks the beach, but a perfect cove of bleached sand and turquoise water is just 150m away.

3. Twinpalms Phuket

Long main pool facing the suites
Luxurious, private, modern but a little charmless. Most rooms are in blocks, with an elegant brown, grey and white design featuring slate. Those on the corner feature floor-to-ceiling shutters that provide extra privacy (but were probably added more for design than functionality). Rooms overlook the main pool, with a kids’ pool attached, that stretches the length of the grounds and is lined with palms. Suites face a second pool, and villas boast a private pool among secluded gardens. Standard rooms feature a massive bathroom, with a tub overlooking an indoor garden; modern décor, with garish seascape prints; sofa; and veranda/balcony with cushioned lounge chairs. Welcome additions include a library and access to beach clubs at Kamala and Bang Tao, although a perfect bay is 150m in front of the hotel. Halfway along Surin (which is far smaller and quieter than Patong), the resort does lack some warmth and character because of the impersonal design and layout, particularly at the lobby.

Good Hotels – Phuket & Area

1. Splash Beach Resort, Maikhao Phuket – Near Phuket Airport

Centara Resort with Water Park for Kids
The resort is attached to a huge water park (the largest in Thailand) with slides, water jets, and a lazy river. It’s clean, well run, and free when you stay at the hotel. Suites are huge and have a full kitchen. Downsides: food is average (walk out to the main road to find some good local restaurants) and the location is a little isolated (though a very short drive to the airport). My recommendation is to stay here for 2 nights and 1 full day at the start or finish of your trip. Kids love it.

2. Six Senses – Yao Noi

Best Luxury Resort in Phuket
The views are amazing – it simply doesn’t get better than towering limestone karst formations rising from the powdery turquoise Phang Nga Bay. But the accommodation is equally world class, using materials like bamboo, thatch, and jungle-foliage to create exceedingly private, comfortable, and spacious villas that go far above and beyond most tropical island fantasies. Guests relax in the spa, by their own private pool or on the beach, or take part in any number of adventure activities from SCUBA diving to rock climbing.

3. Sarojin – Khao Lak

Best Hotel in Khao Lak
Peace and quiet are what you’ll find at this adults-only, Zen haven that takes in beach, mangroves, and coconut plantations. Khao Lak is not in Phuket but is only an hour north of the Phuket International Airport (Karon, Kata, and Patong beaches are about an hour south of the airport so not a big difference) and is much less touristy than the Phuket beaches. Accommodation at Sarojin is in one or two-bedroom “residences,” that include a spacious sitting area, gorgeous naturalistic bathrooms with round bathtubs and private gardens. The pricier options have their own small swimming pools. The spa is surrounded by nature (you may see buffalo meandering through the coconut palms) and is considered one of the best on this coast while the two hotel restaurants – one serving Thai food by a lotus pond and the other offering Mediterranean fare on the resort’s white sand beach – are also divine.

Phuket Hotels with Private Pools

Resort on the beach with private pool in Phuket

The Pool Villa with Sea View at The Shore At Katathani on Kata Beach.

Read More

About Santorini Dave

Santorini Dave Author Bio. Santorini Dave was started in 2011 by a guy who loved Greece, travel, and great hotels. We're now a small team of writers and researchers on a mission to deliver the most helpful travel content on the internet. We specialize in Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, and Greece and recommend the best hotels, best neighborhoods, and best family hotels in top destinations around the world. We also make hotel maps and travel videos. I can be contacted at

  1. Thailand in Late September/Early October

    Hi Dave, what wonderful informative advice you give. My husband and I (in our 50s) have been given 10 days off from our 6 children at the end of September to the beginning of October and would like to relax in Thailand. We would love a beachside Resort with sunset views, nice pool, good beach swimming, my husband loves to body surf, relatively quiet area but also accessible to cafes, restaurants and markets and possibly some day excursions. Are we crazy to go at this time of year if we want to laze by a pool or beach? We look forward to any suggestions and thankyou in advance, kind regards Janice.

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      It’s rainy season at all of the Thailand beach resorts in late September and early October. You could still get nice weather but it’s a risk, sea is often choppy even if skies are clear. A much better choice that time of year is Bali. Great weather, shoulder season so not super busy, markets, local culture, great food.

  2. Kata vs Karon Beach

    Trying to decide between Kata and Karon Beach. Looking for nice sand, good swimming, restaurants and bars in a walkable town. Is Kata or Karon a better place to stay?

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Phuket Island is blessed with a number of lovely beach regions, but choosing the right one can make the difference between a good holiday and a fantastic one. The great news is that both Kata and Karon offer idyllic beaches, with white clean sand, calm waters and some shade. Both also have enough places to eat, drink, and shop to satisfy all travelers. The main difference is that Karon is very spread out, with many undeveloped sections and it lacks character. Some hotels are 500m or more from a cluster of bars, cafes, and shops, unless based on or around Luang Phor Chuan street, where facilities head up to 1km inland. Kata is divided into Kata Yai (Big Kata), with the majority of facilities, and Kata Noi (Small Kata, of course), separated by a hilly 800m stretch of road. Kata Noi is a cute enclave of upmarket resorts, without a busy road separating hotels from the beach, but Kata Yai has far more places to eat, drink, and shop.

      In short, you are probably best off staying at Kata Yai. It’s compact, with everything along a 1.2km-long road, with a superb beach kept immaculately clean by the Club Med resort which likes to think it owns the beach (but doesn’t).

