Heading to Thailand with the kids? Add Outrigger Resorts to your list for affordable family luxury, says Stacey Marcelo.
Fly 'n' flop at Outrigger Khao Lak Beach Resort.
In 2021, Outrigger Hospitality Group acquired Manathai Resorts and has spent the last couple of years carrying out an extensive renovation of three of the newly acquired properties. Now that they’re ready for their big reveal, I flew down for a look at this trio of new Thai resorts.
First stop: Koh Samui
Another day in the office at Outrigger Koh Samui Beach Resort.
Just 25 minutes from Samui International Airport, I had arrived at Outrigger Koh Samui Beach Resort and was immediately charmed by the elegant colonial feel of the resort surrounded by lush tropical gardens and palm trees which swayed in the evening breeze. It was my first visit to Koh Samui and I was excited to discover what the island had in store.
Located along Lamai beach, the 146-room property has been designed with families in mind with 32 inter-connecting rooms, two restaurants, the Coral Kids Club and game room, swimming pools, a water slide and a range of activities to keep everyone happy and entertained.
The premium rooms and suites range from 572 metre sq to 80m2 in size and can sleep up to three children, which is a game changer for family travellers. The rooms are beautifully appointed, feature spacious living quarters separate from the sleeping area, and luxurious marble bathrooms with separate showers and bathtubs. Each room in the resort has a balcony or terrace, offering stunning views and blends contemporary design with soft-colonial accents.
Guests staying in premium rooms have exclusive access to the Voyager 47 Club Lounge, where you can enjoy daily breakfast, afternoon snacks, and evening cocktails accompanied by the chef’s tasting plate.
One of the resort highlights is the Edgewater Beach Club, where guests can enjoy beachside dining, swimming pools, a water slide, as well as activities including non-motorised water sports or a relaxing massage by the beach.
Good morning Koh Samui!
The resort has joined forces with select local organisations to create a range of signature experiences which I got to try out.
We visited Samui Elephant Haven, home to 20 elephants who have been rescued from exploitation practices such as trekking, performing in circuses, logging, and street begging. We learned to prepare their meals and had the chance to feed them. It was very educational, meaningful experience and one not to miss.
We also visited Angthong National Marine Park where we swam, snorkelled, and even braved the 500m climb up to the Pha Jun Jaras viewpoint (worth it!). DO NOT attempt this climb with your flip flops. Bring your trainers. Though I saw a few families with kids, I personally wouldn’t recommend it to anyone under 15. I would have been a nervous wreck if my eight and five-year-old were with me trying to navigate the slippery rocks.
After three nights in Samui, we took a quick one-hour flight to Phuket and headed north to Khao Lak.
Second stop: Khao Lak
Sunny days in Khao Lak.
Located a 90 minute drive north of Phuket airport, the Outrigger Khao Lak Beach Resort is the perfect destination to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. The 158 room beachfront resort is a hidden gem nestled along the stunning shores of Bang Sak Beach and completely surrounded by nature. The minute I arrived I wanted to exhale and breathe in the relaxation.
Upon arrival we were welcomed by the resort’s warm and friendly team who handed out fragrant flower bracelets, a cold towel and a refreshing lemongrass and butterfly pea drink. The stylish reception area overlooks the entire resort with its lush tropical garden, expansive pool and the ocean beyond.
The resort has been reimagined with new design elements emphasising a seamless connection between the sea, sand, and green landscape. It truly is a peaceful and revitalising sanctuary where guests can relax in comfort and style.
The resort offers a variety of modern and stylish accommodation options suitable for all types of travellers whether you’re a family seeking adventure or a couple wanting a romantic getaway. Their rooms, suites and villas are large (room sizes range from 40 to 77m2) and feature a balcony or terrace. The seven secluded villas come with private plunge pools or outdoor terraces enveloped by lush tropical gardens.
I was so impressed with the family garden terrace room. The rooms are bright and airy complete with a king bed, bunk bed and playstation area that can be screened off for privacy, terrace and large bathroom. Best part is the family rooms not far from the pool, beach and Coral Kids Club.
