Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.
Today (January 20, 2016): Review of Banyan Tree Phuket (Thailand).
- Location: Google Maps
- Address: 33/27 Moo 4, Srisoonthorn Road, Amphur Talang, 83110, Thailand
- Hotel website: Banyan Tree Phuket
- Tip: enjoy exclusive VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso
Encircling the sparkling waters of a saltwater lagoon, the Banyan Tree Phuket resort (which also comprises Banyan Tree’s Spa Sanctuary and Double Pool Villas) is a tropical fairytale in Phuket, the Andaman’s most celebrated island. The all-pool villa hotel is a glorious spread of elegant Thai architecture complemented with every modern amenity imaginable. Infused with spa elements, healthy cuisine, award-winning spa and wellness activities, the ultra luxe hotel offers rejuvenation and wellness with experiences to indulge and soothe all senses.
Banyan Tree Phuket features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in Thailand and Phuket’s best ultra luxury resorts.
In this review (more info and photos below my slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- The hotel is cradled between a tropical lagoon and the sparkling waters of the Andaman Sea within Laguna Phuket’s exclusive community, a 400-hectare former abandoned tin mining site turned into Asia’s first integrated destination resort. Laguna Phuket is home to 7 luxury hotels, a village shopping centre, and more than 30 restaurants and bars. Complimentary inter-resort transportation by shuttle vehicle or lagoon boat is available round the clock, so that Banyan Tree guests can enjoy the many facilities on offer within the Laguna complex.
- The hotel is managed by the Banyan Tree hotel group, one of the best global luxury hotel brands. In fact, the Banyan Tree Phuket resort is where it all began for the high-end Banyan Tree brand in the mid-1990s, which has grown since then into a well-established Asia-Pacific brand with global expansions. The Banyan Tree Phuket resort is still the hotel group’s flagship resort. I have previously reviewed the equally superb Banyan Tree properties in the Seychelles (my favorite!), Koh Samui, and the Riviera Maya.
- The resort is in fact a collection of 3 boutique hotels, all operated under the same Banyan Tree brand: the original Banyan Tree Phuket hotel, the Banyan Tree Phuket Spa Sanctuary, and Double Pool Villas by Banyan Tree Phuket. The 3 hotels are part of the same vast property, with guests from all three hotels using the same spa, restaurants, and other facilities. The main difference between the 3 hotels is the type of accommodation (and thus price tag), which ranges from luxe (Banyan Tree Phuket), to ultra luxe (Spa Sanctuary), to the epitome of in-villa living (Double Pool Villas).
- The hotel is very close (a 5 minute stroll or one minute complimentary buggy ride) to Bangtao Beach, a 3 km (1,8 mi) long white sand beach with calm, turquoise waters. The hotel has its own private beach club on Bangtao, and services include individual cushions, beach bag with towels, water, peppermint spray, and cold towel service by Banyan Tree’s dedicated recreation team. The beach club is set up under the trees next to a local beach restaurant, which can serve you a reasonably priced cocktail or noodle dish while you recline in your beach lounger.
- The open air lobby makes a welcoming impression. It is composed of four connecting structures surrounding a large water pond with fountain, creating the ambience of a floating island. On one side are the front desks, on the other the tour desk, property sales and business suite. Towards the back of the lobby is Saffron restaurant and hotel bar, both overlooking the lagoon.
- The check-in process is a very smooth affair. Upon arrival, I was given a bracelet made out of Jasmine flowers, and then escorted to a couch within the reception area, to relax with a welcome drink while the staff completed the check in process. I was then given a buggy ride to the villa where my luggage was already waiting for me.
- During my visit, I was upgraded to a Spa Sanctuary villa, which is one of the best and largest accommodations that I have ever stayed at during my extensive travels around the globe. Whereas in most resorts you’d likely go stir-crazy staying in your room all day, here you’re more likely to feel increasingly content and privileged the longer you remain there. The enormous villa had its own beautifully kept tropical garden, a full-length glass windowed bedroom pavilion floating within a private wading pool, a private spa pavilion overlooking the pool, a personal steam room, his-and-hers dressing areas, and outdoor jetpool with outdoor shower. Of course, the villa also came with its own private pool, which was larger than the communal pool of many hotels; a crystal jetpool was neatly set within the pool.
