In partnership with Centara
Many of us will have had the central heating on for days already. It’s miserable out there: wet, windy, foggy and, of course, it’s only going to get worse.
Now that the clocks have gone back, the winter months stretch out ahead depressingly. But there is an answer: a place where the sun is still shinning and the nights, let alone the days, are gloriously warm.
Thailand is a mecca for LGBTQ travellers looking for an exotic escape. The country has a predominantly Buddhist population, so the Thai people are generally very open-minded when it comes to sexuality and gender-identity.
So, there is nowhere better to sit on the beach, post selfies on your social media and make your shivering friends jealous.
Some of Thailand’s best beaches can be found in Phuket. Past the golden sands, clear water is waiting to be explored by boat, or traversed with your snorkel. Better yet, plunge deeper and go for a scuba dive and discover wonderful marine life
There’s even more of that to see at Sirinat National Park or, if you prefer dry land, visit Khao Phra Thaeo National Park which has some of the world’s best-preserved rainforests as well as a gibbon rehabilitation centre. Khao Sok also offers rainforests as well as a diverse range of plants and wildlife.
A bit further afield, you’ll find the Similan Islands, an archipelago in the beautiful Andaman Sea. Renowned as one of the best dive sites in the world, it’s about 100km (62 miles) from Phuket, but the underwater landscape makes it well worth your time. And there are always more stunning beaches to relax on afterwards.
And there’s no worry about finding a great place to stay. For the past three decades, Centara have been welcoming guests to their ever-expanding portfolio of hotels across Thailand. They have properties to suit every budget from boutique to five-star luxury, all with the welcoming Thai hospitality that makes the country famous.
The Centara Grand Beach Resort is best for those with children. On the west coast of Phuket, it sits right on the beautiful Karon Beach and offers kayaking, windsurfing, sailing and complimentary use of snorkelling gear.
The resort also surrounds its own waterpark with a lazy river, slides, waterfalls and separate adult and children’s pools.
The resort has a Sino-Portuguese design, inspired by the architecture of Phuket Old town, and all 262 rooms, suites and villas feature a furnished balcony or terrace, most of which overlook the Andaman Sea. Half the guest rooms have a whirlpool spa or a private pool.
There is a fitness centre and tennis courts to work up a sweat before you indulge yourself with a treatment at the award-winning SPA Cenaree. The resort boasts three restaurants as well as four additional venues for snack, drinks and coffee.
The Maikhoa Dream Villa Resort is part of Centara’s Boutique Collection and is situated on the 11km-long Mai Khao Beach.
Close to a golf course and Splash Jungle Waterpark, the resort is decorated with dark teak wood and terracotta tiles, and each of the two and three-bedroom villas features a private terrace, swimming pool, a kitchen and up to 650sq m of living space.
Dining options include the Dokbua, which offers a blend of Mediterranean and Asian cuisine, while the Pines Beachfront Restaurant and Bar is the place for grilled meat and seafood, with greens from the organic garden.
There is even an elegant wine cellar where you can eat. A fully equipped fitness centre is on hand, as well as the SPA Cenvaree, and if you want a bit more privacy, you can charter the resort’s luxury yacht.
The Centara Blue Marine Resort is situated on a cliff at the northern end of Patong Beach, providing guests with breathtaking views of the Andaman Sea.
The resort has three large pools and a children’s pool, in addition to the villas with private pools. You can even treat yourself to a Deluxe Spa room which features a stream room and an outdoor hot tub.
All the rooms and suites have a minimalist design, while offering modern comforts, including free WiFi, individually controlled air con and satellite TV. Guests can eat at the poolside Blue Horizons restaurant for an international menu or the casual Tropics Lounge Thai restaurant.
Despite all this tranquillity, you are only a few minutes from the nightlife in Patong – the resort offers a free shuttle service – and if you overdo things, you can recover in the fitness centre or the SPA Cenvaree.