The Royal Kamuela Review

One of the Middle East’s most respected hotel chains is breaking exciting new ground, with Indonesia’s Archipelago International announcing plans to open a spectacular, five-star resort in Malaysia. It’s big news in Malaysia and, listening to what they have planned, it’s going to turn heads all around the world.

The resort will be Archipelago’s third development in the country, adding to the Hotel NEO Penang and Cenang Beach Langkawi resorts. The company needs to be something special to follow those resorts, which have fast become favorites with tourists and business visitors alike, thanks to their luxurious locations and facilities.

The Royal Kamuela Villa Port Dickson, scheduled to open in 2021, certainly seems to fit the bill in that respect. Taking a deeper look into what they’ve got planned, it seems we can look forward to…

The Personal Touch

The Royal Kamuela will take the form of 68 separate one- and two-bedroom villas, each with its own individual garden and private pool. That has to be good news for anyone sick of waking at six in the morning to ensure the chance to bask in peace. These villas will be conveniently located close to a central reception area, which will comprise of several luxury attractions that make it a perfect relaxation station.

Your Relaxation Awaits

In the reception area you’ll find a wellness center and spa; ideal for anyone on a weekend away from work. Between the massages and treatments on offer here, and the tropical themed open-air lounge areas that are perfect for romantic dinners, just reading about it is enough to make you feel more relaxed already.

A Stunning Location

Archipelago have come up trumps when it comes to siting – the development is sited in Dickson Bay, a prime coastal location where palm fronds and blue waters are the order of the day. It may take a long haul to get to Kuala Lumpur International, but the in-flight WiFi means you can while the time away with a few hours of Panda Pow slot gaming before touching down and disembarking to some of the finest views the Middle East can offer.

Superb Golfing Options

As well as an 18-hole golf course on the doorstep, the Royal Kamuela Port Dickson is close to the vaunted Dickson Bay Golf Club, much adored by pros and keen amateurs alike. If you enjoy a round or two back home, imagine how much more idyllic it will be with the bay views on offer here.

A Great Family Experience

While there’s plenty here for couples and business travelers to enjoy, the resort is also certain to be a hit with families, as two-bedroom villas with their own pool will allow everyone their own space; the location is also perfectly placed to allow you to visit the largest waterpark in the state at Tiara Beach.

With a few years to wait between now and opening, there are likely to be more exciting announcements in the pipeline from Archipelago about what may be added to the development.

Hotel Review – The Strand Inn, Waterford, Ireland

On our recent Ireland Road Trip adventure we were keen to visit the ancient town of Waterford and visit a few of its historical highlights. While the city holds much charm we’re always drawn to the coast and with an invitation to view the Strand Inn at Dunmore East it was an opportunity not to be missed.

The drive from Waterford is easy and pleasant, not more than 15 minutes from the airport which now has regular flights from Manchester, London Luton and Birmingham it makes travel to this part of Ireland very easy. The roads slip down in to the beautiful little bay area of Dunmore East, a sleepy seaside village with just enough going on to make it appealing yet quiet enough to feel tranquil and serene.

First Impressions

The Strand Inn couldn’t be better positioned, its pub garden area right along the beach wall offers ample outdoor seating when the weather is right, thankfully during our visit it was perfect with warm temperatures and a calm coastal breeze. As you enter the small bay area its clear that the Strand is the centre point of the village. Parking can be a little tricky thanks to its popularity but thankfully The Strand Inn has extra parking just across the road.

We entered the busy pub and made our way to the hotel reception where the friendly staff helped us check in very quickly and showed us to our room. Meandering through various hallways with creaky uneven floorboards, it had a familiar character from many old seaside guesthouses I experienced as a child. The big difference here is the decor is decidedly modern, bold and artistic. Our sea-view family bedroom had ample space for us 2 adults and a quite little cosy bed for our 3 year old daughter who is now at an age where she likes her own space. The view was indeed of the sea, the steep cliff edge to the left with cute fishermen’s houses neatly in a row. Our room was above the restaurant kitchen so the temperature was slightly above average for a hotel room but still pleasant with zero noise from the pub below, not something you can often say about Inns of this nature.

