I must admit we chose Sala Phuket with mixed emotions given the variety of trip advisor reviews. We choose the resort based on the contemporary and minimalist style and the fact that they had private pool villas which, as our first trip to Thailand and Phuket, we felt we should experience. I guess as a result of the TA reviews our expectations were reasonable but we weren't expecting a 5 star plus experience.
As our first trip to Thailand we decided to 'play it safe' and arrange airport taxis through the hotel (acknowledging there would be a slight premium - compared to ordering on arrival - but arranging from the UK would have been more expensive). We found the service to be excellent - clearly presented sign on arrival and quick trip in a luxury minivan was welcome after a long flight!
Upon arrival we were greeted by lovely check in staff (complete with welcome drink) and checking in took under 10 mins. We arrived at 11am and we were pleased to be shown straight to our room - a pool villa. I would advise looking at the personal travel photos on tripadvisor since, as others have mentioned, the website photos were taken at the right time of day and with the best lighting so it's looks better than in real life. That said, we found the rooms to be well appointed and private with ample amounts of space and, in my opinion, therefore great value and properly luxurious. Yes, they may need a bit of maintenance (it does have a few knocks here and there) and yes the doors don't close properly but they don't need to - it's hot outside and it doesn't impact the air conditioning! As I write this we are lounging by the pool in the villa and I don't have anything to fault really. Sure if you were looking for luxury branded wash basins etc then you won't find it here but we didn't find this to be a problem.
As a result first impressions were that expectations have been exceeded and we're thoroughly pleased we are staying here.
I thought I would summarise the positives and negatives as we see them. Note we stayed for 6 nights, on a half board package (and flew Malaysian Airlines from LHR via Kuala Lumpur).
- Decent sized Pool villa
- Overall style of the resort
- Bar/ restaurant area - really great place to chill
- Music in bar
- Staff/Service - everyone is so pleasant and attentive
- Location - nice and quiet and with a very long stretch of beach
- Food - really fantastic - especially on half board - best, consistent food we've had in a hotel for a long time
- choice of cocktails
- healthy smoothies
- wine list
- Spa - really good couples massage
- early checkin and late check out
- evening turn down service - a new tea every night, candle scent and anti mosqitoe measures in place (coil, electric in room)
- wine by the glass varies if a bottle has been open orif they are opening a new one - they don't use a vacuum system to keep a wine overnight so I felt that some of the wines were not as good.
- tiles in the villa - it's been said before, but they can get very slippy when wet
Comparisons with surrounding resorts:
We always feel compelled to check out surrounding resorts - we visited Renaissance, JW marriott and Anantara resorts as they were all within walking distance of each other - we didn't eat at any of these places but just wanted to get a feel for the resorts and ambience - here is my view:
1. Renaissance - impressive reception area and more landscaped gardens. Spa looked lovely and communal areas were in a similar contemporary style to Sala. Whilst the impression I got was that things are looked after better I imagine there is a reason for this - a) it has 3 times as many guests staying at it (but the resort is a fraction larger than Sala) b) it is part of the Marriott group so bigger budgets. That said, it does feel more corporate and less of a boutique hotel for me - I preferred the bar and pool areas of Sala and I can't see how you would beat the food or winelist at Sala so Sala wins for me. Staff were also a lot more disinterested - not one person said hello to us - upon walking back into the Sala property from the beach at least 3 people came up and said hi.
2. JW Marriott - not our cup of tea - this felt like a typical, corporate four star resort. I guess the benefit of that is you know what you're going to get (and maybe pay for?) - for us Sala wins hands down.
3. Anantara - still corporate but more impressive landscape (over a lagoon). Pool and bar area nothing special. The villas (we asked to be shown one) are nice enough, imitation traditional thai - so if that is what you after then you might be happy.
Overall, we've thoroughly enjoyed our stay here - it's a chic resort, with lovely staff and great food. If you want ocean front villas and pools then don't come here or this area as no one seems to be allowed to do this around here but come here with realistic expectations and you will be very happy - as we were. Price to quality ratio was perfect! Thanks to all at Sala.