It is easy to be overwhelmed by the choice of luxury beach hotels and resorts in Phuket. In fact, a quick search on Agoda returns a staggering 5,500+ accommodation options on the island making it one of the largest hotel markets in the world. For reference, the same search on New York or Barcelona returned 3,500 listings, London showed over 12,000.
It should come as no surprise that Phuket is one of the most competitive tourism markets in the world. Hotels not only fight for the 8 million visitors a year that descend on the island but also for the 20,000 tourism industry professionals. And this competition only grows every year with more and more room nights being added.
If a hotel has been successful in Phuket for 30 years, that is already a sign of its consistency in providing good value for money and meeting guests expectations. The Boathouse Phuket is one such hotel and in this review I will tell you why you should consider it for your next visit to Phuket and what makes it a great *real* beach hotel in Phuket.
- My 2006 visit to Phuket and the many visits after
- How it all started, the origins of The Boathouse Phuket
- Arrival at The Boathouse Phuket
- The rooms at The Boathouse Phuket
- The food at The Boathouse Phuket
- The facilities at The Boathouse Phuket
- The service at The Boathouse Phuket
- Value for money at The Boathouse Phuket
- The Boathouse Phuket: The verdict
My 2006 visit to Phuket and the many visits after
When I first visited Phuket in 2006, post-tsunami, the visitor numbers were a far cry from today. Back then, I saw a very different island. Little did I know then that I would be returning over a dozen times, every time enjoying a completely different holiday and exploring a new part of the island.
You have been dozens of times to Phuket? People often ask me.
Yes! There are a lot of things to do in Phuket so you can indeed visit multiple times and have a different vacation every time and never get bored.
I have done road trips around the island, I have been sailing around Phang Nga Bay on a private yacht three times, I have explored its rich heritage, I have visited on girl’s only and bachelorette weekends and I have even indulged in a few straightforward luxury resort getaways doing nothing but eating, sleeping, sunbathing and relaxing in the comfort and privacy of my luxury pool villa.
It would be fair to say that I know Phuket and its 100+ luxury resort scene pretty well. So much so that I regularly get asked for recommendations by my friends because the choice is so large it is impossible to narrow down.
However, there is something to be said of a hotel which has withstood the passing of time and remained the travelers choice for 30 years in a destination where so many flashy resorts keep opening up.
The Boathouse Phuket is such hotel and in this review I hope to give you a sense of my stay and the information you need to decide if it is the right place for you too.
After all my objective is always to give you the pros and cons of every hotel and why you should stay there, so you can pick the right one from the 5,000+ hotels in Phuket.Scroll down to the end for an awesome video of The Boathouse Phuket
How it all started, the origins of The Boathouse Phuket
The Boathouse Phuket opened in 1988 on Kata Beach by the hands of Phuket’s most famous hotelier and restaurateur, Mom Tri, owner of several other hotels and designer of a few other gems on the island.
At first, there was no hotel but just a beach restaurant serving local recipes with the freshest ingredients and some signature dishes that made it famous. It was a place to come enjoy a meal among friends.
With time, Mom Tri added rooms so that his friends could stay after the meal. The Boathouse Phuket hotel was born like that.
In 2010, Mom Tri sold the hotel and restaurant to Montara, another Thai hospitality brand who also manages Trisara. The hotel underwent renovations under Montana and was modernised while still keeping Mom Tri’s original roof structure and style.
HPL Hotels & Resorts bought The Boathouse Phuket in 2016 and closed the hotel down for eight months to undergo extensive upgrades and stay up to date with Phuket’s competitive environment.
Under HPL, The Boathouse Phuket has joined the Boutique Collection which has other properties like Casa del Mar Langkawi, where I stayed last summer. HPL Hotels & Resorts manages several other hospitalities brands like The Hard Rock Hotels brand in Penang, Pattaya and Bali, or the famously fabulous Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives.
Since I had a great stay at Casa del Mar, I was quite happy to work again with HPL Hotels & Resorts. But what really impressed me the most were some of the stories of long term employees (some of which have been at the hotel since the first day), and guests who keep coming back since the hotel opened, often times more than once a year and for an extended period of time.
What I was promised with The Boathouse Phuket was a friendly beach hotel right on the sand with maritime accents, fantastic food and wine and great service. Did it live up to expectations? Read more to find out.