Pub atmosphere

Once settled in we were keen to join in the atmosphere we’d walked through on arrival, so we headed straight down to the bar and found a big round table outside. A chance to sample some local beers while our daughter enjoyed a rapidly melting ice cream. The view matched the mood of the holiday makers and casual afternoon drinkers who resided at the Strand Inn that day. Its always nice to feel you’re at the right place when visiting somewhere new and the Strand sure felt like the centre of what was happening in Dunmore East.

The beach

The beach may not be a beautiful sand laden paradise but its pleasant enough for kids to play on. In fact our daughter spent a good couple of hours collecting sea weed and making muddy sand piles (we forgot to bring any castle making equipment!) The water here is shallow and the tide goes out so far its easy for little ones to play in. There was a fair number of crazy adults stripping off and jumping in to the sea too, swimming a few lengths before heading back to shore. A popular spot for this sort of challenge as we saw plenty braving the chilly waters during our stay, not something I’d be prepared to do but clearly fun for those mad enough.


We were invited for dinner at the Strand Seafood Restaurant which enjoyed equally stunning views of the bay with its large windows. The seafood on offer was locally caught and wonderfully fresh with some fantastic twists on familiar favourites. The staff were very accommodating with our bold little toddler and we enjoyed some fantastic starters of Deep Fried Scampi and Dressed Crab. We ventured on to the Specials board for main courses of Turbot, Hake and very tasty Monkfish with Chilli & Garlic. The decor and ambience here was equally modern and inviting, the perfect setting for seafood while the sun sets. There’s usually 2 mains sittings at 7pm and 9pm but staff are willing to help accommodate you between those times if required. Prices were very reasonable and the service was impeccable. Definitely worth checking out during your stay.

Unlike some Inns I’ve stayed at before The Strand Inn did a great job of managing a lively inviting pub while also having a quiet guest area. Plenty of space to relax and enjoy the surroundings, whatever mood you’re in. While the room wasn’t the most modern it was at least well decorated and we enjoyed spending time there, something you get used to doing more of with a toddler fast asleep at 8pm.

What to do nearby

Nearby there’s plenty to do including scenic walks in Dunmore East and drives along the coast. Sailing and scenic cruises too from the cute little local harbour just a couple of minutes drive away and visible from the Strand. There’s also Dunmore East Golf Club for those inclined and with just a short drive to Waterford town centre there’s plenty to experience there too include the Waterford Crystal factory tour and the Medieval Museums nearby.

I’d also recommend checking out the pretty little cottages just across the road, pristine and very photogenic.


We really enjoyed our stay at the Strand Inn, its quirky character and bold modern interior design worked hand in hand largely thanks to its fantastic location and great family friendly atmosphere. The service was perfect and the food we an absolute delight too. In fact we’re already considering a return thanks to easy international flights from the UK to Waterford Airport. Definitely a little slice of Irish Paradise that’s easy to visit again.

Get in touch with the Strand Inn

Hotel Review: Absolute Twin Sands Resort & Spa –…

Phuket islands in Thailand is an eternally popular tourist destination which seems to be going from strength to strength. With a modern international airport, plenty of competing airlines and no end to the tourist attractions, its easy to see why so many come here (numbers were up some 15{bec4beb4183ddc16376e6eff89836f2abe3407e857522bf84005ba0ad48d654d} in 2016).

So its no surprise that there are plenty of new hotel developments and we were recently invited to experience one new accommodation option, The Twin Sands Resort & Spa from Absolute Resorts. If you’re looking to book online you can do so here.

With a week in the Thai sunshine ahead of us we were keen to see just what they could offer the international traveller. Here’s how we go on.


Construction work

First of all its worth pointing out that while 2 major phases of the entire property are complete, The Twin Sands Resort & Spa is currently undergoing phase 3 development, adding many new rooms as well as swimming pools, waterfalls and more facilities including a kids club. This is due to be finished around March 2018 so depending on when you’re reading this the work may have been completed or may well still be ongoing. During the day the work was fairly noisy but you’ll likely be out some of that time, the view from pool facing rooms and the pool is somewhat interrupted by a large building site. On the whole the construction work didn’t distract or annoy too much. There’s also another luxury hotel being built nearby where worked finishes around 10pm so if this is an issue to you it may be worth waiting until 2018 before visiting.

