Luxury made local.
By Ashima Sethi
As Thai-Indians, many of us are well-travelled, and at this point in our lives have seen the best that many of the nation’s leading destinations have to offer, whether it be Hua Hin, Koh Samui, or even Phuket. We’ve grown familiar with their sprawling hotels, celebrated restaurants, and beach clubs, but what if I told you there was a slice of paradise off the coast of the Kingdom’s largest isle that is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before?
The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa is a retreat on a secluded island only five minutes by boat from Phuket’s Ao Po Grand Marina, which is located a convenient 30 minutes’ drive from Phuket Airport. The property is one of few in the Kingdom that is a part of The Luxury Collection, a subset of globally celebrated Marriott International, which comprises of some of the world’s most incredible hotels and resorts. Beyond unparalleled luxury, each property aims to act as a gateway to the world’s most desirable destinations, offering authentic experiences that reflect the locale’s cultural treasures.
The commitment to the culture of the island begins the moment you step off the speedboat onto the pier, framed by the island’s turquoise shores. Before being shuttled away to check-in, we were greeted by a member of the team who explained a local myth about the creation of the island by the much revered naka or divine serpent. The resort itself is believed to sit on the serpent’s body, right by its heart. And so were invited to hit a gong twice—once to announce our arrival to the spirit of the naka, and the second to make a wish. A ceremony that allows for a much-needed moment of introspection, paving the way for a retreat centered on total rejuvenation.
As we were driven across the resort, we were told that the property was built with total respect in mind for the island’s natural landscape, which explains why each building naturally curves with the impressive trees that have been here far longer than you and I have. After a quick check-in, we were escorted up a small hill towards our home-away-from-home. The resort is home to 23 deluxe rooms and 67 villas, each with all the amenities necessary for a relaxing getaway, but I wholeheartedly recommend booking one of their Seaview Pool Villas (you can request either sunset view or views over the stunning Phang Nga Bay).
The 450sqm villa is fitted with vaulted ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows that allow for vistas of the island’s verdure and the Andaman Sea. The entire villa is bathed in earth tones, natural wood furniture, and stone accents, all of which pay tribute to the natural splendour of the island. The main room boasts a canopy bed complete with 300-thread count linens, a flat screen television, and my favourite amenity, a sunken work desk with panoramic views of the glittering ocean.
Outside the main bedroom is a spacious outdoor area that comprises of a private pool, covered sala, and daybeds where you can unwind under the Phuket sun with an ice cold glass of rosé and a great book. Just a short walk over a stone pathway is an outdoor bathtub set amongst manicured lawns, which then leads to a spacious open-air bathroom with his-and-hers sinks, and a shower that doubles as your own personal steam room.
With the villa being so spectacular there were only a few things I knew would lure me outside, and one of them was the promise of fabulous cuisine. The resort is home to four outlets. The first we visited was Rum Chapel for lunch, a poolside venue adjacent to the beach that serves up cuisine from all over the world and a drinks menu with punchy signature cocktails (order the flower margarita, you won’t regret it). There were many standouts on the menu, but some favourites were the watermelon and tomato gazpacho (loved it so much, ordered it twice), the salmon bowl topped with a piquant mayonnaise, steak dressed in a herbaceous churrasco sauce, and their chocolate mousse.
Before heading to dinner, we visited Z Bar for more cocktails as the venue offers breath-taking sunset vistas. We settled onto one of the contemporary daybeds and enjoyed piña coladas before making our way to My Grill, the resort’s signature restaurant which puts focus on fresh seafood and premier imported meat. We were treated to a table in the sunken outdoor dining area surrounded by the pool where we enjoyed a plethora of dishes spanning starters, seafood stew, steaks and sides cooked to perfection, and a duo of desserts.
The next morning we enjoyed breakfast at Tonsai, just steps from the beach, before returning for a Southern Thai-inspired lunch that was very memorable. From the two varieties of namprik (one vegetarian and one shrimp-based) and the braised pork belly, to the seabass steamed in an aromatic soy and ginger broth, we really enjoyed all aspects of this meal as it was refreshing as Bangkok residents to savour delights from the South rather than the traditional Thai dishes we’ve become so accustomed to.