- Evening turndown service includes turning on the dramatic pool lights, lighting fragrant oil in the room, and leaving a special Banyan Tree gift on your pillow. One night, the staff put on plenty of tealights around the bed and offered a bottle of sparkling wine.
- All of Banyan Tree Phuket’s villas are equipped with top-of-the-line amenities such as flat-screen television in the living-room and each bedroom, fully equipped kitchenette (including espresso/cappuccino machine, microwave oven, and more), DVD player, wireless internet connection, and top-grade toiletries. Near the bed are samples of the available bed linens (rayon, linen, cotton, and satin) and pillows (feather, synthetic, foam, and kapok, a material harvested from tropical tree seed pods).
- The resort grounds are spread out, but getting around is very easy. Golf buggies take you wherever you need to go within the complex, or alternatively, you can hire (free) bikes for the duration of your stay to explore the area.
- The Banyan Tree has a lovely pool area. A 40-metre (130 ft) long lap pool provides cool refreshment near the spa, and is surrounded by the Japanese restaurant as well as a lounging area that is more appealing to adults in need of tranquility and a serene athmosphere. A separate freeform pool is very popular with families and comes with jet cannons, a pool-set bar, water rapids and Jacuzzi jet-pool. A team of very friendly pool attendants is on hand to provide dedicated pool pampering services. Board games and magazines are also available.
- An extensive list of complimentary classes ranging from body toning exercises to cardiovascular workouts is available to all Banyan Tree guests. With state-of-the-art gym equipment offering every fitness amenity to suit any gym need, the fitness pavilion provides a healthy sanctuary with an air of serenity.
- With a spectacular display of scenic lagoons, coconut groves and waving fairways, the spectacular Laguna Phuket golf course is set against the glorious backdrop of sea and mountains. Designed by Max Wexler and David ABell, the 18-hole, par-71 course offers a myriad of multi-faceted challenges suited for players of all levels.
- Banyan Tree is world-famous for its excellent spa facilities and it is no different at their Phuket flagship resort. Banyan Tree Phuket Spa is a multi-award winning establishment and for good reason: the treatments and massages skillfully dispensed at this world-class spa are based on ancient Thai and Indian techniques and products (Ayurvedic oils) in sumptuous indoor and outdoor settings.
- If you stay in a Spa Sanctuary Villa (like I did), then you can indulge in unlimited spa treatments.
- With five dining options – Thai cuisine at Saffron Restaurant, Japanese cuisine at Tamarind Restaurant, international fare at Banyan Café, Watercourt Restaurant, and in-villa dining – the food and beverage department of Banyan Tree Phuket has the assets to please the palate of the choosiest diners. The quality of the cuisine is generally excellent throughout. My favorite gastronomic experience at the resort was Saffron’s 6 course, Thai tasting menu.
- Breakfast is served at the Watercourt restaurant and is not just a meal, it’s an event. There are about 10 buffet stations in addition to a menu to choose your eggs or other hot dishes. There’s a Thai station, chef’s station, noodle soup bar, sushi, sliced meats, fruit, 10 different break types, pastries, cereals, waffles and pancakes. There are small amounts on display that are replenished every few minutes, so food is always fresh and temperature appropriate. And excellent Champagne is offered as well (for free of course).
- The beach has a number of local eateries which offer excellent seafood at great prices. So, in the unlikely case that you would get tired of Banyan Tree’s luxury and want to experience something more down to earth and everyday Thai, just walk across the road and you will find plenty of options.
- If you stay at the hotel in the weekend, be sure not to miss the Watercourt restaurant’s worldclass Sunday brunch, which offers superb seafood (raw or grilled to your liking), quality cold cuts and cheese, excellent international cuisine (e.g. Italian, Japanese), and everything else one could ever think of wanting. The background jazz creates a pleasant atmosphere.
