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Review: Amanpuri

Pavilions sprinkled on the hillside of a former coconut plantation site by the Andaman Sea
Readers Choice Awards 2017, 2021 Gold List 2024
  • Amanpuri, Thailand
  • Amanpuri, Thailand
  • Amanpuri, Thailand
  • Amanpuri, Thailand
  • Amanpuri, Thailand
  • Amanpuri, Thailand
  • Amanpuri, Thailand
  • Amanpuri, Thailand
  • Amanpuri, Thailand
  • Amanpuri, Thailand


Amanpuri, ThailandAmanpuri, ThailandAmanpuri, ThailandAmanpuri, ThailandAmanpuri, Thailand Amanpuri, ThailandAmanpuri, ThailandAmanpuri, ThailandAmanpuri, ThailandAmanpuri, Thailand
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Why book Amanpuri?

For a toes-in-the-stand stay at a golden oldie—they simply don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

Set the scene

Talk about making an entrance: a midnight-blue swimming pool glitters in the sun and is backdropped by skinny palms shooting out of the ground like fireworks in broad daylight. Behind them, the Andaman Sea rolls on the blue horizon, and everywhere, fluffs of white bougainvillaea sway in the jasmine-scented breeze. The whole thing cascades down five tiers of sand-colored stairs, meeting one of the loveliest little beaches on this side of Phuket. Days start with the sound of hornbills rustling in the palm leaves overhead and end with the pling-plong from the ranat ek (a traditional Thai percussion instrument) that fills the main terrace with music every evening. As one of Thailand’s priciest resorts, it’s a hushed hangout for the global Beau Monde; European families seemingly plucked from the pages of a Ralph Lauren catalogue lounge along Asian lovebirds dripping in Balenciaga. But for those with the cash to splash, Thailand offers few better places.

The backstory

This first outpost of what would later become a globe-spanning empire of some of the finest hotels in haute hospitality was sparked by a happy accident. Indonesian hotel guru Adrian Zecha stumbled upon this coconut grove draped over Phuket’s west coast, searching for a plot to build his vacation home. However, he eventually expanded the blueprint into a small boutique resort that opened in 1988. In the following decades, Amanpuri became a hush-hush haven for monarchs, supermodels and, thanks to its ultra-private setting and discreet service, probably a few supervillains. Yearly touch-ups and regular renovations (the most recent one finished this summer) constantly make it look like it just opened—which is also a testament to the timeless design of the late American architect and Aman stalwart Ed Tuttle.

The rooms

The Thai temple-like pavilions Tuttle designed in 1988 have been imitated by resorts all over Southeast Asia. But the ones scattered around Amanpuri’s palm-tufted hills, accented with timeworn Buddhist antiques and fresh orchids, still feel like the real deal. They might not be the largest, but they make up for that with heaps of outdoor space dotted with daybeds and a breezy sala lounge fitted with chic slate-grey renditions of Thailand’s ubiquitous triangular pillows (plus, in some cases, private pools). During a recent renovation, the pavilions’ honey-hued interiors shed their low-slung ceilings to reveal the high-pitched teak wood beams that were hidden behind, while the rather poky old bathtubs in the mirror-clad bathrooms were replaced with newer models large enough for two.

Food and drink

What are you in the mood for? With its global line-up of restaurants, the resort has a menu to cater to every whim. The breezy main restaurant, Buabok, doles out southern Thai curries, coconutty khao soi noodles and turmeric-rubbed fish, while neighboring Arva specializes in unfussy southern Italian home-cooking, including fresh pasta, grilled meats, and a killer tiramisu. Nama, Aman’s Japanese dining concept, recently opened at a permanent spot overlooking the beach, where its chefs serve up omakase menus from behind a Kengo Kuma-designed hinoki wood counter.

The spa

Amanpuri frequently appears in Condé Nast Traveller’s Spa Guide, and for good reason: its holistic wellness centre, which offers everything from crystal healing sessions to hi-tech IV infusions and medical check-ups, is one of Thailand’s very best. Guests sign up for multi-day detox retreats or stress-busting wellness immersions or pop in for a Thai massage or a jet lag fix-up. For serious Zen, book a half-day or full-day session in the new Spa House. This private corner of the wellness centre has a Vichy shower, Banya sauna and private pool terrace.

The neighborhood/area

With its perch on a beach-hemmed bluff on Phuket’s western coast, the resort feels miles away from the rampant overdevelopment plaguing some of the island’s more populated corners. It shares postcard-pretty Pansea Beach—gin-clear water, skinny palms, creamy sand and all—with The Surin resort next door, and daily clean-ups keep it in tip-top condition. For a taste of local culture, charmingly laidback Surin Beach is a short walk away and lines up with street food carts around sunset.

The service

Over the three decades since opening, Amanpuri has attracted some of the very best in the biz. Some staff have been here for decades, and it shows. The resort runs like a well-oiled operation with service that constantly hits the sweet spot between assertive and unobtrusive. Glasses are always full, beds rarely unmade, and when you leave your villa for a meal or dip in the pool, housekeepers slip in to fold laundry and wrap phone charger cords into leather cable holders.

For families

A hoot. Between the kids’ swimming pool and the skateboarding ramp, climbing wall and aquarium at the Eco-Beach Discovery Centre, teens and little ones won’t have a moment to feel bored. Complimentary activities include batik-dyeing workshops, treasure hunts and Thai dance classes, while GoPro filming workshops and bespoke cooking workshops are available at an extra fee. Restaurants have kid-friendly menus available, and extra beds can be arranged. For larger families, the multi-bedroomed villas at the back of the resort are hard to beat.

Eco effort

The kind of green initiatives you can expect from a luxury resort in this day and age: water in glass bottles, an on-site farm to source herbs and vegetables, and a closed-loop organic waste system that provides nutrients to the soil. Is it a beacon of sustainable hospitality? No—but they’re doing their best.


Not really. Steep hills and lots of stairs will make getting around a challenge.

Anything left to mention?

The resort is blissfully serene even during the high season, but scoring the best canvas-covered beach cabanas can turn into a game of musical chairs. Call your butler to have them reserve your favorite one.

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