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Phuket has no shortage of luxury hotels, from hip and cool Sri Panwa to the fabulous Aman resorts, but if you want to get whisked away to an island resort, the Small Luxury Hotels of the World member hotel, The Racha, on the island of the same name, is a luxury romantic escape fit for honeymooners.
Arrival and check in
Arrival at The Racha is a bit of an adventure. The resort can only be accessed via a 40min speedboat journey from Chalong pier, about an hour’s drive from the airport in one of the resort’s amazingly comfortable minivans with reclining seats and foot rests. In Chalong, the resort has a lounge with snacks and drinks as well as internet. A short walk will take you to the pier where you’ll jump on one of the local Thai open air buses that run the very short trip to the end of the jetty. The ride to Racha Yai island can sometimes be really bumpy but I loved the amusement park stomach, we felt like we were in a rollercoaster. An exciting start to an otherwise hyper relaxing weekend.
When you approach the resort’s bay, it will probably be relatively busy with day trippers. Fret not, they will all be gone before the sun sets by which time you will have the beach, the beautiful crystalline waters of aquamarine and turquoise and the incredible sunsets all to yourself.
Wear appropriate footwear for the trip – I was fashionably attired with high platform espadrilles and suffered a fair bit trying to keep my balance along the floating pontoon. Check in was quick and done at the open air pavilion reception, so within minutes we were showed to our Spa Pool Villa.
The rooms at The Racha
The Racha is made of around 80 villas of varying sizes and categories, from the few pool villas with outdoor sea views to the deluxe rooms. They are all spacious and designed with a slight Thai modern feel and lots of small details that show they were designed with the guest’s comfort in mind. The TV is hidden under the table, so you can raise it up if you want to but can otherwise have a TV-free holiday like I usually do.
All villas come with outdoor rain showers and many have bathtubs. The beds are plush and there is a pillow menu to choose from. Large windows bring in Thailand’s beautiful sunlight and give a peek into the frangipani, the palm trees and the lush gardens around the property. You feel like you are in your own tropical villa getaway. Most of the villas have outdoor areas with chairs or benches to read a book but you will probably rather spend your time by the pool or the beach.
I loved the oil burners in the room and the fact that we chose the smell for the shower gels and shampoo while we were waiting for the speedboat. I went for jasmine. Frangipani flowers and hand made super cute hand soaps decorated with small flowers gave a very personal touch. The details were everywhere providing a sense of love and care for the space.
Our room was a Spa Pool Villa which comes with an outdoor plunge jet pool beautifully lit for the most romantic night dip. There is an outdoor rain shower attached to it and another indoor jacuzzi bathtub in the bathroom. The shower is double so you don’t have to share the water. Even the bathroom amenities are of high quality with proper conditioner to help untangle beach hair. The entire space is large and designed in white and dark wood with Thai rustic accents. There is a coffee machine to wake you up in the morning and a proper minibar. You can connect your music player or phone to the speakers which are powerful enough to organise a party. The bedroom has enough storage space to hang all your linen beach clothes.
Dining at The Racha
Breakfast is served at the Earth restaurant where there is a large selection of items and a menu with cooked to order dishes like eggs any style and pancakes. There is a choice of Asian, Thai and international hot dishes, salads, fried items, fresh fruits and cold cuts including smoked salmon. The fruit juice bar has three options of freshly squeezed juices with what is in season and brews are made to order. We certainly enjoyed our lazy breakfast after power sessions of yoga and gym on both days.
Lunch can be enjoyed by the beach restaurant or by the pool. If you like lunches to be served with a side of people watching, the beach is for you. If like me, you prefer the peace and quiet of the Thai sun, the pool restaurant and sun lounger side menu will satisfy your needs with fresh coconuts, Thai dishes, pizzas, salads and international favourites.
