SALA Phuket

Mai Khao beach, Phuket, Thailand Book from

Reviewed by Laura Mannering
Stylish, secluded villa and spa resort on a quiet stretch of the Andaman coast, worlds away from Phuket’s party crowds
Phuket has long been a magnet for tan-by-day, party-by-night tourist hordes, but Thailand’s biggest island also offers a luxurious, lemongrass-scented escape for those who just want to chill. The north is much quieter than the throbbing south and SALA Phuket is the ultimate place to decompress and pamper yourself. Set on pristine Mai Khao beach, part of Sirinath National Park, its 79 rooms, villas and suites are a favourite with honeymooners and couples, not least because most have a private pool. The feel is modern luxe without snootiness and the overall emphasis is on healthy relaxation. Guests are more likely to get an early night to be refreshed for a dawn beach walk than to go out clubbing.

Take a boat tour and island-hop or go diving in aquamarine waters, soak up the shabby chic of charismatic Phuket Town, or just stay put and spoil yourself. The Sala Spa's fabulous treatments will put a spring in the most jaded of steps and a lychee martini as the sun goes down is pure rejuvenation.

Highs

  • Peace, quiet and tranquility - a perfect antidote to your daily grind
  • Stylish villas with alfresco bathrooms for romantic soaks under the stars
  • Friendly, helpful staff
  • Great Western and Thai food including sensational desserts - we loved the bourbon milkshake, served in a tiny milk bottle
  • One large swimming pool for laps, another with fountains and massage jets, plus the calm, warm waters of the Andaman Sea

Lows

  • There’s little to see and do within walking distance, so it feels a bit remote. Taxis are expensive but necessary, so add to the cost of meals and trips out
  • The modern architectural style of the hotel and grounds can feel slightly stark, though there is plenty of greenery, too
  • At busy times, service in the bar and restaurant is slow and sometimes muddled
  • Mosquitos can be a problem; bring spray
  • The beach is sloped so it's hard to sunbathe on, and you can only swim in the sea between October and March

Best time to go

Phuket is warm all year round but January and February are by far the most popular months for visitors as the weather is dry, the skies clear and the seas calm, perfect for swimming, snorkelling or diving. May to October see regular rainfall and April is the hottest month - it also features the 7-day water-throwing Songkran Festival for Thai New Year, so book well ahead if you plan to visit then.

Our top tips

Phuket's famous Vegetarian Festival starts on the first day of the 9th lunar month every year (end Sept or early Oct). Islanders of Chinese ancestry commit to a 9-day vegetarian diet, a form of purification believed to make the forthcoming year 'trouble-free'. The festival is marked by amazing displays of fire-walking and ascending sharp-bladed ladders.

Great for...

Beach
Family
Foodie
Honeymoon
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Luxury Resort
  • 79
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Bicycles Available
  • Volleyball
Room:

Rooms

The 79 rooms, suites and villas are simply decorated in creams, beiges and browns with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors leading to your high-walled and very private outside space. Clean lines are accented with geometric floor tiles and low-key wall sculptures, and beautiful chandelier lights dangle from high ceilings. Bathrooms are open-air and include a giant oval bath and generous shower with lemongrass toiletries; there is a scent menu at reception if you want to swap to another fragrance.

The real highlight of our Garden Pool Villa was the private lap pool in the small garden - it meant no organising of bags, towels, books or suncreams to take poolside, and even a swimming costume wasn’t strictly necessary. All rooms except Deluxe Balconies have a private pool, and it really is worth splashing out the extra for that ultimate luxury. One advantage of the balcony rooms, though, is that the alfresco bathrooms are a little more sheltered, so would suit those less keen on fresh-air ablutions.

The 1- and 2-bedroom villas have a living room in addition to their bedroom, and the Presidential Pool Villa Suite comes with 2 living rooms and an enormous 38sq.m private pool. However, our favourite room type was the Sala Pool Villa, which felt enormous and super-private, with slightly more colourful décor.

Nice touches included tropical fruit on arrival, a beach bag and mat, and 2 large umbrellas for rainy days. The only drawback was a noisy air-conditioning unit in the garden, which occasionally interrupted our starlit baths.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Beach bag and mats
  • Cd player
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Fridge
  • Hairdryer
  • Iron
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Mosquito net
  • Phone
  • Plunge pool
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Kick off your day with breakfast at the poolside restaurant: fruit, homemade yoghurt and little jars of muesli from the buffet or go a la carte for eggs, bacon, waffles and pancakes. My surprise favourite was Jouk Pla - wholesome rice porridge with chunks of fish, served with a condiment tray of spices and an unsweetened doughnut.

The same restaurant, which has a great outside deck, opens for lunch and dinner daily. It serves a wide range of Western and Thai food, with seafood and fish being particularly good and freshly made pizzas at lunchtimes. I loved the rich, sweet crab yellow curry and the sensational desserts - try the mango sticky rice or a bourbon milkshake, made with coconut and vanilla bean ice cream and served in a dinky milk bottle. For a special evening, book a table on the softly lit roof terrace (only open in High Season).

There’s room service 24 hours a day at Sala Phuket, but if you fancy a change of scene, head 5km north to Jakkajan, a beach-front restaurant. It's no-frills dining on bamboo benches under a palm-leaf roof but the location is stunning and the menu delicious. The star dishes are the fish and seafood made with the day’s fresh catch - everything from red and white snapper to squid and crab. We'd recommend a whole fish, steamed, grilled or fried and one of the spicy fresh salads, washed down with fresh coconut juice. You can walk there along the beach, or take a 10-minute taxi.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Fridge
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Treat yourself to a massage at the fabulous Sala Spa. I went for the Sala Selection Thai massage, which got rid of knots in places I never knew I had them
  • Walk along the beach just after sunrise. The air is cool and you’ll have the place virtually to yourself, but for crabs of all shapes and sizes scuttling in and out of the surf
  • Spend an afternoon wandering historic Thalang road and the surrounding colourful balconied streets in Phuket Town, then head to the night market, where sizzling food stalls serve up everything from dumplings and deep-fried crickets to sushi and noodles. The hotel can arrange a taxi, which takes at least half an hour depending on traffic
  • Take a leisurely boat trip around the towering limestone karsts of nearby Phang Nga bay, or head further afield by speed boat to the clear blue waters of the Similan Islands to explore the white-sand beaches and coral reefs, popular with snorkellers and divers
  • There's a golf course nearby and reception can organise a host of activities, from Thai cookery classes to horse riding, elephant treks and rafting; just ask
  • Enjoy happy-hour cocktails as you watch a spectacular sunset from the giant circular daybeds at the hotel bar
  • On Tuesday and Saturday night, the hotel runs movies under the stars, an outdoor cinema night complete with a popcorn machine

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Private guided tours
  • Rafting
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Scuba diving courses
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Yoga

Kids

Families are welcome and there were children of varying ages when we visited, but this isn’t somewhere that kids can really run riot. The atmosphere is quiet and relaxed, with a fairly grown-up vibe. Children aged 0-4 stay for free and there is a supplement cost for older children.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

All rooms can fit a baby cot, and the larger rooms have a single sofabed. 2-Bedroom villas can be set up as doubles or twins

Babysitting:

Available on request

Baby equipment:

Baby cots and high chairs available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kids Activities on site:

  • Kids pool
  • Beach

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
8/
Value
9/
Overall

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Rates for SALA Phuket