The resort boasts an array of amenities and activities from massages pool-side to cooking classes, yoga and Thai boxing which you can book easily using the Outrigger app. I visited during the rainy season, which to be honest, was not bad at all. In Southern Thailand I noticed it would only rain twice a day for an hour, once in the morning and once in the late afternoon, which left you plenty of time to get out and about.
Pint-sized fun at Coral Kids Club.
However, rainy season meant that the waves were pounding and swimming in the ocean was a no-go. Fret not, I was kept plenty busy with a Thai cooking class with Chef Nat who began by taking us on a tour of the resort’s bountiful vegetable and herb garden to forage for ingredients for the three dishes we learned to make. I also joined the daily yoga and stretching classes on the beach, swam in the pool and enjoyed a massage in the beachfront sala.
Kids can enjoy the Coral Kids Club where the friendly staff host a range of activities which change daily to keep the little ones entertained. There is also an outdoor playground, as well as a games room for the bigger kids and teens.
If you want to pop out and explore the area, drop by the Tour Desk where the staff can take you through the many excursion options. Popular local activities include a visit to an ethical elephant sanctuary, canoeing, as well as forest and waterfall discoveries. Explore the world-famous Similan Islands on a day tour, where you can bask in the beauty of white-sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and diverse marine life. My personal favourite was the relaxing 30- minute bamboo rafting tour where you float down a waterfall-fed stream surrounded by a bamboo forest. Kid-friendly too!
The resort offers a variety of dining options for guests. Mala Kitchen serves up hearty, buffet breakfasts while Edgewater Restaurant offers alfresco beachside dining with a wide selection of Asian and Western classics. It’s also the perfect spot for sundowner cocktails. After many disappointments through the years, I never have high hopes that resort restaurants can deliver authentic local dishes so I was pleasantly surprised that Edgewater’s Thai offering was legit. All freshly prepared using local ingredients. The fact that I didn’t have to search outside the resort for authentic Thai food was a win in my books.
Dining at Outrigger's Edgewater restaurant.
Pro tip: I highly recommend arranging a private dinner at the beach. Outrigger’s expert team are dream makers when it comes to the set up. Think candlelit dinner under the stars, the ocean breeze and the sound of the waves softly lapping on the shore.
Third stop: Phuket
For the last stop on the itinerary we headed back to Phuket and checked into the Outrigger Surin Beach Resort.
Located a short stroll from one of Phuket’s best beaches, Surin Beach, the newly designed 60-key resort, draws inspiration from the destination’s easy-going surf culture with vibrant colours and vintage artwork. There are various room options to suit your preference and nearly half the rooms are in premium categories (37 of the rooms are suites).
Relax into your Phuket holiday in a plunge pool suite.
I was hosted in a tastefully decorated plunge pool suite which opened out to a garden terrace with my own private plunge pool! The spacious room featured a king-size bed, large bathroom with a sumptuous bathtub and rain shower. I felt very spoiled and had such a good night’s sleep.
Once hunger strikes guests can head to their surf-inspired restaurant, Nalu Bar & Grill, which features an open-flame modern BBQ with dishes from around the globe and a rooftop bar with ocean views. You’ll also find two swimming pools, a fitness studio and spa. For those seeking some pampering, the Serenity Massage is the one to go for. The resort also offers a daily guest activities program, ensuring there’s never a dull moment during your stay.
Outrigger Surin was the least family-friendly of the three Outrigger resorts I had tried as they don’t offer adjoining or family rooms. However, it is a good option for couples, solo travellers or groups of friends.
Was it worth it?
Absolutely! Following the extensive and thoughtful renovation, Outrigger’s three Thai properties have emerged gleaming and are excellent value for money. From their stylish rooms, fluffy towels which would rival those found at the Four Seasons, signature experiences, to the staff who provided such genuine, heartfelt service, you’d be hard pressed to find a better value proposition.
Asia Family Traveller was a guest of Outrigger Resorts.