Arriving by speedboat to a private island is a pretty glamorous way to start a holiday but rather than being glitzy or ostentatious, this palm-fringed boutique isle is all about chilling out and relaxing… eco style.
After the hustle of Phuket town and the obligatory frenetic clothes and bag shopping, The Naka Island, A Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, is a perfectly serene antidote.
The Naka Island occupies Naka Yai island, a small jewel overlooking Phang Nga Bay. Its 67 villas are naturally styled, capacious and reflect the natural surrounds with earthy palettes, clay walls and thatched roofs. It also boasts one of the finest fresh-water infinity pools in Asia and a world-class restaurant with two ‘sunken love seat tables’.
The ambience is effortlessly tranquil and staff glide silently around ensuring everything is ‘just so’. A personal butler, guest concierge and in-room check-in ensures that there are no stresses and any whim – be that an in-villa BBQ or romantic dinner under the stars – is catered to.
The calling card for this resort are the sublime villas, which feel more like lux, Flintstone-style pods hewn from the island’s stone.
The space is the first thing to hit you; there are separate areas for sleeping, bathing, outdoor bathing and sun worship, linked by covered, thatched walkways lined with large, flat pebbles so you can pad to and fro from pool, bed and bath with ease.
Our villa had three separate areas just for sunbathing; a comfy couples sofa lounger, plump, cushioned sun beds and an open-air cabana with day beds, perfect for a spot of early morning yoga.
The beds are cloud-soft and floor-to-ceiling windows frame views of the glittering plunge pool, the bluest of Thai skies and the undulating peaks of the mainland that lie across the bay.
The outdoor baths and showers are endlessly romantic and the natural fauna surrounding the villas add a touch of jungle chic, and evermore privacy. We had our own cocooned outdoor bathing courtyard with open-air shower and bath – heaven.
Despite the authentic earth tones and natural styling, modern conveniences including iPod dock, a comprehensive music library and Bose indoor sound systems, are on hand. At £174 per night for a tropical or ocean-view villa with plunge pool, you’ll truly be hard pushed to find a more romantic and exotic hideaway for less.
Once you have soothed your every nerve in your secluded garden, there is an impressive range of activities including complimentary morning yoga, traditional fan painting, tai chi, mixology classes and kayaking to keep you occupied.
Bikes are stationed outside your villa on arrival, allowing you to free-wheel down to the mirror-still infinity pool and splosh your way to the in-water sun loungers. There is a sweep of squeaky white sand to wander and hammocks dotted beneath shading palms, waiting to lull you to slumber. Aah.
The wow factor
Mixologists have created an inspired menu at the hotel’s Z Bar, combining Thai chilies, scents and aromas with classic cocktails. The bar’s beautiful rotund veranda also happens to occupy one of the most jaw-dropping spots on the island complete with lie-down-and-drink day beds.
Watching a blood-orange sunset or tropical storm roll in across the horizon with a Vada Gimlet or Naka Rum in hand proved pretty near perfection.
Providing the weather is agreeable (and it almost always is) breakfast, lunch and dinner is served open to the elements and with views to die for. At breakfast expect the freshest ingredients, colourful arrays of zesty fruit and juices, smoothies and breakfast items freshly made to order.
Tonsai, the all-day dining restaurant has a casual, beautiful seaside setting and the curries were of particular note. My Grill, just next door, is the other evening option and boasts incredibly fresh seafood and succulent steaks with a Thai influence. For a romantic evening, book one of two tables sunken into the swimming pool area and dine surrounded by water and cosied away from the other diners.
The final thought
Usually you have to go a lot further and pay a lot more to holiday on an exclusive private island. The Naka Island is a private gem designed for indulgence and romance; easier to get to than the Maldives and Seychelles and amazingly still a relatively well-kept secret.
The marina is around 40 minutes from Phuket airport by taxi and the speedboat takes under ten minutes. The Naka Island, A Luxury Collection Resort & Spa is also well placed for travellers exploring the nearby island of Phi Phi – after, that is, you’ve sufficiently reclined, relaxed and retoxed on those potent cocktails.
Malaysia Airlines offers economy class return flights from London Heathrow to Phuket from £739. To book visit www.malaysiaairlines.com or call +44 (0) 871 4239 090
Chantal Borciani is travel editor at High50. She reports on destinations, dining, hotels and wellness, and specialises in over 50s travel trends. Twitter: @ChantalBorch