The Best Luxury Resorts & Spas
- Banyan Tree Phuket (Phuket; tel. 07632-4374): It's chic, it's private, and it's (supposed to be) paparazzi-proof. Maybe that's why the likes of pop singer Kylie Minogue and British sports star David Beckham book the Banyan Tree. This self-contained resort boasts luxurious Thai-style villas and some of the island's best spa treatments; expect pools, palms, and lots of panache. Plus, this prestigious hotel chain prides itself on its environmental awareness schemes, which benefit different communities all over the region. It appeals to celebs and jet-setters with a conscience.
- JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa (Phuket; tel. 07633-8000): This distinctive haven is set amid acres of spectacular gardens, featuring ponds, flowerbeds, and landscaped lawns leading to a glistening beach; though the strong riptides make ocean swimming unsafe, two stylish pools make up for this. Balconies offer expansive sea views and guests have endless dining options, from Italian to Japanese and traditional Thai -- all top quality. The Mandara Spa, hidden behind giant ocher walls and copper doors, is reminiscent of a Marrakech palace. The hotel's environmental efforts mean that staff and keen guests are actively involved in turtle conservation groups such as Naucrates.
- Rayavadee (Krabi; tel. 07562-0740): Two-story cottages are scattered over this expansive coconut grove, facing two of Thailand's best white-sand beaches. Many villas have Jacuzzis or hammocks, with breezy views of some of the most magnificent cliffs in the country. The luxurious spa and the secluded location make it a dream hideaway. A trip to the nearby hongs (hidden lagoons) here is unforgettable.
- Chiva-Som International Health Resort (Hua Hin; tel. 03253-6536): Unashamedly sleek and swanky Thai-style accommodations, enhanced by personalized healthcare, make this wellness retreat a popular choice for visiting celebrities in need of a body-and-soul detox. Prices are some of the highest in the country, but the trade-offs are tangible. After you've experienced any of Chiva-Som's careful, healing therapies or invigorating health regimes, nowhere else will seem quite the same.
- Six Senses Hideaway (Ko Samui; tel. 07632-4333): Private villas hidden behind whitewashed adobe walls, gorgeous sunken poolside salas, (pavilions) and bright, modern living spaces make this resort a delight. Close enough to the beach for walks, but far enough for tranquility, gourmets and gluttons will revel in the culinary experiences to be had here. The organically inspired mud-built spa has beehive-shaped treatment rooms that appear to float in a lily pad pond. It's run by the sultans of spa, Six Senses, who are renowned for their eco-sensitivity as much as their restorative treatments.
- The Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi (Chiang Mai; tel. 05388-8888): This megaresort was designed to echo a sumptuous Lanna-era palace, with gardens, rice paddies, lawns, and a restored viharn (assembly hall). Many of the free-standing villas boast unique luxuries such as pianos, saunas, sun decks with Jacuzzis, and private massage tables. A number of the suites have plunge pools, and the spa is modeled after a stunning teak Burmese palace. There's mouthwatering cuisine on hand, too; but deep pockets are required for that, as well as the rooms.
- Anantara Resort and Spa Golden Triangle (Chiang Saen; tel. 05378-4084): On the edge of the Burmese jungle, just meters from the Laos border and overlooking the swirling Mekong River, this resort's spectacular spa and fine restaurants are just some of this two-wing property's many pleasures. The landscape is artfully punctuated with a glassy infinity pool overlooking a towering bamboo grove. An amazing museum, dedicated to the history of opium, is just a short walk or bike ride away, as is the hotel's Elephant Camp, where you can sharpen your pachyderm-handling skills with a 2-ton inmate.
The Best Mid- & High-End Resorts
- Amari Emerald Cove Resort (Ko Chang; tel. 03955-2000): This luxurious place, with a 50m (164-ft.) lap pool as well as children's pool and excellent beach location, makes an ideal spot for a relaxing getaway. It also has a spa, dive shop, fitness room, Wi-Fi access, and a choice of four restaurants. Yet the biggest surprise at this and many other Amari resorts are the affordable rates -- there are frequent package offers that bring room rates down to around 50% of published rates.
- The Sarojin (Khao Lak; tel. 07642-7901): The Sarojin is a great escape from nearby Phuket. The superbly styled beach resort is scattered over 4 hectares (10 acres), with delightfully designed pool villas and outstanding suites, all minutes from a pristine beach. Guests can indulge in the outdoor spa and Thai cooking classes.
- Lipa Lodge Resort (Ko Samui; tel. 07748-5616): If you're looking for a relaxing break in a small, inexpensive resort without all the buzzers and bells, you couldn't do better than to head for Lipa Lodge, on Ko Samui's west coast. Well removed from the frantic nightlife of Chaweng Beach, this is the place to sit back and soak up some sunsets. Because it is run by a gifted chef, you can look forward to tasty meals, too.
- Twin Palms Phuket (Phuket; tel. 07631-6500): A stunning Sirin Beach property, the Twin Palms adheres to a clean, contemporary style. Bright guest rooms overlook a leafy garden and expansive lagoon pool; a local golf course is nearby. New residences opened in 2008, including a huge penthouse for the truly indulgent. Opportunities abound for culinary indulgences, and there's a wine list to write home about. The health conscious can sign up for a breadth of treatments at the Palm Spa.
- Pimalai Resort and Spa (Ko Lanta; tel. 07560-7999): On a remote stretch of beach, on the quiet island of Ko Lanta Yai, this delightfully designed hillside resort blends easily with the island's unspoiled nature. Its sympathetic Thai architect has thoughtfully built the shady walkways around old trees. An immaculate indigo infinity pool, an excellent spa, and sumptuous villas put it on top of this island's A-list. Direct speedboat connections in dry season make it a perfect upmarket escape.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.