Arrival at The Boathouse Phuket
My stay was organised by the hotel and I was picked up at the airport by their driver in a large and comfortable van.
The Boathouse is about 1h away from Phuket’s international airport and there was WiFi in the van to catch up on emails. I dozed off as I had got up at 5am to make my flight and by the time I opened my eyes we were already at the hotel.
As I got there quite early, most of the guests were still having breakfast and I was taken to the outside sofas by the beach to relax and enjoy a couple of canapes and a fresh coconut. That was the best welcome I could have had.
I only had to fill in a short check-in form and, when I was ready and fully relaxed by the warm sun rays quickly flooding the beach, I was shown to my oceanview suite.
The rooms at The Boathouse Phuket
I was not expecting the resort, and my room in particular, to be so close to the beach. Despite having been to Phuket many times, I never stayed so close to the sea that I could hear the waves at night, with the door closed. The Boathouse location is quite rare for its proximity to the ocean and the sand.
I counted it and there must have been around 35 steps to the sun loungers by the pool and less than 50 steps to sink your toes in the sand. It is hard to find anywhere else in Phuket that close to the beach. Check out this live Facebook Live video I did to see how long it took me to walk from the room to the beach.
But my room was not the only type. The Boathouse Phuket has a few room category levels, from the entry level Deluxe Rooms either with or without sea views, to the Hideaway Suite for honeymooners.
The Beachfront Rooms are on the ground level and directly in front of the jacuzzi within a few meters of the sea, although not all of them have sea views. Seaview Terrace Rooms have sea views, although those may be partially blocked by the beautiful tree that grows in the garden, and they come with their own private balcony.
If you are traveling with children or want something more spacious, the Junior Suites can accommodate an extra adult or two children.
I stayed at one of the five Ocean Suites which are right in front of the sea, have their own terrace and are located above the swimming pool. These are the newest rooms at the resort as they were added in the latest renovation of 2017 and were constructed where the spa used to be. With so much choice for cheap massages at the resort’s doorstep, it made no sense to keep the spa so these rooms were added instead.
Perhaps the most stunning of the regular rooms would be the Beachfront Suites, located right above the beach with unobstructed views of the sea from the second floor. They also come with large bathtubs.
If you are celebrating a special occasion, the Hideaway Suite is located above the Beachfront Suites but also comes with an additional terrace and an outdoor rain shower for extra romance. This is the preferred choice for honeymooners.
The highest category room is the Penthouse Suite which can accommodate larger families in the two bedrooms and comes with a living room and expansive sea views.
As the hotel is not very large, all rooms are relatively close to the facilities, the restaurant and the beach and you are never more than a few steps from the sand. All rooms are located along the beach or the u-shaped building surrounding the jacuzzi.
Since the hotel’s complete renovation in 2017 all rooms have been redesigned to stay even truer to the hotel’s origins as a famous fish restaurant right on the beach. The Boathouse emblematic Lana Style roof that Mom Tri designed has been maintained intact and stronger maritime and sea touches have been added to a refreshing design in light blue with dashes of bright orange.
The greenery of the many trees and plants growing around the property make you feel a bit like you are in the jungle and provide much needed shade.
Aside from the pleasing palette and the simple yet appealing design, the rooms at The Boathouse Phuket have incorporated a lot of basic yet incredibly useful and functional elements that made my stay much more comfortable and convenient. These are some really basic elements that many hotels lack and which are one of my travel pet peeves.
For example, there are plenty of plugs and electrical outlets even to charge all my electronics and, trust me, I travel with a lot of equipment that need to be charged constantly. The lighting in the room was adequate and there were reading lights on both sides of the bed. The blackout curtains kept the room dark even though the sun rises just after 6am in Phuket.
The internet signal was strong throughout the resort and I bet I know why so many tourists choose to put their towels on the public beach near The Boathouse since the signal was strong enough even to reach the sandy beach.
The closet area came with enough coat hangers and drawers to have my clothes neatly placed and there was an ironing board and iron ready. The shower had good pressure and the bathtub was big enough for two and came with a bathtub effervescent ball.
The AC unit was far enough from the bed that it did not blow in my face, one of the things that annoy me the most and which can literally ruin a place for me.
The biscuits provided in the room were delicious and constantly replenished and there was a bit of fresh milk for the complimentary coffee and tea.