  3. Amanpuri, Trisara, vs Sri Panwa in Phuket

    Hi Dave! So debating between: Amanpuri, Trisara, or Sri Panwa? We want 5 star, beautiful beach, and would love to have access to shops and restaurants….thanks! Dana

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      All of these are good 4.5 star hotels with nice amenities, grounds, and pools. But none are on a great beach or are an easy walk to a wide range of shops and restaurants. Of the 3, The Amanpuri has the most within walking distance but it’s still nothing compared to being on Karon or Kata beaches (which are the locations I would recommend for you).

  4. Phuket Hotel with Pool and Beach Access

    I could really really use some help. I’m coming to Phuket for my 10 yr. anniversary arriving around 11:30 am on Tuesday, 3/14 and leaving for Bangkok on Sunday early afternoon on 3/19. I need help picking a hotel. I’ve made many reservations only to change them when I read more reviews, or find a better price, etc. I’ve been booked at Novotel Phuket pool suite but cancelled after I read about the sewage smell getting to the beach & saw pictures, then I booked at the Pavilions Phuket – I really liked this one; it was $113,000 for the 5 nights and loved the pool; but, then I found Dream Phuket Hotel & Spa and they offered a lovely pool suite as well and so I cancelled Pavilions and booked there. for only $50,000 bhats. But, here is where my thinking is now. My husband and I have never been to Asia and I chose Thailand because I wanted culture from those indigenous to the area and those who travel here. I’m not really trying to be isolated like the pavilions would do nor do I think I want to be very very far away (40-45) from the “happenings” When I reflect, having a pool isn’t the most important thing – I just installed one at home. Below is the order of priority of what I would say is really most important to me for Phuket. Please can you make some recommendations, please – I’m so tired of reading reviews.
    1. Hotel – good/strong AC/ clean and modern feel. Would be ideal to have a suite; but, could do a bit smaller
    2. Beach – I want access to a really nice calm beach for swimming – I love to swim and it’s my favorite thing to do. I’d really like access to beach chairs/umbrellas. Would love to have a hotel on the beach or provides a shuttle to it. I’d say this trumps all else except #1. So if I have to be away a bit more but get a great beach I’ll pay the $ for taxis.
    3. Not in the center of things; but, being 20 minutes away or so seems so much better than 40-45 minutes. We are from the US and go to the Caribbean all the time to relax. So we’re looking for some R&R if we want; but, want to experience things. But, if there is no place with a nice beach. I’d go a little further out.
    4. I’d love to find something less expensive like Dream Resort; but, can go much higher if I get the must haves. Thank you so much for any recommendations you can provide.
    Konika Bell

  5. Walkable Beach Town with Nightlife over Christmas and New Years

    Wow, David – very impressive feedback and detail to Thailand culture and scenery!

    I am asking for a close male friend, who is traveling from Melbourne, Australia to Thailand for the first time. He will be there over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, so about 2 weeks all together. Young professional, early 30’s, enjoys night life, good food, and definitely safety; preferably walking distance to such related. I am seeking lodging suggestions and areas within a reasonable budget.

    I am excited to hear from you!


    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Karon and Kata beaches are both good choices with shopping, restaurants, non-crazy nightlife, and great beaches. Horizon Karon Beach Resort is a moderately priced hotel that is walking distance from both Karon and Kata beaches so makes a good compromise.

  6. Transportation from Phuket Airport

    Hi Dave

    What does a taxi cost from Phuket airport to Patong, Kata, and Karon beaches? Are they easy to get? (Haven’t decided where to stay yet.)

    Thanks Dave, appreciate your help and love your blog.

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Yes, taxis are very easy to get. Just walk out the door from arrivals and turn right. There’s a kiosk there that arranges taxis with official prices (no meter).

      I took this picture last year of taxi fares around Phuket (from the airport):
      Taxi fares from Phuket airport to different beaches and hotels.

  7. Where To Go in Thailand Late October / Early November

    Hey Dave

    First of all great blog! My mom and I are going to Thaïland at the end of october. First we visit Bangkok a couple of days, then go to Pattaya (Jomtien) and then would like to go to a/some Thaï island(s). Which islands (and beaches, resorts,…) would you recommend, weather-wise, at the end of October/beginning of November? We’re looking for a relaxing vacation with good and sunny weather, good food, experience thai culture ( the cooking, markets, visiting temples, nature, Thai style resort,…) so not the loud parties but also not totally isolated. Have done a lot of reading on your blog and internet and still it’s hard to decide where to go to and to avoid rain as much as possible.

    Thanks in advance.


    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      October is a wet month pretty much everywhere in the south. Koh Samet island (not too far from Pattaya) is drier than the islands in the south and has a nice vibe though perhaps not everything you’re looking for. If you had to choose between the west coast (Phuket) and east coast (Koh Samui) in late October/early November then the west coast will likely be drier.

