As long time Marriott business travelers, we stayed at the JW Marriott Phuket rather than one of the more local hotels when we visited in June. The resort is out of the way from much of Phuket, but if relaxing is what you are after, it’s just perfect! Of the 6 full days we had there, we took advantage of 3 to enjoy the pool, beach, spa and the beach massages. Where else in the world can you get an hour of Thai massage on the beach for $12 (400 Baht)? The hotel was beautiful - especially the pools! There were three pools -- each with a different feel. If you picked your spot correctly, you could find a place with enough breeze and shade to offset the heat – all the while being less than 10 steps from the pool.
The resort is on Mai Khao beach. The drop off is a little steep and the water was fairly rough, so it wasn’t great for swimming, but was really pretty. It was really great to get a beach towel and sit down on the beach for sunset. That was also a great time to play in the waves along the edge of the water! There are 3 massage huts in front of the hotel on the beach. Massages were 400 Baht for an hour. When the huts filled up, some of the therapists moved out onto the beach. Early afternoon was busiest, so it was more relaxing to go earlier or later. One note – if you are a woman in a swimsuit, you will have to pull the top down so they can work on your back. Yes, there are a couple of moments you feel exposed, but the relaxation soon compensates! Something about getting a massage with the breeze blowing and the sound of waves in the background is just wonderful!
Beds were very comfy and pillows were decent. However, the temp was a little hard to control in the room and it was often a bit warm. Our room had 2 full size beds. Showers had good water pressure. Bottled water and fruit were provided in the room and were restocked regularly. We were welcomed with flower garlands, and little stuffed turtles were often left in the room at turndown. Rooms and Bathrooms were nice and decent sized. The bathroom had a separate tub and shower. There were plantation shutters between the bathroom and the bedroom, so it’s not as private as you might like. At times, the water from the tap is a little red looking – we stuck with the bottled water they provided for drinking purposes. We had a small balcony overlooking one of the pools. It was large enough for 2 chairs and a small table, but that’s about it. Mosquito coils for the balcony were replaced regularly – but we didn’t really have any issues. There was a little relaxation / meditation area in the room. Would have made a great place to read a book on a rainy day, but we got lucky and didn’t need it. Robes, Slippers, safes, hair dryers and ironing boards were provided in the room. In room coffee was good, this was the one place we found French press coffee. 2-3 kinds of tea were also available. Internet in the room was terribly expensive (>$20US / Day) so we found alternatives.
There is not a Concierge Lounge at this property. Platinum members were given 2 breakfasts in the Marriott Café daily instead. WaterAll ice in the resort is filtered. Water served in all the restaurants is bottled. All fruits and veggies served on property are washed in safe water. We had no issues with anything we were served on property – including salads.
Breakfast in the Marriott Cafe
Buffet breakfast in the restaurant was wonderful! Service was ok. Oddly, we got better service the busier they were. You had the option of sitting indoors or out, and we thoroughly enjoyed both. If you sit outside, you do have to watch out for the birds. There was a fresh juice/smoothie station, eggs to order, meats, veggies, local options, fruits, cheeses, cereals, yogurts and a waffle / pancake / French toast station with really nice toppings! One tip on the waffle, etc. station – get what’s coming off the griddle hot while you are standing there -- very little stayed hot on the warmers. All of the items were very well labeled, so you knew what you were trying (if you wanted to know). The highlight had to have been the baked goods. The bakery does all kinds of breads, pastries, muffins and such --- and they were just wonderful. If I were paying for breakfast at ~20 US / person, I’d have been a little annoyed, based on the service. But the food was quite good and included for us, so we enjoyed it. Hours were 6:30 – 11. If you ate a late breakfast, it wasn’t necessary to have lunch!
Cucina – Italian Restaurant
We tried the Italian place on our first night. We’d hoped to use one of Marriott’s Dinner for 2 Certificates so that we could enjoy some of the more expensive items on the menu a little more cheaply. These should give you 2 appetizers, 2 salads, 2 entrees, 2 desserts, non-alcoholic beverages, tax and tip for the price you paid for the certificate (no out of pocket on site). The staff said they took these, but when our bill came, it was obvious that they didn’t understand the intent and wouldn’t let us use it that way. We basically got buy one get one on each course --- but lost our certificate that we paid $109 for and still had a $80 bill. These certificates are great for many places, but I was really disappointed that they didn’t understand them. I would have been happier if they’d just told me they didn’t accept them. The food was definitely good, and service was nice, but the whole experience got our week off to a very rocky start. This was how I’d hoped to keep expenses down in the restaurants – so after this experience, we looked elsewhere as much as possible. We did stop in one night to do a take-away pizza. It was good – not phenomenal, but better than average for this part of the world. They deliver their pizza around the resort in case the urge hits you.
Here they do food all day. They have sandwiches, pastas, etc., at reasonable prices for the property. They have a small market with take away beverages and a few groceries. When we found that beer here was 80 baht vs. 150 in the bars, we started stocking our mini-bar. Sodas and other beverages were also cheaper through the deli. The pastries are the stars here as well --- they have so many wonderful things! One thing we found -- pastries are ½ price after 9:30 PM. We took advantage of this the night before we left as our flight was too early to have breakfast at the hotel.
