Calm as you are
Naka Island, nestled in the emerald green of Phang Nga Bay and just 2.5 square kilometres in size, is perfect for those who love island hideaways but don't like long boat journeys. The island is home to a small village and the Naka Island Resort and Spa, and is only a five-minute speedboat ride from Phuket.
Once at the resort, sandy pathways lead to private villas with Thai-style roofs and open-air bathrooms. Many have their own plunge pools. The architecture distinguishes the place from the many wooden-hut resorts and beach huts nearby. Six villas have built-in steam and sauna rooms.
The Royal Horizon pool villa is 17,200 sq ft with a surrounding infinity pool and a 180-degree view of Phuket to the left and Phang Nga Bay to the right. The 67-villa resort is well-equipped for weddings. The grounds have plenty of walkways, or guests can be chauffeured in a golf buggy - although it's a lot more fun to ride a bicycle.
Visitors may spot a few touches from the resort's past life as a detox spa, such as the 'do not disturb' signs and sunken open-air baths, which are big enough for two. The colour scheme is turquoise and brown. There are soft seating areas by windows with large cushions, and leaning mats by the sunken desk and in the outdoor spaces. The beds are heavily padded, which might bother some people. Navigating the light switches can be frustrating, although it's good to have the choice of air conditioning or a ceiling fan.
Naka Island is predominantly Muslim, so pork is not served at the resort. There's a balanced range of local and international foods (such as home-made pizza, tagines, lasagne and salads), and a good children's menu with healthy options.
The restaurant Tonsai serves Thai and Western dishes for breakfast - the pastries are fresh and the bread is fantastic. It's worth enjoying a meal by the infinity pool, which is surrounded by a lily pond and has a sea view. Z-Bar is the best spot for a sunset drink. It's on the far side of the resort, overlooking the water. The best cocktail is Crossword Muscle - a Long Island ice tea with sour tamarind juice and a dash of sweet Grand Marnier. For the peckish, the 'tapas' menu comprises Asian snacks such as oriental tartare of tuna, all colourfully served with tasty, fresh ingredients.
Come sundown, My Grill serves southern Thai-influenced barbecue, including Phuket lobster, marinated with coriander root cream, chilli and lime sauce. On request, the chefs can prepare in-villa dining or a picnic for a beach excursion.
Laced with lily ponds, Spa Naka is almost a village itself. There are seven single and three double treatment rooms, outdoor steam beds, a Watsu pool, sauna, and steam and ice rooms. The entrance to the Chinese spa area is through a neat bamboo garden, where one room houses a traditional table for ayurvedic treatments.
Guests are also offered a complimentary 30-minute welcome massage and treatments include Thai, Indian and Mediterranean massage. This ranges from traditional 60-minute experiences to 180-minute Unique Spa Journeys, along with baths, body scrubs and waxing and nail care. Comfort Zone is the product of choice, but fresh herbs and local products can be requested. After dusk the outdoor lighting is atmospheric.
If resort life is too slow for you, there's a well-equipped gym overlooking the beach. Scheduled activities for children and adults are mostly free. These include stretch, muay Thai, and takraw - a popular Southeast Asian game that blends volleyball, football and kung fu. A curry class is held in the underground Cuisine Cave and your 'experience guide' can arrange lessons in kayaking, windsurfing and sailing.
The Naka Culture walk is a good introduction to local life. The guides know hidden spots and demonstrate care for the environment. Mountain bikes are available for access to the hidden beach past the Muslim village, which is also home to chickens, ducks, goats and cats.
The resort is convenient, family friendly and self-sufficient. There's plenty to do for those who can't sit still for long.
32 Moo 5, Tambol Paklok, Amphur Thalang, Naka Yai Island, Phuket, Thailand
Tel: + 66 76 371 400
Being there Grand opening packages are offered until end of March, 2012. Starting at 9,000 baht (HK$2,270), they include a breakfast buffet for two and return speedboat transfers to Phuket.
Fly direct from Hong Kong with Dragonair, Thai Airways or Air Asia.
Airport collection includes a private car to Ao Po Mariner pier. A private speedboat takes five minutes to Naka.