Review: Keemala Phuket Resort & Spa (Thailand)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

I recently enjoyed a phenomenal holiday in Singapore & Thailand. You can read my trip reports here:


Today (February 19, 2020): Review of Keemala Phuket (Thailand). 

Curving shapes and a highly unusual architecture are the inventive dwellings of Keemala, an all pool villa wonderland nestled well away from the Phuket crowds and overlooking Kamala Village and the Andaman Sea. For fun seekers the resort is close enough to Kamala Beach and the liveliness of Patong Beach and all the dynamic action that Phuket has to offer, yet far enough removed to step back and take time to enjoy the tranquil surroundings of the rainforest and a plethora of holistic activities and cuisine to aid wellbeing. Shaded by the rainforest’s canopy and connected by a network of jungle walkways, the resort’s 38 villas are designed for guests wishing to experience a rustic yet lavish escape.

Keemala Phuket features in my top 10 lists of the most insanely beautiful luxury hotels in Thailand, the best luxury hotels in Phuket and the most instagrammable hotels in the world.

Have you ever stayed at Keemala Phuket? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.

In this review (more info and photos below my YouTube clip):


PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • Keemala Phuket is located on the west coast of Phuket Island, 40 minutes from the international airport. Contrary to most other Phuket resorts, the property is not set on the beach but is hidden in the lush vegetation of the hills above Keemala town. The resort’s setting inside a tropical forest offers tranquility, serenity, and wellbeing. There are plenty of (steep) jungle walkways to explore, and exotic flora and fauna to spot within the resort’s well manicured grounds. Keemala is a 5 minute drive (via complimentary shuttle service) to Kamala beach and is a 10-minute drive away from the lively Patong beach, yet far enough removed to enjoy the tranquil surroundings.
  • The resort’s magnificent architecture is a stark contrast to most hotels in the area, and submerges its guests in surreal fantasy wonderland. Resembling an authentic yet imaginary Thai village, Keemala is comprised of a series of ultra-stylish ‘tree pods’ and bird’s nest shaped huts, all clinging to the steep hillside. The higher on the hill, the more stunning the forest and sea views become. The design also blends the myths of Phuket’s ancient tribe dwellings with the decadence of an upscale rainforest retreat. For example, the mosaic murals at the welcome pavilion depict the story of Keemala and were installed by Chiang Mai native artist Surachai Sripaiboon.
  • Keemala embraces a cultural philosophy and brings it to life through a distinctive design and wide variety of unique guest experiences. The Keemala concept celebrates the culture of four fictional ancient Phuket tribes, the ‘Pa-Ta-Tea’ (Earth), the’Khon-Jorn’ (Wanderers), the ‘We-ha’ (Sky), and the ‘Rung-Nok’ (Nest) people. The resort harnesses their methods of way of life and infuses it into the overall guest experiences. Using this fictional anthropology, the spa treatments, wellness programs, gastronomic choices, activities and magical accommodation design all derive from the key attributes of the four fictitious tribes.
  • Keemala Phuket has 38 fabulous pool villas which come in four categories, reflecting the four tribes: entry-level clay villas, safari-style tents, two-storey tree houses, and bird’s nest villas. I was incredibly lucky during my stay to be upgraded to the latter, the most luxurious of the lot. A cocoon of woven wood, the villa featured a master bedroom with an enormous kingsize bed (swathed in a mosquito net) and cozy sitting area. An entire glass wall opened to a large outdoor terrace with infinity pool, offering views of the jungle, Keemala city, and the Andaman Sea. The spacious bathroom featured mosaic floors, a boulder-sized tub, and a monsoon shower.
  • Keemala Phuket features only one restaurant, called Mala, which serves all day dining high in the tree tops, either in a colorful dining room or on an outdoor terrace adjacent to the lobby. Meals can also be taken in the villa or by the pool for a change of scenery. The menu comes in three parts: Western dishes, Indian cuisine, and Thai cooking (all accompanied by a fantastic wine list). Keemala believes in offering a ‘Feast for the Senses’ using sincere and wholesome cooking techniques. Where possible, all food is cultivated on the property, as the resort has its own herb garden, mushroom hut, hydroponic vegetable garden, and even its own tropical fruit orchard.
  • As wellbeing is at the core of the Keemala experience, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the resort’s Mala Spa is a highlight. Set next to the welcome pavilion and resembling a miniature village, the Spa has eight treatment rooms alongside a Thai massage pavilion, steam and sauna rooms, fitness center, and yoga and meditation spaces. Pampering massages are offered, as well as holistic therapies, including raindrop healing therapy, integrative Thai bodywork, Reiki energy healing, and seaweed hot stone massage. Natural, paraben and cruelty free spa products by VOYA, Siam Botanicals, and Spa Ritual are used for all treatments.
  • Keemala and its lush grounds are designed as an expansion of the surrounding natural landscape, creating a green wonderland for guests to enjoy. Natural features such as indigenous trees & small streams are integrated into the overall design. Throughout the resort there are plenty of outdoor spaces for guests to pause, breathe and reflect, including waterfalls and a rope bridge. Keemala provides areas designed for activities including destination dining, private parties, meditation, and yoga. The social heart of the resort is the delightful pool area, complete with waterfall, swim-up bar, and a (cold) Jacuzzi.
  • The Keemala concept is based on respect for the environment and sustainability. For example, in an effort to reduce plastic waste, only glass-bottled water is provided in the villas, paper straws are used instead of plastic straws, and packaging for toiletries are made of cloth materials and recycled paper. Also, the resort has been carefully designed to protect existing ecosystem; trees and natural water resources are kept either in their original form or have been utilized with minimal change. Finally, Keemala takes a strong stance against Thailand’s exploitative animal attractions, by discouraging guests to engage in activities such as elephant rides and tiger shows.
  • Keemala Phuket is part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World (“SLH”), which is a collection of small, independent hotels in more than 80 countries. These hotels pay to be part of the SLH portfolio and to be marketed as a SLH property. Before they’re welcomed into SLH collection, the SLH development team visit each one, checking them against a long list of must-haves. SLH has a strategic alliance with Hyatt, giving World of Hyatt members the opportunity to earn and redeem points and receive exclusive on-property benefits at any participating SLH hotel, including Keemala Phuket. This means World of Hyatt members can stay for free at Keemala on points.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

