I’ve become a little picky about where we stay when we visit the Thai beaches. Part of this is a direct result of our stay in some luxury villas in Koh Samui. That experience was fabulous and hard to replicate. Some of it also revolves around our recent vacation to Ao Nang, Thailand, which was no vacation at all, and ended in a bout of food poisoning. Even as travel bloggers, we want to make the most of the time we spend at the beach. That is why I was so happy to have found a fab Khao Lak resort, which ticked off all of the boxes for a perfect Thai beach stay.
The JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort Beach
Within minutes of arriving at the JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort, our bathing suits were on. We wanted to make the most of our late afternoon arrival to explore the property before dark. This is not that much different from any other time we’ve stayed at a beach resort. The difference here: we explored the resort via water. Bathing suits on, no shoes.
We had a pool access room, which meant that we were two steps away from an enormous pool, over two kilometers long, which snaked across the entire resort, in front of our room, past two swim up bars, and pretty much up to the beach. We jumped in and started to explore, ultimately ending up at the edge of the pool with a view of the beach. We returned back to our room amazed at how far we swam without even making it all the way around. But, happy hour drinks were calling.
One of the two swim up bars was within a direct line of sight from our patio. It was easy to jump into the pool, swim on over, and swim on up, to enjoy happy hour our first night. Nothing makes me feel like I am truly living the resort life than a swim up bar, especially when we were traveling with our fellow travel blogger friends, Chris and Angela of Tieland to Thailand.
After a couple of cocktails and a quick shower, we made our way out to the beach for the first time. It was just before sunset and the beach was gorgeous. Wide sandy beaches and a beautiful sunset every night. I knew immediately that I was happy with our Thai beach choice this time.
This was how much of our next few days unfolded, and it’s exactly how a holiday at a Khao Lak resort should be. After a buffet breakfast, we sat on the beach for hours. We enjoyed the twelve and older area of the beach, perfect for childless couples who don’t want sand kicked up around them. (I loved this!) We listened to the sound of the waves and actually relaxed, something we didn’t do much of during our recent visit to Ao Nang.
After lunch, we swam in the pool. At happy hour we enjoyed a cocktail (or two) while waiting for sunset. Our happy hour escapades changed based on our mood, either the swim up bar near our room, or the swim up bar near the beach, or at the landed beach front bar. Toes in the sand. Cherries in the cocktails. Or, mangos in the mango mint mojitos. All while enjoying the wide beach, and the view of no other resorts, as far as the eye can see.
Want to know what it’s like to drink cocktails during a beach front happy hour, in a pool? Check out our video of sunset cocktails in Khao Lak:
Dining at a Khao Lak Resort
We’ve stayed in a lot of Marriott properties over the last year or so, but most of them are in big cities. In the past, I’ve been hesitant to stay at big chain beach resorts, for a lot of reasons. One is obviously cost, as we do look for hotels that offer a good value. The other is that I don’t like to feel hemmed in by the boundaries of the resort. I don’t like to feel as though I need to eat all of my meals at the resort, which can not only be costly, but also can keep us from trying the local food.
When deciding whether to stay in Khao Lak, or at any hotel near the beach, I always do a Google Maps search of the property. Then, I zoom in and look for restaurants and bars nearby, within walking distance. Before arriving at the JW Marriott Khao Lak, I knew there were some local Thai seafood restaurants and bars, not only walking distance, but also right on the beach.
As much as I was happy to have the local beach front Thai food nearby, we only ate one meal away from our Khao Lak resort. The breakfast buffet was enormous, and went until 11 am, so we often ate a big, late breakfast. As a result, our lunches were light, and even eaten once at the swim up pool bar, so we didn’t need to even change out of our bathing suits for lunch.
There were loads of options for dinner as well. Each night, they offer a themed option at the buffet at Waterfront, but I generally prefer sit down options during beach holidays.
Ta-Krai offers regional Thai cuisine, and Thai cooking classes. Our table, of four people who live in Thailand, can certainly vouch for the authenticity of the Thai cuisine. We had a lovely Japanese meal at Sakura, where we received a front row seat for teppanyaki. And, I enjoyed a round of creamy buratta at Olive, the Mediterranean restaurant.
The best part of our dining experience, though, was getting to know Chef Jai, and his bubbling personality. I know that we met Chef Jai because we are food travel writers. But, if you are staying at the JW Marriott Khao Lak, and see Chef Jai running around the property, say hi. He was so pleasant to speak with, and loves chatting with anyone who is passionate about food. It is his passion that shows through the cuisine in all of the restaurants he oversees.
But, the best part about Chef Jai: the attention he gave us during our beach front BBQ.
Romantic BBQ on The Beach
One of the most unique experience we had while at our luxury Khao Lak resort, was a romantic BBQ on the beach. Now, the word romantic should be used lightly, as we enjoyed our romantic dinner as part of a romantic foursome with Chris and Angela.
So, romantic it might not have been, but a luxury dining experience it certainly was. Chef Jai and his team prepared a fabulous meal for us, again toes in the sand, listening to the waves lap the beach. Mood lighting, sunset views. It was all amazing.
Chef Jai arranged a somewhat mediterranean theme for us, knowing how much we love Italian food. An enormous platter of prosciutto and burrata cheese. What followed was an overly generous platter of steak, fish, and prawns that left none of us hungry. It was all prepared on a grill just feet from our beach front table.
At the end of our meal, our server brought out a couple of Chinese lanterns for us. He lit them, we held them high, and as we released them into the dark sky, we were told to think good wishes. And, I did.
Check out our little video about our sunset BBQ on Khao Lak Beach, on our Instagram page.
Quan Spa at a Khao Lak Resort
On our last full day in Khao Lak, we enjoyed a couples massage at the Quan Spa. Living in Bangkok, we are fortunate enough to go for massages on a regular basis. We are generally fans of the traditional Thai massage, which involves something more like wrestling than a traditional massage. More often, I find myself popping into our favorite spa in Bangkok for a dreamy foot massage.
But, I haven’t been getting as many massages as I would like recently, because I’ve been having some back problems. Doctor’s orders were: No Thai Massages. There’s just too much pulling and pushing and twisting for my lower spine.
I was a little nervous entering Quan Spa, set just off the Khao Lak beach front. I did not want to aggravate my back, and wanted to make sure I spoke to the massage therapist ahead of time. I know the prudent thing to do would be to just not get a massage, but this is Thailand!
We booked the 90 minute fusion massage, which advertised a combination of Thai, Balinese, and Hawaiian techniques. But, my therapist spoke great English, understood the issue, and accommodated me every step of the way! No Thai massage techniques that shaped me into a pretzel. She even gave me a pillow under my knees when I laid on my back, to avoid stress on my lower spine.
I’m not surprised with the treatment. We had a great luxury spa treatment in India too, also at the JW Marriott’s Quan Spa. It was the perfect way to spend our last day at the beach.
The result: Yes, I am picky about where I stay when visiting the Thai beaches. But, the JW Khao Lak Resort offers a great location, a great pool, tasty cuisine, fabulous service, and all at a great value. Rooms when we stayed in April started at only $120!
Check out our YouTube video about our stay at the JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort!
We were hosted by the JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort, but all views are my own. I truly would return to this resort in a heartbeat!
Heading to Phuket?
What to do in Phuket: Go for a Thai yoga massage!
Find more Thai food tips in our Southeast Asia food travel guide.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.