  8. Phuket, Krabi, Khao Lok in November

    Hi David! First of all, the information you provide is amazing, thank you so much! Me and my bf (in our 30s) are looking to visit Thailand end of November. We cannot make a decision regarding our itinerary so I was wondering if you could have a look and help us decide. We are very active, we love walking, good restaurants, shops etc. We definitely don’t enjoy crowdy places like Bangla Road but we are not very keen on secluded beaches or islands either. Because it’s my birthday we are looking for a bit of luxury at some point too. ITINERARY NO 1: Bangkok for 3 days (@either Lebua or Peninsula), fly to Krabi stay in Ao Nang for 2 nights to visit 4 islands and Railey (Vogue resort), 2 nights Phi Phi Island (is it possible to rent long tail boat to go to Maya Bay very early in the morning? we are considering either Holiday Inn or Village Resort), last 4 nights Phuket (maybe Centara Grand?). Is it worth staying in Phi Phi or would we be better off just sticking to Krabi and Phuket & just doing sunrise tour with Simba sea tours (you get to Maya Bay before all the tourist arrive). ITINERARY NO 2: Bangkok 3 nights, Khao Lak 3 nights (Haven Resort, any thoughts regarding beach, restaurant etc?) From Khao Lak maybe one day tour to Khao Sok CHeow Lan Lake), then Phuket for 5 nights (TRIPS planned: sunrise pPi Phi tour, Hongs by starlight, James Bond island etc) – it would mean however we skip krabi….Also quick question about hotels in Phuket, which one would you opt for: CENTARA GRAND room witha spa bath or Mom Tris Villa in Kata?


    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      One thing to keep in mind is that the sea can still be rough in November (though it’s usually pretty good by late November) – so the bigger the boat the better (big ferries run on most of these routes but I wouldn’t want to be on a long tail for anything other than Railay). I love Railay so I’d probably go with your itinerary #1. Mom Tris definitely has more character than Centara Grand (though it’s still very nice). Both Holiday Inn and Village Resort are nice though Village Resort is walking distance to Tonsai which is nice.

  9. Phuket Resort in October

    Hi David
    We are travelling to Phuket in October for two weeks. We know it is low season and we are likely to get some rain. The first week we are staying with friends but for the second need a hotel. I have been looking at the Outrigger Laguna Beach resort and the Sunwing as my son is also coming with us. Do you know either of these hotels? Also with the sea being quite rough at this time have I chosen the right part of the island to stay at? I am also presuming that not all boat trips will be available and we may not be able to snorkel. Any advice you could give would be much appreciated.

    Lesley Harrison

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Personally, I would go with the Sunwing in Kamala (there is also one in Bang Tao – not sure which one you were asking about). All of these hotels will be quiet in low season but the Sunwing Kamala has the most around it and close to Patong for shopping, if that interests you. I doubt you’ll be snorkeling in October but all of these hotels have great pools for kids.

  10. Lively Place for New Years

    Hi David. My boyfriend and I are planning on heading back to Thailand again for New Years eve (leaving london 27th December) and hope to stay for around 10 nights. Last year, we did 1 night bangkok / 3 nights phi phi island (for NYE celebrations), 3 nights in Koh Lanta and then 3 nights in Chiang Mai. This time, we want to explore Phuket, Khao Lak and maybe somewhere else. We would like to be somewhere lively for NYE so would probably look to fly from Bangkok and see Phuket first. What would you suggest in your expert opinion?! We love taking boat trips out for snorkelling (we are not divers though), and appreciate good food and somewhere with some night life (although we dont like it Phi Phi crazy every night)!!


    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Patong is a little crazy at New Years. Kata and Karon a bit more mellow but still lots going on and plenty of friendly activity (and fireworks) along the beach. Many day trips to surrounding islands can be booked from Karon and Kata.

  11. Phuket Weather in July

    Hi Dave,
    Great site! Very helpful.
    I would like though to check with you what you would recommend to do in low season in Phuket. We have bought tickets to Phuket from 9th till 15th July. As we read that it would be quite rainy we were thinking whether it’s not a good idea to stay only 4 nights in Phuket and after that head to Bangkok for 2 nights. Do you think this is worthy doing? We are concerned whether we would have enough things to do in Phuket, we would like to do some sightseeing and travel around the islands but we are unsecure about the weather.

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      It is low season and can there will likely be some rain but (unless you have some very bad luck) I think you’d be fine for a 6 day trip and find plenty to do. Boat travel to other islands can be delayed or cancelled but the weather is often good for sitting by the pool and enjoying the sun. That said, I love Bangkok so trading two days on Phuket for two in Bangkok I think is a pretty good idea.

  12. Quiet Beach Locations on Phuket

    Hi, we are a couple in our early twenties. We have about 7-10 days to spend in the Phuket area. This is our first time in Thailand. We’d like to stay at places with clear quiet waters, good food nearby, not a partying area, more authentic style resorts, beautiful views. Simple Thai food at the hotel/s would be a plus. We don’t mind traveling from place to place. Would probably like to see Koh Phi Phi and Ralay beaches but also stay at a more secluded and quiet bungalow place.

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Calm quiet waters are becoming a rare thing in Phuket and a lot of your experience will depend on when you will be traveling. If you are traveling in high season, most beach areas will be busy. Koh Phi Phi and Railay are definitely worth going to but there as well, pretty much no matter where you go, there will be plenty of other people. On Phuket your best options are to keep to the beaches from Hat Surin and north from there. On Hat Surin the most exclusive and private resort is the Amanpuri which ticks all your boxes but it is also one of the most expensive resorts on the island. Heading north, try the beautiful Dewa Phuket (less expensive than the Amanpuri), a very mellow boutique resort that’s right next to the pristine beaches of Sirinat National Park. This resort is a great choice if it’s in your price range.

      Another idea in the quiet and authentic category would be to head to the very nearby Ko Yao Islands. The very expensive and yet absolutely dreamy Six Senses Resort on Koh Yao Noi has some of the best views in Thailand and feels very private. However it is isolated from daily island life so you won’t get much local culture. Santhiya on even more quiet Ko Yao Yai is built in traditional Thai style and also has some of the finest views imaginable.

  13. Which Island for Beaches, Nature, Nightlife, and Good Food

    Hi Dave,

    Thank you for this blog, really useful information here!

