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Even if you're not a Sri Panwa guest, a few drinks at its Baba Nest rooftop bar will make you feel like a rock star.
CNN Insider Guides are thoroughly checked for accuracy. Given the fluid nature of the travel industry, however, some listings may fall out of date before guides can be updated. The best practice is to confirm current information on official websites before making plans to visit any business or attraction.
(CNN)It's hard to explain Phuket's allure.
Perhaps the easiest way would be to compare it to a super-sexy but rebellious supermodel.
The Naomi Campbell of the tourist trail.
Phuket's beauty has never been in dispute. Its natural attractions are stunning.
What plagues Thailand's biggest island is a reputation for petty crime, unsafe roads, aggressive taxi drivers, jet-ski scams and over-developed beaches.
Thai authorities promise they're working to rebuild the island's reputation as a family-friendly holiday destination by cleaning up these messes.
(Whether their efforts are cosmetic or concrete will play out in the months and years to come.)
But there is, of course, another, far more positive Phuket.
That would be the one that pulls in about a couple million visitors a year, including the world's rich and famous, who come for world-class luxury resorts, spectacular diving, island hopping, beach bumming, dining and nightlife.
Too tempted to resist? Here's a quick guide to the best of Phuket.
Trisara's pool villas look like they pour right onto the treetops, with the Andaman Sea within reach.
A surprisingly child-friendly super luxury offering -- the kids' club is impressive -- Trisara's 39 villas represent no nonsense, non-gimmicky tropical cool.
Marble-tiled bathrooms and plenty of white paint make the one- and two-bedroom pool villas refreshingly bright and airy.
For larger parties, some of the 18 residential villas, ranging from two to five bedrooms, are put back into the rental pool, with the huge, four-bedroom oceanfront residence holding bragging rights thanks to a 30-meter-long private pool.
This artsy island retreat advertsises "the most luxurious private pool villas in Phuket." We can't say we've seen every private pool villa in Phuket but we've seen more than a few and these ones definitely make a case for themselves as top of the class.
Rooms come with neat designer touches and pillow menus.
The Coqoon Spa is a bit gaudy but fun. It looks a place where the truly special might convene for tribal council.
The whole place exudes tropical class -- raw timber, brass rivets, swaying palms, lots of landscaped greenery -- and there's a nice Thai restaurant on site.
Indigo Pearl, Nai Yang Beach & National Park, Nai Yang, Phuket 83110 Thailand; +66 (0)7 632 7006;
This mid-priced Phuket resort with a jungle vibe is on Ao Sane Bay, just north of Nai Harn beach in the south.
Bungalows are tucked hillside, leading down to a small private beach.
With plenty of natural charm and lots of tall old trees on a secluded hillside, those who associate Phuket with overdeveloped modernity will be surprised such a resort still exists on the island.
There are 65 rooms total.
For something rustic and natural, the deluxe rooms have thatched roofs.
For a newer and more contemporary stay there are also deluxe pavilion rooms -- all of which have private terraces.
The bar here claims its drink are "infused with tastes reminiscent of sun, perpetual summer and exotic Thai coasts."
We'll let them get away with a little over-the-top lyrical indulgence because the place is so damn cool.
It's right on the beach, the drinks are good -- even if we'd like a little more of that solar flavoring -- and the beach parties draw good-looking crowds of happy people.
Skyla's Beach House, North End of Kamala Beach, Kamala, Kathu, Phuket 83100 Thailand; +66 (0)8 2519 3282
What with Phuket being Thailand's biggest island, finding a beach to collapse on for the day isn't a challenge.
Picking the right one is.
Here's a rundown of some of the most popular, as well as a few spots the locals don't want you to know about.
One warning: for the less-crowded beaches along the west coast, take care to heed the color of the flags in the sand (i.e. red = don't go swimming).
Tales of tourists drowning in Phuket hit the headlines far too often.
There's no such thing as a "quiet day at the beach" in Patong.
There's no such thing as a "quiet day at the beach" in Patong.
When bulldozers move into an island destination, it's always the nicest beach that gets sacrificed first for development.
In Phuket's case it was Patong, now the busiest tourist spot on the island.
While most locals heap a fair share of scorn on this place, action seekers will find everything they could want here.
There are shops along Thaweewong beach road, restaurants and the Jungceylon mall close by at the end of perpendicular "entertainment" road Soi Bangla.
What you lose in serenity you make up for in activities.
Jet-skis rip through the water (watch out for scamming rental guys who pretend to find damage you didn't create) and paragliders launch from the shore while beach chairs and umbrellas stretch across the sand as far as your sunburned retinas can squint.
The beaches of Kata are good for anyone who craves a bit of action, but is put off by Patong's madness.
When the rain comes down the surf's up.
Kata Yai is the place to ride waves between April and October.
Sure, it's not Oa'hu, but the surf is decent enough that it can host the yearly Kata Surfing competition.
It also offers the best snorkeling off the shores of Phuket during high season.
"This is the only beach in southern Phuket that has coral right off the northern and southern points of the bay," says John Williams, co-owner of Siamdivers.com.
"Tropical fish commonly seen are lionfish, schooling reef fish, parrotfish, butterfly fish, triggerfish and pipefish," adds Williams, author of three dive guides including "Lonely Planet Diving & Snorkeling Thailand."
Kata Beach, Pakbang Road, Kata Beach, Phuket Thailand;
Banana Beach (Haad Hin Kluay)
Between Bang Tao in the south and Nai Thon in the north (it can be a bit difficult to find), this popular-with-the-locals beach is close to hillside Trisara Resort.
It's one of the most secluded stretches of beach on the island, with only one small bar/restaurant.
If you're driving from the south, you can see the small beach through the trees --- look for the orange "Banana Beach" sign nailed to a tree on the left, about 400 meters from the Trisara entrance.
Park and walk down the narrow steep-ish dirt path (not suitable for small children).
If it's too difficult to find, get a round-the-island long-tail taxi man to take you on his boat.
The sands of Bang Tao attract many an upmarket tourist.
Bang Tao is a beautiful, long stretch of beach facing the massive Laguna Phuket complex with its cluster of upmarket hotels -- Sheraton, Banyan Tree, Angsana, Dusit, Outrigger.
A 10-minute walk southward along the beach will get you to a small, practically deserted beach -- though there's also the newly re-opened blue and white Babylon Beach Club run by the Watermark group.
There's also a wooden Reggae Bar that cantilevers on stilts over the incoming high tide, and two unassuming Thai restaurants --- a great place to catch the sunset then retreat to the elevated restaurants and/or bar as the tide comes in over the sand up to the steps.