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Top 10 Phuket Hotels for 2020

Yes, it's 2020 and it's time for a new Top 10 Phuket Hotels blog post. Hopefully Phuket and world tourism in general will be re-opening in the next few months, let's hope the Covid-19 pandemic doesn't last forever ... There are 4 new entries compared to 2019. Last year's number 1 (Ayara Kamala) has disappeared - was ranked 12 on TripAdvisor at the time of writing, and so there is a new top hotel this year and a number 2 that was not on the list before. For each hotel listed you'll find a link to check online deals and availability with Agoda.com or Booking.com. The list is based on Tripadvisor rankings which of course may be imperfect and change all the time. Hotels get scores out of 10 on Agoda so you can compare reviews - on Agoda reviews can only be made by guests who have actually booked the hotel, so you can see if real hotel guests agree with TA ratings!

For sure the list is still subjective, your personal choice will depend on many factors, and you can search hotels easily on Agoda to try and find your Phuket hotel. It's a big place, Phuket. Take your time when looking for hotels, check the location on a map, read reviews, figure out if you want somewhere really quiet or close to lots of restaurants and bars. The right hotel is there, but you do have to do some digging! Happy Travels!

1. Avista Grande (Karon Beach)

Avista Grande

Avista Grande at Karon Beach leaped into the top 10 last year and now tops the list. The full name is Avista Grande Phuket Karon MGallery by Sofitel .. bit of a mouthful. Sofitel is a chain, part of the Accor group, with MGallery being a more boutique luxury style of hotel. I worked at Karon beach at the Sunrise Divers shop and we had a fair number of happy customers staying at this hotel.

Avista Grande - Information, Reviews & Booking

2. The Cove (Cape Panwa)

The Cove

The Cove is a smaller hotel (I think it has about 15 bungalows) which has been open for a few years and seems to have suddenly got very popular! It's located in the Cape Panwa area of Phuket which has long been one of my favourite areas miles away from the big beaches, but there are quite a few restaurants and plenty of local life. It's at Ao Yon beach, right by the sand.

The Cove - Information, Reviews & Booking

3. The Chava Resort (Surin Beach)

Chava Resort

The Chava was number 1 in 2016, number 2 last year and now number 3 - pretty consistent! Surin Beach always has something in the top 10! The Chava Resort has 2 - 5 room apartments (an "apartment resort"), some are run directly by the hotel, while some are privately rented. Rooms are really big, great for families and groups. It's a place with sea views, slightly up in the hills, not right on the sand but just few minutes walk from Surin beach.

Chava Resort - Information, Reviews & Booking

4. BYD Lofts (Patong Beach)

BYD Lofts

BYD Lofts has been in the top 5 for 6 years. If you want a room near the heart of Patong Beach, close to the action and in the middle of the busiest beach area in Thailand, BYD Lofts offers serviced apartments with the hotel featuring a rooftop pool (and a view over the rooftops and hotels of Patong). There are 1 or 2 bedroom apartments of various sizes. I rarely used to venture into Patong myself - not my style, but Patong beach is very convenient for visitors, with huge numbers of restaurants plus shops/the big Jungceylon Mall and tour agents near you. And bars and nightlife too.

BYD Lofts - Information, Reviews & Booking

5. Navatara (Rawai Beach)

Navatara

Navatara is another that remains popular - it has been at number 5 for 3 years running. Navatara opened in 2013, but with hotels opening all the time I'd not even heard of it until writing the top 10 list in 2016! Navatara has 37 rooms, built (I would say) "Thai style". Some rooms have pool access, and all rooms look pretty big. This is a smaller, Thai style resort away from the main beaches, but not too far - many people ask me to recommend a hotel like this or The Cove. Like many of the hotels on this list, it's not on the beach. Navatara is about 500m from Rawai beach and a few minutes drive from Nai Harn beach and Phromthep Cape. One of my favourite corners of Phuket.

Navatara - Information, Reviews & Booking

6. The Surin (Pansea Beach)

The Surin

The Surin (formerly called The Chedi) reopened with the new name about 10 years ago, but The Chedi had already been in Phuket for years, with it's uniquely excellent location on a semi-private beach between Surin and Bang Tao beaches in the north of Phuket. I'd like to stay here! Another resort that is a little bit remote but you can get to Surin or Bang Tao for restaurant options. Personally, I'd rent a car if I stayed here. And The Surin is not ridiculously expensive compared to the neighbour - the beach is shared with the very very fancy Amanpuri.

The Surin - Information, Reviews & Booking

7. Marina Phuket Hotel (Patong Beach)

Marina Phuket

Quite surprised to see a hotel like Marina Phuket Hotel in the top 10 - a block by the side of one of Patong's back roads, a fair walk to the beach, not really a pretty area, but it does seem to have a lot of good reviews on TA and on Agoda (see link below). And it does have a rooftop pool and bar/restaurant. And the price is pretty good.

