Our quest to find the best kids’ club around may have ended: Rosewood Phuket is a haven for children and parents alike
If you’ve lived in Singapore for a while, chances are you’ve been to Phuket a time or ten. It’s a super quick plane ride away (just about 90 minutes); the beaches and weather are reliably fabulous; and there’s a huge range of accommodation to choose from. Funnily enough my husband and I had never been with our kids, but this changed earlier this month when we visited Rosewood Phuket, which has quickly shot up to the top of our daughter’s favorite hotels ever list.
Psst! Read on to find out about an exclusive perk just for Sassy Mama!
I first came across the property when writing about Asia’s best kids’ clubs last year; my colleague and I were blown away when we saw that the Rosewood has amenities like a sound garden and indoor ropes course. I’d had no idea Rosewood had a property in Thailand. I only knew the brand from the U.S.; coincidentally when I was a little girl I stayed at their very first property – The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, Texas – and to this day it stands out as one of the most special hotel stays of my life.
Positioning itself as a “distinctive collection of highly individual, luxurious, residential-style hotels inspired by the culture, history and geography of each locale,” Rosewood has recently made a huge push into Asia; Rosewood Phuket opened in 2017, and its newness and modernity definitely set it apart from many of the island’s more well-trodden locations. Our spectacular pool villa was one of just many reasons why we loved our stay; read on for more, mama!
As aforementioned, Phuket is a super quick flight away, with dozens of airline options available throughout the day. We left Singapore at 8:30am and were standing on the beach by 10:30am (local time). Located in the southwestern part of the island, Rosewood Phuket is a little over an hour’s drive from the airport, which is in the island’s northwest corner. The resort’s fairly central location makes it relatively convenient to everything; my husband played golf at the renowned Red Mountain Golf Club one afternoon, and on another night we ventured over to charming Phuket Old Town for dinner (due to heavy traffic, however, this took longer than we would have liked!).
The resort is also just about a five-minute drive from Patong, known for its beautiful beach, raucous nightlife and seedy underbelly. You’d never know it was so close by when you’re in the resort, though, and you have the convenience of amenities like ATMs, drugstores, shopping malls and restaurants all nearby, which you don’t always get with isolated luxury resorts.
It may be a super luxurious resort (more on that below), but Rosewood Phuket is also impressively kid-friendly. The Rosewood Explorers Club (aka the kids’ club) is easily the best I’ve ever seen – and I’ve been lucky to visit a lot! The first thing you notice is its massive outdoor space. There’s a huge pirate ship, a lovely garden (replete with child-size gardening tools like watering cans and mini rakes!), teepees constructed from natural materials, a sound garden (this was a huge hit – literally – with my 18-month-old toddler), and hive-like structures where kids can experiment with how sound travels. Within the teepees you’ll also find sandpits that work a treat for digging and sand-castle building (naturally the kids’ club provides all manner of buckets and spades).
As if this backyard of my dreams weren’t enough, then you go inside (after all it can get incredibly hot during the day – even with the sprinkler water fountains on the pirate ship!). There you discover an endless array of Hape wooden toys, a rope obstacle course, costumes for playing dress-up, musical instruments, children’s books about Thailand in a cosy reading corner, and a stage with puppets.
Incredibly I haven’t even gotten to the most impressive feature of all: art projects galore. Over the course of our four-day stay, Maggie made a batik print, painted an umbrella, constructed paper flowers, poured wax candles, and wove a scarf (ok, she had some help) on the children’s-sized weaving loom. Even Tad got in on the action by painting a little ceramic airplane.
Do you know what you won’t find in the kids’ club? Any kind of screen. True, there’s a Spotify playlist with Disney songs on heavy rotation, but nary a video game or computer screen in sight – absolutely everything is geared toward hands-on or imaginative play. Maggie literally spent five hours there one day – I went to pick her up for lunch but she was having too much fun with a new friend she’d made to want to leave, and informed me that I could order her lunch to have delivered there (that’s another cool feature – the “Rose Buds” children’s menu is available across all of the resort’s restaurants and in-room dining).
Who was I to argue? Yet another thing I loved about the kids’ club was its thoughtfully placed location. In my experience, many resorts like to stash their kids’ clubs in far corners of the resort away from other guests, which can make for a big hassle and time suck when you want to pick up or drop off your kids. At Rosewood Phuket, the kids’ club is a 2-minute walk from the pool and beach area, which made it super simple to pop by to check in on Maggie. It’s also located right next door to the beautiful fitness center (more on that below). I was able to drop off 18-month-old Tad for an hour of babysitting (at THB 350 / about S$15 per hour) while I got in a good workout. There were 3-4 staffers on site at all times, and they were absolutely wonderful with the kids.
