A Thailand travel itinerary is undoubtedly packed with visiting Buddhist temples, roaming buzzy markets, and sampling spectacularly tasty food (and spectacular nightlife). Also on the agenda: Beach time. Lots and lots of beach time. These beach hotels are the country’s best.
Set amid 45 acres of palm gardens -- and on a 1,000-foot stretch of pristine beach with plenty of hammocks and sala beds -- Santiburi Golf, Resort & Spa is one of the poshest, most pampering resorts on the island of Samui, and possibly in all of Thailand. This property is located on lovely Mae Nam Beach in the northern part of the island. The villas and one- and two-bedroom duplexes are Thai-inspired and contemporary, and come packed with amenities. There's a huge swimming pool, a kids' pool, a sports complex with a tennis court, Thai boxing, billiards, mountain bikes, and yoga, plus three fancy restaurants and several bars. The resort also owns the nearby championship 18-hole Santiburi Country Club Golf Course, where resort guests get tee-time priority.
Koh Lanta's grandest property, Pimilai Resort and Spa is hidden away near the southern end of the island, along beautiful Kantiang Beach and Bay. Sprawling across a hillside and onto the beach, the resort has two sides -- a hill estate and a beachfront, where an on-site activity center provides kayaks, diving equipment, and catamarans. Most of the rooms are clustered on the beach side, although there are luxury pool villas up on the hill. All rooms are large and include teak floors, rattan curtains, daybeds, furnished patios and balconies, and plenty of privacy. The resort offers two swimming pools, one an infinity-edge pool overlooking the entire bay, plus a fitness center, spa, tennis court, four restaurants and cafes, and several bars.
The Melati Beach Resort & Spa is a luxury beachfront retreat along a stretch of beach on the island's northern coast, a 15-minute drive from the dining and nightlife options in Chaweng. The smallest of the 77 villas have balconies with outdoor soaking tubs, and most add private gardens with plunge pools. There are two pool (one is adult-only), along with a full spa and a yoga studio. The hotel also offers a kids' club, game lounge, and water sports at the white-sand beach (kayaking, scuba diving), plus there are two restaurants and four bars, though some guests complain that they are pricey.
Set on a idyllic spot only reachable by boat, the luxury beachside Rayavadee Resort has direct access to Railay, Nammao, and Phranang beaches. The property's 26 tropical acres are laid out like a southern Thai village, and each of the 102 stand-alone rooms are chic and private. They also include separate bedrooms and living rooms, large flat-screen TVs, and luxe bathrooms with separate showers and tubs. The setting is stunning, with a massive outdoor pool wedged between Krabi's signature cliffs. Remote as it is, the resort's beaches are public and can become crowded in peak season. Four restaurants, bars, a luxe spa, tennis courts, and water sports round out the features.
For this part of Phuket, the Pullman Phuket Arcadia Resort is alone in its class. Accessed via a single, windy road that also leads to Naithon Beach and a national park, the hotel is far from any other properties (it takes at least 45 minutes to get to the tourist activities in Phuket Town). Both families and couples adore this hotel for its gorgeous design details, extra-comfortable rooms, and infinity-edge pool overlooking the Andaman Sea. There are six on-site bars and restaurants, a luxe spa, and a fun kids' club. A wooden deck surrounded by lush greenery above the beach is an ideal spot for outdoor yoga. The natural beach is stunning, but the water can get a little rough at certain times of the year, and steep steps to the beach may be difficult for little ones to traverse. Rates are generally low for all this luxury, and include Wi-Fi and airport transfers.
The 51-room Layana Resort and Spa is a luxury beachfront escape, with James Bond-style treatment that starts with a private speed boat along the scenic Andaman coast to Koh Lanta Island. The lush, adults-only resort consists of exquisite Garden Pavilions as well as exclusive Beach Suites (stand-alone bungalows) that sport private terraces and direct access to a pristine white-sand beach. The resort offers a saltwater infinity pool, spa, and fitness center. Guests can sample international and local Thai cuisine at the on-site restaurant, and as the name suggests, watch the sunset from the Sundowner Bar and Lounge.
The Racha is an eco-chic resort on a quiet cove on the small island of Racha Yai. It's a 35-minute boat ride from Phuket to get there, and there's a charge for the transfer. Once guests arrive at the island they're greeted with the sight of white-washed villas built in harmony with the natural surroundings of the tropical landscape. The villas are clean and comfortable; some have private pools and spacious outdoor bathrooms. Recreation facilities are top-notch: ATVs, water toys, tennis courts, a spa, and more are all on offer. Be warned, though: The stunning sandy beach is a hot spot for tourist boats from Phuket and can often be overrun with day-trippers often.
Situated on Natai Beach in a peaceful area of Khok Kloi, the 40-room luxury boutique Aleenta Phuket Resort & Spa offers a high level of comfort. While there's little in the immediate area -- making it ideal for those looking to escape Phuket's loud nightlife scene -- the landscaped grounds are beautiful, and the beach has sofa-style seating, along with bean bags and parasols. Breakfast gets particularly good reviews; the same is true of the food at the Natai and Edge restaurants, the latter of which has impressive sea and pool views, though there are reports of uneven service. Note that the most expensive rooms -- villa which come with chef, chauffeur, and butler service -- are some distance away from the main facilities, while Pool Residence Rooms have private pools and more seclusion.
Certainly one of the most gorgeous resorts in Thailand, the ultra-posh InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Resort has a stunning hillside location overlooking the gorgeous turquoise sea, and running down to the pristine beachfront. The 79 Villas, Suites, and Ocean View rooms all come with wonderful terraces, large bathtubs, and plenty of elegant touches. There are also seven swimming pools, a large beach area, Water Sports Centre, and several restaurants and bars. It's almost a world unto itself, drawing everyone from families to honeymooners. The only drawbacks of the resort are its price and distance from the main centers of Chaweng and Lamai. But for guests who can afford to splurge, it's a superb choice.