Marina Phuket Hotel - Information, Reviews & Booking

8. Renaissance Phuket Resort (Mai Khao Beach)

Renaissance

Renaissance is one of several Marriott resorts north of Phuket Airport at Mai Khao Beach. Renaissance has been on this blog before as part of the Best Luxury Phuket Resorts list and was in the Top 10 Hotels for 2019, 2018 and 2017. Mai Khao beach is still really quiet and unless you stick to the various Marriott hotel restaurants you'll need transport or taxis to get to other places. Rent a car, explore, drive just a few minutes from here and you're over the bridge into Phang Nga province. Ideal for relaxation and a quiet base for exploring the greater Phuket area!

Renaissance - Information, Reviews & Booking

9. Kantary Bay (Cape Panwa)

Kantary Bay

Another hotel in the Cape Panwa area to the south of Phuket Town and a long way from the busy main west coast Phuket beaches. Kantary Bay is part of the Cape and Kantary group which have very nice hotels all over Thailand - the nearby Cape Panwa Hotel is also theirs. It's located right by the Phuket Aquarium on a quiet road with a few nearby restaurants and there are often lots of local food stalls on the roadside. Nice view across the bay, but there's not much beach there. The hotel cafe is apparently very good.

Kantary Bay - Information, Reviews & Booking

10. Chanalai Hillside Resort (Karon Beach)

Chanalai Hillside Resort

And another at Karon beach! There are several Chanalai resorts in Phuket (Garden, Hillside, Romantica, Flora) and all are in Kata or Karon. Note - if you stay at one of these, be sure if you book tours that you know which Chanalai you are at (I speak from experience booking people for dive trips!) Chanalai Hillside is .. you'd never guess, on the hillside - about 5 minutes walk to Karon beach.

Chanalai Hillside Resort - Information, Reviews & Booking


And that's the Top 10 hotels in Phuket 2020. Have you stayed at a hotel that's not listed, but you think it should be? Go and give it a big review and get it's TA ranking up! Phuket has been on the mainstream tourism route for 30+ years now, and there is a great mix of old and new resorts (hard to keep up with openings and re-brandings!), big hotels, guesthouses, villas, apartments, hillside, beachfront, busy areas, quiet areas. There really is something in Phuket for everyone!

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Thai Street Food - Phad Thai

Phad Thai is known as the "Thai National Dish" although let's be fair, it was declared as such by a military government in the 1930's .. based on commonly found fried noodles (Chinese style) but with that bit of Thai taste mixing sweet, sour, spicy together. Exact ingredients can vary and the taste can be anything from bland to spicy to a-bit-too-sweet. Every place you eat Phad Thai, it'll be slightly different.

Sometimes I ate Phad Thai by the street near my workplace (Sunrise Divers in Karon) - a big plate for 50 Baht, choose it with chicken or prawns, or I guess you could have it vegetarian. The stall that parks by the street is a kitchen on wheels - a sidecar kitchen attached to a moped.

Phad Thai - Street Food

That'll be a sidecar with a gas burner, gas bottle, a nice big wok, space to store all the ingredients (noodles, prawns, chicken, eggs, various sauces, beansprouts) and I have a feeling it would be not quite legal to drive back in my home country (England) .. which is one of 100 reasons why I did enjoy living in Thailand!

Phad Thai - Street Food

(above) My Phad Thai being cooked ...

Phad Thai - Street Food

(above) Phad Thai, ready to eat!

Related blog posts ...

The Phad Thai Shop in Karon
Pim's Kitchen in Karon
Phuket Restaurant Suggestions



Hiking to the Big Buddha from Karon Beach

Finally I have done this again! It was back in 2010 that I hiked up to the Phuket Big Buddha from Karon. A hike from nearly sea level up to nearly 400m above sea level. You can find the old blog post here. And since then I have always had the intention to do the hike again, but never found the right time, or just been too lazy. That blog page from 2010 is actually one of the most visited on Jamie's Phuket, and many people have asked me about doing the hike. I often point them in the direction of Steve at the Pineapple Guesthouse in Karon, because he has done the hike again since 2010! Recently Steve told me that the path is now much better, well marked with signs and so I figured it would be time to hike again. Start time was set for 7:30am on Sunday 25th March 2018 and I was joined by Steve, and Lana who is also a long time Phuket resident and runs the GoPhuket website. It was a beautiful high season morning - an early start is absolutely recommended if you don't want to suffer from heat exhaustion on the climb!

The start of the hike is easy. You just cross the road from Pineapple and walk up Patak Soi 14 next to Ice Family Tour. The first kilometer is on this road. Not a busy road. There are a few houses up here, some nice little places for rent and local houses. Easy to follow, not very steep, reaching about 100m above sea level when the road splits. And there is an obvious sign pointing the way.

