I have found Arinara Bangtao Beach Resort on Tripadvisor and decided to book our family vacation with them after reading all the reviews here. At that time (March 21) there were only 9 reviews in English that I could fully understand - giving them fairly 80% thumbs up and ranking #163 among all hotels/resorts in Phuket (I always note the hotel's ranking on Tripadvisor on my tour plan, just FYI). There was a little bit of anxious from my family due to the hotel's low ranking, but as a person working in travel agency, I believed that 9 reviews were just not enough. So, I made the decision.
Here is my review based objectively on my experiences and observations at the resort:
BOOKING PROCESS: I have booked directly with the resort by sending them an inquiry email. Their response was quick (maximum 24 hours waiting), polite, professional and the offer was good too. I felt quite safe with the 50% deposit and an Official Credit card authorization form. Note: you do have to provide a copy of your credit card (both side) but it's OK to blank some of the important numbers out such as the CVV.
LOCATION: The resort is about 22.8 km from Phuket International Airport (as per Google Maps - I'm sorry I couldn't verify myself) and it took us about 35 mins by minivan in a no-traffic condition. I have arranged the transportation myself at the cost of 1,400 THB for 2 ways, both pick-up and drop-off.
The resort is situated on the beach of Bangtao, in a quiet area that's very different from Patong. The resort itself is nicely embedded in lush surroundings which provides a pleasant ambiance and privacy. For those who want hotels nested side-by-side, this place is not for you. There are several 4-5* resorts nearby such as Outrigger Laguna, Sunwing, etc stretching on a 3 km of soft, white sand and beautiful beach.
To find shopping center and nightlife entertainment, you could take a "taxi" to Phuket Town or Patong (about 18 km from the resort). Taxi here is not a normal cab, but more likely a private car that will cost you 700 THB/way to Patong. There's a taxi station right in front of the resort's main entrance and I think the price is fair. Drivers speak a little bit of English so you may ask the receptionist to help you with the directions and bargaining. It's difficult to find a tuk-tuk here as it's low season and all the tuk-tuks stay in a more crowded area like Patong or Kata or Karon. I suggest you take a car or tuk-tuk to go around (not motorbike) as the road is up and down and there are quite many dangerous turns from Bangtao to Patong. We Vietnamese are very confident with the motorbike but still, I think it's better be safe than sorry.
There are 1 mini-mart INSIDE the resort and 2 others nearby. The one inside the resort actually belongs to the resort owner's family. In case of urgent need, you can knock the door even if it's closed but the price is quite high. The one outside is just about 30m across the street but often closed at 8pm - 9pm due to low season. The other one opened quite late until 10pm but you have to walk around the corner, about 200m. There you can find a tuk-tuk too because if they are to drop someone at Bangtao beach, they will gather in front of that Family Minimart to wait for the return customers. The mini-mart sells alcohol, wine, beer, spirits and mixes, grocery items, fruit, foods and snacks, toiletries, souvenirs and clothes. We bought a Leo beer for 59 baht and a freeze cocktail for 39 baht, other soft drink is from 15 - 25 baht per bottle.
There is also a pharmacy in that area and several good restaurants including Thai style Emmy's restaurant, Rico's and Mamma Mia Grill (both are recommended for steak!)
ARRIVAL/RECEPTION: The lobby is open-air, round shape with wooden floor in a quite classic Thai style and has a pleasant feel to it. When we arrived, there were some painting in process with 2 workers standing on the scaffold so it was not a good first impression. However, the welcome drink was quite a surprise! Very nice and tasty cold fruit juice. We still didn't get what kind of juice it was. One missing thing is the cold tower to welcome the guests. After a long journey from the airport under hot weather we could use some of that coolness. The reception had very friendly staff and speaking fairly good English. Typical for Thai and South East Asia in general. Concierge were quick to collect our bags and the receptionist show us to our room himself. Front desk staffs were also informative, giving useful information regarding where to go, what to eat. The only information I would like to correct for them is about "Bangtao night market" which is more likely an "evening market" - from 4:30pm to 8:30pm (during low season). It happens every Monday and Thursday on the road side at about 4-5km from Arinara resort. Don't walk there! The road is dark and dangerous. It's a boring and long long walk if you still want to try. We arrived at the "night market" at 8:00pm and most of the stalls were closed, the rest were on the process. Still be able to grab some local foods/fruits/snacks and it was brilliant! Locals are very polite, softly spoken and very helpful.
