I recently enjoyed a FABULOUS holiday in Thailand, including a stay at my favorite hotel in the world, Soneva Kiri. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Lufthansa First Class Terminal at Frankfurt Airport
- Review: Lufthansa Airbus A380 First Class from Frankfurt to Bangkok
- Review: Soneva Kiri, my favorite hotel in the world
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai
- Review: The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection resort & spa, Phuket (today)
- Review: Park Hyatt Hotel Bangkok
- Review: Banyan Tree Hotel Bangkok
- Review: Thai Airways Boeing B747 First Class from Bangkok to Munich
Today (May 9, 2018): Review of Naka Island, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa (Phuket, Thailand).
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection resort & spa Phuket
Nestled among lovely beaches and lush coconut groves, with views of the emerald-green Phang Nga Bay and idyllic landscapes of the Phuket coastline, The Naka Island is an exclusive boutique resort on Naka Yai Island, a 10 minute speedboat ride from the mainland. The highlights are the 67 magnificently designed, organic shaped villas that combine authentic island details with spectacular views. Guests can embrace a laid-back island life, rejuvenate at Spa Naka, lounge on the resort’s private beach, splash in the very large beachfront pool, or settle in for the sunset with an innovative cocktail or custom-blended juice from the resort’s spectacular Z-bar.
The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, features in my top 10 list of the best luxury resorts in Phuket.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & 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
*** Get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Thailand with my online Thailand travel guide ***
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, is located on the private island of Naka Yai, a small jewel overlooking Phang Nga Bay, just off the coast of Phuket. Apart from the resort, there’s not much else to be found on Naka Yai, except for a picturesque fishing village and a couple of near-empty beaches. Due to its splendidly isolated setting, the resort is a tranquil haven for those looking for a peaceful retreat, which is a sharp contrast with most (overcrowded) hotels on Phuket island. To get to the island, you will need to arrange a car transfer to Ao Po Grand Marina, from where the resort’s speedboat will take you in 10 minutes to the property.
- From the moment you arrive at the resort’s jetty, the staff will look after you and make sure your first impression of the resort is a good one. After the short golf cart ride down the pier, you stop just past the entrance gate to take part in a resort tradition, the beating of the gong, a ritual which is meant to alert the dragon of your status. Upon arrival, you beat the gong twice (with the staff even advising you how to beat the gong properly), and upon departure, you beat the gong once to wish that you can bring a return visit to the island in the near future. After the gong ritual, you are taken by buggy to your room, where the check-in process is completed.
- The resort features 80 rooms and villas, either located on the beachfront or on the gently sloping hillside. While the rooms are great, the villas are the real stars of the resort, representing Flintstone-style pods because of their clay walls and thatched roofs. During my visit, I stayed in a Sea View Pool Villa, which offered a glimpse of the Andaman Sea through the lush foliage. The villa featured a separate bedroom pavilion, a semi-outdoor bathroom, and a private pool with sala, all linked by walkways made of large, flat pebbles. The villa’s vaulted ceilings and polished earth tone color floors provided an airy ambience, which perfectly complemented the natural wood furniture. Despite the natural styling, modern conveniences including iPod dock, a comprehensive music library and Bose indoor sound systems, were on hand.
- The guest room buildings and villas are dotted around an onceanfront lawn where you find the main communal buildings. These comprise two restaurants, a bar, library, reception area, and a large spa facility (more on that below). With bare floorboards, thatched roofs and rough-hewn walls, the resort’s communal areas have a pleasingly laid back ambience with an emphasis on understated elegance and barefoot luxury.
- All paths in the communal area converge towards a very large, lagoon-style freshwater pool, which looks out over the sparkling sea and Phang Nga Bay at the horizon. Several loungers are located inside the pool, adding a playful element to the pool area. Meanwhile, an adjacent picturesque tropical pond enhances the pool area and creates an enchanting terraced visual leading to the beach. There’s also a tranquil area with a second adult’s only pool a few steps behind the reception.
- Facing the west coast of Phuket island, Naka Island’s private beach features white sands and is bordered by calm emerald-green waters. Furnished with umbrellas and sun loungers, the beach area provides everything necessary for a matchless day in the sun, including food and beverage service. Non-motorized seaside activities can be arranged through the concierge.
- The resort’s terrific spa is tucked into a garden like hideaway, free of all distractions and dedicated to guests’ well-being. The wellness facility features four large and serene treatment rooms, set on ‘islands’ surrounded by gentle, lapping waterways. You can choose from an array of signature indigenous botanical treatments, each performed by expert therapists using exclusive Comfort Zone products from Italy or local Thai products. I suggest to book Naka Island’s signature Watsu treatment, a 60-minute-aquatic therapy with combination of shiatsu pressure points, gentle stretches and the absence of gravity to help alleviate all your aches and pains.
- Naka Island features two dining venues, located beside each other, where you’ll probably have all your meals because of the isolated setting of the resort (nipping off to the nearest restaurant involves a boat trip and a drive). Tonsai restaurant serves a buffet breakfast as well as à la carte lunch and dinner with a focus on Thai and international cuisine. Meanwhile, the My Grill restaurant serves grilled dishes with a Southern Thai influence and has a romantic feel because of its charming sunken dining area surrounded by pools. Freshly caught fish and seafood play a starring role in both restaurants. Private dinners and barbecues can also be arranged on the beach. While food was good (but pricey), I would not describe it as mindblowingly delicious (more on that below).