Perhaps one of the only downsides I found in the rooms was the noise but that was aggravated by the fact that I visited during Thai New Year and the celebrations went well into the early hours of the morning. Not that it prevented me from sleeping but it did make me feel as if I was doing so in a club! On the other days, I slept hearing the sound of the waves instead, something I had never experienced in Phuket before.
The other downside is that this is a beach hotel and doing work is not what the rooms were designed for. I still managed to get a few things done as there is a table where all my electronics were charging and a chair to sit but it is not a desk. I bet I was the only one working!
The food at The Boathouse Phuket
The food and drinks are the star of the show at The Boathouse Phuket and the main draw for a weekend getaway. And this is precisely what my time at the hotel consisted of: food, drinks and sun.
1. Are you looking for a hotel with great (and reasonably priced) authentic Thai Food?
2. Do you like wine and enjoy learning more about new wines, perhaps chatting with the sommelier?
3. Are you looking for great Thai cooking classes?
4. What about a cocktail workshop with an expert mixologist that has created unique Thai-inspired cocktails?
If you said yes to any of the questions above, then The Boathouse Phuket is definitively the right hotel for you.
I am not saying that there aren’t other hotels in Phuket with great dining options, in fact a lot of the hotels and resorts have plenty of alternatives so you do not have to ever leave. There are also lots of cooking classes in Phuket many of which are great too.
But The Boathouse is one of the longest running restaurants in Phuket and its signature dishes are the reason for locals to come celebrate their special occasions by the beach.
The Boathouse cellar was the first in Phuket to be recognised by Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence and has been since 2006. The cellar has over 4,000 bottles from 17 countries and 600 labels. You can see a walk through the cellar in my live facebook video with the sommelier and Head of Food and Beverage below.
And since we are in Thailand, the cellar has a few local wine labels so you can try pairing the food with the uniquely Thai wines.
New latitude wines of Thailand (and other parts of Asia) are quite unique and not very similar to the Old or New World wines you may be used to but they do pair very well with the strong umami and spicy flavors of Thai food which don’t go so well with wines from Europe, the US or Australia. I visited both the wineries in the Khao Yai area 2h north of Bangkok as well as the wineries in Hua Hin, by the coast.
Pinyo, the Head of F&B, and the Sommelier, organises blind wine tastings with guests on request and there are regular monthly wine evenings with experts and ambassadors from wine labels from across the world. If you need a recommendation for your meal, they will be delighted to suggest. The blind testing session was incredibly fun.
The hotel has tasting notes and a booklet for you to fill in and guess the type of grape, the country and even the vintage. We tried two whites and two reds and I am happy to say I guessed half of them.
If wine is not your thing, there are cocktail classes where you can learn to prepare your favorite among the signature Thai drinks available on the menu. The mixologist has created a list of signature cocktails that can take up to 10 minutes to prepare and are made of dozens of ingredients and an equal amount of attention to detail.
What better way to round up your visit to the local Chalong Bay rum distillery than by learning how to prepare a unique Thai cocktail with it. The mixologist, Taz, has tested the rum with all the drinks and is able to suggest the best pairing. Interestingly, since the local Chalong Bay Rum is made with sugar cane and not molasses, it does not pair well with lots of common rum drinks but it does go fantastically, Taz promised, with mojitos and pina coladas.
Taz’s signature drinks were amazing and used all types of Thai ingredients from the ubiquitous lemongrass or Thai sweet basil to honeycomb, sesame seeds, edible flowers, young coconut, pineapple, etc. His cocktails are unique and cannot be found anywhere else.
It was not just the flavour that I loved, the presentation of each of the cocktails was incredible. Each drink had its own glass, presentation and touches and came to the table looking beautiful.
A cocktail class at sunset by the beach was one of the treats of this trip. As the sun was coming down and the beach was emptying from the day visitors, the usual Thai heat vanished and the warm light filled our glasses as we enjoyed the fruit of our efforts.
The Thai cooking class was another highlight of my visit. It was the morning of Songkran, Thai New Year, when we quickly sneaked passed the dozens of drenched people fighting with water guns to get to the local market. Executive Sous Chef Jimmy was with us and he gave us a tour of all the ingredients available at the market.
As I live in Asia and have been to Thailand multiple times, there was little that I had not seen before, but there were two British ladies with us that reminded me of the unique Thai and Asian items in the local markets.
