The Most Magical Place on Earth
I’m going to let you in on Phuket’s best kept secret: Naka Yai Island, a magical piece of heaven off the coast. Before I very easily persuade you to visit this fairytale-like paradise, be advised that The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa is the sole, exclusive hotel on the island; it’s not quite the destination for party seekers, budget travelers or those looking to make young friends abroad.
Now, close your eyes and follow along this once(but hopefully twice)-in-a-lifetime experience. After a brief, 30-minute drive from Karon Beach, we arrived at the luxurious Ao Por Grand Marina Pier, sprinkled with lavish yachts and doused in sunshine. The flawless service began here. Staff enthusiastically greeted us by our first names, as if they’d been expecting us for ages. Within minutes, our private speedboat arrived, transporting us on a scenic 10-minute ride to the private island.
Naka Yai is surrounded by glistening, clear beaches and lush coconut groves, with seemingly boundless views of the stunning Phuket coastline. Purely enchanting. We pulled up to a boardwalk, where a golf cart awaited us, driven by a lovely associate who seemed to have already studied us, too: “Welcome to the best part of your honeymoon, Mr. and Mrs. Hiller!”
As we drove onto the island, we were instructed per tradition to each strike the wishing gong, receiving a welcome drink and fresh flowers thereafter. Our stunning villa was a few minutes away – a private, gated space with our very own garden, daybed and pool. The inside was airy and expansive, with large windows and vaulted ceilings. And most importantly, the personalized attention to detail was unsurpassed: a note from the general manager, “honeymoon” bed and prepared soaking tub in the open-air bathroom, for starters.
In the center of the resort, there’s a unique freshwater pool and tropical pond, which look out to the glistening ocean. And, beginning at 2 p.m. every day, free, homemade ice cream is served adjacent to the pool 😊.
The resort offers several activities, which we readily took advantage of (in addition to daily ice cream). On the beach, complimentary water sport equipment was available, including kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and windsurfs. We opted to kayak the entire perimeter of the island on the first day, which took about 1.5 hours (bring sunscreen!). You can rent bicycles and check out the small, local village beyond the resort, or you can partake in fitness classes.
We also participated in a Muay Thai boxing class in the outdoor pavilion, which seriously kicked my ass. The two trainers were incredibly informative (and patient with my lack of athletic skills), and we learned a lot about traditional Thai boxing.
In the evening, we planned pre-dinner sunset drinks at Z Bar, boasting a relaxed, island life-ambiance and exquisite views of the emerald green islands in the distance. Continuing the impeccable service, our bartender, whom we had never met before, greeted us by first name upon arrival. It was here I discovered my go-to cocktail for the next two days: The Vada Gimlet, a Thailand-inspired cocktail with lemongrass, Thai chili, basil and gin.
My husband, who doesn’t drink, had just as much fun selecting a beverage, given the extensive non-alcoholic menu. Tropical iced teas flavors ranged from lemongrass and honey, to basil and mint, and smoothies included the freshest fruit and local garden ingredients. The most refreshing (and our favorite) pressed juice was the Flush No More, made with watermelon juice and pieces, basil leaves and coconut water.
There are two restaurants on-premise for dinner: My Grill is an open-air, majestic beachside restaurant, focusing on fresh seafood and premier steaks – all prepared with a southern Thai twist. Tonsai has both indoor and outdoor seating with panoramic sea views, and offers a romantic, candlelit environment, serving authentic Thai food.
We dined at both between our two evenings and were equally impressed. Tonsai also serves breakfast in the mornings, and this is a high-class buffet you cannot miss. I’m talking mimosa bar with fresh squeezed juices, sushi (never too early!) and traditional western items. Even the selection of fruit jams was exquisite, using local fruits and honey.
On our last day, we were afforded a unique opportunity, thanks to Naka Island’s incredibly thoughtful and personalized service. In short, it rained on our wedding day in Boston. Fortunately, our wedding was exclusively indoors; unfortunately, we weren’t able to get outdoor pictures in the Public Garden we so desired. We’d previously decided that if it rained, we’d have the best night ever, and instead seek outdoor shots in Thailand, imagining a perfect beach background and colorful sunset. Naka provided that very setting, and by fate, we found our dream photographer (Daniel Baci), who also happened to be from Boston!
While Naka does not allow non-guests on the island, Event Manager Jay Nuntiwong made a wonderful exception, allowing the talented Daniel to work his magic. The team arranged transportation and even provided fresh flowers for the shoot. The next morning, we were all the buzz among staff, who had gotten a glimpse of our shoot through a staff-wide email.
On our final morning, the lovely colleague from our first day picked us up by golf cart – full circle. We struck the wishing gong one final time upon departure and headed onto our private speedboat toward the pier, where a car was waiting to take us to the Phuket Airport.
This was, by far, the most indulgent, romantic and relaxing experience we’ve ever experienced, taking personalized, effortless service to the next level. We still talk about going back to Phuket solely for a visit to our friends at The Naka Island (Hi, Jay!).