Throw in a massive daily schedule of activities like kids’ yoga, shell gathering on the beach, Thai dance, and stick raft building, and I guarantee your kiddos will have an amazing time. Children from the age of 4 can be dropped off, and all of these activities are complimentary.
Every Rosewood resort is designed to evoke a residential feel, and sure enough I found myself wishing we could transport our elegant-yet-airy Two-Bedroom Pool Pavilion back with us to Singapore. With a kitchenette and dining area, spacious living room, and two ensuite bedrooms (each with its own fabulous outdoor tub and shower), we had plenty of space (253 square meters in total) for three adults and two kids. Our villa also had a nice poolside terrace overlooking the ocean – the kids ate most of their dinners out there, because why not? – and a pool large enough for Maggie to do mini laps. Of course we had to keep a close eye on our toddler, but with big sliding doors we never had any safety issues.
In terms of kid-friendliness, the resort provided child-sized bathrobes and slippers, along with baby-friendly toiletries. They also dropped off a high chair on our first day, and Tad had a wonderful crib to sleep in.
My only quibble with the rooms – and I’m really grasping at straws here – is that I would have liked a few more drawers for stashing away clothes. Fortunately there were lots of shelves in the massive bathroom where I could put the extras, but of course one of my toddler’s favorite games right now is “throw piles of clothes on the floor”. This was more than outweighed by our super comfortable stay, however. From Frette linens and towels to plush beds and bluetooth stereo speakers, we could have happily spent the whole trip in the room. I especially liked the layout, with the Master bedroom on one side, and the twin bedroom (which Maggie shared with my mother) on the other side – each able to be closed off with sliding pocket doors – and the living/dining area in the middle.
Comparable 1-Bedroom Pavilions (which really feel like villas) are 130 square meters each, and priced depending on their view – the hotel sits on a big hill overlooking the ocean so almost everything gets a glimpse of the water. If you want to go next-level luxe, the resort also offers a variety of beachfront villas in different one- and two-bedroom configurations.
I am definitely a beach person, so the resort’s beachfront location was a big draw for me. To my own surprise, I actually ended up spending most of my time in the mazelike swimming pool complex, which offered a fantastic set-up for families.
The beach was fine, though at low tide it was quite rocky. Most days, however, there were gentle waves and the water was clear (albeit with views of massive cruise ships parked just off shore across from Patong Beach). The beach is also public, so the resort doesn’t bother setting chairs up there, but rather puts them on a little bluff hidden just behind some trees. That said there are all manner of water sports, from kayaks to stand-up paddle boards, along with equipment to play beach sports like soccer and petanque.
The free-form pool, meanwhile, by my count had five or six different areas. We mainly hung out on the side near the kids’ club, where there were multiple shallow sections where my toddler could stand up and play with pool toys. Even in deeper parts, there were lots of little steps and ledges that he could hang onto and comfortably sit or stand on – always nice to give my tired arms a break! There were also intermediate sections where 4.5-year-old Maggie, who’s a good swimmer, could stand up and swim on her own while we watched from nearby. On the far side of the pool there’s a lap section and more isolated umbrella chairs where couples tended to hang out for more peace and quiet. On top of all this, of course, every room also has its own private splash pool.
We loved hanging out by the pool, then running into the ocean for the intermittent quick dip. Throw in the poolside restaurant Mai – and I’d estimate this is where we spent about 75% of our time during our stay.
As aforementioned, a handy aspect of the hotel’s location is that there are tons of restaurants located nearby in Patong, meaning you never have to feel trapped by exorbitantly overpriced resort food – or feel like you’re always ordering the same thing.
That said, Rosewood Phuket’s Thai restaurant, Ta Khai, was so fabulous that I could eat there every night for a month and not get sick of it. Located right on the beach with a killer ocean breeze and amazing outdoor ambience, it’s actually quite a popular Phuket restaurant in its own right. Both times that we dined there, I’d say the majority of the guests were from outside the hotel.
Translating to “fishing net”, Ta Khai is all about super fresh, seasonal seafood – they have their own pond right on site where you can choose your dinner along with how it’s prepared (you can never go wrong with chili and lemongrass, in my humble opinion). The restaurant also has an impressibly sizable garden filled with fresh herbs and other greens, many of which are of course incorporated into its dishes and cocktails alike.
