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Avani+ Mai Khao review - why families will love this luxe villa resort

On the cusp of high season, Carolynne Dear jumped on a flight to the sandy shores of Phuket to check out Thailand's latest Avani resort.

Phuket nights at Avani+ Mai Khao.

Avani is a sophisticated addition to the holiday hot spot of Mai Khao on Phuket’s northern coastline. Unveiled during the pandemic, the villa resort sits just off the 11km stretch of golden sands that is Mai Khao Beach. This is Avani’s début property in Phuket and its ninth in Thailand.

Most families who have lived in Asia for a while (pre-pandemic, in any case) may remember the Mai Khao area for the JW Marriott hotel, infamous for its kids club with circus training. However, the area has always remained refreshingly underdeveloped, despite its fabulous sandy shores and its proximity to Phuket international airport, because it falls within Sirinat National Park. Since the pandemic, there has been the odd new arrival to the area; Spanish hotel group Meliá, for example, has moved in a little further south. And Avani has redeveloped the site of an existing property opposite Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas.

But back to Avani. Our villa is all soaring ceilings and teak furniture inside and fragrant frangipani trees shading a sparkling pool and terrace outside. The place is extremely comfortably furnished, with long lounges indoors and rattan loungers and a patio table and chairs outside. There’s even an additional shower next to the garden pagoda for rinsing off after a dip.

All the resort's villas have a pool and garden.

We’re in a one-bedroom villa (end of term exams prevented the kids from accompanying us this time) and it mops up pretty much everything on a holidaying family’s wish list - in-villa kitchen with fridge freezer, washer-dryer and hob? Tick. Huge lounge-dining space leading to a private pool and garden? Tick. Enormous bathroom with tub and alfresco shower? Tick. Minutes from the resort pool? Tick.

For bigger groups, there are larger villa configurations of two-, three- and four-bedrooms.

The resort has been charmingly laid out with plenty of swaying palms, green spaces and an elegant lily pond behind the breezy reception area. Avani’s dining areas overlook the resort pool at the far end of the complex and include a seafood shack (more about that later), all-day dining space Talad and Chop Chop, Mai Khao's first and only Asia-style beer garden.

The lagoon-style pool has a swim-up bar and sandy beach area with child-friendly graduated pool entry. Once a week, and much to the excitement of the pint-sized resort guests, a screen is set-up and giant rubber rings handed out for the poolside cinema.

Should littlies tire of the water, there’s a fun adventure playground adjacent to the pool deck, which is also next door to the kids’ club. The club targets youngsters aged from four to 12 years with pizza-making classes, tree planting and visits to a local turtle sanctuary, along with a climbing wall, kids yoga and Muay Thai classes.

A swim-up bar and cinema nights are two attractions of the resort's lagoon pool.

Outside of the complex, the beach is a five-minute stroll through the leafy Anantara property opposite. But if that seems like too much of a slog with kids, towels and beach toys in tow, just hit ‘0’ on the in-villa phone for a resort buggy to come and pick you up.

The beach stretches as far as the eye can see, picture perfect palms leaning luxuriantly over the flaxen sand. During our trip in October, the red flags were flying indicating the sea was too rough for swimming. However, we did sneak in for a quick dip - after two years locked out of Thailand it was too much to ask of us not to enjoy the deliciously warm waters of the Andaman. High season in Phuket begins in November at which time you can expect calmer waters than the stormier summer months.

The golden sands of Mai Khao Beach is just minutes from the villa.

After a busy day stretched out by the resort pool, Avani offers a number of dining options. As a sister hotel to the Anantara property over the road, guests are free to use the facilities of both resorts. On our first night we were hosted by the funky Claws & Co at Avani, a casual-dining seafood shack. We tucked into a tasty seafood platter of lobster, crab, prawns, scallops and sides followed up with a sweet slice of cheesecake.

On the second night, we enjoyed sunset cocktails overlooking the beach and a western-style meal at Anantara’s posh Sea Fire Salt restaurant. This was followed the next evening by one of the best Thai meals I’ve ever had, sitting by a lily pond at Anantara’s Tiffin by La Sala.

Buffet breakfast was enjoyed daily at Avani’s Talad restaurant overlooking the pool. At lunchtime Talad serves up a fine line in classic Thai dishes - think finger-licking satay skewers, spicy laab salad, creamy coconut-based curries and piles of pad thai. It was manna from heaven after so long away from the Land of Smiles.

And if dining out every night gets too much for the littlest members of the family, just over the road from Avani is Turtle Village, a smart shopping complex with a minimart-style supermarket, ideal for stocking up your villa fridge-freezer with snacks and easy eats for the kids. The shopping complex also has a coffee shop, homeware stores, trinket shops and even a gastro-pub.

Mai Khao is a popular spot with families and with good reason. It’s just 15 minutes from the airport and reasonably close to other attractions on the island. We took a 45-minute taxi-ride for an amble around the pretty Portuguese shops in Phuket Old Town one morning, and on another day were driven half-an-hour to Royal Phuket Marina, jumping off point for a day cruising Phuket's stunning offshore islands. Other nearby excursions include Phuket Elephant Sanctuary and a little further south still, the brand new Andamanda water park.

It was a joy to be back in Thailand and fantastic to see how life is moving on post-Covid with stunning new resorts like Avani+ to try. It seems Phuket is sure to remain a hit with families for years to come.

For the latest offers at Avani+ Mai Khao Phuket Suites & Villas, see online. We flew from Singapore to Phuket with Singapore Airlines. Currently direct flights to Phuket from Hong Kong are limited; at the time of writing, HK Express was flying daily.

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