ROOM: We had booked 2 Deluxe rooms and upon arrival were upgraded to Deluxe Pool view. The rooms were on 2nd floor with balconies overlooking the pool. All the buildings had 3 floors with elevator located at the very beginning of each wing. The room was very spacious and clean with marble floors, wooden furniture, simple yet bright decor, TWO huge beds (yes, it is two) in separated sections with TWO separated AC that you could easily turn it into 2 rooms in case you travel with kids. There was also a big & comfy lazy sofa that could be used as a bed too. The sliding door leading out to the balcony spanned the room with a thick, heavy curtain which functioned very well at keeping the room dark (it spanned from end to end without gaps). The balcony had a wooden clothes horse, two chairs and a small table. Beds were comfy and the pillows were perfect. One set of pillows was soft and another was firm so it's up to you to choose your preferred type.
Room had fridge and two free bottles of water each day, but no minibar. The empty fridge was actually a good thing for us as we bought our own beer and alcohol and stocked up without having to pay inflated hotel prices (again, there is a mini-mart on the lobby level that sells snacks, beer and amenities at reasonable prices.. slightly marked up from local shops)
Lighting in the room was adequate with your typical range of lights (bedside, door entrance, working table light) The fridge was typical size and could accommodate about 12 beer bottles, 4-6 soft drink cans and room in the door with a small Freezer section. The fridge worked well.
Other in-room amenities such as cups and spoons, coffee and tea, kettle, safe, hair-dryer, umbrella are also available. TV is an old model and quite small but there were variety of international channels and I even watched a live match Portugal vs Ghana during World Cup. Also as it is a beach resort, I supposed there should be flip flop for guest to use in-house, right? Another strange thing is that telephone cannot call room to room!
The bathroom is small in comparison with other 4* resorts I have stayed and had no bathtub. The shower is fixed on the wall so you will have to calculate your exact position if you only want to wash you feet! Hot water and water pressure is good though. There should be a curtain to prevent the water from shower splashing out. I must say stepping onto wet marble is hazardous and on one occasion I was lucky enough to regain my balance without doing a back flip. Basic bathroom amenities were available but as many other Thai hotels, you will have to bring your own tooth brush and toothpaste. Clean towels were provided everyday and they also had special red towel for the beach.
Housekeeping were very prompt and accommodating providing extra towels or toilet paper on demand. Housekeeping staffs were very friendly and helpful, every time we saw them it's always with a smile and that great sound of Thai's greetings "Sawadee kha". Two bottles of water were provided regularly every day. Could not fault housekeeping then. Great job.
POOL: definitely the highlight of the resort! The pool is in good size, about 1.2m depth with 4 separated sections arranged like a terrace paddy field. There's kid pool with safety fence around and also a short water slide for juniors (I have tried it several times and it's quite fun for me - I'm not junior though). For those wanting to use the pool access rooms, there are two types: "Pool access Pool view" and "Pool access Garden view". For both rooms, you don't really have the "pool access" though. It is a small sharing laguna/plunge pool in front of your room. If you stay in Pool access Pool view and you want to go to the main pool, you will have to pass your own laguna and then the courtyard. It's worse with the Pool access Garden view, you will have to go all the way out of your room and to the back to get to the main pool. The pool surrounds were kept very clean and plenty of lounge chairs.
The only one downside about the pool is the pool bar. We had some bad experiences with the cocktail quality, the service attitude and the Happy hour confusion (another story).
Overall, the pool itself was faultless, clean and great for enjoyment.
BREAKFAST: Breakfast was buffet style. The staff were always friendly and courteous. On the negative side, they often had to be asked for coffee and top-ups as this task was allocated to a single staff, who was with the coffee pot on his right hand and tea pot on his left hand (yes, I did pay attention to details). And this is low (World Cup) season - imagine when it's high or peak season. Cutlery was clean and the seating was well provided for. You can choose the inside seating with air-conditioner or 2 outside terraces with fans. I haven't tried the terrace but it seems nice for a cool day - not a good idea for sunny or windy day.
Food wise, there was an egg station with a very kind chef (with a smile all-the-time) that served Omelette, Scrambled eggs, sunny side, boiled eggs, ham and bacon. Breakfast was standard. There was - from left to right - a salad section, a pastry/bread section, a main section, a fruit and juice section and a cereals section. Salad and pastry section were quite limited and not variety in options. One good thing was they had both pancake and Crêpe with many topping options (chocolate sauce, honey, 2 jams, icing, coconut powder, etc). The main section usually had soup, fried noodles, fried rices, chicken, a potato dish, steamed fish and sausages. The fruit and juice section consisted of 3 cut fruit (typically papaya, pineapple and watermelon), fruit salad, yogurt (1 plain sugar-free and 1 with fruits), 3 juices (typically three of either orange, mango, guava, apple or pineapple) and cold water. Eggs were always well made, the other areas were average with a little catering to vegetarians.
