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The Best In Family Travel: JW Marriott, Phuket

JW Marriott - Reception pool

Lauded by all those who seek family friendly fun in Phuket, the JW Marriott has been on my radar for some time.  For the past few years we’ve spent the CNY break sharing a villa with friends, a large gang of kids entertaining each other.  This year it was just the four of us and all of a sudden, the idea of a luxury resort with a Kids Club sounded like the holiday jackpot. I didn’t do too much research (aka endless nights glued to Tripadvisor) and found a decent package for the JW Marriott through my travel agent.  So did it live up to our expectations?

Hotel/Flight Booking

I booked a package through my travel agent, Daryl at Concorde Travel, 3D/4N including hotel room, breakfast and flights.  I booked the most basic room, the Deluxe Garden and requested 2 Double Beds, the idea being that my 5yo would sleep in one, we would sleep in the other and we would get a rollaway for my 3yo.

When did we go?

We travelled over Chinese New Year break in mid February.  The weather was beautiful although very very hot!  You can visit Phuket all year round although September and October can be very extremely wet.

Flights

We flew direct with Dragonair from Hong Kong to Phuket which was fairly straightforward and quick (3.5hrs).  They had updated the entertainment system on the plane so we all had video on demand which was great for the kids.

Arrival at Phuket

I was feeling incredibly smug that we were carrying hand luggage only. I thought we’d waltz off the plane and be at the hotel in no time. I forgot how horrendous immigration at Phuket can be.  My tip here is either to try to sit near the front of the plane OR have one of you (if you are traveling in a pair) race ahead and secure a place in the queue. 

JW Marriott Resort Location

One of the best things about the hotel is that it is a 20 car journey from the airport, perfect for those with young kids.  The hotel is on Mai Khao beach in a quiet enclave that houses the Marriott Vacation Club, Anantara and Turtle Village.

I had been confused in the past by the different Marriott properties.  Let me clear this up for you. There is the main hotel with all the facilities, the JW Marriott. There are two further timeshare properties, part of the Marriott Vacation Club.  The Phuket Beach Club consists of 1 & 2 bed apartments that are located around the perimeter of the property and you can easily access the JW facilities.  The Marriott Mai Khao Beach property (2 bed apartments) is approx. 15 minutes walk from the JW Marriott property and has its own pool. 

About the Resort

With 265 rooms, I was blown away by how massive the resort is. I’m not normally a fan of these huge resorts but the upside is at full occupancy, the hotel doesn’t feel overcrowded. The place is beautifully put together with lots of greenery and numerous pools.

JW Marriott - jungle

Despite perching over a beautiful stretch of beach, this resort is actually set back quite a bit from the beach. So if you prefer to steer clear of the pool and hang around in the sand, this place may not be for you.

Our Room

I was pleasantly surprised with our Deluxe Garden room (311), the cheapest option available.  

JW Marriott Hotel Room

It was a good size with a large bathroom and a small balcony. The best bit was the raised platform at the end of the room with a daybed which I realised could be converted into another bed for the girls. Definitely worth doing as the extra rollaway not only take up extra space but costs THB 1600.

JW Marriott Day Beds JW Marriott converted day beds

The bathroom has a nice separate bath/shower and the bathroom windows cleverly open up into the bedroom, meaning you can have your kids splashing around in the bath while you laze around on your bed.

JW Marriott Bedroom

Tips on picking a room

  • Save your $$ and don’t pick a ‘Sea View’. This resort is set quite far back from the beach so you really won’t be getting much of a sea view.
  • For those with young kids who are still napping, you might be interested in a Deluxe Terrace. These rooms have a ground floor outdoor terrace that you can sunbathe on whilst your kids sleep inside.
    JW Marriott - Hotel
  • If you’ve got cash to splash and you like lots of space go for the Ocean Front Pool or the 2-bed Family Pool.
    JW Marriott - pool villa
  • The resort is absolutely MASSIVE so you might want to request a room near to a particular facility depending on what you’re looking for.  For families who want to be near the kids pool and kids club, a room 1/2/305 – 319 would be good. I would try to avoid anything in 1/2/301-305 as they may be noisy due to proximity of cafe, lounge bar music at night.
  • If you are traveling without kids then you might want to request a room near the North Pool (age 12 + only)
  • I was pleased we saved our $ to go for the most basic room.  In a resort like this, I don’t plan on spending much time in our hotel room.

The Facilities

This place is all about the pools. They’ve everywhere, snaking through the entire resort.  

JW Marriott Pools 2

There are pools for all – an adults pool, incredible kids pool with waterslide, long pools for lengths and a fun pool with swim up bar.  

JW Marriott - Adults Pool

In peak season the loungers can get crowded so it’s worth reserving them early although you officially can’t do this until 10am (and rightly so).  The kids pool has a huge shallow area, perfect for toddlers and babies.  The only thing I would say is it isn’t particularly well shaded so make sure you pack a sunhat and/or sun vest.  

JW Marriott - Kids Pool

The gym is a great size and the changing rooms also house a jacuzzi, sauna and plunge pool. They run free daily classes from Body Conditioning to Pilates – the perfect way to work off that breakfast buffet.