While speaking to Executive Chef Sandeep Kumar, he offered his insight about the approach to cuisine at the resort: “Because we are a 90-key property, we have the opportunity to put even more care into what we create for our guests. We have a range of cuisines, but in terms of the Thai food served here, we focus on dishes from Phuket as we want to highlight the local flavours. Similar applies to our other outlets, although our premium meat is from abroad, we try to focus on local seafood that we obtain from the fishermen in the area. We also want to cater to vegetarians by offering a vegan menu and plant-based menu, as well. Our team here recognises that guests who come to The Naka Island want to relax, and spend time together. Therefore we have curated several experiences I would recommend, ranging from sunset dinners to barbecues on the beach, in-villa picnics, wine tasting, and more.”
The resort is home to several picturesque venues that can provide the perfect backdrop for any celebration. Notable settings include their beach lawn, the open-air sala with a thatched roof, and two multipurpose areas adjacent to their uniquely-curved Sala Pool that can be transformed into meal settings. The most impressive, however, is the 1,600sqm Royal Horizon Pool Villa, which looks out from a hilltop over the emerald sea with stunning views of the world famous Phang Nga Bay and its limestone karsts. With sprawling indoor and outdoor spaces, the venue is ideal for couples looking to host intimate ceremonies that go from mandap to cocktail reception and even a sit-down dinner.
There is plenty to experience both at the resort and beyond. Onsite, there are two pools – the Sala Pool tucked away on a hillside and an infinity pool with views over the beach. The beach itself is an attraction as you can participate in water sports spanning paddle boarding, sailing, wind surfing, jet-skiing, and kayaking. However, if you prefer to sight-see on land, you can rent a bike and explore the rest of the island including its quaint fishing villages. Every week, the resort also hosts an array of activities including volleyball, boxing, yoga, and more. There are also a selection of in-villa experiences you can try, including a Mojito Tray where you can perfect the art of making mojitos; and a Beer Boat with five local brews that is floated in your villa pool.
If you’re looking to pamper mind, body, and soul, pay a visit to Spa Naka, an oasis complete with six treatment rooms that seamlessly blend indoor treatment facilities with outdoor gardens. Here, I had the pleasure of indulging in the Naka Indigenous Massage, a signature treatment that combines a massage with essential oils with a traditional Thai herbal compress, striking the perfect balance between scent and touch. Beyond the spa, the fitness centre boasts top-of-the-line equipment from Technogym, a private dressing area, steam room, and sauna, for all your pre and post-workout needs.
A Word With David Campbell, General Manager
What makes The Naka Island an attractive destination our readers should prioritise for their next holiday?
Although the ‘traditional’ Phuket vacation has been done many times before, a destination like The Naka Island promises a true escape. Although it is a convenient distance from the airport and only a short speedboat across from the marina, this is the destination one should visit if you are looking for exclusivity, privacy, and total relaxation.
What are some of the core pillars you believe in when it comes to running The Naka Island?
Our core pillars are in line with Marriott’s core values, one of which is: We Put People First, which centres on a dedication to our team and staff. We really believe that by taking care of our team, we can be successful in ensuring our guests are also taken care of. Another is: We Pursue Excellence, which is a commitment to superior customer service; We Embrace Change, which is about understanding the ever-changing needs of our customers; and We Act With Integrity and We Serve Our World, pillars centered on social responsibility and making a sustainable change in every destination we operate in.
Can you walk us through what makes The Naka Island a fitting destination for special events?
From birthdays to anniversaries, vow renewals, and even weddings, our resort offers several venues that can be adapted to suit any style of celebration. In the past, we have hosted weddings as small as six people to larger gatherings of upwards of 100, but regardless one of the biggest advantages of hosting your event with us is exclusivity. As we are on a secluded island, our settings are very intimate.
If you had to recommend three experiences for guests to put on their to-do list, what would they be?
I would say, a visit to Spa Naka; cycling to Tab Po Beach on the other side of the island to get a glimpse of the local culture; and of course, kayaking through the mangroves. The latter is an incredibly experience as you are fully immersed in the beauty of the forests.
THE NAKA ISLAND, A LUXURY COLLECTION RESORT & SPA, PHUKET