There was an incident with a staff when I was trying to ask him to fill up my coffee cup (politely) and that gave us a little bit of disappointment with the service. I had sent a handwriting feedback to the managers of the resort about this particular experience and it was well-noted and took action upon by the GM. I truly appreciated that.
Let's say I would give the overall performance of the breakfast as average when compared to most 4* hotels (6 out of 10).
BAR: When it came to the bar, I usually check only two things: the cocktail and the Happy hour. And this time, it was a problem! The first day we were at Arinara, without paying attention to any poster along the way to our room, we didn't get the time for Happy hour at all the bars. So, there we were at the pool and approaching the pool bar for some chilling cocktails. I asked a staff behind the counter if it was Happy hour. He said "It finished. Happy hour from 4pm - 6pm" and pointing at the sign on the bar. Having trouble carrying a watch while swimming, I asked him again with a smile "What time is it then?" And he was funny enough to respond "6.01". We ordered 3 cocktails and 1 milkshake anyway. I have to say those 3 cocktails were the worst cocktail I've ever had. Ever! The bartender (a lady) was called to the front bar after we made our decision to order the cocktails. She mixed some juices, liqueur, ice, etc in to an old PLASTIC glass while kept turning to another staff at the back asking for something. I got the feeling that she didn't know how to make one of the cocktail and had to ask her colleague for the recipe. So here we go, one Margarita, one Tequila sunrise and one Arinara Paradise and none of those was up to 4* cocktail standard.
The next day we decided to try another bar - the Drift beach bar and we missed another Happy hour. We came to the bar at 6:30 from the beach, keeping in mind that Happy hour is from 4-6pm. Again, I was so wrong. At Drift bar, the Happy hour is 5pm - 7pm but the not-very-nice part was that when we ordered one cocktail, the staff didn't bother to tell us we were still entitled to have "buy 1 get 1".
However, the cocktail at Drift bar was much better! Mr. Eak at the Drift bar had proved himself a pro bartender and made it up for the cocktail quality that we suffered the day before.
ROOM SERVICE / RESTAURANT (LUNCH-DINNER) / SPA: No comment as we did not patronize any of those services. We made our decision to eat outside because every time we came to the reception to ask for restaurant suggestion and recommendation, the staff always told us "Outrigger Laguna for sunset dinner/ Surin beach for fresh seafood / Rico's for steak" etc. They have never recommended us their own restaurants. I used to work as a Front desk agent in a Sheraton, and it's a strict rule that we give our own restaurants the priority! But to be frank, all their recommendations worked like a charm. We were very happy with those restaurants (another story, I will review at the restaurant's page).
OVERALL: Room, pool & beach were the highlights. Some staffs were amazing: Johnny at the Reception, Mr. Pong at the breakfast, Eak at the Drift bar and the others were friendly and courteous enough. The rest was a little bit above average for a 4* resort. Arinara has the potential to be REALLY impressive if they fixed up the bathrooms, the pool bar and some aspects of the service to a 4* quality expected. Another plus for this resort is the disabled-friendly design, you could find wheelchair easy access path everywhere. Definitely a consideration of a beach front resort with a nice pool is the key attraction, if not, then I would suggest another destination. Overall, HIGHLY recommended for all.
P/S: I just saw Arinara made it to #91 on Tripadvisor. Keep it up!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Situated on the serene Bangtao Beach, Arinara Bangtao Beach Resort offers a perfect relaxation getaway in a tropical paradise.Located just 30 minutes drive from Phuket international airport and 25 minutes from the dazzling nightlife of Patong, you can enjoy your holiday with everything within the reaching distance.The resort features contemporary South East Asian décor and modern facilities, with a big free form swimming pool at the heart of the resort. Spend your day relaxing under the sun on the pristine beach of Bangtao or by the side of the swimming pool and enjoy a cool sip of exotic cocktails over the sunset and sea breeze. With our kid swimming pool, kids club, game room and other themed activities, Arinara Bangtao Beach Resort is the perfect place for a memorable family vacation. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Arinara Bangtao Beach Resort Phuket, Thailand