We landed in Bangkok feeling great! We had just wrapped up a fantastic stay at the world’s tallest hotel, and we flew not once, but twice, in Emirates First Class on the A380. We were in Bangkok to connect to a late night flight to Phuket. Once in Phuket, we would drive about 90 minutes north to the town of Khao Lak, famous not only as a beautiful site for tourists, but also for the destruction it endured in the tsunmai some time ago.
We arrived in Phuket close to midnight. We opted to rent a car in order to be able to drive around Khao Lak on our own. The JW Marriott Khao Lak has free parking as well. Renting a car turned out to be a good decision, but driving a car at 1AM on the wrong side of the road with a steering wheel on the wrong side while slightly jetlagged and without the windows properly defogging turned out to be an interesting experience, to say the least! Once we arrived, though, check-in was painless. Our initial impression was that it was a beautiful resort, but we didn’t explore that evening. We arrived at our room to find a towel elephant on our bed along with some fruit and chocolate, the platinum welcome.
Speaking of being platinum, there was this awesome letter that explained all the benefits we would get as Platinum members. I won’t go over them in detail, though, as the hotel has taken them away! My parents just finished a stay there, and they have informed me that Platinum members don’t even get free breakfast at the hotel anymore! That’s a shame. Although, toward the end of this review, I’ll explain why I don’t even think that matters.
Despite getting free breakfast, we were exhausted, and we decided to skip it on the first day in order to sleep in. We woke up around 10AM, the sun was shining, and we went for a stroll on the beach, which is right up against the resort.
And what a beautiful beach it is! The beach at the JW in Khao Lak really is one of the nicer beaches I have ever been to, including places like Grand Cayman, Krabi, and others. We found a chair, ordered a couple beers from the hotel, and relaxed for an hour or so before ordering some food. There are a lot of dining options on the resort. There’s a beach bar and grill. There’s a pool bar that serves food. There’s the Waterfront restaurant, a Japanese place, the breakfast buffet place, etc. According to the resort, there are 8 restaurants there. This is actually quite a lot, considering that while it’s a large resort, it isn’t THAT huge. We never had to wait at any of the restaurants, and we were there during high season. We planned on dining in town at other places during our trip mostly, but out of convenience, we figured we would start at the beach bar and grill. We got some egg rolls and ribs to share.
Delicious! The food was awesome, and it was also very reasonably priced. Of course, in Thailand, “reasonable” is relative. If you’re used to Southeast Asia prices, it will seem expensive. If you’re used to USA resorts, it will seem like a bargain. This ended up being the only lunch we ever ate at the resort. Actually, it was the only non-breakfast meal we had there in five nights at the resort. When you walk out to the beach, there are a plethora of local restaurants to both the right and the left. All of these places will serve up your standard Thai deliciousness at super low prices. There are also places to get massages. My wife got an hour massage every day we were there. After generous tipping, they come out to less than $20 a piece. It’s evident that the resort feels some pressure from these local establishments, as the spa staff would occassionally walk the pool area, offer free massages, pass out promotional discount cards, etc. Speaking of local facilities, there’s a restaurant right before the entrance of the JW resort parking area that does reasonably priced wash and fold. We came with lots of dirty laundry from Dubai, and we dropped it off for them to take care of it for us. Very convenient!
The JW Marriott is located a mile or so off the main road in Khao Lak. Most of the restaurants in town are on or just off that main street. We chose to have a car because I thought it would be fun to drive around, and it gave us flexibility to swing by the tailor multiple times, eat off resort every night, and not have to worry about getting taxis. That being said, don’t feel like you have to rent a car here. Taxis / tuk tuks are inexpensive and readily available.
As typical with Marriott Rewards stays, there was no suite upgrade waiting for us, but we spent 5,000 extra points per night in order to get a room with a porch that goes straight into the pool. The floorplan started with a hallway, bathroom on the right, closests on the left. At the end of the hall was our room, which had a comfy king size bed, a small couch, coffee table, desk, TV, and that was it. I did appreciate that the closet had a fridge in there. Not that the sodas were expensive at the resort, but I always prefer to buy a bunch of sodas at a local 7-Eleven when I’m on a trip so I can grab them in the room when I’m relaxing.
The bathroom was nice, with a separate tub and shower, his and her sinks, and a separate room for the toilet. All in all, it was a nice bathroom. We obviously weren’t expecting some palace of a suite, but after getting upgraded to such a great suite in Dubai, this wasn’t quite as cool.
Exiting the room through the balcony door led us to a couple lounge chairs and a table, with steps down into the pool. Neat!
About the pool… Marriott refers to it as the largest pool in all of Southeast Asia. Is this true? Well, I have no way of verifying that. There really is one main pool area in the front of the resort near the restaurants, spa, and the beach. Then there some smaller pool areas, which are stil quite large, and they are all connected by canals, making it one large pool. The resort is laid out such that all the rooms are built up around the pool, and there’s pretty much pool every where you turn. How much pool is there? Well it took me 38 to walk the ENTIRE thing. Don’t believe me? I videoed the whole thing. See below.
Yeah… this pool is huge. I enjoyed our direct entry to the pool, but it was such a long in-water hike to the main pool area that we often just walked over there to enter. There was a pool bar right near our room, which was super convenient. Also, my parents just returned from a trip to this same resort, and while they didn’t have a pool entry room, my mom said that there was a boat that would come around and serve drinks. Now THAT is cool! We never had that.
All the water you see in the above pictures is pool water. The pool is massive. It has multiple swim-up bars. There are rooms that lead directly into the pool. It really is fantastic. Add a beautiful beach into the mix, and then you really do have a bit of paradise. The only thing that would make this better would be an abundance of amazingly delicious, reasonably priced food nearby. Oh wait – this is Thailand. You’ve got that too. What more do you want when on vacation?
Speaking of food, it’s worth discussing breakfast. At the time we went, breakfast was a complimentary benefit for platinum members. My understanding is that this is no longer the case. I would recommend booking a rate with breakfast included, as this was one of the best hotel breakfasts I have ever had in my entire life. Crepes to order. Home made smoothies. Egg Station. Asian Food. Fresh fruits and cereals. Delicious pastries. Take a look…
Hungry? The JW has a fitness center to help you work off that breakfast binge.
I thought that for a resort, the gym was pretty substantial. There were a few treadmills, an assortment of weight machines, some free weights, exercise balls, etc.
And of course, the sun does set nightly in front of the pristine beach at the JW.
Okay, Mr. Marriott Rewards Member… Ready to book this paradise? Here’s my advice: don’t waste the points. When we went to the resort, it was a Category 6 hotel. It’s now Category 7.
At 35,000 points per night, that’s a LOT of points. Spending a lot of points makes sense when the hotel costs a lot of money. This hotel, on the other hand, does not. Even during high season, I have found rates that include breakfast for under $200 / night. It seems like the best rates can be found when booking way in advance or last minute. Maybe book a reservation with points to hold a reservation and then hope to get a better cash rate? Of course, “free” is “free.” There’s always something nice about booking a points reservation without having to spend real dollars. If you go this route, though, see if there’s some way to get breakfast included. “Free” doesn’t feel as good when you have to pay for breakfast, when just about everyone else at the resort gets it included with their rate.
Either way, this is a really awesome resort. There’s SO much to do in Khao Lak! You can eat amazing cuisine, tour the jungle, scuba dive, play with monkeys, and more. I really recommend a trip to this JW Marriott.