JW Marriott Health Club

There are a whole host of ‘adult activities’ on offer from Thai Dessert Class to Muay Thai Introduction. Most are complimentary but things like Batik Painting come at extra charge.

Despite the Kids Club allowing me some free time, I didn’t make it to the Mandara Spa.  There are also cheaper, independently run massage huts practically on the property, right next to the beach.

JW Marriott - Massage huts

Onsite you can also find an ATM, a swimwear boutique that sells suntan lotion, a stall selling pool inflatables and a small business centre with several computers.  The Siam Deli sells snacks but if you are stocking up in big quantities you might find it cheaper to exit the resort and buy from a local supermarket.

The Kids Club

Ok, this is why you’re really here. The Kids Club is located near to the children’s pool and is divided into a large main room with toys, crafts, books, TVs and a teens area. There is also a mini movie theatre where your kids can choose what’s playing.  You can drop your kid off at any time unaccompanied from 4 years + (although they were ok to have my 3yo too).  In addition to all the fun of the kids club itself, they also run free activities from nail painting to cookie making. I was impressed by the kids club staff and felt very comfortable leaving my kids there (especially when I was supping on a pina colada by the pool).

In addition to the free activities, there are some paid classes including the amazing daily ‘Circus Training’ for ages 4+.  This is held on the lawn near the Kids Club and the kids LOVE it.  My 5yo wanted to do it every day and I was delighted to watch her test out the trapeze for the first time.

JW Marriott - circus skills

IMG_4797

If your child is under 4, you can hire a babysitter to watch them during the day in the kids club.  The cost is 200 Baht per hour.

There are lots of bikes available to rent (for free) from the Health Club. These include little kids bicycles with stabilisers. There’s a nice jogging trail you can follow through the resort although we were all feeling far too lazy to do it.

JW Marriott Bike Path

The Beach

Mai Khao beach is absolutely stunning. However there is a bit of a walk from the pool area down to the beach.  There are free and paid water sports available from boogie boards to windsurfing.

JW Marriott - Beach

I couldn’t see any sun loungers actually on the beach but you can find a sandy patch just in front of the pools. 

IMG_4745

The Food

If there’s one thing that lets the place down slightly, it’s the food. But I am being incredibly picky.  I wouldn’t say it was a 5* quality, more a solid 3-4*.  The breakfast buffet is decent although get there early if you’re in high season (i.e. before 8.30am) as you can expect queues.

JW Marriott Breakfast

There are about 7 places you can eat throughout the hotel. We ordered room service one night which was excellent and had dinner at The Andaman Grill Steakhouse another night. Unfortunately our food arrived very late although tasted fine.  There are kids menus available at all the food outlets they offer a mix of healthy and naughty options. You can also request food to be pureed for baby.

JW Marriott ice cream

For lunch we tended to just order by the pool (excellent club sandwiches and pizza) and head to one of the poolside bars for a cheeky afternoon cocktail. The lobby bar is a nice place for sunset drinks and nibbles with the family and be sure to catch the evening sunset ceremony.

If you’re staying at the hotel during a busy time (CNY/Christmas/Easter) then reserve your chosen restaurants at least one day in advance.

Our favourite meal was actually outside the hotel – if you exit at the beach and walk towards the right, eventually you’ll come to a local Thai restaurant on the beach. It isn’t much to look at (picture plastic tables & chairs) but the food is cheap and delicious.

If you’re not on a breakfast included package, the Siam Deli is useful for quick bites and pastries for breakfast.

There is free drinking water available at the pool and you get several bottles daily in your room.  The complimentary pineapple, watermelon and ice pops by the pool is also a nice touch.

JW Marriott ice lolly

There are also food options at Turtle Village – you can either walk 15 mins or use the hotel’s free shuttle. There you’ll find an ice cream parlour, coffee shop and pub.

Should you choose the JW Marriott, Phuket?

If you prefer a small boutique place and lots of local restaurants/shops in walking distance, then this place isn’t for you.  If you are looking for a fun resort with a fantastic kids club then I highly recommend it. 

I found this holiday hugely liberating – it was one of the first times my husband and I felt truly relaxed, without having to constantly play a game of childcare tag.  More importantly my girls loved the Kids Club – they made friends, enjoyed the activities (especially Circus Skills) and were happy to hideaway watching movies during the intense heat at midday.  We spent 4D/3N at the resort and it was the perfect amount of time. I probably could have done a few more days but think I would have got a bit bored beyond that, especially as there isn’t much to do around the hotel.

What does set the JW Marriott apart from others its incredible levels of service.  Everyone I encountered from reception to the pool staff to the waiters to the cleaning staff were all extremely friendly and helpful.  This is a big resort and even with a full house during CNY week, the staff always had a smile and got things done.

 

Have you stayed at the JW Marriott Phuket? What are your tips? Would you go back?

 

 

 

 

2 comments

  1. foodielys

    I just wanted to say thank you for this great post, we’re headed there on Saturday and this was hugely helpful! Cheers.

  2. Claire Lawrie

    Thank you. This is brilliant report.

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