The Racha Resort

Racha Island, Phuket, Thailand Book from THB9,733

Reviewed by Viv Monahan
Romantic hotel on a small tropical island south of Phuket: perfect for weddings, honeymoons and upscale R&R
Just 40 minutes by speedboat from Phuket lies a coral-fringed island called Ko Racha Yai. It has a small local population, buffalo in the fields, soldier lines of coconut trees, 2 little shops, a couple of beachside bars and a few impromptu massage huts. And, in a small cove backed by a white sand beach, it also has The Racha, a sparkling resort.

The hotel is laid out over a hillside, with white cubes and shingle roofs lining lanes where tuk-tuks deliver brides and bags to their 84 villas (or a quirky 2-bedroom lighthouse). This is a dreamy honeymoon - or even wedding - destination, with sunset-lit arbours and cream satin chairs making an almost weekly appearance on the beach. It has a beautifully secluded feel, and its 2 gorgeous pools, 3 bar areas, roomy library, veritable temple of a spa and 4 very different restaurants keep guests nicely spread out. If you're not here because it's (officially) one of the most romantic hotels in the world, then you're probably here for the snorkelling and diving. It's said to be fabulous, and there's a PADI Dive Centre on site.

Highs

  • Stylish, white Zen-like rooms (some with private pools) overlooking a stunning bay
  • As a honeymooner, finding kaleidoscopic fresh fruit and wine in your villa, and the bed extravagantly decorated with roses and petals, adds an extra level of romance
  • Lying on your back in your garden terrace, counting the sea eagles and
    wading out into a crystal clear turquoise bay with not another soul between you and the horizon
  • Padding barefoot to breakfast - a sumptuous east-west buffet
  • Sipping a sunset Mai Tai in one of the ultra-romantic daybeds

Lows

  • Hard to get to: we'd recommend a stay on Phuket first to break up a long-haul journey. You must arrive at Phuket airport before 3pm to make the last transfer
  • The speedboat ride to and from Phuket can be bumpy and the eco-pontoon isn't the easiest to walk along
  • Flotsam and jetsam can wash up overnight on the beach but there's a daily clean-up
  • The beach is public. Sitting on a lounger incurs a charge, in high season there's a constant stream of daytrippers
  • The hotel does have a slightly resorty feel - as long as you're prepared for that, you won't be disappointed

Best time to go

Those in the know prefer late October, November, February and March - you get the best of the weather and comparatively empty beaches. Day trippers from Phuket can sometimes descend on the beach in large numbers in high season (Christmas and January) as the island is an excursion favourite.

Our top tips

For the speedboat journey, wear non-slip shoes, loose, comfy pants and an overshirt with sleeves you can roll up (have sunglasses, a hat with a strap to prevent it flying off, and keep your Factor 30 handy). Your luggage should be waterproof too; expect a fair bit of spray.

Great for...

Honeymoon
Beach
Wedding
Family
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Beach Resort
  • 84 villas, 1 lighthouse
  • Restaurants and bars (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
  • Tennis Court
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

The contemporary villa-rooms are divided into various categories. Most are Deluxe Villas (laid out in pairs) and slightly larger Grand Deluxe Villas (many with fine sea views) which are smart, minimalist-style cottages, each with a spacious bedroom and bathroom. Airy white bedrooms have pedestal-lit beds, white leather window-seats and a corner desk area. They lead out onto a breakfast terrace with a shaded daybed (their use is limited, though, as they're open to the gaze of passers-by). Six of the Grand Deluxe villas have a private plunge pool in their courtyard (Grand Deluxe Pool).

Junior Pool Suites, our favourite design, follow the crisp, cubist style of the villas, but are rather more plush with an indoor plunge pool (with underwater music!), Jacuzzi bath and a private outdoor seating area. The Spa Pool Suites are similar but have the added decadence of an indoor/outdoor Jacuzzi pool with fibre optic lighting, and an outdoor rain shower.

Grand Pool Suites are larger still and have an entrance hall, a large sitting room, an outdoor infinity pool overlooking the sea, sala, and posh tea and coffee machines. Gadget geeks will love the emphasis on modernity in the 2-Bedroom Grand Pool Suite: LED TVs, multimedia theatre systems, electric blinds and high-end lighting controllers will make even technophobes feel like they’re staying at Bond’s beach house.

