EL’s KARIN GALLEY heads to the JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort & Spa in pretty Phang Nga for a resort stay in Thailand that ticks every box … and then some!
Stunning sunsets on the bay; skilfully crafted cocktails; soft live music performed on the white sandy beach … the only downside, it seems, of our recent four-day trip to the JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort & Spa on the Andaman Coast of Phang Nga in Thailand was its brevity! This was just the getaway our souls needed.
It’s an easy direct flight from Hong Kong to Phuket (3.5 hours), and the resort is just an hour’s drive north to Khao Lak in Phang Nga province on the mainland from the airport.. The hotel’s limousine is equipped with an onboard fruit juice bar and local snacks, ensuring we arrived in good spirits!
We were warmly greeted by the ever-smiling staff members at the lobby, which is set against a backdrop of the stunning blue Andaman Sea. They made us feel at home within minutes, as we took a first glance at the sprawling property in anticipation of the experience that awaited us over the next few days.
Grounds & Rooms
The JW Marriott recently launched its spectacular resort extension with an additional 127 rooms, along with new activities, experiences, restaurants and bars. Included among the former are family suites as well as a small number of one- and two-bedroom villas, set closest to the beachfront for the ultimate escape. There’s also a brand new banquet hall within the grounds, ready to host weddings and corporate events.
What struck us immediately was just what a family-friendly resort this is, with amenities perfect for holidays with the little ones! The sounds of happy children’s laughter permeated the atmosphere around the designated family pool areas, which feature exhilarating water slides, wave pools and a fountain trampoline. At the same time, there’s plenty of space for couples and friends to unwind in secluded corners and cosy cabanas – even an adult-only breakfast restaurant.
The various dining and social venues are judiciously dotted both amongst the clusters of rooms, as well as close to the beachfront. The ground floor rooms themselves lead directly into connected pools that allow guests the luxury of dipping into the water right from their doorsteps. We were informed by the proud staff that the resort also has the longest swimming pool in Southeast Asia. A full loop would cover a distance of some 2.4 km!
Wining & Dining
There are 11 restaurants and bars, so you won’t go hungry or thirsty! Over the four days of our visit, we checked out several of them including Drift Beach Bar & Grill serving premium grilled meats and seafood, and Sala, a family-friendly restaurant showcasing Thai and Asian comfort food. Our favourite was the award-winning Olive Restaurant, a traditional Italian experience at the edge of the sea. We were greeted by bubbly and effusive Italian Chef Vincenzo, who helpfully gave us an overview of his delightful signature dishes using the finest produce and ingredients from his home country.
As a special treat, we also took the opportunity to have an elegant candlelight dinner for two set up on the beach by the staff. It was a five-course champagne-drenched feast with a tantalising range of dishes – highly recommended for the romantics among you!
Activities & Island-hopping
During our stay, we tried our hands at a cocktail-mixing workshop, swam in the lagoon pool waterways and the ocean, walked a few miles along the pristine beach, and spent a delightful afternoon at the resort’s beautifully appointed spa indulging in a rejuvenating Thai massage.
We also opted for a day trip, arranged by the resort, out to the fabled Similan Islands, a cluster of nine small islands in pristine natural condition. Getting there involved a 90-minute boat ride, and the package included a quick lunch stop on one of the islands within a rustic canteen. Overall, this is a great experience, especially for marine lovers who enjoy snorkelling. Even if you aren’t much of a swimmer, the exceptional white sands and almost luminescent waters of the Andaman Sea will take your breath away, as they did ours.
We came away feeling that this is a resort well worth returning to. It’s a luxurious tropical paradise with a brilliant natural bayfront setting, child-friendly and yet a haven of high-end tranquillity with ample features and amenities for families, friends and couples to have a wonderful time. In particular, the staff were impeccably professional, warm and gracious. We felt totally at home and left feeling refreshed and recharged.
JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort & Spa Khao Lak, Phang Nga, Thailand | +66 76 584 888
This article first appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.