- While I was not impressed by the restaurants, I found the resort’s bar – called Z bar – to be an absolute highlight. Embracing laid-back island life and furnished with contemporary daybeds, Z Bar is situated oceanfront on Naka Island’s northern tip and offers view at the horizon of Phang Nga Bay’s limestone karsts jutting out vertically of the Andaman Sea. It’s the perfect place to settle in for the sunset with an innovative cocktail or custom-blended juice from the local fruits and herbs. Light bites come courtesy of an Asian-inspired tapas menu available in small or large portions.
- Naka Island offers plenty of outdoor activities, both water sports and recreational activities, some complimentary, some chargeable. From sailing, kayaking to bike tours, leisurely walks, Thai boxing and Thai massage lesson, there is a pursuit for everyone. Resort activities are offered year round per monthly activities schedule basis and advance reservations are recommended.
- The chic eco-style design of the resort may look familiar to some of you and that’s because Naka Island resort was created by Six Senses Resorts & Spas – one of my favorite hotel brands – and launched in 2008 as the group’s first total-wellness retreat. Six Senses is famous for developing resorts with an incredible style, villas with lots of space, as well as impressive spa areas. However, the Six Senses destination spa was rebranded as ‘The Naka Island’ by Starwood‘s The Luxury Collection in 2011. This is good new of course for members of Starwood’s loyalty program SPG (soon to be rebranded by Marriott) since you can use SPG points to stay here for free.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
A former Six Senses resort, the Naka Island has kept the adobe-style villas intact but added the Luxury Collection standards you expect from Starwood. The villas are large and incredibly romantic, and the property is set in a tranquil location on a small, private island. Although Naka Island has the potential to be one of the world’s great resorts, sadly, there are also a lot of things not on par with a luxury resort:
- Although the food quality is ok, I was not impressed by what I was served during dinner, lunch and breakfast. I hate to say so, but the food is average at best, over-priced and clearly below the high standard that you would expect at a resort of this caliber. In addition, the service and execution lacked consistency at both restaurants. I feel the resort needs to address this issue since fine dining is one of the things that guests expect at a remotely located hotel like Naka Island and the resort’s catering department doesn’t live up to this expectation.
Another major issue is the lack of maintenance. The property is 10 years old, and unfortunately, in several areas, it shows its age. It has the feel of a once great property that is now in recline and has lost a lot of its former splendor (something that would not have happened when the resort was still managed by Six Senses). For example, in the main pool, there are several loose tiles (which is dangerous as someone might get hurt). Also, the towels at the pool are totally worn down and should have been replaced long time ago. The villas are a bit old but still very cosy although they could also use a refurbishment here and there.
- The beach is less appealing than the official hotel photos seem to suggest. While still nice and featuring white sand, the beach is quite narrow, the sand is not soft and at low tide some corals, shells, and small rocks are exposed, making it not that nice to walk on the beach or swim in the sea. In addition, the beach is set along a high traffic waterway, with a good bit of activity throughout the day with boats coming and going. All in all, this is not one of the great beaches in the Phuket area. The good news is that there’s a much nicer beach on the other side of Naka Yai island, although you’ll need bikes – complimentary for the first three hours and then 250 THB or $8 USD for the whole day – to get there.
- Although most staff members are friendly, always smiling and eager to please, the service they deliver is inconsistent and falls short a true 5 star experience. For example, on several occasions, I ordered drinks by the pool but they were never delivered. The staff seems to lack regular training or direction from management to truly impress guests with a great experience. In addition, not all staff is very fluent in English, which is not a terrible problem of course, except that sometimes, it seems as they don’t care about what is being said.
- The hotel is set in an isolated location, so if you want to be close to the action in Phuket, then this may not be the property for you. That said, the hotel does run free boat shuttles three times per day back and forth for those wanting to explore Phuket. However, I didn’t leave Naka Island from the moment I arrived till I departed due to the inconveniences involved with getting to any place of interest in Phuket (the Naka Island boat drops you at Ao Po Grand Marina, from where you still have to take a long and expensive taxi drive).
- The resort is located on a tropical island adjacent to the natural beauty of a lush rainforest. As a consequence, you may occasionally encounter small critters inside the hotel buildings. Every villa has a leaflet describing the animals that may be encountered during your stay. A few geckos are present in most rooms, but there’s nothing to worry about as mosquito nets surround the luscious comforting beds and geckos actually help to keep the mosquitoes under control.
- The resort is very expensive, at least in high season, but you should know that going in. I have no problem paying five-star prices to have an outstanding experience, but when you pay five-star prices and get underwhelmed it leaves a person quite disappointed (which is, unfortunately, what happened to me after I left Naka Island).
- Location: 8/10
- Design: 7/10
- Pool: 8/10
- Rooms: 9/10
- Food: 6/10
- Beach: 7/10
- Spa: 8/10
- Service: 7/10
- Value for money: 7/10
- Wow factor: 7/10
- Overall experience: good: 77/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Naka Island (and/or receive many free perks).
- Save money: book your room with an additional 20% off making use of a Best Rate Guarantee.
- Room tip: the best thing about the resort are the villas, so if you can afford it, book a villa on the beach with its own pool.
- Starwood Preferred Guests (SPG) with Gold or Platinum status are well treated, with – amongst other benefits – free high-speed WiFi, complementary room upgrade (when available), early check-in or late check-out (when available), and free breakfast (SPG platinum). Read here my review of the SPG program (with pros & cons).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
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 Naka Island resort is located on its own island on the east of Phuket mainland, and can be reached from Phuket International Airport by car (30 min) and complimentary speedboat ride (10 min). Check the Wikipedia page of Phuket Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Phuket.
*** Get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Thailand with my online Thailand travel guide ***