Oyster reporters have visited, photographed, and reviewed more than 1,200 Thailand hotels, nearly one-fifth of which are smaller-scale boutique properties. With low room counts, upscale features (hellooo, infinity pools), and one-of-a-kind designs, these 15 hotels are the very best of the boutiques.
Paresa is an ultra-stylish boutique hotel that pays extra attention to minimalist detail. Each of the 49 private, over-the-top luxury villas differ slightly in terms of layout, size, and features, but all have hardwood floors, flat-screen TVs with satellite channels, free Wi-Fi, stocked minibars, furnished balconies, and gorgeous infinity-edge pools that overlooks the Andaman Sea. Bottled water, espresso machines, fresh fruit, and aromatherapy toiletries add to the spa-like vibe of the rooms. Two on-site restaurants and a cooking school offer gourmet fare. The location on a cliff means privacy (and those uninterrupted views), but the tradeoff is a remote neighborhood and no direct beach access; the resort works around that problem with a free hourly shuttle to town and Kamala Beach.
Only accessible by private boat, this Four Seasons is hidden in the jungle in the famed Golden Triangle, on the border of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. The 15 luxury tents all include air-conditioning, huge antique-style bathtubs, outdoor rainfall showers, unlimited minibars, free welcome bottles of Champagne, and enormous balconies that overlook the Ruak River and the jungle. There are a small swimming pool and hot tub in the forest, an open-air spa (a free treatment is included with every booking) and a romantic restaurant, but the real treat at this all-inclusive property are activities like tours of the Golden Triangle's main attractions, boat trips on the river, and elephant rides in the jungle (the elephants are part of a non-profit program that works with the local community, and the resort has a strict policy of never purchasing elephants).
Anantara Phuket Villas is a romantic and peaceful property with gorgeous villas; all come with lovely private pools. It was designed by renowned architect Bill Bensley, and his high attention to stylish detail shows throughout the Sino Portuguese property: intricately carved wood, open-air buildings, reflection pools, and pagoda-style structures can be found here. Though Anantara has everything its competitors have -- a luxe spa, free breakfast buffet, cooking school, and free bikes -- the one major flaw here is the tiny, red-flag beach. But for those who care more about swimming pools than sand, the Anantara is a great choice; it has one of the most spectacular pools in Phuket.
Tucked away in the jungle village of Kamala, the gated Bell Pool Villa Resort Phuket exudes exclusivity. Its 16 villas feature secluded gardens, large private pools, and 24-hour butler service. A full range of in-room spa services is available, along with breakfast and poolside barbecues, and privacy is paramount; the al fresco restaurant serves as the only communal space. Free shuttle service and loaner bicycles provide easy access to the beach.
Twinpalms Phuket is one of the most stylish and party-focused options in Phuket. This intimate, 97-room boutique property is centered around a gorgeous swimming pool with a poolside bar. Surin Beach is reached by crossing a footpath through an empty field, which is slightly inconvenient, but it does mean that the party and drinking scene found at the property's two beach clubs doesn't filter over to the luxurious rooms. Most rooms have plunge pools or direct access to a semi-private lagoon pool, along with free Wi-Fi and furnished outdoor spaces. Upscale features include an on-site spa, modern fitness center, and chic restaurant.
The Shore at Katathani is an upscale, 36-room villa hotel that caters mainly to couples and honeymooners. Its private location, tucked away in a cove along Kata Noi Beach, adds to the hotel's intimate, beachy atmosphere. Guests spend most of their time lounging beside their private plunge pools or in oversize daybeds facing the ocean at the main infinity pool.
The 40-room luxury boutique Aleenta Phuket Resort & Spa offers a high level of comfort in a quiet, somewhat isolated location on Khok Kloi’s Natai beach. The resort’s minimalist, low-rise white exterior looks almost Mediterranean, and rooms are similarly chic. 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.