First Impressions

Our airport transfer ride was smooth and easy with a friendly driver who was happy to chat with us. Phuket is a fairly hilly island right up to the coastline. Pulling in to the driveway of the The Twin Sands Resort & Spa there’s an instant sense of style and purpose about the place. Opting for a super modern look the architecture compliments the interior and general style of everything at the property. Lots of friendly Thai smiles as we checked in and were shown to our room. I really like the modern styling here, with well lit outside areas and well thought-out indoor areas too. More on that later

Our room

We had a studio apartment for a week, again a super modern and coordinated interior design where everything from the wardrobes and tables to the beds and curtains were perfectly matched and complementing. Its surprising how some hotels get this wrong but here at the Twin Sands I can safely say they got it right. Modern and stylish yet cosy enough to call home for 7 days.

The bathroom is ultra modern with a fantastic waterfall shower, perfect for a tall guy like me and made showering our daughter too super easy. The kitchen was equipped with just enough cutlery and crockery for the 3 of us, plenty of utensils to cook with and a very generously sized fridge freezer which we made great use of. While eating out is often the preference when in Thailand its great to have the option of cooking for ourselves and having a lazy breakfast in the mornings.

Our room overlooked the main road and newly built (and ongoing) luxury hotel which thankfully is low-rise and doesn’t obscure the view too much. The coastal vista is very pleasant, once you filter out the construction site below. The balcony was a generous size although the all glass wall may be a little scary for some.

There’s a big flat screen TV in the apartment with a very comfortable L shaped sofa and coffee table, plenty of drawers to empty out our suitcases in to and really feel at home. An extra single bed was added for our daughter which did take up some room but once we re-arranged the furniture a little it fitted right in.

After a week living here I can definitely say we felt full at home in our studio apartment. With the room cleaned once a day by the staff it always felt clean and orderly, which is saying something when you have a toddler!


The pool area is situated over two levels, just a few steps apart. The main pool is up top with a straightforward rectangular shape, a shallow kids area separated from the rest of the pool and some steps to climb in. A comfortable underwater seat runs almost the length of the pool making it a pleasant place to jump in and cool off.

There’s very little shade here which is a bit of an issue in the intense heat of the day, much better around 5pm onwards when things start to cloud over and cool off a little. The lower level offers more sunbathing beds and plunge pool with bubble jets. Both pools have the distinctively modern infinity style which I do like. There’s also a swim-up bar where the very friendly bar tender can whip up a mean cocktail or two, as well as reasonably priced beers. The bass-heavy playlist on his bar sound system gives the pool area a fun and active atmosphere that is surprisingly inviting. There’s happy hour here every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday with many drinks at reduced prices, its just a shame it wasn’t every day like most places, we often forgot which day it was and whether it was happy hour today.

There’s a well equipped gym here which proved popular, situated in part of the spa area. It overlooks the pool and has all the modern equipment you would expect. Towels are usually provided but weren’t available on a couple of days during our stay. There’s also a large TV which you can use yourself to help make your gym workout go that little bit faster.


Thailand is known for its massage treatments and spa therapies so no resort would be seen dead without some offering. The treatments available were varied so there’s likely to be something for everyone. I would say they are quite expensive, certainly the most expensive I’ve seen so far during our time in Thailand so you may want to compare prices with spas in nearby Patong.


Situated right on site in block 1 is the Blue Mango restaurant and bar. The menu seemed reasonably priced so we thought we’d check it out on our first night. Wow, I have to say one of the best meals I’ve had on the island, possibly in the country! On the menu I discovered “Massaman Nong Gae”, a popular sweet and mildly spicy curry with braised lamb shank. It sounded great but tasted incredible! So good in fact we made sure we visited again during our stay and had it again. The staff here were all very friendly and made our daughter feel very welcome. She also enjoyed watching the kitchen at work through a cleverly designed glass window. There’s a great atmosphere here often with visitors from outside the resort clearly coming for the exceptionally good food. You can even order food to be delivered to your room if you’re feeling super lazy.

One strange quirk about the restaurant and bar is that they are not part of the Twin Sands resort company so its not possible to put anything on your room and pay during checkout. You do however get a 15{bec4beb4183ddc16376e6eff89836f2abe3407e857522bf84005ba0ad48d654d} discount if you are a guest so do make sure you give the your room number. This quirk caught us out a couple of times when ordering drinks at the pool. Forgetting to bring any sort of cash to the poolside it made paying for our refreshments a little more awkward than it needed to be. It wouldn’t be that difficult for the restaurant and resorts businesses to organise a credit arrangement so guests could pay at checkout.

