Not far from Phuket’s busy airport lies a retreat so serene and completely enveloped in lush greenery, with access to a deserted beach, that you would think you have been transported to a private island
Anantara Layan Phuket Resort is a 15- to 20-minute drive from Phuket International Airport – ideal in a world where time feels increasingly scarce and precious vacations need to begin as soon as one arrives at the destination.
After turning off the main road, one meanders down a quiet track and arrives through a lush tree-fringed avenue before sighting the Beach House, a stylish F&B enclave that is part of the resort. Another two minutes in the car brings one to the main reception, where a warm welcome awaits; three strikes on the gong signal your arrival.
I spent four nights in the Sala Pool Villa – one of 13 different accommodation categories offered in this resort.
Set across 220m2 of space, this villa features a decorated pond at the entrance, a hardwood sun deck with two sun lounges, a private lap pool, a traditional Thai sala (pavilion) where meals can be enjoyed, a landscaped outdoor shower area, and a spacious sleeping quarters with an equally spacious bathroom comprising two closets, two vanities, a calming bath corner (three complimentary bath salts and a scented oil burned ensure a proper wind-down), and a shower stall.
This set-up is ideal for couples, but also for when little ones tag along. There is enough space for my two little boys to sprawl out indoors (even with two extra beds added in) and outdoors. Furthermore, thanks to the functional layout of the pool and sala, we were able to have long hours in the pool that are interspersed with comfortable refreshment breaks.
I must also add that my unit, No. 22, enjoys possibly the best location on the resort. It is right next to the Beach House, giving me quick access to sustenance. The spa, gym and Chang Club (kids club) are all a stroll away – or a two-minute buggy ride when I am feeling particularly lazy.
Beach House opened in February 2022, and takes in Breeze restaurant and bar on the ground floor, overlooking an enormous pool and sun deck as well as Layan’s shoreline; Dee Plee on the second level, where breakfast is served followed by fine Thai dishes after; and Roof Top on the third, where cocktails can be enjoyed as the sun sets and the stars come out to play.
Breeze, just like its name, is breezy. It is open on three sides, allowing air to circulate well. The abundant use of wood and rattan set against a palette of white and grey is both comforting and stylish, and beyond the aesthetics lies an extensive menu with many options marked as wellness options and locally sourced.
During my stay, Breeze served both lunch and dinner across Thai and Italian cuisines because operations at Dee Plee was paused as it transitioned from a pop-up restaurant back to its usual lunch and dinner service. Dee Plee often hosts pop-up restaurants, and a showcase had just concluded before my arrival. Usual service at Dee Plee resumed on September 4, the day of my departure from the resort, and I was told that a new Thai concept restaurant is currently in the works, with a view to launch at the end of this year.
But back to Breeze – we had a beautiful North to South Thai dinner on September 1. It was a limited edition two-day-only collaboration between the chefs of Dee Plee and Bodhi Terrace (of Anantara Chiang Mai Resort), which featured six courses with eight dishes in all because the team was determined to spoil guests with two main dishes and two sweet endings. Highlights for me had to be the refreshing yaam som o puu nihm pomelo salad with crunchy soft shelled crab; larb nuea wagyu, a spicy Thai equivalent of steak tartare; choo-chee, a lobster curry on a bed of red rice; and coconut brûlée, where the rich custard was cradled in a young coconut half-shell.
The Italian meals at Breeze were also beyond satisfying, with far more interesting sharing plates and appetiser options than our bellies could stomach. We just have to stay on longer to eat our way through the menu next time.
Elsewhere on resort grounds is grill house Age and Cocoon for healthy beverages and small bites.
It is worth noting that the resort has given extra consideration to young guests, with an option of three healthy purees for toddlers and an extensive Thai and Western menu for those a little older.
Layan Active Zone, set amid Layan National Park and a 15-minute buggy ride from the heart of Anantara Layan, is my favourite facility during this stay. It is new, opened just January 2022, and packs in a 10.5m rock wall, an open-air gym with boxing ring, a free form pool that adjoins a kids water playground, tennis courts, archery lawn, and a well-equipped games room that will keep teenagers entertained for hours.
My eight-year-old was looking forward to the skate park, but some works were still being done to it.
I love that one could come empty-handed and enjoy all that Layan Active Zone has to offer. Muay Thai boxing gloves, hand wraps, shin guards, archery bows and arrows, tennis racquets and balls, skate boards, helmets, climbing gear are provided.
The shower facilities here are also well-equipped, so guests can easily transition from water play to dry activities throughout the day.
Beyond Layan Active Zone, Anantara Layan makes sure guests can be as occupied as they wished to. A series of free and supplementary activities is curated every month, with something to do from 07.30 to 16.30 daily. While I was there, I had the option of joining beach tennis, Thai boxing, a 10km trail run, rock climbing, mountain bike tour of Layan Soi, and many more. Wet weather back-ups are available too.
Young guests are not forgotten – there are arts and craft as well as fitness programmes at a supplementary charge, while Chang Club offers some complimentary options, like crafting bookmarks and notebooks, balloon art, and marshmallow toasting.
To escape the outdoors during downpours, head to the spa, where cannabis healing treatments are offered alongside the more familiar Thai stretches and and aromatic rituals. I enjoyed customising my session with my pick of massage oil and music. I made a mental note to treat myself to the in-villa Slumber Guru Experience the next time I return sans kids.
Attentive staff all around, and most have a superb memory – breakfast service staff remembered our villa number and that my husband and I preferred to start with cappuccinos, so much so we did not have to identify ourselves and place our orders after the first morning.
Anantara Layan is beautifully designed, and so very calming with its abundant landscaped greenery everywhere I turn. I could almost believe I was staying in the national botanic gardens. I was there right smack in the rainy season, but the rain only lent a mystical, rainforest vibe to resort surroundings. Despite the rain, I found many things to do and can only imagine how much more fun I could have during drier seasons. I have yet to enjoy the beach and water sports, or try the picnic baskets the resort can prepare for guests – these I will do next time.