A little background: this past August trip we made our fifth trip to the JW Marriott Khao Lak. It had become one of our favorite locations and hotels over the years. I’ll get around to pointing out some changes later but felt that you all might like to hear about this piece of paradise.
Reason for Choosing
I originally chose this hotel because I received an e-mail highlighting the new opening of the hotel. I had to go back and check my e-mail, it was December, 2009. The biggest draw was the Executive Suite, a single floor, 1 bedroom suite, with a bathroom the size of some apartments. I don’t have my photos from my first trip handy, but here’s a picture of it off of the website:
It’s amazing that it’s been 5 years since the hotel opened, and 4 years since our first time. We continued to return to this hotel because of the staff and the surroundings. It was also far enough away to truly relax (at least for us). We could walk the beach for miles each day, and have more open space than hotels (I think there are 2 hotels within a few miles walk to the south, and one to the north).
Lobby and Check-in/Check-out Experience
The lobby is sizeable, with an amazing view of the Andaman Sea and most of the resort. Over time our arrival / check-in experience has varied, most recently we were welcomed, shown to a seat in the lobby to process the paperwork, and were provided juice and cold towels (which helps in Thailand!).
The check-out experience has always been at the front desk in the lobby. Nothing out of the ordinary here.
Where the hotel stood out
The hotel stands out for it’s location (although that’s a positive and a negative). Its about 90 minutes north of Phuket Airport (most recently we paid 3,000 baht / ~$100 each way for the transfer which is pricey), just north of Khao Lak, which has grown significantly over the years. Once you get there, you don’t really need to leave the resort, aside from walking the beach. We really enjoyed being able to walk a couple hundred yards down the beach for cheaper massages (300 baht / $10), and light bites.
We also really enjoyed the pool. The J. W. Marriott Khao Lak has the longest pool in Southeast Asia.
It also has two pool bars–perhaps our favorite part. This is probably the reason we kept going back, the pool bar, and the pool bar staff (their team lead is Wat, who has been there each and every time we have visited). Up until our recent trip, the hotel also extended a complimentary hour long happy hour for Marriott Rewards Platinum members, but unfortunately they didn’t have it this past August.
Finally, we really enjoyed the breakfast buffet – think your big Southeast Asia style, with a good variety of selections. Heck, just take a look for yourself:
Oh, and it was on the beach, so you could enjoy your morning tea or coffee with a great view.
We were upgraded to a Duplex room, which we really appreciated.
Where the hotel fell a little short
Having visited the hotel so many times, it’s hard to write this section, but, in the spirit of being well balanced, here goes. First and foremost in our minds is the fact that each of the last two or three visits to the hotel, the front desk staff had no idea we had ever visited the hotel before. Maybe this isn’t a big deal. Maybe we were spoiled by the Grand Hyatt Bali, who on our second visit, remembered not just that we had stayed before, but which suite, and made arrangements for us to stay in that same suite.
The second area the hotel fell short was the pricing. Resort spas are generally expensive, that’s a given, but most of the restaurants felt like there was a disconnect with respect to pricing (e.g. a significant premium), especially compared to the local establishments. One exception was the deli, which has always been pretty reasonable for a resort.
Thinking as to whether we would return to the J.W. Khao Lak, the short answer is: maybe, but not terribly soon. I think it is more because of the fact that we’ve visited it a bunch of times, but there are those few short comings that we noticed this time. Overall though, its a nice hotel, with some really nice features.