What to do nearby

As the name “Twin Sands” suggests, the resort is just a short walk from two beaches and a quick tuk-tuk ride to a third. Walking to the beaches is a bit confusing, especially as Merlin beach is hidden down a rather rocky track road and quick jump over what I hope is just drainage water from the hotels. Your best bet to get to this beach is to walk to the Marriott hotel entrance and easily make your way through their resort to the sandy beach beyond. The beaches are cute with some great views out of the Andaman sea, but for more amenities and nightlife you’ll want to head over to Patong.

The resort offers a free shuttle bus service to Patong, dropping people off along the bay or at the main shopping mall in town. This minibus service proved invaluable and gave us a chance not only to explore more and find entertainment for our daughter but also buy all the ingredients to cook in our apartment and purchase the toddler essentials like nappies.  With Patong just 15 minutes away its more likely you’ll spend time over there than at the peninsula but as more hotel and resorts appear I’m sure there will be more amenities and attractions available nearby.


We really enjoyed our stay at The Twin Sands, despite the construction work going on around the resort is well staffed, well catered and very well designed. It was great to have more space to ourselves and have the option of eating in and borrowing a DVD movie from reception for a night. Its an interesting property that is set to get much bigger and more luxurious in the next 12 months or so. The continuity of styling inside and out presents a very well thought out and well managed property that I can see growing from strength to strength as the peninsula gains more notoriety.

Get 7  nights complimentary at Twin sands

If you’re interested in staying at this resort get 7 nights complimentary accommodation by clicking here.

This a limited time offer, terms and conditions apply

This review was sponsored by Absolute Resorts. All opinions are my own

Hotel review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

On a mission to explore more of Phuket in Thailand, our friends at oovotel invited us to experience some of their resort offerings on the island. Our first stop was the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort And Spa and after a 40 minute drive along the coastline heading North we reached the 2nd of our Novotel experiences, the Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort. Here’s our experience.

First impressions

You can’t help but be impressed by the grand entrance to the Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort. A long driveway leading to an arched entrance with plenty of plush seating and impressive warm decor. Our daughter was greeted with her new best friend, the same Pikachu mascot we met at the Karon Beach Resort just a couple of days before. She was definitely happy to see him (or is it her?) again! Check-in was super easy and we were guided through the impressive dining areas and just a short walk to our “Suite Poolside Terrace“. We were so pleased to see once again that Novotel’s child friendly services were very much evident here. A Mickey Mouse duvet and pillow, cuddly toys and a play-tent for her to enjoy as soon as we arrived in the room. Childhood bliss! A welcome like this sure does set the tone for the rest of your stay and means everything to a little toddler.

Our room

I think the name “Suite Poolside Terrace” wasn’t entirely accurate. While it was a generous size with plenty of space for our suitcases and their contents it wasn’t strictly by the side of a pool. Just a short walk to the edge of one I grant you. Aside from that the suite was all you need for a relaxing stay. A huge master bed, a cute and perfectly sized kids bed / sofa in the lounge area. Flat screen TVs in both rooms and a generous sized fridge that you could get stocked with mini-bar goodies or make use of with your own purchases.

The Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort is definitely a bit older than our previous experience at the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort And Spa. The decor was more your standard hotel room artwork, with earthy colours that seem to compliment the immense greenery just outside the big sliding glass doors (more on that later). The front door to our room wasn’t the most sealed of doors so tended to let in noise from the busy corridor outside. Not too much of an issue in the day but it woke our daughter earlier than usual when people started heading for an early breakfast.

One other oddity is that the play-tent our daughter enjoyed so much on the first day was inexplicably removed by house-keeping the next day. Our daughter wasn’t upset, just a little confused. Still the kids club, pools and food kept her very busy.


First thing of note here at the Novotel Surin Beach Resort is the fantastic landscaping within the grounds. The rooms encircle the pool and outdoor area where there’s a fantastic number of tall trees, hedges, meandering pathways, flowers, and greenery that you can’t help but find relaxing. Considering this is a large hotel complex it never felt too busy or loud, the trees and vegetation doing a fine job of absorbing the noise of activities from some 400 or more guests making use of all the facilities.

