Natai Beach may have been quietly developing as a luxury under-the-radar enclave for a number of years, but the opening of Iniala Beach House in late 2013 finally brought its golden sands to a glittering global debut. Within mere months of opening, the 10-room boutique resort earned a spot on the ‘hot list’ of Conde Nast Traveller magazine plus a high-profile stay by the entire Kardashian family; the American reality TV stars and paparazzi darlings certainly raised its image.
Iniala commissioned 10 top designers to each execute their visions of beachside luxury in different rooms. Highlights include a sumptuously designed cinema room and colourful kids’ hotel facilities clearly inspired by such children’s dreams as exploring an enchanted forest or sailing a pirate ship. Iniala is an assuredly glamorous place, but it’s also generous, with 10% of all of its revenues going to the Inspirasia Foundation, a grant-funding philanthropic organisation that supports several projects around Asia. Also this August, it launched a campaign where 100% of revenues earned during the month would be donated to charitable causes.
The luxury Aleenta Phuket-Phang Nga Resort, meanwhile, has just completed an extensive makeover that adds a large sea-view pool with underwater ‘starlights’, a kids’ club, fitness centre, a boutique, and one of the most delightful and daring spas we’ve ever seen. Ayurah Spa features eight treatment rooms including a dreamy relaxation room with deluxe leather lounge chairs set around a large cylindrical jellyfish aquarium.
With its spa, fitness centre and healthy menu, Aleenta is sure to attract those seeking a wellness and renewal retreat, having already built its reputation as a romantic honeymoon and wedding escape destination. Aleenta is also set to double its room offerings with construction underway on 44 new one-bedroom pavilions, each with a private pool, on a land plot across the road.
A new resort on the Natai scene is Le Coral Hideaway Beyond, which will celebrate its grand opening this October. The 58-suite resort is set on the banks of a lagoon, just metres away from the beach, with a long swimming pool stretching across the front and spa featuring three treatment rooms. Among the nautically-themed rooms is the snazzy Prestige Pool Suite, which enjoys a separate living area and private sea-view pool.
Though Natai Beach may at first glance seem a sleepy seaside village, its dining scene is anything but, with some exciting menus emerging from both Aleenta Resort and Iniala Beach House. Iniala has brought in three-star Michelin Spanish chef Eneko Atxa to take charge of Aziamendi restaurant, resulting in a selection of tasting menus brimming with artful and inventive dishes. The restaurant reopens this November following Chef Eneko’s ‘100 Days in Malta’ trip that has brought a Mediterranean slant to Aziamendi’s fare.
Meanwhile, the ebullient Chef De Cuisine Alex Bitterling at Aleenta has developed a menu at The Edge restaurant that brings out the best in Thai cuisine using fresh local products wherever possible with some creative twists. His ‘Siam Fragrance’ dessert is a surprising and simply divine adaptation of the Thai classic mango and sticky rice dish.
Phuket’s headlands and hills are sprinkled with many private luxury villas, but here at Natai Beach, those looking to retreat to a tropical dream home can easily find one that sits right on the beach. We’ve visited a number of villas in Natai, and found two estates that have exceptional charm and design flair.
Sava Villas is a collection of seven villas, five of which sit on large beachfront lots. Designed by the award-winning Original Vision architects, these villas have a cool, open, and modern style. The villas’ long, white peak-roofed pavilions extending towards the sea evoke the feeling of a luxury yacht ready to set sail. All seven of these villas, ranging in size from four to six bedrooms, are available as holiday rentals.
Just up the road sits the Jivana Villa Estate with three grand six-bedroom villas set on enormous beachfront lots: Shanti, Jia and Ananda. Like the Sava villas, these are rented out to holidaymakers and feature their own in-house staff including a villa manager, personal chef and a concierge service. The black-tile swimming pools fronting each villa add dramatic panache to the lush tropical setting.
Not everyone has the desire or funds to stay in a splashy villa or resort, and now with the opening of CFun Cottages, more budget-minded travellers may rest their heads near the golden sands of Natai. Set a short walk away from the beach on the east side of the coastal road, CFun’s air-con and fan bungalows have rustic-style thatched roofs, and there’s a swimming pool, too. With prices at only about 1,000 baht a night, CFun is sure to be the bargain darling for Natai … for the next little while at least.
Iniala Beach House www.iniala.com
Aleenta Phuket – Phang Nga Resort www.aleenta.com/phuket
Le Coral Hideaway Beyond Phuket www.coralhideaway.com
Sava Villas and Jivana Villas www.luxuryvillasandhomes.com
CFun Cottages Tel: +66 81 1422767