The Naka Island Resort & Spa Phuket

Prologue

With sun-kissed beaches and crystal clear waters, tropical islands hold a distinct lure on many of us when it comes to taking a much-deserved holiday away from the daily grind. The appeal of a back-to-basics, Robinson Crusoe-esque yet luxurious experience has many travellers searching for their own secluded island paradise where they can disconnect and truly relax. Southeast Asia offers plenty of options, ranging from remote Indonesian islands to Phang Nga Bay’s renowned limestone karsts. We recently took a trip to the idyllic Koh Naka Yai, spending a weekend away from the world at The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Phuket,

 

Location / Accessibility

The Naka Island is located on the small island of Koh Naka Yai just off the eastern coast of Phuket. Access is via a 30-minute drive from Phuket International Airport followed by a quick 10-minute speedboat ride across the emerald waters of the Andaman Sea that surround the resort. Popular spots like Patong Beach and Phuket Town are some distance away by taxi or private car, but proved to be a non-issue given the seclusion of the property on the island (which it shares with a small local village) is its primary appeal to travellers seeking an escape.

 

Arrival Experience

   

We had arranged for a private car transfer for a hassle-free journey to the resort. A resort representative met us at the airport arrivals area and escorted us over to our designated driver and vehicle, a clean silver Toyota Camry. Bottled water, cold towels and mobile wi-fi were available in the car for the drive to the Ao Po Grand Marina, with the friendly driver updating us on our progress along the way. The villages and plantations soon gave way to blue waters and the upmarket setting of the marina, where we were handed over to the boat crew.

   

The resort operates its own fleet of speedboats, one of which was waiting for us at the dock. Bottled water and cold towels were again offered prior to departure and we soon made our way past the marina’s other luxury watercraft towards the island, arriving shortly at The Naka Island’s private pier to meet our hostess. Welcoming us to the resort with orchid hand garlands and refreshing lemongrass drinks, she also guided us through their unique welcome ritual, where guests are invited to strike a large bronze gong twice to announce their arrival to the local dragon.

   

The ritual completed, we continued to the main resort grounds and the much-welcomed cold air of the air-conditioned reception office for check-in. Our hostess confirmed the reservation details and took time to give us a brief of the resort and the many activities available. Unfortunately, our room was not ready yet as we had arrived around noon before the check-in timing and she invited us to relax in the adjacent library or utilize the full resort facilities, with a promise to come fetch us later.

 

With time to spare, we took the opportunity to orientate ourselves with the surroundings and grab some lunch. True to her word, the kind hostess came by 45 minutes later to drive us to the room and our bags were already proactively loaded on the golf cart waiting for us.

 

Guestrooms

   

The Naka Island initially opened as an all-villa property, but recently added new accommodation categories to its inventory. Set amidst a serene tropical garden complex, these new guestrooms and suites are intended to offer the same private, luxurious experience in a compact space.

 

We were in one of the resort’s new Grand Deluxe Rooms, where the architecture and design follows the same charming Adobe-style as the rest of the resort. Although it lacks the private garden of the villas, high walls and cleverly-positioned entrances around the courtyard shared between 4 rooms meant we hardly met any fellow guests there during our stay, enjoying a high level of seclusion and tranquility. Taking a stroll just after sunrise one morning, the peaceful gardens bathed in a warm golden glow from the sun and tunes of chirping birds above greeted us for a wonderful start to the day.

   

Inside, our initial impressions of the room was its abundance of space, which felt more than the advertised 52 square meters. Natural light streams in from the side window to illuminate the space in cream and neutral colours, with the decor adopting local resort chic utilizing predominantly wooden furnishings. Immediately ahead was a luxurious 300-threadcount, king-sized bed adorned with a specially-arranged romance set-up in addition to the crisp white linen overhang above, which added a touch of rustic elegance. The bed itself stuck a nice balance between firmness and comfort, complemented by 4 large pillows and 2 throw pillows (with more types available on request).

