It is not an exaggeration to say that few resorts in the world can match the location of Amanpuri in Phuket, Thailand. Situated on its own peninsula, the former coconut plantation is blessed with a private beach and breathtaking views across the property, whether for sunrise or sunset.
The flagship resort of Swiss luxury hotel group Aman Resorts, Amanpuri, which first welcomed guests in 1988, became the blueprint for the brand, which now operates more than 20 properties around the world.
Spread over 26.8 hectares, the expansive resort is a world of its own, with everything you need within its well-guarded walls, complete with winding roads, lush greenery and perfectly spaced living quarters. It’s great for those looking for the ultimate private luxury getaway and it comes as no surprise that it’s a favourite with celebrities: Beyonce and Jay-Z are regulars with their children, as are Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Moss, Bill Gates and, when they were together, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
After a short 30-minute ride from Phuket International Airport, where we were picked up by a uniformed driver in a BMW, we were driving up the steep and winding private road that leads to the hillside entrance of Amanpuri.
One of the most celebrated works of the late American architect and interior designer Ed Tuttle, who was inspired by the palaces of Thailand’s historic Ayutthaya City, Amanpuri’s design set the template for luxury resorts around the world, and it's easy to see why.
Striking yet blending into the landscape, the exaggerated height of the resort’s many roofs peek out from the hundreds of palm trees that dot the property.
We drive past the main reception and are taken straight to our accommodation, a four-bedroom Ocean Villa, where we are greeted by our smiling private staff, Suau and Joy, who would be our caretakers for the next three days.
Welcomed with a refreshing drink and cold towels in the living room, which looks like an entire villa in itself, our documents are taken care of, including reservations for our Covid-19 tests prior to our return to the UAE. Fifteen minutes and some small talk later, we are guided to our rooms.
“Four-bedroom villa” is a loose description, because our huge open-plan living space is more like a compound with several villas. All bedrooms are standalones, each at a different elevation, taking advantage of the resort’s cascading terrain, and dotted around a central private swimming pool. The living room and dining area — complete with traditional sunken seating — are also standalones, while there is a gazebo next to the pool, right on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Andaman Sea.
The rooms are enormous, with huge glass sliding doors all around to take advantage of the beautiful setting. Mine was closest to the cliff, which meant that if I left the door facing the sea open, I could hear the water below and watch the sunset from my bed. Or enjoy it from one of the many lounge chairs set outside specifically for the purpose.
Although managed by Amanpuri, some villas at the resort are owned by third parties, meaning that, inside, each villa will have its owner’s unique touch.
Villa sizes range from one-bedroom options and go all the way up to nine bedrooms. There are also pavilions, which are smaller raised houses all connected by floating walkways. In total, Amanpuri has 40 pavilions and 40 villas.
The safety measures
Amanpuri is so large, social distancing occurs by default. The only place you actually see other guests is at the restaurants and bars, which all feature well-spaced tables. Branded sanitisers are left all over the property, including in each room, ensuring you never run out, while staff are masked at all times.
Thailand is known for its service. At Amanpuri, you can multiply that by a hundred. Owing to the resort’s size, trips to the gym, spa or any of the restaurants require a bit of a trek. But if you’re not up to it, you can always call on one of the property’s many buggies. By the time you walk up to the villa’s entrance, there’s usually one already waiting.
Our villa staff, Suau and Joy, were on hand with a solution to everything. Our special request for a visit to the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary was taken care of in minutes, including transport to and from the resort.
Each villa comes with its own Thai chef, who prepares all the food you'd want from a set menu. My requests for Mango Sticky Rice at odd hours of the day were fulfilled in a matter of minutes.
If staying at Amanpuri was not calming enough, its Holistic Wellness Centre offers an even deeper immersion. While the spa offers all kinds of treatments, guests can also come for long-term wellness retreats and for intensive treatments, including one using traditional Chinese medicine.
The glass-walled state-of-the-art gym offers yoga, pilates and Thai kickboxing classes, which we tried. If the awesome sea-view doesn’t get you all charged up and ready to go, nothing will.
For those into watersports, there’s everything from wakeboarding to waterskiing and paddleboarding. High-speed water thrills come courtesy of the Mastercraft Star and a Flyboard, while divers can opt for trips to some of the best spots in Phuket for scuba diving, with boats departing daily from the resort. Guests can also hire their own yachts for private charter.
Those with children will find the Eco-Beach Discovery Centre heaven sent, with daily activities for children aged 5 to 12. There are cooking and dance classes, as well as batik workshops. For those with older children, there’s a digital room where teenagers can rent a GoPro, go out on their adventures — whether its watersports or skateboarding at the halfpipe — and come back to edit their footage.
Since reopening in November, all of Amanpuri’s restaurants, except the award-winning Nama, which serves Japanese cuisine, are operational. There’s Buabok, its main restaurant, set beside a pool and serving Southern Thai cuisine. Arva specialises in Italian, while The Sunset Terrace is the perfect setting for social gatherings. The Beach Terrace is the most picturesque of them all, set among huge rocks on Pansea Beach, and serves a mix of cuisines.
The resort also organises private barbecue dinners on the beach for special occasions. We witnessed a marriage proposal on the night we dined at The Beach Terrace, with candles and flowers strewn across the beach.
You don’t really need to venture anywhere while at Amanpuri, but if you are itching to explore, the village of Cherngtalay, where the resort is located, has a buzzing night market with lots of street food. If it's the nightlife you’re after, then Patong is about a 27-minute car ride from the resort. Phuket City, the capital of Phuket Province, is 35 minutes away.
Highs and lows
Because Amanpuri’s attention to detail is faultless, no real lows here. But owing to its lush setting, the frogs croaking at night might be a slight hindrance to a silent evening. It rained the night we arrived, and the singing amphibians were an excitable lot. But it’s a small price to pay to be in such a luxurious setting.
The insider tip
If you’re travelling as a large group, you should definitely plan a stay in the villas, which will give you all the space and privacy you’d need for that ultimate home-away-from-home feel. Also, who says no to a private chef?
Amanpuri is exactly as advertised. Luxurious, tranquil and the perfect escape, this resort’s been welcoming guests since the 1980s and has not lost any of its charm or top-notch service.
The bottom line
A one-night stay at a pavilion in Amanpuri costs $890 during low season and goes all the way up to $25,520 for a nine-bedroom villa during peak season.
Amanpuri, Pansea Beach, Phuket, Thailand; aman.com/resorts/amanpuri
— This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel during the global coronavirus pandemic. It reflects hotel standards during the time, services may change in the future.