The pools here are some of the best on the island for a number of reasons. Firstly shade! I’m constantly surprised how little shade hotels put over their pools considering how hot and intense the sun can be in Thailand. Not a problem at this Novotel!  The foliage and winding loop of the pool (with an island in the middle) created plenty of places within the water to swim without being burnt. Very important for parents of a very active toddler who loves to swim for hours. There’s also two fun slides here that were mostly underused. I suspect because you can’t see the end of the slide from the top or the jarring knock on your spine as you slide down.

Kids World

Safe to say our nearly 3 year old was addicted to the kids club area known as “Kids World“, a multi-level air conditioned kids paradise with an activity area, TV room, ball pool and computers too. With multiple guided activities every day there was plenty for children to do here. Some really interesting and different activities too like learning to tie-dye and also the yummy cookie making class which resulted in us taking away a huge box of cookies that our daughter helped create. Delicious!

The staff here were helpful and attentive, although we did notice someone else had signed our daughter out at reception, presumably while there was nobody manning the door. I’m sure it was just someone signing the wrong row on the sheet but obviously a worry if staff think our daughter left with us when she may have walked off or left with someone else. Anyway all was well and our daughter couldn’t wait to return to the kids club every day. Definitely the highlight of her stay.


While the hotel does offer spa treatments I wouldn’t necessarily call it a spa. You’ll find the treatment areas above the gym on a mezzanine level. The treatment rooms are just a thin partition walls in a larger room with just a curtain separating you from the outside world. So there’s no calm and serene spa experience here. You’ll hear plenty of noise from the gym machines and other guests too. Having said that the massage was very good, I’m definitely too much of a wimp to opt for a Thai massage, I much prefer the essential oils and tamer Swedish style!


There’s plenty of dining options here both poolside and restaurant style. By the pool you can request service by pushing the wireless button next to your sun lounger. The ultimate way to get a tasty lunch! We fell in love with the Pepperoni Pizza which was just 179 TBH (around £4.50) and big enough for the 3 of us to share. All of the dining options at the resort are outdoors but split over multiple levels. With a booth style dining area overlooking the pools, its shaded from the sun with large fans above the tables.

There’s also a sushi bar with reasonably priced sashimi and Novotel’s “Champions” sports bar with plenty of TVs showing everything from Baseball and Aussie rules football to Formula One and monster trucks too. We got to experience the “Asian buffet” one evening at the “Asia Alive” main dining area. Lots to choose from with freshly cooked-to-order meats and noodle dishes from the chef. Plenty of of Sushi, Massaman curries and Asian nibbles too.

The dining areas all run out of one kitchen so the buffet / breakfast area is right next to the Champions Bar too, all of which are at the end of the main entrance building and the back of which has no wall so the entire area is not air conditioned While it was cooler than dining right outside by the pool it would have been nice to have one air conditioned dining option after a hot day in the sunshine. For a quick daytime snack there’s also a small lobby bar and food store selling coffees, cakes and crisps. They also have a very convenient shop here for your poolside essentials like suncream.

What’s nearby

Outside of the hotel its just a short walk to the beach across the road. The beach is fairly quiet with plenty of space to yourself. Along the resort road there are a few shops including laundry, a minimart and some great little restaurants worth checking out. There’s even a small wine bar which is unusual to see in Thailand! Along the main road you’ll find a few more dining options. A little further afield you’ll find some fun night markets and also Phuket Adventure Mini Golf which is great for all ages. Its easy to get about here if you walk out of the hotel and flag down a tuk-tuk or taxi driver. Thailand has no shortage of transportation although Phuket’s prices have risen since our last visit.


We really enjoyed our stay at the Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort mostly because our daughter had so much fun with all the facilities. One of the best pools for families who want shade while swimming, an amazing array of activities for kids, a very warm welcome and plenty of great friendly service from the staff. Our room was well positioned and we really enjoyed sitting outside in the evening and enjoying the lush green vista. If you’re travelling as a couple its worth checking out their Phuket romantic package too.