    A group of us – 4 girlfriends (early thirties) – can not make up our minds which islands to choose. Tickets are booked for 8-18 of December. What would you recommend for a mix of amazing beaches, nature adventures, good night, and food scene? We don’t mind island hoping at all.

    Thanks in Advance!


    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      With ten days you’re not going to have time to go too many places but that’s OK since a lot of Thai Islands have what you’re after. I’d start with maybe two nights on Phuket. Patong has the craziest nightlife by far, but it can be busy (too busy for some) and kind of gritty. If you want to tone it down a notch, Kata is a good choice. Both of these Phuket areas have beautiful beaches and tons of food options. Then go to Ko Phi Phi, one of the most beautiful islands in the country, where serious nightlife is on offer but you can also hike, scuba dive, or take cooking classes. The island is small so a night or two will probably be enough. It’s a bit of a trek, but I think you guys would really like spending a few days in Ko Lipe in the far south. The beaches and scenery there are spectacular, there’s great, fun, beach-style nightlife and seafood barbecues on the beach. You can catch a Tigerline Ferry from Ko Phi Phi to Ko Lipe that takes you through all the Trang Islands so you get to see the whole coast. The trip takes about 6 hours each way. At the end you may want to stay one more night on Phuket at whatever beach you didn’t try the first time.

  14. 2 Weeks in Thailand – Which Islands?

    Great site Dave, we are flying into Phuket around April 10th and staying for 2 weeks. I like to be dynamic when I travel, so I have zero rooms/resorts booked. I was roughly looking at flying in and staying around Pansea Beach for the first couple days to decompress from the flight and travel. Then head south-east, maybe PhiPhi for a day and then over to Ko Lanta. First time to Thailand (just me and my GF – 32 years old). Looking for mild/light crowds and great beaches with good food close. Can you recommend a few places to check out, or a decent pathway to head. I have no issues 2 days here, 2 days there. Just looking for a little advice from a seasoned traveler.


    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Pansea beach is a great choice for decompressing and both resorts there are top-notch. Both The Surin or The Amanpuri take in the best of the Pansea. Continuing on, you’ll probably want to stay at least overnight on Phi Phi and for mid-level crowds, you’d be best off looking for a place on the quieter east side of the island. Tonsai and most of the west side can get really loud and crazy. If you want to stay out all night however, it’s one of the wilder party spots in Thailand. The east coast is more for resort goers and still sees plenty of people but you’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep. Zeavola resort has the one of the better locations and lovely villas in the jungle, plus you can arrange for them to pick you up and drop you off at the ferry so that won’t cut too much into your stay.

      Lots of people love Koh Lanta and it has tons of beaches but many areas can get busy (though never as loud and busy as Koh Phi Phi). Also, scenery wise, this is very different from Phi Phi since the island is flat and the sea isn’t as blue. La Laanta on Ao Mai Pai would be a good choice for you. It’s young, modern, and hip. The beach is not busy but is white and the water is especially clear here. The Castaway Restaurant is good but you’ll have to rent scooters or hire transport to get you to other eating places.

      Railay Beach is one of the most beautiful areas in this area and all the resorts are walking distance to the restaurants and low-key bars. Plus there is a lot to do from snorkeling to rock climbing. In April it shouldn’t be too busy. The Rayavadee is the best resort at Railay (it’s on one of the best beaches in the country). For something cheaper try Railay Beach Club is a solid second choice. It’s on great beach too and you can easily walk to Rayavadee’s beach.

      With two weeks you’ll have plenty of time to visit the Trang Islands, which get less traffic than the other places but are equally beautiful with high limestone karst formations everywhere, fantastic white sand beaches, snorkelling, and blue waters. You can island hop as you please. Ko Muk is the busiest while Ko Ngai is the smallest and Ko Kradan has seen the most recent development. All have a mix of authentic Thai and more upscale European eating options. The Anantara Si Kao on Cheng Leng Beach on the mainland is one of the more luxurious choices in the area and they offer plenty of excursions to the islands so you could start there and take a day trip to figure out where/which island you want to go to next.

  15. Los Angeles to Thailand with Young Children

    I’m so glad that I found this site! We are a family of 4 (babies will be 25 months old & 9 months old). We’re heading to Chiang Mai for 4 days (June 26-29) for a work conference and then we will do personal travel. We can really go anywhere and do anything at all so that’s what’s making the planning so dificult. Research has been taking HOURS and I am desperate for advice. I want to maximize the visit and see as much as possible (cover a large area), but at the same I have to be conscious about having 2 babies with jetlag!

    Total trip can be about 10-14 days.

    Here are a few of my questions:
    1. From Los Angeles, should we fly into Chiang Mai directly, or via Bangkok?
    2. After my conference in Chiang Mai, where should we go? South to Surat Thani? Phuket? Other? Should we go N to Luang Probang, Laos? Any family friendly hotels that you recommend in any of those places? I do prefer to be in the “middle of it all” and not somewhere too remote.


    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      1. I don’t believe there are any direct flights from LA to either Bangkok or Chiang Mai. So, it’s 2 flights minimum so you might as well fly to Chiang Mai instead of adding another leg by stopping in Bangkok. The only caveat is that you’ll spend a little more going directly to Chiang Mai. The cheapest flights (by far) are to Bangkok and even when you add in the cost of another flight it will still be cheaper to fly through Bangkok (assuming you find a cheap flight to Chaing Mai with a Thai carrier like Air Asia).
      2. You don’t say what your interests are so it’s hard to recommend but if you want beach time then go to Koh Samui or Phuket. If you want something more cultural then Laos. The beach destinations are certainly easier with kids, but ease doesn’t always have to be the most important factor.

