With its undulating hills crisscrossed with lush running trails and its warm tropical waters ideal for swimming, it’s no wonder the so-called Pearl of the Andaman continues to attract large numbers of tourists each year, an increasing number of them drawn in particular to the wealth of sports and wellness activities available on the island. From the annual Laguna Marathon to MMA training camps and gentler-paced yoga retreats, Phuket satisfies a wide swathe of wellness travellers.
According to a 2019 report by luxury travel experts ILTM Asia Pacific, wellness tourism is one of the fastest-growing segments in the wellness economy, with wellness trips representing 6.5% of all tourism trips taken globally.
“There are several factors driving this trend, such as rising affluence and a growing awareness of wellbeing,” explains Catherine Feliciano-Chon, managing director of CatchOn, the Hong Kong- based branding agency commissioned by ILTM to produce the report.
In the last few years, luxury resorts across Phuket have been rolling out comprehensive wellness programmes – each more targeted than the next – in a bid to capture this market. The efforts seem to be paying off. Thanyapura, a sports and health resort in the northern part of the island, is a world-class active holiday destination with personalised programs from sports, fitness, nutrition and lifestyle medicine for both individuals and groups.
In the first quarter of 2020, luxe resort Amanpuri introduced a weekend retreat for time-strapped wellness seekers, while Anantara Mai Khao offers guests a comprehensive health and wellness programme that includes everything from morning bike rides to sunset yoga by the beach.
And with Phuket authorities announcing that they’re hoping to welcome vaccinated tourists come October 2021, there’s no better time than to start making vacation plans. Whether you’re looking to train for your next Ironman race or are seeking a week-long retreat of meditation and massages, these four resorts just might have what you’re looking for. Bookmark this list so you can make a beeline for them straightaway once borders open and leisure travel commences again.
Designed with fitness and wellness enthusiasts in mind, this 23ha complex features a 25m training pool and an Olympic 50m pool, a 500m running track as well as several outdoor running and cycling trails. While the resort offers year-round programmes in sports training and lifestyle optimisation, tennis programmes are proving to be the most popular with tailored private lessons, focused group training and social match-play classes with the Thanyapura tennis team. We find out why from the head tennis coach, Mike Zwaan.
What makes Thanyapura tennis programme unique?
The resort features four indoor and two outdoor courts, all using the world-class Plexicushion court surface but we’re more than just a fantastic location with outstanding facilities. We offer a holistic training experience that reinforces a healthier, happier lifestyle. Coaches will work with the clinic team to assess each individual so we can design customised fitness and nutrition plans to optimise your training goals.
How is wellness incorporated into the training programme?
Guests will receive a free bio-scan which analyses overall health, risk of disease and recommended foods to be avoided or supplemented. We have an in-house physiotherapist and chiropractor to work with athletes to help improve range of motion, reduce pain and muscle tightness as well as injury prevention for optimal wellbeing. We also offer nutritionally balanced plant-based cuisine at our award-winning healthy restaurants to complement guests’ active holiday.
Can you tell us about your tennis programmes for children?
Thanyapura FUTURESTARS tennis camps are suitable for ages 3 to 18, with options for train-only or train and stay. This programme stands out as every tennis session is designed to maximise the amount of interaction between junior players and coaches whilst minimising their time spent inactive on the court. You can also choose other main activities for your child during the week such as swim, triathlon and Muay Thai. All of this in a fun, safe and natural environment!
Perched 60m above sea level on the southeastern tip of Phuket, this all-inclusive resort commands stunning views of the Andaman Sea. With 65 well-appointed villas as well as several pool clubs and restaurants offering dreamy vistas dotted across Cape Panwa, it is a popular choice for honeymoons and romantic getaways.
However, those looking to incorporate fitness into their holiday won’t be left kicking their heels. All the suites to villas come with a private pool, and there’s also a fully-equipped gym and two tennis courts. But the highlight for most guests is the chance to train with Muay Thai professional Manop Hempitak, better known as Khun Wanmai.
