Phuket: Club Culture

The beach club trend—swanky all-day lounge venues, usually with a pool perched right on the beach—has been sweeping the globe. Leading names like Nikki Beach and Beach Republic have turned stretches of sand on Koh Samui into mini party hubs visited by the beautiful and the wealthy. Phuket has been a little slow to the party but in the last year, the island has witnessed an explosion of beach clubs on its West Coast.  

Benedikt De Bellis, manager of the first such venue in Phuket, the 200-seat Catch Beach Club on Surin Beach which opened in 2007, certainly agrees. “The trend has well and truly arrived in Phuket.”

Veteran hoteliers clearly believe they’re the next big thing, with a beach club central to any plans to renovate decades-old beachfront resorts. When The Boathouse (182 Koktanode Rd., Kata Beach, +66 07 6330-0157, unveiled its new look after a US$6-million renovation last year, the legendary resort also introduced its beach club Re Ka Ta, designed by a Bali-based architect Fredo Taffin to present beach loungers with what they call the “James Bond Martini Lifestyle.” Re Ka Ta features an infinity swimming pool on the beach front, adjacent to a sun lounging area, spa and boutique.

Another example can be found on Bangtao Beach in the north of the island. After operating for more than a decade, Sheraton Grande Laguna Resort has been rebranded to the world’s largest Angsana Resort, the Angsana Laguna Phuket (10 Moo 4 Srisoonthorn Rd., +66 7632-4101, under the management of the Banyan Tree Group. The rebranding is part of a multi-million dollar renovation, which includes the addition of Xana Beach Club. It is managed by Singapore’s own Attica Group.

For sure, Phuket has lots to offer in the way of long, sweeping sandy beaches. “To have a beach club, you have to have a nice beach,” explains Mark Brimblecombe, of the Attica Group. “The most attractive feature of Xana is the beach itself. If you look at other beach clubs, they all seem intent on competing with Bali. But the beaches in Bali cannot compare to Phuket.”

“Phuket has always had these small bars by the beach that were made into beach clubs. But none of them are really very high-end. So we’re here to assist the hotel and make this club special. I think this is probably the first proper beach club in Phuket,” he continues.

The design of Xana is all about making the most of its sea views, with the main highlight being the 35-meter swim-up bar, the longest in Phuket, hugged by day beds, lounge seats and cabanas. As well as the setting, Xana also brings in international acts and host special events every month, which attract weekend visitors from Bangkok, Hong Kong and even Sydney.

With three main beach clubs, and more coming soon (Nikki Beach is set to open their Phuket branch near Bangtao Beach in the fall this year), competition will inevitably heat up. As the pioneer, De Bellis says he enjoys the rivalry because at the end of the day everybody gets something in return. “We don’t mind there being more beach clubs, we like competition. It helps us to improve ourselves.”