  16. Best Islands near Phuket

    We fly into Phuket airport and plan to spend 3 days there. But then want to head to 1 or 2 other islands nearby. What are the best islands on the west coast for beaches, swimming, interesting locations, and good food?


    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      1. Although it’s not an island, Railay is a peninsula that feels like an island and it has some of the best to offer for what you’re looking for. It’s known for its rock climbing but it also has some of the best beaches in the country that are great for swimming and are overwhelmingly scenic due to the towering limestone all around. There are some walks, interesting shrines and one coast coast of mangroves. Day trips go to some fantastic snorkeling spots or you can rent kayaks and paddle around. You’ll find every type of food in Railay from mom and pop Thai places to chic dining at the more upscale resorts. The fastest way to get there from Phuket is by high speed ferry that takes a little over two hours.

      2. Ko Phi Phi is an easy hop from Phuket on a high speed ferry (about two hours). It’s considered one of the most beautiful islands in the world and it’s hard to argue with that statement. The beaches are bright white, the water is nearly fluorescent blue and the limestone mountains are covered in stunning green jungle. Take your pick of swimming beaches and tons of restaurants and there’s even a great cooking school here – Pum’s. Unless you’re really into partying however, I’d recommend not staying in or around Tonsai Beach, as it’s often swarming with a very young drinking crowd and has pounding bass to the wee hours of the morning. Beaches like Laem Thong or Hat Yao (the latter is the much busier choice).

      3. Ko Yao Yai and Ko Yao Noi are the closest islands to Phuket and oddly enough, the least “discovered.” These islands are very interesting thanks both to their laid back white beaches and to the friendly local Muslim fishing culture which differs from what you’ll find on Phuket. The main village of Ko Yao Noi has some authentic street food and all the resorts have decent to very good restaurants. The beaches on Ko Yao Noi in particular receded at low tide so you can only swim at high tide. The best swimming beach is Hat Chonglard on Ko Yao Noi near the Thwison Beach Resort.

      4. Koh Lanta would be the lowest on the list of nearby islands if you’re hoping to swim, since most beaches there have murkier waters. The beaches are nice and sandy and you can wander in for a dip, but it is a little disappointing if you’ve grown used to clear, blue sea. Your best bet for a good swimming beach is in the far south at Ao Mai Pai. Koh Lanta is a much more flat island and fun to explore however and there is fantastic food all over the place. Time for Lime is a great cooking school that doubles as an animal rescue center (so you’d only want to go here if you really love dogs). Renting a car or a motorbike is a good idea, especially if you stay at Ao Mai Pai. The same high speed ferries go from Ko Phi Phi to Koh Lanta (1.5 hours) or you can leave from Phuket and transfer ferries in Ko PhiPhi for Koh Lanta.

  17. Koh Samui and Phuket Transportation

    Hi Dave,
    Thank you for sharing your views and providing some helpful information about Phuket and Ko Samui. Based on your recommendations we are going to stay at the Hansar in Ko Samui for a few days over easter (really looking forward to it) but then we go to Phuket before heading back to KL. I’ve looked at flight options and for 5 adults it’s a total 17,000 THB for a one way air ticket from USM to HKT which is quite expensive. Can you please suggest some reasonable alternatives with contact information? For example I read about taking a VIP bus from Ko Samui to Phuket instead of an air conditioned bus but cannot find any further info on this. A road journey is 6hrs as opposed to 1hr by air but factor in airport check in and baggage it’s more than 3 if not 4 in total so it would appear to be a viable alternative unless road journeys are a ‘bad idea’ i.e. unsafe! Thanks in advance for your help.


    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Yes, flights out of Samui are notoriously expensive but if you book early (months in advance) there are often good discounts available.

      Bus and boat to Phuket is a good safe option, albeit a more time consuming and less luxurious one. Once you’re on Koh Samui you’ll find bus and boat combo tickets to Phuket being sold on every corner. Count on the journey taking at least eight hours including the boat trip from Samui to the mainland (Surat Thani). The most frustrating part of the trip is waiting with hundreds of other tourists once you get off the boat, to get herded onto the air-con buses going in many directions all over Thailand. The wait here can be hot, dull and frustrating. The most popular boat is the high speed Lomprayah Ferry.

      The one-way price per person is 700THB but if you’re willing to go on a slower boat, you can probably find a cheaper alternative once you’re on Samui. You could also theoretically get a boat to the mainland then find a local bus connection from there. That would mean carting your luggage around in the hot sun and it will almost definitely add hours to your travel time, but it would be adventurous!

  18. Honeymoon in Thailand

    Hi Dave,
    Really liked your options but i’m still confused.
    My husband and I are taking finally our honeymoon (after 2 years) so we’re planning to go in late May, how is the weather in those days? The plan is staying 3-4 days in Bangkok and then go to the beach. I’ve seen all the beaches and i can’t decide! we’re looking for the best beach, white sand, and beautiful water. After Bangkok we don’t care about nightlife, shopping or big crowds, we just want to lay on the beach or the pool, so which beach/island do you recommend?
    Also a resort no more than $200/night and great views (or maybe a pool).
    I really want to take a tour to Phi Phi Island (yes, because of “The Beach”) but I saw they have Maya beach, Phi Phi and more tours, which one is the best? So I supose we need a resort closer enough to take that tour (or you don’t recommend that tour?)
    Thank you so much, i know you could help me with this.

