May 30, 2022
NEGRONI-IN-HAND, I am about 50 meters past Melia Phuket Mai Khao on my way back from a deeply satisfying sunset walk with my best friend before we both realize we have missed our destination. It isn’t the gin, Campari, and vermouth, I promise. Intoxicated by good conversation and a show-stopping sunset, the hotel blended right into its Sirinat National Park surroundings.
With a 70-meter pool and Santorini-esque suite rooms, it isn’t that the hotel is unremarkable. But shrouded by palms and son tally sea pine trees, the grassy front lawn of the resort can be easy to miss, and that’s a good thing.
Phuket’s 11-kilometer-long Mai Khao beach is dotted with swish resorts, but the arrival of the second outlet in Thailand by Spanish brand Melia—stay tuned for the third, which opens in Chiang Mai later this year—offers something different from its mammoth neighbors. Heavily inspired by the white-washed villas of Greek islands, the wedge-shaped, three-hectare property’s 30 suites and 70 villas feel more like luxe condos than hotel rooms with their private entryways and spacious outdoor areas.
My bff getaway takes place in a one-bedroom villa with a private plunge pool. The design of the rooms are notably modern with clean lines and muted tones, but the teak accents and rattan bags add a bohemian touch. Simultaneously of its locale, and an escape to farther reaches.
With a large standalone bathtub and a rain shower the size of a small child’s bedroom, one might be able to argue the room is better suited for couples. However, we’re not concerned—its mammoth size means we both have plenty of privacy. In fact, one morning we successfully bang out a HIIT workout in the room, tossing around the medicine ball that came with the room, and stretching out on the Melia yoga mats.
Like many new forward-thinking resorts these days, Melia Phuket Mai Khao has made wellness a focal point of their guest’s experiences. With its airy, white villas and the ultra-calming, quiet nature of Mai Khao beach, you can’t help but feel a little Zen-ed out here. But it’s not just the sea breeze that will have you feeling well. There are subtle nods towards the theme throughout the resort, from the vitamin C-infused showers in the top-level rooms to the daily morning meditation classes on the beach.
Less subtle is the spacious stand alone YHI Spa, where we bliss out for 90 minutes after a day kayaking through the mangroves at Phuket Marine National Park. On our way, we stopped for lunch at Toh-Daeng, a Michelin-recognized restaurant inside a decades-old manor home serving up traditional Phuket dishes and tea made from flowers they grow onsite.
One morning, we switch out our second coffees of the day for fresh-pressed juice during a workshop held by the staff on the beachfront lawn. Sweeping views of the Andaman in front, the Melia team has set up a table teeming with fruits and veggies so we can play juicologist. In my determination to shake out my mid-morning yawns, I boldly mix a whole ginger root with lemon. Massive, stomach-burning mistake. On the other hand, my friend creates a lovely papaya, lime, and pear juice so tasty we end up pouring glasses for the staff.
After a few laps in the pool (doggy paddling so we can keep our heads above water to gossip), we make our way to the lawn for lunch from Gaia, the Mediterranean restaurant that nods towards Melia’s Spanish roots. We’ve chosen to eat under the palms looking out to the beach, shoes off, coconut-in-hand. T+L tip, though: I highly recommend saving a meal to dine inside Gaia, just behind the main pool, where a long, open-air kitchen doubles as a culinary theater.
Today, chef Luca Mancini whips up the beach-side meal of dreams. Prosciutto melon and halibut (!) to start, and a main of perfectly crisp grilled seabass over quinoa. He also curated the menu for the resort’s other restaurant SASA, the more formal outlet of the two eateries where locally sourced produce highlights Southeast Asian flavors. But as someone who lives full time in Thailand, I’m most excited about the many dishes using Iberico ham and the selection of Spanish reds at Gaia.
All of its indulgences aside, Melia Phuket Mai Khao feels notably down to earth. Whether because of its humble national-park surroundings, a staff that can keep up with our jokes, or the fact that we were barefoot more than we weren’t. There may not be anything game-changing about the hotel, but I’d argue there doesn’t need to be. Who needs techy innovation or eccentric design when you can deliver unadulterated vacation bliss without all the fluff?
melia.com; double from Bt5,200