“Barefoot-chic spa hotel on a secret golden beach, 3 hours south of Bangkok”
Set among beachfront lawns, the residences and villas are housed in whitewashed buildings looking out to sea. Against this white, blue and green backdrop, the lovely design includes clean lines, thatch canopies, glistening plunge pools, swinging hammocks and sliding windows. It's thoroughly cool and calming, compromised only by a slight lack of privacy.
Beds are sumptuous, with mountainous pillows and Egyptian cotton bedlinen. Indoor-outdoor wet rooms (some with double tubs) are huge and have zingy, eco toiletries; 21st-century touches include a ferocious shower-spray, WiFi and a pre-loaded iPod and dock (but no television). There's a proper selection of teas and coffees, too. Though wardrobe space is limited, you'll probably live in the fishermen's pyjamas provided. Most rooms bring the indoors out, with living space spilling onto shady verandas, sundecks or roof terraces. We found our air-conditioning sluggish, but units have since been upgraded.
The Main Wing only accommodates over 12s, although please note that children can use the restaurants and spa in this wing. The thatched Pool Residences (Ylang Ylang, Jasmine and Kaffir Lime) are the lightest and brightest rooms, with outdoor Jacuzzis or plunge pools. The larger, more secluded Palm Pool Residences (Coconut-, Raffia-, Salak-, Chusan- and Acia-Palm) also have private lawns leading down to the beach. Ocean View Residences (Nutmeg, Vanilla, Cumin, Cannella, Khamin and Thyme) are large and airy, some with split-level sitting areas, set in the pretty flower-filled courtyard. The 2 Bedroom Beach House is split over 2 levels and has its own indoor and outdoor living space, a beach front plunge pool and roof terrace. The lofty Penthouse, rumoured to be a favourite of the Beckhams, has wraparound views and a double bathtub on its large terrace.
A short walk along the beach (or 2 minutes by shuttle) is Aleenta's Frangipani Wing. Ground-floor residences have private decks leading onto the infinity pool whilst those on the first floor benefit from a roof terrace and ocean views. The latter are the ones where families can stay as these can fit rollaway beds or a baby cot.
Next door, in a blossomy garden, is the curvy 2 Bedroom Chaba Villa for guests seeking extra privacy (Hollywood A-Listers were in residence when we visited). All ages are welcome, and there are 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a pantry, plenty of living space and a screened garden sofa looking out onto the Gulf of Siam. Private chefs and yoga masters can be supplied.
We're yet to view the 2 Bedroom Frangipani Suite and 3 Bedroom Beachfront Villa, but with direct access to the pool or beach they're perfectly located for unwinding.
The open-sided main restaurant has just 6 tables, overlooking the sea by day and lit by candles at night, so it's all very intimate. It's in the Main Wing, but children are welcome to dine here. If you prefer, you can have meals brought to your own beachside table next to your room.
Breakfasts are generous and interesting: a buffet of cooked meats, cheeses, tropical fruit and pastries arrives at your table on a tiered cake stand beneath a net - it's rather Betty's of Harrogate. Eggs are cooked however you like them, with bacon or shiitakes, or coconut cream and almonds. There are also Asian alternatives (congee and sushi), and the things you only get on holiday, like fresh crispy waffles and Bircher muesli.
Aleenta's manager is an experienced chef and a dab hand with the liquid nitrogen (and not only in the kitchen - one Christmas, he used it to turn the swimming pool into an ice rink), and you'll spot his influence on the lunch and dinner menu. Many of the dishes are based around the idea of 'collision cuisine' and, mostly, it works: we adored the tempura prawns with silky-sweet satay ice cream, but were less convinced by canapés of clams in chilli oil with a chocolate shot on the side. Also on the menu are spicy traditional Thai dishes - we couldn't get enough of the Tom Yam, or the lip-enhancing green papaya salad - and Western standbys for when you need to give your digestion a break.
The Cellar is the latest addition to Aleenta and we can’t wait to go back and try it ourselves. The restaurant is a celebration of local produce, everything used has been sourced from within 30km of the hotel. These fresh, seasonal ingredients are transformed into numerous Thai and international favourites with a twist, such as fish and chips with Thai spices, followed by pineapple and chilli spring rolls. There is also a poolside lounge (at the Frangipani Wing) which serves drinks and light snacks throughout the day.
Outside, there are loads of grazing opportunities - there's a night market at Hua Hin (a taxi ride away), lots of safe fish cafés at the anchorage, and a few bustling, open-air Thai eateries along the beach.
Children are greeted with a goodie bag (colouring books, painting sets and a guide to activities on offer) on arrival. This is a lovely place for kids, who are genuinely welcomed by the caring staff, and a Children's Concierge is on hand for families to make the most of their holiday.
Although the Main Wing at Aleenta welcomes children over the age of 12, the Frangipani Wing with its smart and roomy family rooms is open to children of all ages. Children can also use the restaurant and spa in the Main Wing (though not the pool). Children aged 6 and below stay for free and there's a supplement fee for older children. There's even a 15% discount for single adult families and complimentary babysitting if you've booked a spa treatment!
Within the Frangipani Wing, 3 of the first-floor residences have space for a rollaway bed, and 2 have space for a baby cot. Our favourite place to stay with little ones would be in the 2 Bedroom Chaba Villa (breakfast arrives on a tuk-tuk, which is fun), as it has plenty of space and views out to the Gulf of Siam. Rooms in the Main Wing are suitable for over 12s only and none can accommodate extra beds. Families with older kids and teens should opt for the 2 Bedroom Beach House with has 2 double/twin bedrooms and a private plunge pool.
The Children's Concierge can arrange nannies, babysitters and even teachers through the hotel
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Fussy eaters will love the breakfast juices in little bottles, and the menu has familiar items that won’t terrify. Children under 6 eat for free. Milk and cookies are offered at bedtime
Non-swimmers need to be watched near the unfenced swimming pool (it’s a maximum of 1.2m deep), and you have to be on the lookout for jellyfish in the sea