   

A cozy day bed set in an alcove behind the wooden coffee table was ideally suited for lounging or working on our tablet in air-conditioned comfort when temperatures ran high. Guests without their own literature will be glad to know the resort had provided a selection of magazines. While we stayed indoors during daylight hours, come nightfall when it became cooler we preferred to sit outdoors in the private courtyard and gaze at the stars above with a bottle of wine.

   

   

The bathroom was well-lit and spacious with the standard water closet, vanity and a large walk-in rainforest shower, but we felt an opportunity lost to incorporate a free-standing bathtub considering the property bills itself as a luxury retreat. While it was disappointing not to be able to indulge in a soak, we still managed to have refreshing hot showers with the very nice bath amenities from Thai premium brand THANN. Our Grand Deluxe Room also came with an outdoor shower at the other side, but we did not utilize this during our stay.

   

   

Every room has a large 49-inch LCD television placed on the console which also doubles as a small workdesk. Although a minor inconvenience, we were not expecting the fuzzy images and poor reception for the terrestrial and cable programming (considering these rooms were new to the resort), opting instead to watch DVDs which could be borrowed from the resort library. The room also had limited electrical outlets, which could be an issue for guests with multiple devices, but we liked how several of these were USB ports. We also like the large, open wood-grain wardrobe which was both utilitarian with everything within easy reach, yet fits in seamlessly with the overall design direction of the room.

   

   

Kept in the console beneath the television is the minibar, with the usual array of snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. Alcoholic options include beer, wine and spirits, which come in larger size bottles compared to the usual minis that most hotels offer. Accompanying this is a standard refreshment center set-up with complimentary coffee and tea.

 

Dining

   

   

Tonsai is the resort’s all-day dining venue, situated steps from the main swimming pool and beach with a laid back vibe one would expect in such a setting. We had a nice Thai lunch on our first day here, seeking refuge from the blazing sun with a cold local beer and dining on favourites including “Tom Yum Goong”, “Glass Noodle Salad”, “Seafood Pad Thai” and “Thai Basil Chicken Rice”. The presentation did not disappoint and the taste was perfectly on-point making for a very satisfying meal here.

   

   

Breakfast is also served here in the mornings and comprises a semi-buffet, with cold items and some hot food on a self-service basis while the main courses were made-to-order. We tried most of the options over our 2 mornings dining there and found these tasty and very nicely-presented, although the occasional inconsistent service and long waiting time for our order was a let down somewhat. Although not the most extensive by absolute variety of items, we found plenty of food in the buffet (ranging from freshly-cut fruits and yoghurt to sushi and Chinese congee) to satisfy the majority of tastebuds. There was also a live station serving up a fried noodle dish (with the Executive Chef himself making a cameo appearance one morning) and even a DIY bloody mary station where we could not resist mixing one up.

   

   

Phuket’s fishermen are blessed with bountiful catches from the Andaman Sea and a highlight of our stay was having a sumptuous seafood dinner at MyGrill, the resort’s open-air, beachside fine dining restaurant. Open exclusively for dinner, the venue boasts a romantic setting with its sunken booths, flickering candlelight and the faint lapping sound of the waves on the beach. We were presented a seared tuna amuse bouche and enjoyed a “Wild Mushroom Soup” to start, followed by the piece-de-resistance – the “Andaman Mixed Seafood Platter”. This was beautifully-presented with fresh BBQ Phuket lobster, tiger prawns, white snapper, scallops and calamari served alongside french fries, salad and the restaurant’s home-made Thai chili dip and garlic butter sauce. With just several diners the evening we were there, service was attentive yet discreet as our server ensured we got sufficient privacy while remaining ever-present to top up our glasses.

