Merlin Beach Resort was awesome! We stayed there with our 2 year old and other family members. Staff were very polite and friendly, and the buffet breaky great. The pool bar and pools were fantastic,and kids pool area great too.
I have noticed some people comment that the resorts beach was a little rocky. Evidently these people were not aware that Tri Trang Beach, across the road from the front of the resort (only a 5 minute walk). Tri Trang Beach beach was magnificent, fairly secluded (unlike Patong Beach) and like something out of a movie, beautiful soft sand and crystal clear blue water. There is also a great little restaurant to the left of the beach, `Wind Surf' or something similar it is called. The meals were great and the small, casual open restaurant was lovely.
We would visit the resorts beach also (within the resort compound), especially for the one hour massages for the equivalent of $8 AUS. And the resorts own beach has a fantastic privately owned little restaurant on the cliff to the left called `Little Tiger', which by far had the best food we had eaten and the cheapest. It also has magnificent sea views and is beautiful lit up at night.
Although Merlin Beach Resort is a 5 min Tuk Tuk ride to Patong, we definately preferred staying at Merlin Beach resort over others right in town. Whilst we also spent (for something different) half our time at Holiday Inn in Patong (which was lovely and close to everything), it did not have the same super resort style feel of Merlin Beach Resort. My husband and I have also spent time (our honeymoon) in Koh Samui, and again, Merlin Beach Resort and Tri Trang Beach across the Rd are second to none in comparison.
We will definately return to Merlin Beach Resort in 2012, which is perfect for couples and families. If you want to do shopping for the day, you can catch a free ride on the resorts shuttle bus. Although they don't run as often as most people like (ie. don't run hourly), we could still easily work around the times they were available. And it was not expensive to pay for a tuk Tuk every now and then when we chose to.
I cannot speak highly enough of this resort. It is awesome!!!
The only thing I would say is not to book your tours at the Resort (or before traveling) as you will pay anywhere up to 3 times the amount. They will offer to get someone from a tour company to come and speak to you (as all resorts do), and must get something from referring people. However, the best place to book all your tours is through `Mr Marks tours' across the road from Hard Rock Cafe in Patong. We did a Phi Phi Island tour for a quarter of the price of other tour agencies. While you are in Thailand, don't miss Phi Phi Island tour, Fantasea (fantastic show), Simon Cabaret (entertaining night, lady man show, but appropriate for all the family), and an elephant tour. Mr Marks will give you a great price, when you are buying a few tours/shows - ie. a great package deal.
Since going to Thailand and staying at Merlin Beach Resort, we will never waste our money going to Queensland or elsewhere in Australia. Overall, cost-wise Thailand comes out better and Phuket and Merlin Beach resort are Sooooooo nice! The Thai people are lovely too. We also felt very safe at Merlin beach Resort at all times.
You will love it!!!!