Each day we had lunch at the poolside bar, Mai, which served up lighter fare like salads, sandwiches, and delectable ceviche. The kids happily munched on kid-friendly offerings like pizza, grilled chicken tenders, and even a gourmet peanut butter & jelly sandwich. Again, these were available at all of the resort’s restaurants, and from the in-room dining menu.
There is also an Italian restaurant, Red Sauce, which doubles as the breakfast buffet in the morning. I quite liked the additional a la carte menu options – everything from chocolate quinoa, to green juice, to açai bowls and classic waffles – and we all finished our bowls of pasta the night we dined there.
Rosewood Phuket has just 71 pavilions and villas spread across 43 verdant acres overlooking Emerald Bay, so it’s never going to feel like a mega-resort with endless activities (except for the kids, of course!). R&R is definitely the name of the game here, so unsurprisingly Asaya Spa is also a huge selling point (though to my great regret I wasn’t able to partake!). Located in its own building at the top of the hill, the spa offers a whole suite of wellness programs (beyond just massages and facials, you can work on your sleep habits, or try Life Force Healing Therapy, all in consult with top visiting international wellness practitioners). It also offers private Yoga, Meditation and Pilates instruction.
Further on the fitness front, the resort also offers a range of complimentary Yoga, Pilates, HIIT and bootcamp classes each morning. I didn’t get a chance to do any (was too busy chasing Tad around in the mornings), but I did enjoy the tricked out fitness center, which in addition to high-end treadmills, weights, kettlebells and all the usual suspects, also had items like the Skillmill (which I’ve only ever seen at Virgin Active) and a jump box.
One other thing I haven’t mentioned is the resort’s layout. It stretches along 600 meters of beachfront, then back up into the lush hillside. Most guests get around by golf cart buggy (which is how you’re transported down from the lobby upon arrival), but we were close enough to the restaurants, pool and kids’ club that we were able to walk in about five minutes (it was admittedly steep, however).
I loved how stroller-friendly everything was; we were road-testing the new lightweight ErgoBaby Metro stroller and it was great being able to pull right up to the kids’ club, or park it outside breakfast. (I noticed there were other families with strollers, too. I probably would have rolled my eyes had I been on my honeymoon, but this was just one more indication of how truly family-friendly Rosewood Phuket is.)
Yes, obviously. Admittedly, Rosewood Phuket isn’t cheap; rates over the next few months start from about S$700 per night (note that they do have a third night free offer on from now through October, though!). Plus, it’s worth bearing in mind that this is for a pool villa – not a standard hotel room – and includes daily breakfast and the complimentary kids’ club (which has better facilities than a lot of preschools!).
Besides the gorgeous accommodation and facilities, what truly stood out to me was the service. From the moment we arrived, our wonderful butler Annie was there to cater to our every whim, from picking Maggie up at the kids’ club, to making restaurant reservations and booking golf tee times, to thoughtfully bringing my mother and me stylish beach bags for toting all our hats and sunscreen. I was incredibly impressed by the responsiveness of the entire staff; one of our biggest pet peeves is when you go out in the morning and ask housekeeping to make up the room (because you’ll have to return at midday to put the baby down for his nap) and then they never show. At Rosewood they always arrived within minutes. The same went for the buggy service.
The staff at the poolside restaurant and bar, Mai, delighted in whipping up smoothies for Tad, or bringing him fresh bananas. The servers at Ta Khai patiently answered all our questions about the menu with a warm smile, and produced little wooden spoons and bowls for the kids to eat their meal.
And of course there were the women at the kids’ club, who on our last day presented Tad with a little “passport” commemorating the highlights of our visit, including beautiful hand-drawn illustrations. It was truly one of the sweetest, most thoughtful gestures I’d ever witnessed…until the morning of our departure, when they sent Annie to give the kids coloring books and their favorite wooden toys to play with on the plane!
There are hundreds – maybe thousands? – of resorts to choose from on Phuket, and I know that many of them have beautiful beaches and great pools. It’s hard to eat a bad meal in Thailand. But for a truly memorable and special stay that will stick with your kids, I don’t think you could go wrong with Rosewood Phuket.
Sassy Mama readers can get three free hours of babysitting at the Rosewood Explorers Kids’ Club during daytime hours (9am-6pm). Just mention Sassy Mama by email when making reservations or after booking. Limited to one child and must reserve 24 hours in advance; valid through 19 December 2019.