- The service at the hotel is excellent and even beyond the normal service you would expect from a five star resort. The staff is very professional and speaks fluently English.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
The six star Banyan Tree Phuket resort is a beautifully designed, quiet slice of paradise in this tropical corner of the world. I highly recommend it, but you need to know some issues about the hotel:
- As mentioned above, the Banyan Tree Phuket is a collection of 3 hotels that share the same resort grounds and facilities. In the mid-2000s the original Banyan Tree Hotel added two premium-priced sections: the Banyan Tree Phuket Spa Sanctuary and the Double Pool Villas by Banyan Tree Phuket. Banyan Tree manages them as 3 distinct identities by packaging them separately. This distinction between the 3 resorts is not always made very clear on the website, but it will have a major impact on your hotel experience. While the original Banyan Tree villas are still very luxurious, they pale in comparison to the ultra-luxurious Spa Sanctuary and Double Pool villas. So make sure that you book the right type of villa when considering a stay at Banyan Tree Phuket.
- While the original Banyan Tree hotel and Double Pool Villas by Banyan are located within the same property, the Banyan Tree Spa Sanctuary villas are located in a site across the street from the main lobby. However, the street is not busy at all, and the Spa Sanctuary villas are located closer to the sea as compared to the other villas.
- Banyan Tree’s many villas are spread out over the enormous property and most guests lounge all day within the boundaries of their own villa villas, so the resort feels small, exclusive and not crowded at all, except in the morning, when guests from all 3 resorts gather at the Watercourt restaurant. As a consequence, the breakfast buffet was a little too busy to be comfortable. You can opt to have breakfast in the villa as well.
- The beach is very close to the resort, and buggy service as well as free bicycles are made available to all guests to make the access to the beach easy. Nevertheless, the Banyan Tree Phuket is not a beach front resort nor does it feel like one. Instead of promoting a beach vibe, the resort focuses more on discrete wellbeing, peaceful surroundings and the ultra luxe lifestyle, with an award-winning spa, healthy cuisine, many wellness activities, and a superb gulf course.
- Banyan Trees has a private beach club on the beach, with umbrellas and chairs set back under pine trees. However, you can move the chair cushion down to the water, but not the chair because of the Thai law.
- Phuket is a tropical island with lots of trees and gardens, so it does have mosquitoes. Despite the hotel’s many pro-active measures (e.g. fogging, still water treatment, repellents, mosquito nets on request, screen doors), these mosquitos can be troublesome, especially in the rainy season. However, this is the same situation in every resort on Phuket island.
- Location: 7/10
- Design: 8/10
- Rooms: 9/10
- Food: 9/10
- Service: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8.4/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Banyan Tree Phuket (and/or receive many free perks).
- Save money: I recommend to book a stay at Banyan Tree Phuket via a Virtuoso travel agent, which has the benefit of complimentary VIP perks (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast breakfast, complimentary lunch or dinner for two people per room, early check in and late check out).
- If ultra-luxury is what you are after, then book a Spa Sanctuary villa or Double Pool villa (an not a regular Banyan Tree villa).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT PHUKET
The weather in Phuket is dominated by a tropical monsoon climate which means there are three main seasons: a cool, dry season between November and February (which is the best period to visit Phuket); a hot, dry season from March to June, and a rainy season from July to October. Expect daytime temperatures to be in excess of 30 degrees centigrade throughout the year (with the possible exception of late December and early January). The two periods April to May and September to October are characterised by very high humidity. The southwest monsoons arrive between May and October bringing unsettled, cloudy conditions, as well as lower room rates.
HOW TO GET THERE
The distance from Phuket International Airport to Banyan Tree Phuket is 20 kilometres (12 miles). Travelling by taxi, the cost of the journey from airport to resort is about 1700 THB and takes around 30 minutes. You can also reserve the hotel limousine in advance. Check the Wikipedia page of Phuket Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Phuket.
From Europe, the best connection is with Finnair (via Helsinki), which offers direct flights to Phuket in winter.
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Hi have you stayed int eh double pool vilas in banyan tree phuket