Hotel information

Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort
106/27 Moo 3, Cherngtalay, Talang, Surin Beach, 83110 Phuket, Thailand

Tel: +66 76 303 300
Fax: +66 76 300 303

E-mail : [email protected]

Hotel review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort And Spa

We recently returned to Phuket island on the west coast of Thailand to explore more of this popular holiday destination. We’ve been to Thailand many times but only once before to Phuket back in 2009. So we were keen to stay somewhere different and experience something new. With an invite to check out two of the numerous Novotel hotels and resorts on the island we ventured south to Karon beach to review the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort And Spa. Here’s our experience.

First impressions

After a pleasant drive along the coast we reached the small circular driveway of the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort And Spa and were greeted by the very friendly staff. Thailand is known for its friendly locals and good resort service so there were no tricks missed here. A quick golf cart ride along the carefully manicured path lead us to our wonderfully secluded “plunge pool suite“. Our 2 year old daughter nearly lost her mind when who should greet her but none other than a 6 feet tall Pikachu!

Thankfully she wasn’t scared and was soon hugging and high-fiving. The child-friendly welcome didn’t stop there as inside our suite was a plethora of welcomes suited perfectly to a 2 year old. She had her own bed with princess duvet and pillow along with a gaggle of cuddly toys for her to cuddle the stuffing out of. Not only that but a play tent in the master bedroom and a fun little treasure hunt for tasty chocolates (hidden in the wardrobe!). Its safe to say our little daughter felt right at home instantly and I’m sure all parents will agree that this means everything when you’re on holiday! The family friendly box most definitely ticked!

Our suite

Our plunge pool suite was an impressive space with a modern but earthy feel. As the name suggests it had a private plunge pool that we could step right into from the master bedroom and take a refreshing dip complete with jet bubbles. There was ample seating outside and the perfectly presented hedging landscaping did a wonderful job of making this fairly tightly packed complex of suites feel quiet and away from the hustle and bustle of Karon and indeed other parts of the resort.

Inside the suite we had plenty of space for our suitcases and clothes, two large flat screen TVs (that was permanently on the cartoon network demanded by our daughter).

The bathroom had access from both the lounge and master bedroom, annoying if you forget to lock both doors but beautifully presented with some very well thought out colour schemes and the very welcome addition of a bath! Perfect for our little toddler who for some reason despises showers.  The master bed was huge and comfortable and the suite had the perfect balance of modern conveniences like smart lighting controls and universal power sockets as well as a natural homely feel.


While our plunge pool was an instant hit especially with our daughter, there’s plenty more to see and do on-site. The main pool was always a popular hangout with a lively bar called Joe Kool’s Poolside Grill. The pool was an interesting shape with a bridge in the middle for easy access to your grilled lunch. There’s also the Horizon restaurant upstairs where the impressive breakfast buffet was served and often had live music and other entertainment in the evenings. There are two other pools on site offering a more exclusive feel. One has “Champions” Novotel’s signature sports bar showing plenty of sport all day long on multiple screens and offering the usual burger-and-fries style menu.

As any parent will tell you we are at the whim of our children’s demands and on discovering the kids pool and play-centre she was hooked! A smaller pool with a fun little water slide kept her amused for a while but her favourite place to visit was without doubt the kids centre. An indoor play area with all manner of activities, chill out areas, play-stations, books, movies, toys and anything else a child could ever want. Our daughter, rather than getting hooked on one thing, tried everything for about 60 seconds each, So I can safely say I’ve seen a lot of what this place has to offer.

The staff here were wonderfully attentive and eternally patient as kids of all ages, moods and attitudes pass their doors. It was a welcome escape from the humidity outside too. Our daughter enjoyed painting figurines, colouring and drawing, playing chef with the toy kitchen and making new friends every day. Its also a place to meet mums and dads and compare a few travelling-with-a-kid notes.

I very much liked the fact that there was always someone sat at reception by the door making sure parents signed their children in and out.

Also on site, through a labyrinth of walkways and corridors you’ll find the spa with a range of great treatments to choose from. I’ve been lugging suitcases, buggies and a toddler around Asia for 2 months now so a good back and shoulder massage was definitely needed. The staff were friendly, always smiling and with a calm air of serenity that every spa should have. The treatment room was dimly lit, sweetly aromatic and with the standard etherial background music. My 60 minute massage was firm and certainly showed my back muscles who’s boss. My only gripe with the spa experience was the door of my treatment room didn’t seal out the sounds from outside so the occasional guest or staff member walking the corridor could be heard, the odd banging door, etc. Not that big a deal but when they try so hard to create the perfect calming environment these sounds seem somewhat magnified.  Other than its well worth getting at least one massage during your stay just to pamper yourself.