We tasted the freshly cut mangoes which were in season, the local small pineapples, also in season, and smelled the many spices. I love markets and the small one in Phuket was no exception.
After the market we returned to the hotel to cook our own lunch following the instructions of the chef. We made some typical dishes like green chicken curry, pineapple fried rice and vermicelli prawn salad and even cooked our own dessert of water chestnut and coconut milk. Thankfully, following the chef’s instructions pretty much ensured that we did it all correctly and our dishes turned out delicious.
I loved that the cooking class takes place in the upper floor with lovely views over the beach and a specially designed kitchen where the chef demonstrated everything that needed to be done. It was a nice setting with peace and quiet and none of the disturbances of a working kitchen.
Before and After
We sat down to eat each of the dishes after we finished preparing them and eventually got a certificate of completion by the chef and a photo. The restaurant also gave us a pot of massaman curry paste to use back home to make the restaurant’s famous recipe.
What if you are not interested in any food or drinks-related activities? That is completely fine because you do not have to partake in any.
The Boathouse Phuket has a main restaurant of the same name which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner each with a different menu, and a pool bar that serves lunch and drinks. There is a lounge bar where you can enjoy drinks.
The pool bar serves a different menu to the main restaurant including more casual dishes like pad thai or international fare for when you are sitting by the pool and just want to indulge. They also have a very generous Happy Hour. You can totally enjoy your food and drinks by the pool.
If you like to venture out of the hotel to eat elsewhere, there are a couple of beach restaurants right next door and a plethora of bars and restaurants outside on the main road that crosses Kata Beach. Although sunsets at The Boathouse are amazing, there are a number of other sunset spots to watch the sun go down if you need a change.
The facilities at The Boathouse Phuket
Through the years I have stayed at a lot of hotels who took pride on having lots of activities and facilities for their guests. This is actually critical in private island hotels like Bawah Reserve or the resorts in the Maldives where guests have nowhere else to go. I hear a lot of people asking if they will get bored after spending a week at the Maldives.
That is not the case in Phuket. The island offers plenty of activities for anyone looking to stay busy. There are excursions on water, under water, on land, in the air, during the day and during the night. It is impossible not to find something you will like to do in Phuket.
The Boathouse chose not to compete with the affordable and readily available activity providers and focus on what it does best so the facilities on site are the ones you need and the rest you can find a stone’s throw.
The hotel does have a crescent shaped pool about a meter above the beach level and surrounded by a deck, sun loungers and sofas for every guest so there is no risk of all beds being occupied (although some guests do like to get up early and book them).
If you prefer the beach, you can simply walk the five steps down to the sand and put your hotel towel down.
For the gym bunnies, there is a fully equipped gym where you can exercise to your heart’s will. My very fit (and slightly gym-obsessed) boyfriend found it quite a good hotel gym (he likes to go check out gyms – professional hazard I call it).
The hotel no longer has its own spa but you can literally walk out and find a few for a fraction of what any hotel will charge. However, there is a frangipani-shaped jacuzzi for those more inclined to the benefits of water massages.
All the other activities available at the resort are food and drinks related and I have covered them above. If you would like to explore any of the popular attractions in Phuket, the hotel is happy to help make arrangements.
On this trip, I only visited the Chalong Bay Distillery which is about 15-20 min away by cab (use Grab, the Uber of Southeast Asia) but the central location of the resort is also a great place to base yourself if you are looking to explore the island as you are right between the parties in Patong and the quieter beaches of the north and Phuket Town is not too far either.
For those looking to fully enjoy the beach life that the hotel affords, everything is right on Kata Beach. You can go on a jet ski tour further down from the hotel or rent stand up paddle boards and snorkeling equipment at the beach stall right next to the hotel for a reasonable price ($10).
Snorkeling is one of the things I would recommend doing as the hotel is right by the rocky outcrop and there are lots of colorful fish around.
If you like to run, Kata Beach is particularly popular in the morning after sunrise when the rays have yet to come above the hills behind and the beach is still in the shade as it is 2,2 km long.
If you want to visit some of the islands near Phuket on a day trip, like the very popular Racha Island (where I stayed on another occasion) you can simply jump on the scheduled long-tail boat trips that set off every morning.