   

   

Another romantic venue at The Naka Island is Z Bar, where we spent our evenings relaxing and chatting over a sundowner or two. Located up the hill at the far edge of the island, the experience begins with a short buggy ride (or a 20-min walk) from the main resort grounds where guests are greeted with breathtaking panoramas of the evening sun setting in the distance over Phuket island. We were ushered to one of the cushioned seats isolated from the bar counter and overlooking the sea, following which the attentive staff member would set our table with complimentary olives and gherkins as we perused the menu. The laid back setting was ideal for winding down the day while sipping cocktails and snacking on the simple yet satisfying tapas that served as a nice pre-dinner snack.

 

Facilities

   

   

Large, free-form and filled with refreshing cool freshwater, the main swimming pool was where we spent most of our time during the stay. An obvious benefit of staying at a resort with private pool villas is that the main swimming pool was never crowded and we often had the entire space to ourselves to enjoy a soak or sunbathe. Even better was the complimentary coconut and passionfruit ice cream dished out each afternoon by the thoughtful sports activity staff, who were always available to offer iced water (as well as our “Naka Special” coconut cocktail).

   

   

Steps away from the pool is the resort’s private beach, which admittedly was not the best we had been to. At approximately 50 meters, it was lacking in frontage and the tidal movement also rendered most of it unusable by late afternoon. However, it was still nice to enjoy the soft sand and sea water in the mornings after breakfast, a decision echoed by our fellow guests laid out under the sun umbrellas on the beach chairs. Our favourite spot on the beach had to be the relatively isolated and very Instagram-worthy hammock, where we would simply lie in it and spend time doing nothing but watch the boats sail by.

   

   

Seeing the boats made us take to the water ourselves in one of the resort’s canoes. As part of the watersport activities, guests can partake to see the island from a different perspective by circumnavigating it at their own pace, where we saw the landscape slowly change. Starting with the villas perched on-shore as we left the resort, we next got a view of distant islands in Phang Nga Bay and the mangrove forest on the island’s north shore. This again changed to white sandy beaches as we maneuvered to the opposite end and jockeyed for space amidst the flurry of watersport activity there before the crowded waters gave way to the tranquility of Koh Naka Yai’s remote southern tip and the final leg back to the resort past the public pier after 2 hours. For our efforts, we were rewarded with a certificate from The Naka Island and bragging rights for completing one of its most challenging activities.

   

The resort also offers a host of other activities to entertain guests during their stay. Complimentary mountain bikes are available to explore the island by land and we took these around the property grounds, from the narrow pathways leading to the villas onto to the wooden resort pier. There was also a sizable air-conditioned fitness centre equipped with state-of-the-art training equipment, while a check on the activities schedule showed yoga and muay thai classes offered at the various salas.

   

Unfortunately we did not have an opportunity to try the Spa Naka, which is tucked away in its own building surrounded by lush vegetation. It offers an array of indigenous botanical treatments, including the signature Watsu Treatment – a 60-minute aquatic therapy combining shiatsu pressure points and gentle stretching under the pool’s buoyant conditions.

   

Other recreation options include the aforementioned library, stocked with books and DVDs available in multiple languages, as well as a retail store and kids’ play room.

 

Service / Staff

The staff members at The Naka Island were absolutely first class. A smile and greeting was always present from everybody we met (from our hostess upon arrival to the resort’s security staff). We also felt the associates were genuinely friendly and accommodating to our requests with their simple, relaxed demeanor that played a huge part in getting us in a laid back mood to enjoy our time on-property.

 

Verdict

The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Phuket truly is a gem in Marriott International’s portfolio in Thailand (if not the world). Blessed with a location that offers the right amount of seclusion and accessibility while having a product that can only be described as eco-luxury, we loved the privacy it painstakingly offers through clever design and a genuine, caring workforce. This is a resort that we would recommend for those seeking a retreat from the daily grind where they could truly enjoy life’s simple pleasures.

 

The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Phuket

32 Moo 5, Tambol Paklok,

Amphur Thalang, Naka Yai Island,

Phuket, 83110,

Thailand

+66 76 371 400

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