    In Bangkok do you think 3 days are enough to go to the floating market, Emerald Budha and an elephant tour? or there’s something that we can not miss in our stay?


    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      3 days is plenty to see the sights of Bangkok (for most people, it’s a huge city so you could easily spend more but 3 will likely be perfect). For beaches and islands there are so many but take a look at Koh Lanta (quiet, great beaches), Kata and Karon beaches (more trendy with lots of restaurants and some nightlife), and Khao Lak (great beach, a nice mix of Thai culture and tourist amenities). If you’re interested in Phi Phi then I would visit for 2 or 3 nights but I wouldn’t do a tour as then you’re there at the busiest and least attractive times.

      1. Ana

        Thank you so much, you’ve been very helpful. I’m going to look at those islands.
        Thanks again!

  19. Which island in Thailand?

    Hi Dave,

    I am planning a trip to Thailand in April for a couple of days. I’m having a hard time deciding which island I should stay at. I’m looking for somewhere that has a really nice beach (preferably with white sand and blue water that’s swimmable) and also easy access to entertainment and activities (i.e: elephant trekking, gun range, etc.) Not really looking forward to a crazy night life as I will be heading to Bangkok later on during the trip.

    Tips on which hotels to stay at will be helpful as well.

    Thank you.

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      The weather in April is great on all the Thai islands so that shouldn’t be a worry. No islands have good elephant trekking (for that you need to go to northern Thailand) and I don’t think Thailand is known for its gun ranges. Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, Koh Lanta, and Phuket would all make great choices for beautiful swimmable beaches.

  20. Which Side of Thailand?

    Hi Dave, some sound advice on here, me and my partner are currently in Chiang Mai and seen everything we wanted to see! We are now torn whether to decide to go to the southeast or southwest of the islands! For example Ko Samui, Koh Tao side or Phuket, Phi Phi, and Krabi side? We like places with a bit of nightlife but like to chill on pretty beaches! Like boat trips, exploring, and culture too! My partner is interested in doing a dive – I’m a keen on snorkeling and maybe a dive if can build myself up to it?
    Many thanks

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Both coasts have what you’re looking for. The west lends itself more to day trips and short outings – there is just more coastline and little islands to explore. Both sides have good diving though the west has more choice of dive spots. Beaches are great in both areas though a little more relaxed and less touristy on the east coast. Nightlife has a funner vibe in Koh Samui than in Phuket. I tend to think the food is better on Koh Samui than in Phuket.

  21. Romantic Resort on Beach

    Hi Dave. My fiance and I are planning on visiting Thailand for the first time in June – probably staying around a week. We’re looking for a romantic, resort-style, beach-adjacent place to stay and from the research we’ve done it just looks like there are so many available options. Any recommendations? Thanks!


    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “resort-style” but take a look at Katathani Phuket Beach Resort if you want a large resort with multiple pools. If you want something more boutiquey and romantic then look at its sister hotel, The Shore at Katathani. Both have beachfront locations.

  22. Destination for Family with Good Value Hotel

    Hi Dave – We are a family of 4 traveling from NZ and meeting with a family of 5 from Denmark and plus two grandparents from Denmark joining us as well. We are 11 in total – we’ll be meeting up in July for 2 weeks. We stayed in Phuket 2 years ago in February all of us at two different resorts 1 week at each (Vijitt and Indigo Pearl) and loved it (this was a treat from a grandparent). This time we are all paying our own way and therefore need quality (but not luxury), we want accommodation that is resort styled and includes breakfast – we like to eat at the beach cafes in the evenings mostly. A swimming pool we feel with the young kids is a must. We like to snorkel a bit, walk in parks, beaches, hang out with the kids, eat!, get massages, explore local history and towns, do yoga, relax and definitely not do elephants and too many temples (although I personally love them!) ! We like to be on the ‘mainland’ – so not Koh Samui etc – and prefer not to do extra flights – eg – flying directly into Phuket and then getting a taxi (not another flight) was fantastic. Do you have weather/activities and accommodation etc recommendations for us please. Many thanks – your blog is great.


    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Khao Lak is a wonderful beach town and a good alternative to the more touristy Phuket. It’s an hour north of the Phuket airport (not much more than the taxi ride to Karon or Kata beaches).

      In Khao Lak Nangthong Bay Resort has a great beach front location, nice kid-friendly pool, and is an easy walk to lots of shops and restaurants. The hotel is very good value and has nice bungalows and family apartments.

  23. Where To Go in Thailand for First Time

    Thank you so much for your blog, simply amazing! I am trying to plan a trip for this upcoming April (first week). Honestly I am finding it hard to get information or “real” suggestions, except for your blog. I wish I had more time to visit but I only have about 8 days total, I’m flying from the US. I definitely want beaches, but what else would you suggest is a “must?” I love local, real food, sleeper trains, (non sexual) massage. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much again for your blog.

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      My 3 favorite places in Thailand are Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Koh Samui. You probably don’t have time to do all 3 so maybe just Bangkok and Koh Samui. Be sure to do a bike tour in or around Bangkok and a cooking course in Bangkok (more choices) or Koh Samui. The overnight train from Bangkok to Surat Thani (and then bus and ferry to Koh Samui) is a great experience. Bangkok has the best food in the country but Koh Samui is pretty great too and both have plenty of massage places.

  24. Beach That is Easy to Get To

    Hi David, first time Thailand visitors here, 2 adults and 2 children (16,8) we have 7 nights in Karon and then 3 spare nights at the end to visit somewhere different. Looking through your post and wondering is it easy to get to Krabi or Railay beach or is there somewhere else easy to visit and then to fly out of Phuket?
    Thanks in advance and for info provided.