The service at The Boathouse Phuket
I found the team at The Boathouse Phuket very friendly and helpful. They were all ready to help us, be it to just to cross the very busy Kata Beach road or to put down a towel on our sunbeds. There was a sense of familiarity in their attention. It was laid back and it was easy going.
We walked the same corridor 100 times trying to take the right photo, we made the strangest requests, from extensions to floating candles and yet every time we were met with resourceful and willing faces.
I had been told to expect the same level of friendliness I experienced in Casa del Mar Langkawi and it was absolutely the case. The staff all worked in sync, all knew each other’s families and when each of them was off, many of them had been working for the hotel under all three management companies and always maintained the same philosophy. With the exception of the Malaysian General Manager and the Australian Head Chef, all the staff we met were local, from Phuket.
Value for money at The Boathouse Phuket
As I mentioned earlier, this was a hosted stay for me and my partner as we spent the time creating content for the brand and preparing this awesome video and photos to showcase the hotel.
However, I always find it essential to check the value for money of every place I stay as a lot of them fail on that department and I would never recommend a place that was a rip off, trust me, I have been there and did not enjoy feeling like a place was taking my money and not appreciating my business by giving me something worth it.
So I checked The Boathouse prices on the hotel’s website for the low and high season and found rates ranging from USD180 to USD250 in the low season for the first few categories of rooms up to the Ocean Suite I stayed at and between USD250 to USD400 in the high season. These prices did not include offers like 3 nights for the price of 2 or complimentary afternoon tea or dinner which the hotel runs frequently.
They also have a long stay rate where guests can enjoy 50% off if they are staying for a long time as many do. For these prices, I think the resort definitively delivers on its promise of a fantastic beach resort with friendly staff, great food and wine and a perfect location. And the many reviewers since the reopening confirm that with the vast majority giving it 5 stars and great reviews.
The Boathouse Phuket: The verdict
“They know that if something doesn’t work or they don’t like it they just need to tell us and we will fix it”, the F&B Director, Pinyo, told me when I asked about the recurring guests that keep coming back several times a year and have been doing so for decades.
The Boathouse Phuket has one of the highest repeat customer rates I have ever seen. In the month I was visiting 30% of the guests were repeat customers who had been at the hotel dozens of times before. Some of them were staying for a month or even more.
When I heard about it, as I was discussing my stay with HPL Group’s team, I wondered what kept guests coming back, as Phuket’s hotel offer continues to expand every month.
The formula is pretty simple: reliable value for money and familiar service, like visiting a friend.
The Boathouse Phuket has a few long serving staff members who know every single one of the repeat guests by name. When one of the longest guests was checking in, some of the staff came to work on their day off just to welcome him with his favorite whiskey.
During my stay I saw a lady in her 90s with her daughter, they both had been staying at the hotel for a month. This was their second visit in 6 months and the hotel staff treated them like family.
Elsewhere, by the pool, an elderly man in a wheelchair was being taken by the staff every day to the pool and back whenever he needed. He was alone, completely relying on the hotel staff to take care of him
But it is not just the retired guest group that The Boathouse attracts. I saw young long term customers of the restaurant have heated discussions with the Head Chef about whether the black coffee he served was what we call black coffee in the US or in Europe. There were local families celebrating Songkran at the restaurant every year and couples off their honeymoon leaving glowing reviews on TripAdvisor.
It does not have to be complicated to keep customers coming back. The Boathouse Phuket guests come to have a relaxed, sunny holiday where they know what to expect. Things work as they should, the staff is there to help with anything and there are no surprises. If something breaks or is not of their liking, they know it will be fixed.
Meeting expectations may seem like the most obvious element in hospitality but, as years of travelling have shown me, it is often the hardest thing to do.
Customers come with the wrong expectations. They are charged amounts that do not match what they are receiving. They love an element of the hotel but hate another one. They complain about slow or unhelpful service. Staff keeps changing and needs to be retrained over and over again. The soul of a hotel cannot be maintained with training materials and procedures.
Even with 5,500+ hotels in Phuket, customers keep returning to The Boathouse Phuket because it keeps delivering on expectations.
The market may have exploded and more choices are now available in Phuket but people still want the same level of service, great food and beach location as when they discovered Phuket in the 70s. Phuket is a holiday destination and The Boathouse a great address, even if you only have one day in Phuket.
If you’d like to read more about Phuket, check these posts…