Massage room

Eating at Tai

One of the biggest reasons for any trip to South East Asia is without doubt the food. Novotel’s Asian cuisine restaurant Tai offered us a set menu to experience some of their finest dishes. Tom Yam flavoured vegetable spring rolls to start followed by Japanese Tempura King Mushrooms, Wagyu Beef Massaman Curry and Steamed whole Sea Bass served with Chilli and Garlic Sauce. The curry was without doubt my favourite, beef that just dissolved as you chewed with sweet and spicy Massaman flavours that I will try my hardest to replicate when I return to England (and almost certainly fail!).

All of this delicious food was rounded off nicely with a seriously chocolatey mini cake with hot melted gooey centre. Divine! The atmosphere in Tai is quiet and somewhat reserved compared to the more informal and western dining options at the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort And Spa. A welcome change and very tasty meal I can highly recommend.

What’s nearby

Karon beach is all of a 3 minute walk away. Don’t follow the road around the coast, instead hop across the busy road (a member of staff will stop traffic for you!) and take the bridge to the other side where you’ll easily see the short-cut straight to the beach. There’s a number of small restaurants here all vying for your attention as you walk past, definitely worth stopping for lunch or a beer.

Karon beach

Walking in to town is very easy and you’ll soon be surrounded by shops, cafes, restaurants and more hotels. Phuket isn’t the cheap island it once was so expect to pay similar prices in town as hotels charge. There’s plenty to choose from here and lots of daytime activities too other than tanning yourself on the long stretch of beach, from Elephant treks to cooking classes. You can book many of these from tour operators in town or just ask at reception of the Novotel and they’ll help arrange your activities too.

Getting around

If there’s one thing is very easy to do in Thailand its get around! Thailand has all manner of interesting transportation options. You wont fail to spot plenty of tuk-tuks zipping about, you’ll more likely hear one coming before you see it. These aren’t the 3 wheeled tuk-tuks you’ll see in other parts of Thailand as 4 wheels are definitely needed in this hilly environment. Many of them are no adorned with powerful sound systems blasting dance music from there flashing LED covered speakers. If you’re looking for a night out the party will definitely start the moment you jump in to the back of one of these.

Other options include taxis and hotel transfer vehicles to and from the airport but your best bet for a good deal now is Uber or the more popular Asian version called “Grab”. Just download the Grab app, sign up and book a local driver for much less than the cost of a normal taxi. Prices are still high compared to other areas of Thailand and Asia but Grab taxis are still one of your cheapest options.


The Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort And Spa was a refreshing resort in a refreshing location we hadn’t explored before. Karon is definitely a welcome break from the madness of some areas of Phuket like the ever popular Patong. The resort caters brilliantly for children which quite frankly transformed our stay as our daughter was in heaven the whole time. The landscaping of the entire site created a very impressive secluded feel throughout, the plunge pool suite was perfect for the 3 of us, I now wish I had a plunge pool at home! Its also worth checking out their Phuket hotel promotion for the latest special offers.

Novotel Phuket Karon Resort and Spa

Hotel information

Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort and Spa
568 Patak Road, Karon, Muang Phuket, Phuket 83100

Tel: +66 (0) 76 358 666
Fax +66 (0) 76 358 645

E-mail: [email protected]

This review was sponsored by Novotel resorts and hotels. All opinions are my own.

Verandah resort spa in Antigua

Review: Verandah Resort & Spa in Antigua

After a smooth and easy flight to Antigua with British Airways the Elite Island Hopathon started with a fanfare! Well more like a man at a keyboard who welcomed us to Antigua as we walked in to the Airport Terminal from our plane. I’ve never been serenaded at an airport before so that was a pleasant experience.

Our driver, Pat, met us at arrivals with a giant of a car, whisking us off on a short but very scenic drive to the Verandah Resort and Spa, some 25 minutes away. We passed fields filled with cows and goats, the cricket stadium which our driver was very keen to point out, then on to our hotel down a quiet road to the coast. The days of sugar plantations are long gone from Antigua and the landscape is now rolling green fields and small collections of farm animals.