Buddha Hike Signposts at first junction

So, there have been busy hands at work in Karon recently making this hike easier to follow. You can actually take the left or right road. I was following Steve's advice as he'd done the hike just the week before. We turned right, which leads to a steep path. The left route is longer, but not so steep and we planned to come down that way.

Buddha Hike Signpost

(above) I'd suggest turning right at this point. Only another 1.5km? Sounds easy! It gets steeper! After the right turn you need to keep left and a side road heads more steeply uphill less than 100m after the first right turn. And then a dirt track turns left again and things get steep. I'd carry some water with you, but you can buy water at the Buddha anyway. This hike is not super hard, but you will need to be reasonably fit.

Hike to Phuket Big Buddha - Dirt Path

(above) Start of the dirt track. Things start to climb pretty quickly. After less than 10 minutes we reached a point where the jungle opened up and we got some views back towards Karon beach.

Phuket Big Buddha Hike - View over Karon Beach

(above) Lana and the view after about 25 minutes walk. It's very green up here in the hills. You can see there are condominium developments further down the hill, but nothing once you get above 100m above sea level. I was sweating already, but the really steep walking was just about to start! In the next half kilometer we gained about 150m in altitude and it took about 20 minutes. The steepest sections have ropes to help you. And the ropes were needed! This new path is easy enough to follow, but it's not an easy hike!

Steep Path up to the Big Buddha

(above) On the steep section of the hike up to the Big Buddha. This was hard work for a little while. I'd not want to try in wet weather and was glad I did not wear my usual footwear (flip flops!) - running shoes or walking boots best although something like a decent pair of Teva sandals might be OK.

On the jungle hike to the Phuket Big Buddha

(above) Me and Steve on the way up. Several short breathers were needed. I mean, I am not too unfit these days and was not huffing and puffing too much, but it was very sweaty work!

Finally things flattened off a bit for a couple of hundred meters before the path came out onto the normal road up to the Big Buddha, which starts in Chalong. You could also simply hike up the road, but where's the fun in that! From the upper reaches of the road you get views across the sea with Karon beach way down below.

Road to the Big Buddha

(above) Easy walking for the last half kilometer along the road to the Big Buddha.

Big Buddha Entry Sign

(above) There has never been an entry fee to the Phuket Big Buddha, but there are a lot of donation boxes, and also stalls selling Buddha related items and you still have the chance to write your name on a piece of marble which may be used in construction of the surrounding buildings. A reminder on this sign above to dress modestly. If you have just hiked up in a vest you'll need a sarong or scarf to cover shoulders (Lana brought one with her). Shorts are OK, but please not swimwear or anything showing too much flesh. I last went up to the Buddha about a year ago and was pleased to see some changes. The steps going up look much better now and are being marbled and the viewpoint area looking east to Chalong Bay has been made nice (and the view is great of course!)

The Phuket Big Buddha

View east from the Big Buddha

(above) The Big Buddha and the view east over Chalong Bay. Steve, Lana and I have of course all visited the Big Buddha many times before, but we took a walk around for some photos and to enjoy the breeze which helped dry my sweat a bit! Nice to visit the Buddha early in the day when it's not so crowded and not so hot!

View looking north from the Big Buddha

(above) I have always loved the view north across the hills, along the "spine of Phuket". Up in the hills, Phuket is still so green. The name "Phuket" comes from the Malay word Bukit, which means hill.

View looking south from the Big Buddha

The view south (above) is also pretty great - you can see right down to the tip of Phuket at Phromthep Cape. More green hills. The developed area on the right side of the picture is along the back road behind Kata beach and heading towards Chalong. To the left is Chalong Bay heading down towards Rawai.

And then - time to walk back down again ... back down the road, but passing the steep path where we'd come up. The steeper sections of that would probably see me going down on my backside! If you walk further there's an elephant riding place / ATV place on the left and the path is signposted back to Kata / Karon.

Hiking down from the Big Buddha

(above) Me and Steve at the start of the path down again. There was plenty of easy walking, though the distance is further than the steep path on the way up.

Heading down from the Big Buddha

(above) Lana and Steve on a nice easy path on the way down. There are some steeper sections going down, especially one part with a slippery dirt path, but it's mostly easy going. I would add a couple more photos, but .. my phone battery died - I was taking photos, plus running 2 different apps to track the path (Strava and MapMyWalk) - I think having both of these using GPS plus all the photos drained the battery. I wanted to map the paths up and down. So it looks like I need to do this hike again! For now, you can find the map of the upward path on both Strava and MapMyWalk. For some good exercise, great views and to avoid paying a taxi I recommend hiking up to the Big Buddha!

You can download a .gpx file - download here - this can be imported into Google Earth (click on File > Import .. then choose the file you downloaded and make sure the file selection is set to "all files". Then you can see the path to the Big Buddha in Google Earth).

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