    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      It’s very easy to fly to Krabi, taxi and boat to Railay, boat to Phuket, then flight home.

  25. Great Beach with Restaurants at Night

    Hi Dave,

    I went to Koh Samui 2 years ago and absolutely loved it, we stayed at the Amari Palm Reef and just loved how the beach transformed in the evening with the little bars and restaurants, sitting on bean bags at 2-3 in the morning just a few feet from the ocean . The only thing I would change is the beach right at the hotel as the water was not so clear as you see in the photos and a lot of coral. Can you tell me if there is another beach in Koh Samui with the same vibe in the evening but a nicer beach.
    Margaret Maclean

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      That stretch of beach in North Chaweng has the highest density of nighttime restaurants along the beach. So, while every beach has some night time activity any beach will be quieter than that area. But good places to look would be on Bophut, South Chaweng, Choeng Mon (right around Imperial Boat House), and Chaweng Noi.

  26. Booking Phuket Taxi in Advance

    Hi Dave
    Just reading your column which is very helpful. Only trouble I am having is inputting Mr Tum’s Tel number into my phone as I will contact him when I am in Phuket next month.
    Kind regards
    Julie Phillips

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      This website might help you make the call with the correct code.

    2. Julie

      Thank you!

  27. Koh Lanta or Koh Samui

    Dave, Happy New Year and thanks for all this great info. Quick piece of advice as we’re really on the fence. My wife and I will be travelling over from Bali in Mid February and essentially have 1 week in Thailand. We went to Phi Phi about 10 yrs ago but wondering which side is best to do this time. I’m super interested in Koh Lanta but also have some friends travelling through Samui at the same time.

    We’re in our mid 30’s (no kids) and looking for a fairly high end beach resort or classic stilt huts with crystal blue water, amazing sand, and some good diving too (tho we will of just been diving in the Gili islands so not integral). If you were in our shoes would you hit the gulf and maybe do Saumi and Ko Tao or head straight south to Krabi and do Lanta and surrounding area?

    Appreciate any advice. Thx.

    ps Tarutao National Park looks amazing but might be a bit hard to get to….


    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Both have great weather in February so there’s nothing to worry about there. I love Koh Samui’s mix of things to do, great restaurants, and wonderful beaches so I’m going to recommend Samui. Koh Lanta does have even better beaches but is much quieter. So, I’d let your preference for nightlife and restaurant scene be the main factor. Day trips from Samui to Koh Tao for diving are easy to arrange.

  28. Good Beach Hotels near Phuket Airport

    Hello Dave,

    We will be staying in Phuket for 2 nights before flying out from the airport. Any recommendations on where to stay near Phuket Airport? We are looking for a nice beach, close (ish) to airport, and good walking/shopping/restaurants nearby.

    Thank you!

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Two nice beach towns near the airport are Nai Yang and Naithon. Nai Yang has more restaurants and bars (though still quiet). Naithon has a nicer beach. The Nai Yang hotels are about 7 minutes from the airport. The Naithon hotels are 15 minutes from the airport.

      Nai Yang Hotels near Airport
      Indigo Pearl
      Dewa Phuket

      Naithon Hotels near Airport
      Pullman Phuket Arcadia

      If you have kids then you have to stay at the Centara which has a huge water park (largest in Thailand) connected to the hotel. Though this hotel appears to be directly beside the airport the road to get there winds around the runway to the east and it takes 12 to 15 minutes to get here from the airport.
      Centara Grand West Sands Resort

  29. Day Trips from Chiang Mai and Koh Samui

    Hi Dave,

    This is a great resource! Wondering if you could please help me with planning a trip to Thailand for 11 days in early August with my boyfriend. We are thinking: fly into and out of Bangkok for 2 days total, fly up to Chiang Mai for 4, and then to Koh Sumai for 5.

    Are there any day trips that you would recommend from Chiang Mai or Koh Sumai? We want to make the best of our trip, but try to limit the number of cities. Any recommended hotels in these areas or tips to avoid tourist traps? We’re also active people who get bored pretty easily, so would love to hear about activities you have done in these areas that we can take advantage of.

    Thanks so much for your help! Your site is great!

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      There are many great day trips from Chiang Mai – the Measa Elephant Camp being the highlight. Great day trips from Koh Samui include kayaking through Ang Thong National Park and diving or snorkeling trips to Koh Tao.

      The Hansar in Bophut is probably my favorite hotel on Koh Samui (though there are many phenomenal ones). In Chiang Mai I love the Anantara and the Four Seasons (a bit out of town but enchanting and close to some of the elephant camps).

  30. Beach Chairs on Phuket

    Hi Dave

    Are there any beaches in Phuket that still have sunbeds? I hear they have taken them all away & I don’t fancy lying on the sand. I have also heard that most of the beach bars have gone too. Is this correct?

    Many thanks

    Elaine Scully

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      There are no beach chairs on Phuket and most selling of food and drink has been banned – though it’s allowed on hotel property. Beach mats and umbrellas are allowed. Many beach bars have been dismantled. There are a few still running (or reconstructed) but they are back from the beach a bit.