For dinner you can go down to the beach which will then be empty from the day trippers, eat at the Earth cafe or by the romantically lit pool. The room service menu is also quite expansive and the hotel organises themed nights like the Saturday night BBQ set on the lawn above the beach which is a great way to have grilled meats, seafood and meats under the stars. If you are there on a romantic getaway do not miss the chance of having a private beach dinner with your toes dipped in the sand. The hotel will set up a dimly lit canopy, candles and fresh flowers and you can watch the sun go down with a cocktail from the sunset bar before enjoying a four course dinner.
The Racha also has an ice cream shop and the sunset bar, by the lobby, which has comfortable sofas to enjoy Happy Hour or after dinner drinks right above the beach.
The facilities at The Racha
Most people come to an island resort to get away from it all and, if that is what you came here for, then you will be spoiled for choice. The Racha has three pools plus the stretch of public beach. One of the pools is for the exclusive use of adult guests whereas children have their own dedicated garden pool complete with a waterfall. A third pool, located by the beach, is accessible to day trippers so it is busier. The main adult pool has infinity views over the ocean. It is long enough to provide space for several loungers to sunbathe in the peace and quiet. You are unlikely to bump into other guests in the water.
The gym is fully equipped for a proper workout and is located by the beach with nice sea views. There is a yoga pavilion where daily complimentary yoga lessons are offered morning and afternoon. We thoroughly enjoyed both, and had the gym all to ourselves with the very good equipment and the complimentary water. The yoga instructor was good too.
The hotel’s spa is pretty and is set along a set of pavilions and frangipani fringed pathways decorated with water features and buddha carvings. It feels like a heavenly getaway from the peaceful resort. There is also a small souvenir store to buy some essentials.
If you like playing tennis, the resort has a court and you can borrow bicycles if you want to explore the island. Although you can also do so on foot. Beware, the best beach is indeed the one in front of the resort.
And let’s talk about the beach. All beaches in Thailand are public and so Racha Yai’s beach is too. As the one in front of the resort is particularly fluffy and large it is a favourite for day trippers from Phuket and so it does get crowded between 11am and 4pm. The hotel has a line of loungers on the sand and some by the lawn right above so you can enjoy a bit more peace than on the lines of colourful umbrellas that make the Andaman Sea’s tiny islets so recognisable. Don’t let the crowds discourage you and grab a pair of goggles and a snorkel to explore the clear waters in the bay, it truly is beautiful. Good news is, by 4pm, most of the day trippers are gone and the beach becomes quiet and empty as the sun goes down.
In a remote place like this, one of the most beautiful things to do is to simply look up and enjoy the stars. Aside from the beach, the resort has a star deck where they can also organise a private romantic dinner.
Activities at The Racha
Contrary to most beach resorts there is a lot to do at The Racha. You can go on island hiking trips, quad excursions, snorkeling or diving, you can go sailing to nearby islands or explore the area by boat, including day trips to Krabi, James Bond Island or Phi Phi. The resort offers several activities to keep you and the little ones busy like batik painting or Thai cooking classes, and they can organise pretty much any water based excursion. Or you can just grab a kayak and go do it yourself. For more romantic options you can go on a sunset sailing cruise or rent the resort’s boat for a private island hopping experience.
The service at The Racha
Everybody we interacted with was friendly and had a smile. The service was particularly remarkable from the F&B Manager who was always on sight and making sure everything was great, especially during our romantic beach dinner. She made a difference. The reception staff were also useful and accommodating and we were able to get late check out free of charge which was a very welcoming gesture given our boat was not until 4pm. Perhaps the only improvement area was the language barrier we experienced with the restaurant staff who were at times unable to understand our requests. We did want to change pretty much every dish though, trying to keep to a very healthy and clean menu, something hard to do when on holiday. But were always accommodating.
The room was serviced every day and the turn down service was lovely. We even got a departure gift made of the ingredients to enjoy a Tom Yam Soup, something we will very much enjoy at home while we reminisce of a wonderful island escape in beautiful The Racha.
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