Banyan Tree Phuket Spa Sanctuary is an exclusive, adults-only section of the sprawling Banyan Tree Phuket resort. Occupying prime position between Bang Tao Beach and the resort's lagoon the sanctuary is a 30-minute drive from Phuket International Airport.
Separate to the main resort, the 12-villa retreat is a private zone dedicated to wellness and relaxation. With lagoon or garden views each 550-square metre villa has its own 11.5-metre lap pool, massage pavilion for two, outdoor Jacuzzi, day beds, gardens and lawn areas. The word private "estate" comes to mind.
The rest of the resort, with its 135 luxury villas, 18-hole golf course, bars and restaurants, tennis courts, gym and day spa is a short buggy ride away. The three-kilometre sweep of beach, one of the most pristine on the coast, is behind the property – it is there, you just can't see it.
Within minutes of entering my villa I decide wild horses couldn't drag me away. From the king-size bedroom pavilion, which appears to float above a lily pond, to the spacious lounge, with its traditional Thai architecture and decor, everything is designed to induce maximum bliss. And the best part? You don't have to leave for anything. The spa comes to you, in the form of unlimited 60-minute in-villa massages (apparently four in one day is the record). Breakfast, which is included and can be ordered 24 hours, comes to you. So too, a "morning delight", an in-house phrase for a 15-minute neck and shoulder massage. In case you're not relaxed enough there's also complimentary morning yoga in the Orchard Garden (or for a fee yoga can be organised in-villa) and a wellness consultant to make sure it all runs smoothly.
Everything is bright and breezy with floor-to-ceiling glass walls affording views over your pool and garden. The bathroom has twin basins, an outdoor bath, a shower that doubles as a steam room and a dressing area with plenty of wardrobe space. There is a coffee machine, but in the interests of good health, the mini-bar is devoid of alcohol (a small detail that caused momentary panic until I discovered that wine, spirits and cocktails could be ordered via room service).
Personal touches, such as a pillow and sheet menu, a choice of teas, a nightly turn-down service with a small gift or amenities pack, and the option to choose what time you want your villa serviced, are elements that elevate this retreat above others.
While the in-villa breakfast serves up healthy options such as egg-white omelette and homemade Bircher muesli, there's also a Thai-style menu or a traditional full cooked breakfast. Meals can be delivered around the clock or the main resort has any number of restaurants, including Banyan Tree's signature Thai restaurant Saffron. One day I signed up for a Thai cooking class, on another I lounged in my villa while a chef cooked a private seafood barbecue. The poolside pageant included Phuket lobster, tiger prawns in garlic, and sea bass with lemon grass, all accompanied by three Thai salads and finished with mango sticky rice (THB 9500 or about $385 a couple).
Each afternoon, guests enjoy a complimentary high tea served in the lobby. It became my habit to fill a small plate with a mix of healthy and not-so-healthy treats, and trot them back to my villa.
Complimentary bikes make it easy to explore the gardens or surrounding neighbourhood. The beach is a five-minute walk or short buggy ride and staff are there to hand out cold flannels or to take meal orders. Private boat charters or tours to Phang Nga Bay, Phi Phi Island or the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary can be arranged. Phuket Old Town is a 45-minute drive away.
Banyan Tree Phuket Spa Sanctuary has perfected the fine art of relaxation and wellness, without being pushy or precious about it. It's the kind of place that will have you daydreaming of returning again and again … and never wanting to leave.
Unlimited in-villa massages. Need I say more?
The outdoor bathtub looks lovely, but a sudden tropical downpour sent this reviewer scurrying.
Kerry van der Jagt was a guest of Banyan Tree Phuket Spa Sanctuary.