  31. Koh Samui in August with Kids

    Hi David,
    I have spent hours surfing on the internet trying to get some info until I came across your blog. My plan is to go on vacation during the 1st 2 weeks in August (possibility to extend the stay) with my 2 children (4 yrs /13 yrs) and husband but to my understanding August seems to be a rainy season. I wouldn’t want to disappoint them having to end up swimming in the pool. I would want to have at least a few relaxing days at the beach and do some snorkling and then go elsewhere maybe for one week to go shopping, walk around, visit temples, sightseeing, and end the vacation maybe with the last few days at the beach. My husband prefers to have some options during the evenings i.e. restaurants /bars where you can easily go with children of course. Samui seems to be a good place to go during the peak season (August). Where else would you recommend to go? Would you really recommend to travel to Thailand during August? I am sorry if you feel like you are repeating yourself but unfortunately I do not have much personal time to get all the info. Your time and valuable knowledge would really be a great help. Thank you!

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      August usually has good beach weather on Koh Samui. Lots of good places to eat. It’s great for families.

  32. Where To Go with Kids

    Thank you for sharing with us your wisdom.

    We are planning to come to Thailand with two kids 5 + 7 for about 30 days, on a budget…

    It seems accommodation on small islands is expensive or difficult to get to or not much to do with kids. So beaches on the mainland Thailand look like a great idea. How would you split the time between the different beach location or is it all about the same? Budgetwise we are hoping for 50USD per night, is it possible? We like local simple places with a pool and can do without big resorts.

    We have been in Thailand before having kids, and more than once, what concerns me now a bit is how to deal with local cheating or trying to cheat you? I love Thailand, it’s a paradise, but Phuket and that area… how do you deal with kids there? Is it safe?

    Many thanks again!

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Mae Nam on Koh Samui is a great town for families – small, walkable, still plenty of restaurants, and the beach is great. It also has many affordable accommodations. That would be my first choice for an inexpensive base on a longer trip. Phuket is nice but does have a seedier side in Patong (though that’s easy to avoid by staying in Kata or Karon) and is much more expensive. Thais are generally friendly and honest – but you need to negotiate on things like taxis and market clothing. If you just take the first price they offer then yeah, it can seem like you’re being ripped off but that’s because you’re not playing the game right. I consider the beach areas of Thailand to be very safe – but of course there are incidents everywhere that occur. As with every country, your greatest risk is a car accident.

      1. Trip from Cambodia to Thailand

        Thanks Dave, will definitely look into Mae Nam on Koh Samui!

        What are your thoughts about Ko Samet, Ko Chung, Ko Kut area? We are looking to combine the trip together with Cambodia. So we would start at SR, fly to PP and then somehow magically go west into Thailand towards that area, then fly out from Bangkok. What do you think, is that a good idea? Have you done the overland transition between Thailand and Cambodia? We actually got a month for it all so time is not an issue, what concerns me is the travel with the kids, as you say car accidents is the worst risk.

        1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

          That’s a wonderful route and it all sounds like a great plan. That said, I would skip the Ko Samet area as the islands down south are far superior and when you have as much time as you do, you might as well get down to KS or KPN.

  33. 2 Weeks in Thailand: Beaches, Elephants, and Kayaking

    Hi Dave,

    What a great source of information, thank you!

    We are planning on going to Thailand in July/August of next year for maximum 2 weeks. We are both keen on beaches, beautiful scenery and some partying; I’d like to kayak and prefer locations that are less touristy to have some solitude. We were first looking at Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan, but now we are tempted by Ko Lanta and the Krabi area. Where would you recommend?

    My friend would possibly like to ride on an elephant and check out tiger temples, though with recent articles I’ve read I’m not so sure we would be comfortable with those situations. Do you have any inside knowledge with regards to that and the treatment of the animals?

    Thanks for your help!


    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      The Chiang Mai area is best for animal sanctuaries and elephant rides. Most are reputable and well run (though there are exceptions). The places in the south and on the islands are not as good and generally do not place as much emphasis on good animal treatment. Krabi and area do have great kayaking but you can have rough seas at that time of year. Weather is usually better on the Koh Samui side in July and August (and the seas calmer). Ang Thong Marine Park near Koh Samui is a great day trip for kayaking. The beaches in all of those areas (Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Krabi, and Koh Lanta) are wonderful.

  34. Krabi Airport to Koh Lanta

    Hi David – We are flying into Krabi and staying in Ko Lanta.
    Do you know the best way to transfer from the airport to Ko Lanta and how much should we expect to pay? Many thanks!

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      You can go to the taxi stand at the Krabi airport and hire a taxi (ferry included) to Koh Lanta. It will cost from 2500 baht to 3000 baht (depending where on the island you’re going) and take about 2 hours. There’s also a shared mini-van option that costs about 500 baht but can be a hassle to arrange (sometimes you have to go into Krabi Town).

  35. Koh Samui/Phangang or Krabi/Railay

    Hi Dave,
    We used your guide in Santorini for our honeymoon and it made planning for our trip last June so much easier, so thanks for that!
    We are now planning a trip next summer around SE Asia. We will be arriving in Thailand from Bali the first week of June and staying for 6 nights. We love adventure, but we also love to just relax on the beach. We don’t like the major touristy spots (hence we stayed in Imerovigli, not Oia in Santorini) and definitely want a tru Thai experience. We would be willing to stay in 1 place for 6 nights or experience 2 places for 3 nights a piece. Would you recommend we do Koh Samui/Koh Phangan or Krabi/Railey? Open to suggestions and thanks in advance!
    Hutton Beckcom

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Sad to say, that real Thai experiences are hard to find on the islands. For more cultural/local restaurants spend time in Bangkok or Chiang Mai. That said, I do prefer Koh Samui and Koh Phangan to the west coast and the Thai food is better too. Weather in June also tends to be better on the east coast (Koh Samui) than the west coast.

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