The Lowdown: Idyllic and relaxing new luxury property from InterContinental. Great way to experience all the best that Phuket has to offer... as long as you book the right room!
The InterContinental Phuket had its soft launch in November 2019 and its official grand opening in January 2020. My wife and I have had our eyes on this stylish new hotel since it was announced a few years ago and computer-generated images of the hotel started appearing in InterContinental promotional materials. The hotel even made CNN Travel's list of most anticipated luxury hotels in Asia.
So, was it worth the wait? For us, yes. We spent six nights at the hotel during the first part of December 2019 and absolutely loved it. I would definitely consider going back again someday if I have some R&R time in the region. I'd also recommend it to others, but with a few caveats.
The main check-in area is in a fancy lobby with high ceilings and an open view looking out at the rustic rainforest-covered mountains.
We booked a King Club Intercontinental Pool View room and were upgraded to a King Club Intercontinental Ocean View room thanks to our InterContinental Ambassador status.
As an aside, we had originally booked a Club Ocean View room counting on being upgraded to a Club Ocean View Suite, but when I contacted the hotel a few days prior to arrival, they informed me all the Ocean View Suites were already booked and an Ambassador upgrade wouldn't be possible... So I downgraded the actual booking one level to the Club Pool View in order to get the initially-booked Club Ocean View for a lower price.
This is the upgrade path for the hotel, in case you are curious. Ambassadors get a one-category upgrade, while Royal Ambassadors are entitled to a two-category upgrade.
At 46 sqm (495 sqft) the room was just the right size. Our room featured stylish furniture that really added to the relaxing, luxury atmosphere. The layout of the room was a bit odd though, as it was effectively one large square open space with a corner that could be closed off by floor-to-ceiling wooden sliding doors to create privacy for the bathroom and toilet. When the sliding doors are open, the bathtub is practically in the center of the room. Guess some people like that, but I don't think it offers enough privacy.
It had a decent espresso capsule machine for that obligatory first-thing espresso shot each morning.
I do wish they would have outfitted the rooms with more closet space – there wasn’t much room at all to hang clothes and there were only a few drawers. I guess they expect you to be in your swimming suit all the time and not need too many changes of clothes… We were on a 2-week trip across multiple countries and had a fair amount to unpack. They provided us with extra hangers, but there wasn't enough closet rod to hang our clothes in the end.
The ‘wow!’ factors
Impeccably designed and brand new – everything is still in excellent shape. The grounds are well-kept and the furniture hasn't single scuff. Not sure how long that will hold, but it's noticeable now! The overall décor of the hotel was inspired by a 14th century Thai text called Traibhumikatha, a story of three planes of existence. The hotel property is designed to convey these three zones through the use of shapes and colors.
The Lounge is great for breakfast, afternoon tea, evening canapés and signature cocktails. Try the lily fleur cocktail – it’s amazing. The evening canapés are delectable, bite-sized gourmet appetizers, with a new roster of four canapés each evening – much better than the evening canapés at many other IC hotels, and I attribute this to the chef at IC Phuket.
The hotel has several amazing pools, but in particular I enjoyed the private infinity pool reserved just for Club Lounge guests. During our stay, we were almost always the only ones there, except for a few occasions when there may have been one other couple.
The hotel has direct access to Kamala Beach. You should note, though, that it is a public beach and they share the beachfront with quite a few other hotels and clubs, so it can get busy at certain times of the day. There were 20-some beach chairs for guests of IC Phuket and we never had any issue getting one. The staff and security posted at the beach were very attentive and helpful; they would bring you a glass of water and a towel right as you arrived and they also generally kept an eye out to make sure the outsiders didn’t get close to guests beach bags while the guests were out in the water.
Speaking of the water, I was surprised by how warm the Andaman Sea was in December.
I was really impressed with the breakfast at Pinto restaurant. They have a plethora of delicious fresh fruits, as well as a wide selection of both western and Asian options in addition to the obligatory pastries and omelet station. The fresh mango and passion fruit were like nothing I had ever tried before. The fresh-squeezed juices were more creative than just, fresh-squeezed orange juice; for example, they had orange, carrot and celery several of the mornings. And of utmost importance, they serve remarkably good espresso and cappuccino.
Breakfast at the Club Lounge was also fine, but I preferred to have a heartier meal at Pinto.
The amenities at IC Phuket are excellent. The guest rooms feature Harnn luxury shampoo and soaps. It was also a nice touch for them to have a beach bag and two beach hats in the room.
With the Club Lounge and multiple restaurant options (Pinto and Jaras), 5 pools, direct beach access and spa facilities, you don’t even have to leave the hotel territory to have a supremely relaxing vacation. While there are plenty of island excursions, most of them are full day trips and the seas were choppy, so we opted to just chill at the hotel the whole time.
The hotel has a nice fitness centre as well, but I never made it there despite my best laid plans.
The ‘meh!’ factors:
A highway runs through it. Quite literally! The hotel territory is divided by a highway, with the main reception area, many of the standard guest rooms, deluxe villas and the spa located on the non-beach side of the campus. Of course they don't publicize this fact, and I was a bit shocked to learn about it not long before the trip from FlyerTalk Forums.
Noise factor – there is a club next door that sometimes hosts loud events that go into the wee hours of the night. Additionally, there is some major construction taking place right next to the main reception building. Again, if you stay here, you should ONLY consider booking a room on the beach side (in the Apo Building).
Some of the staff is still in training and I have to admit there were a few irritating screwups on day 2 of our stay. We brought them to the attention of the Club Lounge manager and they were promptly remedied.
Most importantly, there is the value factor. Overall, I would say the hotel is a bit overpriced now that prices have one up since the grand opening. If you don't have a guaranteed one-category or two-category upgrade and you aren't willing to shell out for a beachside room, then I'm not sure you'll get your money's worth out of this hotel.
I know some people who absolutely love Phuket and others who despise it. To be sure, there are indeed some really seedy hotels in Phuket and areas that should be avoided at all costs, so it’s worth shelling out the extra budget to find a place where you know you’ll have a safe, relaxing and pampered holiday. I've also seen mixed reviews of this hotel on FlyerTalk Forum. To be clear, I would only recommend staying at this hotel if you are willing to pay for the beach-side rooms with Club Lounge access – staying on the mountain side (at least at the time of writing this in January 2020) is a recipe for disaster due to the noise, construction and lower standards of service applied to the rooms over there.
InterContinental is by far not the cheapest hotel in Phuket or Kamala Beach area, but, if you book an ocean-view room, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
I would give it a rating of 4.2 out of 5.