Verandah resort spa in Antigua

Verandah Resort & Spa

Verandah bungalowsThe Verandah Resort and Spa is more of a village than a hotel. After checking in and being given a map of the resort (as you’ll definitely need one) We were greeted with an electric golf cart that could easily seat 10 people. Each room is really a small bungalow and the trails that link these buildings are easily navigated by the carts, there’s even bus stops along the way if you’re no in the mood to walk.

Dropped off right outside our room, 174, our bags were unloaded for us and we headed straight to the huge balcony where we had a fantastic view of the beach, actually one of two beaches in the resort, with people kayaking, sunbathing and enjoying the surroundings. This is my 3rd time in the Caribbean and there’s always a special atmosphere in this part of the world. Relaxing, sun soaked and a chance to indulge for a few days. This feeling is all around, not just in the staff who greet you everywhere but also the architecture and decor too.

Review of Verandah Resort in AntiguaOur room was more than ample, with its own mini kitchen, a fridge with complimentary water and an impressive plate of fresh fruit to snack on, which came in very hand after our first night as we woke up an hour or so before breakfast began being served at 7am. The bed was very big and very comfortable and the white noise from the wind outside and air conditioning in our room help us drift off to sleep very easily. We even had heavy rain overnight which, while dramatic, wasn’t too loud.

Village life

Rasta bar and beach at VerandahThe resort is in a word, huge! Hundreds of rooms available in pairs all with their own unique names and all with great views too. There’s two beaches here, one close by the lobby area with a bar and beach volleyball court, the other next to our room with lots of water sports and well shaded sun-beds. There’s also two pools here, a large pool for anyone to use, right next to a large bar area and the three restaurants. This is where most of the action happens and at night there’s always entertainment. A very good reggae band were playing the night we spent at the bar here and they definitely created a great atmosphere.

Verandah bungalows in Antigua

The food options are plentiful and varied enough to keep guests happy. The main sunshine restaurant is where all three meals are available, buffet style and you can just turn up any time for this. Thanks to the staff at the Verandah Resort we had a table booked at the Buccaneer restaurant, with some fairly unique decor. Large portraits of famous (and possibly fictitious) pirates, along with a definite nautical theme and a man at his keyboard playing classic songs you always recognise but can never quite remember the name of. The food here was excellent, with a lamb dish that just melted in the mouth and a tasty local beer that quenched the thirst nicely.

Romance and fun

Gazebo meal review verandahOn our last night we were treated to a “Romantic private gazebo dinner” which basically consists of a table for 2 in one of the wedding gazebos dotted around the complex. Ours overlooked the beach near our room and was a little on the windy side but the fairy lights all around us helped set the romantic mood. Our personal butler was friendly and funny, disappearing off in his golf cart and returning with each course. The meal was definitely tasty and good fun but I’m not entirely sure it was all that romantic. The wind whipping up from the sea was a bit of an issue and just as the main course was served the rain came lashing down and we made a run for it to the nearby bar where they did their best to set up a private table for us to finish our meal. I think maybe if the food hadn’t been quite so plentiful and maybe if the dishes weren’t served wrapped in cling film to keep them warm from the kitchen then it may have been a little more romantic. One thing it did do was make us both smile and enjoy ourselves, even with the heavy rain. So if trying to be romantic brings you a little closer to your loved one and a smile to your face then you’re half way there.

Verandah resort Antigua review

verandah resort reviewThe most romantic experience during our short stay was undoubtably the couples massage. I really love these and sharing the experience of a soothing hour of massage and relaxation is something I really enjoy. Deborah and I made our way to the spa building close to the pool and bar. We were greeted with glasses of lemon water and escorted to the dimly lit serenity of the couples massage room. Two massage beds all set up with music play that could send even the most energetic of people in to a coma like trance. The massages were gentle enough to enjoy but firm enough to make a difference and we both left feeling relaxed and with limbs like jelly. A great feeling to have when you’re on holiday in the Caribbean!

Next stop Saint Lucia

An early start the next day, onwards to Saint Lucia to continuing our Elite Island Hopathon. We really enjoyed the beautiful surroundings of the Verandah Resort & Spa. It’s size and facilities give you more than enough to keep you busy. There was so much more to explore than we had time for but the Elite Island Hopathon waits for no man! Our next stop is Saint Lucia!

2014 Elite Island Hopathon