Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
What We Love
- Dedicated butlers to help guests design bespoke experiences
- Six dining venues, including one specializing in raw foods
- An extensive spa designed by the British wellness wizards at ESPA
What To Know
- The Beach Villas are considerably smaller than other room categories
- Transfers are available for a fee from the airport in Krabi or by boat from Phuket
- Pets are not allowed
- Free WiFi
- Kids Club
- Parking On Site
- Room Service
The first resort in Ritz-Carlton’s “Reserve” portfolio, Phulay Bay established a new standard of luxury in Thailand when it opened several years ago. Set amid the rugged limestone karsts along the Andaman Sea, with virgin rain forests and dramatic waterfalls nearby, the property sets out to be paradise on earth. Behind 20-foot aubergine-colored walls and “hedges” of native trees, 54 villas and pavilions are large and lavishly tricked out, with Thai silks, enormous bathtubs and verandas. There’s a strong emphasis on wellness here for guests who want it, with a lavish spa run by ESPA, full moon yoga, detox retreats, meditation and blessing ceremonies led by a Buddhist monk, and a raw-food restaurant.
In the Area
The resort encourages guests to enjoy the surrounding area with excursions—for adults and children—arranged by its activities center. The options include boat trips for snorkeling and beaching at the pristine Koh Hong; trekking in the forest; interacting with the resort’s three-year-old baby elephant; diving and snorkeling around one of Thailand’s biggest coral reefs near Bamboo Island; taking a one-hour (each way) cruise to Koh Phi Phi, one of the Andaman Sea’s most famous islands; or visiting the scenic wonders of the secluded Phang Nga Bay, which became famous as the setting of the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun.
How to Get There
First impressions were not great. The surrounding area is very run down and as we arrived at the hotel there was certainly no Wow factor. We have visited many 5 star hotels around the world and so will always compare. We approached the huge concrete purple walls and instead of feeling excited, an uncomfortable feeling set in. We had booked a Beach View Villa and were presented with a room with no view at all and very dark with trees. I was gutted as this was a surprise to my husband after 3 weeks of travelling around Thailand.
I felt slightly better after being shown the large pool area and fantastic view of Hong and surrounding islands. Everywhere looks a little tired and there was work happening at the hotel. The hotel was empty with only another few couples, mainly honeymooners and felt a bit soulless.
I decided I needed to speak to a manager as it wasn’t what I had expected, especially in comparison to the website photos.
We met with Daniel and he was very professional and understanding. We moved rooms to a Beach view Villa. It had a partial sea view and the resort doesn’t have access to a beach in front of the property which is slightly misleading.
The room was large and had an extra extra large bed, you could fit a football team in! There was a private pool but we asked for some sun beds as all the seating provided is in a lovely shaded area. We had privacy issues with this room, as there are no blinds in toilet and bath area and the hedges are not dense enough to not be seen !
Daniel helped to move us again and the next room had very cheap looking white shower curtains to solve the privacy problem. I hope they were a temporary solution as they looked very tacky. We were promised a Royal Villa the next day as we had wasted our first day at the resort being stressed and moving rooms.
I honestly would have left if it wasn’t for Daniels professionalism.
Another issue was in the spa, I booked in for some waxing and was quoted a price. After the treatment, which honestly wasn’t great. Nice girl but inexperienced. I was presented with a bill 600bahts more expensive than quoted ! I questioned it and it was changed immediately but this then put me off booking anything else. I really couldn’t face complaining again to Daniel, so just double checked my final bill at the end with Seed.
On a more positive note the breakfast and breakfast area were great and had the fabulous View ! The gym is very well equipped. The pool is huge ( with the view) and has good bar and dining area. The staff are lovely, especially Seed our butler and Daniel . We enjoyed the cocktails and sunset bar. We had a great trip out to Hong Island on the complimentary long tail boat. We met some lovely people as more guests turned up.
I can’t comment on the dinner restaurants as we headed out on an evening, as we didn’t want to dine in empty restaurants.
The Royal Villa (29) had an amazing view and private pool. Again no sunbathing area at the front ( you could possibly fit some decking at front of pool !? ) and no bath, apart from an outside one, which I thought strange for a suite. The dressing areas and shower area were great.
My issues are mainly with the design of the hotel and I suppose personal taste. It’s quite strange that you need to call a golf buggy to be escorted around. We mainly walked anyway. There are some cut through paths but these really need to be looked at from healthy and safety point of view. The path has large stepping stones on a grass verge not safe for children or older people. The purple concrete walls became less noticeable inside the resort as some had flowers and foliage on them, which looked better. All the rooms need to be looked at for function, privacy and purpose for all types of guests.
I’ve been as honest and as fair as I can with this review, as I don’t like leaving negative comments without good reason.
A lot of room for improvement for the price.
The villas are worthy of royalty, the grounds are meticulously manicured, the scenery is stunning, and the service is personalized. A few tips and highlights from our recent stay:
-Chef Vivek. We arrived with many allergies and dietary restrictions, but chef Vivek came out to greet us before each dinner and customized Thai dishes that could fit our diet.
-Butler Sam. She treated us like family at all times and was accessible by WhatsApp which was very convenient.
-The pool and the sunset bar are highlights of the property, do not miss them.
-Make sure to get to Hong island, they only go in the morning when it is quiet and almost private beach. By the afternoon the island is crowded so it’s best to stay on hotel grounds or explore elsewhere.
-The main pool area does not have hot tubs, but the spa has beautiful jacuzzis
that are immersed in a natural setting.
-The resort is very much open to its natural setting. This means that you may encounter birds, bugs, insects, and lizards around the property. This is part of the experience, and the hotel is very responsive in keeping your room clear of them.
-The reserve pavilion is the least expensive option it still felt regal. It had 3 private outdoor patios/lounge spaces and a massive bed made from multiple queen beds.
-The staff and butlers are very eager to personalize your vacation, cater to your interests, so please ask them to help!
An exclusive resort with a great pool, lovely rooms and excellent butler service. No beach though. The service at the restaurants and pool bar is inconsistent and average. MOST HORRIBLE EXPERIENCE AT THE SPA - BOTCHED UP OUR MASSAGE APPOINTMENTS TWICE AND EVENTUALLY WE NEVER ENDED UP GETTING A MASSAGE. LEFT US IN A HORRIBLE MOOD ON OUR LAST DAY HERE. WOULD NOT COME BACK ANYTIME SOON. Have certainly had better experiences in Thailand.