Phuket is for loversat least in the upscale resorts. The cliff-top isolation of many of Phuket's luxury hotels makes this island the province of honeymooning couples and celebs avoiding the lenses of the paparazzi. As a result, even fully booked resorts can feel like private playgrounds. Infinity pools and over-the-top serviceround-the-clock personal butlers, in-room chefs, orchid-filled bathtubshave become de rigueur. And even midrange hotels in Phuket welcome guests with thoughtful extras like cold lemongrass-scented towels on arrival or small gifts at turndown.
Our recommendations include hotels on the island of Phuket as well as in surrounding areas such as Phang Nga and the Phi Phi Islands. Leonardo DiCaprio's turn in The Beach still brings rock climbers, divers, and adventure types to the Phi Phi Islands in search of untouched wildness. But these days, you're more likely to find that vibe (or a high-end approximation thereof) on Koh Yao Noi between the islands of Krabi and Phuket. The mainland coast of Phang Nga, just north of Phuket Island, sustained major damage in the 2004 tsunami, but intelligent reconstruction policies have saved that stretch of land from the overdevelopment that plagues other Thai beaches. The nearby Phang Nga Bay marine reserve and Khao Lak and Khao Sok national parks also make Phang Nga ideal for nature lovers.
It's worth remembering that all beaches in Thailand are public. This can be both a blessingyou can enjoy pristine stretches of sand even if you're not staying at a particular hoteland a curse, since even the fanciest hotels can't ban trinket sellers, beach masseuses, or roaring surf skis. To avoid such annoyances, choose one of the more geographically isolated Phuket resorts like Trisara or Amanpuri, or at the helicopter-accessible Six Senses Hideaway on Koh Yao Noi.