The property is away from most everything. There is a transportation desk that can arrange most anything. Can’t comment on the cost, as we prearranged our own and didn’t use this option. Additionally, a bit down the road toward Turtle Village, there is a stand of local taxis. It might be worth checking their prices as well if you are going to be exploring and in need of transport.
Turtle Village / Area
About a 5 minute walk from the property is a new shopping center called Turtle Village. There is a Bill Bentley Pub, a Coffee Club (breakfast, sandwiches, light meals, and a full bar), a Swenson’s Ice Cream and a small handful of little shops. All appeared to be fixed price. The hotel runs a golf cart shuttle when you want to go, but it’s not very far. It is possible to stay on the sidewalk (and out of traffic) the entire way there and back. There are security guards around, so walking at night wasn’t an issue. Prices are much cheaper than you’d find in the hotel, but more than you’d pay if you get away from the Marriott.
We spent many evenings at Bill Bentley’s pub. The staff was wonderful! They did happy hour from 5-7. Mixed drinks (but not the specialty ones) were 2 for 1. A pint of Heineken was 100 Baht. Their food options covered the full range. Thai options were good, bar appetizers were nice (we really liked the satays and the onion rings), pastas were good (especially the carbonara) and the burgers rocked. The other plus was that they had free wireless internet. You could easily do dinner for 2 for 400-500 Baht (excluding drinks).
I took advantage of a $250 Marriott Spa Certificate I had been given to enjoy the Mandara Spa. Overall, it was a wonderful experience. I did the Oriental Retreat – a 4 hour afternoon of relaxation. The Luk Prakob massage used hot compresses followed by an oil massage, and has to be one of the best massages I have ever received! After those 2 hours, it felt as if time had stopped! My foot massage and facial were nice as well. Couple of things if you are going to use a gift certificate there: The prices in the spa do not include the 7% tax and 10% service charge that will be added – if you plan accordingly, you can avoid sticker shock. My certificate was for $250US or 125 Pounds Sterling. When they calculated using Sterling, I asked them to rerun it using dollars since the exchange rate between the two is no longer 2 to 1.
Overall, service was very good. Everyone you saw spoke to you and was friendly. We were always greeted with a smile. English was VERY common in the hotel. Housekeeping was great -- Room was serviced twice a day. In general, you got just what you asked for – but nothing was proactive. Front desk was always happy to exchange money for smaller Thai bills – which was really helpful on the days that we had many small entrance fees and such. In the morning as people were waiting for pickups, there were always staff members in the lobby to make sure your transportation arrived.
Sawarat at the front desk did an amazing job. We had a number of gift cards we applied to our bill at checkout. She patiently worked through the exchange rates to make sure we got the most possible out of each card. We really appreciated her attitude!
Pool / Pool Bars
There were 3 pools on property. All are tiled and great places to enjoy the day! The staff serves complimentary ice water and fresh fruit, as well as bringing cool towels while you are enjoying the pools.
North Pool – This one was closest to our room. Generally, it was very quiet. The free form layout creates pockets of privacy around the pool area. This was probably the easiest place to get shade. However, since it’s set back between two buildings, it doesn’t get the best breezes on hot days.
Main Pool – Always the most crowded. This one has a children’s area, a slide, and more space for swimming laps. Generally, the only shade here is from the umbrellas, which seemed to be busy most of the day. It’s fun, but busy.
Blue Pool – Also a relatively quiet option – but there was definitely more going on here. The free form style of the pool meant there were lots of little semi-private spaces. There’s a waterfall and swim up bar here, and it’s the deepest of the pools. Decent shade from both trees and umbrellas. The lounge chairs overlooking the front of the pool area had the best breezes, and you could be in the pool in no time – but these tend to fill up fast!
Menus were the same across pools if you wanted food / beverages. Service was good, and relatively quick. By the time we got to Phuket, we were ready for food that was a little more familiar – the burgers and salads were very good at the pool. Overall, mixed drinks at the pool or the pool bars were a little light on the alcohol. Happy Hour at the main pool bar was from 5-6:30 and from 5-7 at the Blue Bar. Beverages were ½ price. There were books and magazines available at the towel desk at the pools, as well as a collection of books you could swap in the health club. However, while we were there, the options in English were a little limited.
There are a number of shops onsite with various souvenir items. Also, on certain nights, there are vendors that come in with some other items – pearls, hand painted china, etc. There is an ATM on property near the shops.
Donations at Check Out / Expenses
The hotel sponsors a fund to help the Sea Turtles. Your room will automatically be charged 40 baht per night for this cause unless you request otherwise. Anything and everything you get at the hotel is subject to 7% tax and 10% service charge, which makes the bills grow quite quickly!
Regardless of the bumps along the way, it was a wonderful week. I’d definitely go back!
Just a comment on the local tax drivers - They run a cartel!
They all charge about 2000 thb for a return trip with a 3 hour waitover. That may be OK if 3 hours if good enough for you. If you want more time they charge extra by the hour, and that can be a very expensive night (oe day) out.
They will not do one way trips-they will not allow 'outside' cabs onto the resort.
That means that youhave a one mile walk to and from the highway to hail a passing cab, and a one mile walk back, when the return cab drops you off.