Keemala Phuket is a hip and unique jungle hideaway with a focus on wellness and meditation. When considering a stay here, you need to know the following:

  • The ocean views from the resort and its villas as well as the overall ‘remote’ jungle experience is slightly marred by some unattractive modern buildings next to the resort and the city view in the distance. One can only hope that the view of the buildings next door will disappear overtime behind the maturing vegetation.
  • All the villas and pubic areas are linked by steep walkways. This can make it challenging to explore to resort grounds on foot, although there is nothing to worry about as the resort provides 24/7 electric golf buggy service. However, some of the bird’s nest pool villas can only be reached by stairs, which can be a problem for travelers that have difficulties with walking.
  • Keemala Phuket is the perfect place for honeymooners, couples and guests wishing to get away from it all as it is very much an adult-only environment, with a ‘no kids under 14’ policy. This makes this property not well suited for a family holiday (but that’s exactly the appeal for many of its guests).
  • Keemala Phuket is not a beach resort; it is a rainforest retreat with a focus on wellbeing. That said, the resort does offer complimentary shuttle service to Kamal Beach, which is a 5 min drive away and one of Phuket’s best beaches. Unfortunately, Keemala Phuket does not operate a private club on the beach, although you can always rent a (cheap) lounger at one of Kamala’s many beach clubs. Also, the last shuttle back to the resort is at 5.15 pm, which is one hour before sunset, so when you rely on the shuttle service you will miss Kamala Beach’s stunning sunsets.
  • Keemala Phuket does not get a lot of sunshine, which is a blessing or disappointment depending on what you want. The property is located on a hill under the forest canopy and faces northwest. Most parts of the resort enjoy sunshine in the morning but are in the shade by early afternoon (except for the highest located villas). Sunrise nor sunset can be seen from the hotel.
  • Keemala Phuket’s imaginative design and fanciful theme, best realized in its villas, distinguish it from other high-end resorts in Phuket. The design of the resort itself is based on the cultures and traditions of four clans of ancient Phuket settlers. However, the clans are entirely fictitious, which may be a tad disappointing to some guests.
  • The resort is located on the edge of a rainforest, where wildlife is present. Some may find the presence of small and harmless wildlife (e.g. geckos) uncomfortable or annoying (because of the nocturnal noises). More troublesome are the mosquitos which are for real in the rainy season (May to October).