Khun Wanmai is the lead Muay Thai instructor at the resort, where he has been coaching guests for 10 years. Originally from Krabi, the 37-year-old started boxing when he was just seven. Previously, he won the 45kg and 65kg weight categories in the national Siam Muay Thai Awards, and was also part of the Thai national team. He tells us what guests can look forward to at Sri Panwa.
Who books the Muay Thai classes?
It’s a mix. There are guests who are completely new to the sport as well as Muay Thai enthusiasts looking to improve their skills. We offer private boxing classes as well as group training sessions.
What are the benefits of learning Muay Thai here?
We have a boxing ring so you get a feel for how the professionals train – or you can opt to train in the privacy of your villa. Even though each session is only one hour, participants really get a full body workout. If you’re a beginner, you can get a feel for the sport to see if this is something you want to pursue in your day-to-day life. As an added bonus, you get to equip yourself with a few basic self-defence moves.
What are some of the other fitness activities available?
For guests who want to stay active, we have a team of yoga, Pilates and fitness instructors on standby every day. We also offer complimentary use of the resort’s kayaks and can organise diving or snorkelling trips to the surrounding islands.
While Aman is a name that needs no introduction, not many people know that this is the luxury hotel group’s first-ever property. Set up in 1988, the 24ha Amanpuri features 40 pavilions and 44 villas sprawled across a headland along the western coastline. The resort has been offering comprehensive health and fitness retreats since 2017 and introduced a functional health clinic in December 2018. Yuki Kiyono, Aman Group Director Of Spa, shares more.
What makes the spa programmes at Amanpuri unique?
The wellness team – a medical doctor, fitness instructors and a TCM practitioner – works closely to create a holistic programme for each guest. No two guests are the same, so each programme is customised to the client’s specific needs, and comprises a mix of medical and therapeutic treatments and workout plans. What’s more, not many wellness destinations can boast such a beautiful and exclusive beachfront location.
What are the wellness retreats that you have on offer?
We offer four wellness immersion programmes – each targeted at different lifestyle concerns such as weight management or stress reduction and ranging between three and seven days. All include private coaching from nutrition and fitness professionals. More intensive programmes include medical components like heavy metals testing and treatments such as physiotherapy.
Can you tell us about the wellness cuisine offered at the resort?
For immersion participants, our Thai chef creates nutritious, plant-based dishes using seasonal local ingredients. Each menu is tailored according to the guest’s specific needs, based on findings from the wellness consultation.
What can guests look forward to?
In November 2021, we will roll out a five-night “Laguna Phuket Triathlon Retreat”, designed specially for triathletes competing in this longstanding event. It includes consultations with a physiotherapist, an all-access pass to our top-of-the-line wellness centre as well as customised meals to ensure each triathlete is getting the optimum nutrients they need for the race. After the race, guest will also be offered a session with our in-house doctor followed by a soul-nourishing session of laughter yoga by the beach.
With a stunning backdrop that is Mai Khao Beach, this 91-villa resort offers sun, sea and sports in equal measure. The resort started doing health and fitness retreats in January 2019 and has rolled out an “Entertain Me” programme this year that includes workout sessions with a personal trainer, tennis lessons for beginners and yoga sessions by the beach. Zoe Wall, group director of Mspa, which manages the spa and wellness programme at Anantara Mai Khao, tell us more.
What makes these retreats unique?
Our guests come to us with a wide variety of concerns and we tailor each programme to their specific needs. If the guest has a particular injury or weakness they want to work on, the team can put together a programme to help strengthen this area as well as a rehab programme for them to use back home. We use equipment such as the Matrix S Drive, which is designed for high-intensity work like resisted walking and is beneficial for deconditioned individuals and the elderly. All fitness packages include a range of therapeutic spa treatments and a nutritious wellness menu.
What is the wellness cuisine served here?
Using locally sourced ingredients, we’ve come up with a menu that caters for various dietary requirements, including vegan. It also features a mix of Indian and Arabic dishes to cater to our international guests.
Illustrations by Olivia Waller
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
SEE ALSO: 5 best places to eat in Old Phuket Town
This article was originally published in the March 2020 issue of Silkwinds magazine, and was updated on 10 March 2021.