Nestled among palm trees and lush vegetation, the exclusive Banyan Tree Samui offers a high level of luxury. All 88 rooms are gorgeous stand-alone villas, each with a private pool, separate living area, and a beautiful bathroom with a rainfall shower and separate soaking tub. With four restaurants, a gym and yoga studio, a renowned spa, an infinity pool, and free water sports on the private beach, guests don't need to ever leave. However, those wishing to explore the island can request free shuttle service to nearby towns.
The luxury boutique Six Senses Yao Noi combines unpretentious, but ultra-luxe comforts with dramatic landscaping that draws from the natural environment of Yao Noi island. Surrounded by little but forest and deserted beach, this hideaway resort is praised for its privacy and seclusion. Guests also appreciate the staff remembering their every preference. The 56 extremely spacious villas offer private infinity pools and impressive views of Phang Nga bay, along with thoughtful details in both design and amenities. Facilities include a well-regarded spa with some free treatments, a beautiful open-air yoga pavilion, and four elegant restaurants that offer outdoor seating. Note that there are some reports of noise from the resort next door.
The Siam takes elegance to the extreme: Just 39 plush, spacious rooms occupy the expansive, art-filled property, which has an infinity pool, multiple dining venues, a library, cinema, gym, and spa. The Siam nonetheless maintains an intimate vibe. All rooms include breakfast, butler service, and free longtail boat service along the river, though reaching city center attractions can be difficult, as can finding the hotel by taxi.
V Villas Hua Hin is a luxury property located at the south end of Hua Hin, close to the main shopping mall, Cicada Weekend Market, and plenty of restaurants and bars. The resort has 23 one-, two-, or three-bedroom Pool Villa Suites, all featuring the complete trappings of luxury -- Bose sound systems, wine refrigerators, private pools, and private butler service. A lovely infinity-edge pool and hot tub overlook the beach (one of the cleanest and nicest of Hua Hin); other features include a fitness center, a high-end spa, and an elegant restaurant with sunken tables surrounded by water.
The Racha is an eco-chic resort on the small island of Racha Yai in the Andaman Sea. It's a 35-minute boat ride from Phuket, 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 with clean lines, in harmony with the natural surroundings of the tropical landscape and water. 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, that the stunning sandy beach is a hot spot for tourist boats from Phuket and is often overrun with day-trippers.
The Sandalwood Luxury Villas is small hilltop retreat overlooking the sea. The 10 luxury villas are decorated in a traditional Thai style, and half of them have their own private infinity pools. The smallest have kitchenettes, while larger units (which can have up to four bedrooms) add full kitchens. There are also a fine-dining Thai restaurant, free breakfast, and an infinity pool with postcard views. The property is not in walking distance to the beaches, but the hotel provides a regular free shuttle service, along with a mobile phone to call for pick up anywhere on the island.
The Ping Nakara Boutique Hotel is a charming and intimate resort, housed in an exquisitely designed northern Thai and colonial-style home. The 19 stunning rooms have period furniture and balconies, and property features include a small pool, spa, and restaurant (breakfast is free). The gorgeous building occupies a space near the Ping River, well out of the tourist noise and chaos of the central city, but it's only a 15-minute stroll to the Night Bazaar downtown; guests can take trips around the city in the hotel's classic Mercedes.
Hidden away on a quiet stretch of beach on Koh Samui's southwestern coast, the 21-room Sunset Beach Resort & Spa is an intimate and luxurious getaway far from the island's tourist hustle and bustle. Each room -- from the scenic Jacuzzi Rooms to the romantic Beachfront Pool Villas -- is bright, airy, and tastefully outfitted in natural woods and traditional Thai crafts; all have outdoor space, the villas have outdoor showers, and all but the private garden villas have ocean views. The serene pool has a swim-up bar, bicycles are available to borrow, the spa has outdoor treatment pavilions, and the restaurant's cuisine is top-notch. Even the second-floor gym has floor-to-ceiling windows with unobstructed ocean views.