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 7/10
  • Design: 10/10
  • Pool: 8/10
  • Rooms: 9/10
  • Food: 9/10
  • Breakfast: 8/10
  • Spa: 10/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Value for money: 8/10
  • Overall experience: very good – 8,4/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Keemala Phuket (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Save money: World of Hyatt members can stay for free at Keemala on points.
  • Room tip: Bbok one the of the property’s highest located villas if you want to enjoy sunshine until late afternoon.
  • 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
  • a hot, dry season from March to June
  • a rainy season from July to October

Expect daytime temperatures to be in excess of 30 ° C (85° F) throughout the year (with the possible exception of late December and early January). The two periods April to May and September to October are characterized by very high humidity. The southwest monsoons arrive between May and October bringing unsettled, cloudy conditions, as well as lower room rates. The best time to visit Phuket is between November and February when the weather is sunny and pleasant.


HOW TO GET THERE

Keemala is located on the west coast of Phuket island, a 45 min drive from Phuket Airport. Check the Wikipedia page of Phuket Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Phuket.


PHOTOS
RESORT ENTRANCE
RESORT ENTRANCE
RESORT ENTRANCE
ARRIVAL PAVILION
ARRIVAL PAVILION
WELCOME PAVILION
WELCOME PAVILION
WELCOME PAVILION
WELCOME PAVILION
WELCOME PAVILION
WELCOME PAVILION
WELCOME PAVILION
WELCOME PAVILION
WELCOME PAVILION
WELCOME PAVILION (VIEW)
WELCOME PAVILION (VIEW)
WELCOME PAVILION (VIEW)
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
RESORT GROUNDS
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA (ENTRANCE)
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA (ENTRANCE)
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA (VIEW)
BIRD’S NEST POOL VILLA (VIEW)
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
MALA RESTAURANT
MALA RESTAURANT
MALA RESTAURANT
MALA RESTAURANT
MALA RESTAURANT
MALA RESTAURANT
MALA RESTAURANT (BAR)
MALA RESTAURANT (BAR)
MALA RESTAURANT (TERRACE)
MALA RESTAURANT (TERRACE)
MALA RESTAURANT (TERRACE)
MALA RESTAURANT (TERRACE)
MALA RESTAURANT (TERRACE)
MALA RESTAURANT (TERRACE)
SPA
SPA
SPA
SPA
SPA
SPA
RESORT AT NIGHT
RESORT AT NIGHT
RESORT AT NIGHT
RESORT AT NIGHT
RESORT AT NIGHT
RESORT AT NIGHT
RESORT AT NIGHT
RESORT AT NIGHT
RESORT AT NIGHT
RESORT AT NIGHT
RESORT AT NIGHT
DINNER
DINNER
DINNER
DINNER
DINNER
DINNER
DINNER
DINNER
BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST
LUNCH
LUNCH
LUNCH
LUNCH
LUNCH
SHUTTE TO KAMALA BEACH
SHUTTE TO KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH
KAMALA BEACH

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3 Comments

  1. This resort looks like the ultimate jungle get away. For someone who prefers to get away from big crowds, it seems like the perfect location to feel far away but still be able to quickly travel to the beaches. Nice tips for getting the most sunshine! I think it is probably worth it if you can afford to go with the high up villa.

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