For families, there's a gorgeous 2-bedroom Lighthouse, which sleeps up to 7 with 2 double bedrooms, space for additional beds, a sitting room, sundecks, an observation lounge, a 2nd-floor living room and a private pool in its own walled grounds. Book early as it's one of a kind.

Big white bathrooms have indoor and outdoor rain showers as well as a soaking tub, hairdryers and bathrobes. Toiletries feel like trophies: lemongrass scented handmade soaps are wrapped in gauze and dried flowers - it's hard to resist bringing one home.

All rooms have kingsized double or twin beds, aroma incense burners, tea and coffee-making facilities, DVD players, safes, satellite TV, telephones, aircon, free broadband connections, iPod docks (you can borrow a pre-loaded iPod from the lobby) and minibars.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Barbecue (on request)
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Internet access
  • Ipod dock
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Breakfast (included), served on the terrace of the main restaurant (Earth Café), is made even lovelier by the singing of the ugliest (but sweetest-voiced) birds, called nok iang. It’s a buffet that pays homage to the many different nationalities of guest staying here - bowls of congee and spicy noodles sit happily next to the Bircher muesli (made with fresh coconut and papaya); tiny blueberry muffins and finger-sized croissants cosy up to fruits you need a guide book to identify. You’ll also find all the usual suspects - eggs cooked to order, pancakes, French toast and cold cuts.

The Earth Café also serves a Thai and Western menu for both lunch and dinner, and there’s a delicious weekly seafood barbecue. Meat eaters are well catered for at The Fire Grill, the Sunset Beach Restaurant - a more casual environment - offers Thai food or fresh fish and steaks you choose from the chiller, and super chilled Club del Mar serves Mediterranean cuisine and cocktails all day. Day trippers from Phuket (of which there are quite a few in high season) can only dine at Sunset Beach Restaurant. Our favourite dish was the shrimp and papaya salad with the somewhat eccentric crispy pumpkin ravioli, which was so spicy we went around with a trout-pout for hours afterwards.

The Ice Bar and Lobby Bar both serve up excellent cocktails - try their lemongrass martinis at sunset. The Ice Bar has live music every night, too.

The hotel runs events if you feel like socialising (cocktail parties, beach barbecues and buffets), and there’s a full room service menu, including an in-room barbecue, if you don’t.

There are a few beach bars to lunch at - Gerardo's Beach Club on the other side of the island comes recommended as does Gerardo's Gelato - but the hotel’s own restaurants are the only places to dine at night.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cooking classes
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Diving is why so many guests come to The Racha - fun dives include excursions to Phi Phi (of The Beach fame), Shark Point or Hin Deang. You can also do various PADI certifications while you’re here
  • Complimentary fitness classes will keep you in shape while you're away. Start your day with a morning stretch at the Anumba Spa or take a tennis lesson; later, try a beginner's yoga class or water aerobics. Afterwards wind down with an indulgent treatment or massage
  • Get married - both Western and Thai weddings are on offer
  • Commit to the serious business of sunbathing at the rooftop beach pool, or head off to the garden pool, with its friendly bartender and higgledy-piggledy sunbeds
  • Sign up for a class in glass painting, Thai cookery, Thai boxing, or batik dying
  • Make the most of the glassy waters: borrow kayaks, body boards and snorkelling equipment (no charge) and head off to a cove of your choice. Or join one of the twice daily island snorkelling excursions
  • A local company can take you half or full day fishing
  • Take a cross-country ATV or hiking tour with one of the hotel’s enthusiastic guides who'll teach you about the wildlife as you go. Borrow a mountain bike if you’re happy to do your own exploring

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Art classes
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Scuba diving courses
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Tennis coaching
  • Well being
  • Yoga

Kids

Although this is primarily a couples' retreat, children will enjoy the sea and sand and older kids can be happily entertained by the various creative classes and excursions run by the hotel. Children under 4 years old stay for free in a cot (must be requested) or daybed in parents' room. Children between 4-12 years of age are entitled to 50% discount on all accommodation, meal and boat transfer rates.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Lighthouse and the 2-Bedroom Grand Pool Suite both have their own pool and sleep up to 6, so are good options for large families. For a cheaper option, book 2 of the connecting Deluxe Villas (request on enquiry). All rooms can fit 1 extra bed and/or 1 baby cot.

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement.

Baby equipment:

Cots, highchairs and babysitting can be arranged, but it's not a place for baby buggies as there are too many steps to negotiate between the larger villas, the beach and the restaurants.

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

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
7/
Food
8/
Service
8/
Value
8/
Overall

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