Luxury travel and eco-tourism haven’t been good bedfellows in the past, but things are changing. Places like Hua Hin’s Aleenta Resort in Thailand’s southwest have discovered the beautiful balance of the two.
Thailand has long been a destination for keen travellers looking for luxury, adventure and a friendly yet fascinating culture. But all too often with mass-produced tourism comes a negative impact on the environment and local communities.
Our recent visit to Thailand took us to a place that has managed to balance high-end luxury with an eco-sensitive mindset – plus its sandy beaches and calm waters make for the kind of beach escape you dream of.
Hua Hin – about 3 hours southwest of Bangkok – is a thriving coastal town full of the hustle and rush you’d expect from a satellite of Bangkok. It’s fun and exciting, and also has the honour of being home to one of the King of Thailand’s main residences.
However, down the road a way is Pranburi, a quiet country district with unspoilt beaches, local villages and that sleepy feeling you find in a place that hasn’t yet been damaged by tourism.
Here you’ll find Aleenta Hua Hin Resort and Spa nestling in amongst the palms and frangipani trees, and blending in perfectly with its surroundings. It’s a great example of what to do with a resort that’s a bit older but still has grace, service and the conscience of its environment at heart.
There is a wide range of room and villa types here at Aleenta Hua Hin – Aleenta’s first resort. All beds are fitted with the softest sheets we’ve ever experienced. It’s honestly like sleeping on a cloud! We were so tempted to buy a set. Most rooms are family-friendly too, however, if it’s romance you’re after, there’s huge opportunity to find it here.
We were staying in the beachfront villa next door to the main resort property. This meant we had total privacy away from everyone and plenty of space too. It also meant we had our own infinity pool, garden, private access to the beach and a kitchenette.
Mind you, we didn’t need the kitchen; the food at Aleenta needs to be tasted to be believed. And this is where the real eco-luxe of the resort comes in.
There are two restaurants here, and both serve food that the in-house head chef makes from scratch. The ingredients all come from a 30km radius of the property, which not only makes the kitchen sustainable, it also means traditional Thai dishes come to your table singing.
Well within that 30km radius are the resort’s farms. A short drive away, we were shown the smaller of the two, which has all kinds of fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices growing. The staff – even the GM – take it in turns to tends the plants on the farms.
Anything they can’t grow on the farms, the kitchen and management look to the local community for. It’s so warming to speak to the staff at Aleenta Hua Hin and see the pride in their faces when they talk about the work they do on the farm and where all the produce comes from.
I also feel compelled to give Chef Tan a shout out. He makes everything in the little kitchen here – and I mean everything. Even the butter he hand-whips (he doesn’t enjoy making it but I really enjoyed eating it). And the croissants he bakes here are good enough to make a Frenchman cry.
The bar here looks out over the Gulf of Thailand and is very relaxing. There’s a pool here too, so you can have a dip, enjoy the view and sip the cocktails they serve all at the same time.
There’s also a rolling happy hour here, so it’s up to you when it happens. I like this strategy!
The other strategy they have here that we really like is the minimal plastic use policy, even down to whether you want a straw in your drink. Of course, you can have one, but the bar will ask before giving you one.
Perched at the top of the main building, the Ayurah Spa is the centre of what this resort is about: peace, health, vitality and nature. All therapy and treatment options use aromatic oils made from the fruit, veggies, spices and herbs from Aleenta’s farms, so it’s all chemical-free and organic.
You can visit the smaller of the two Aleenta farms quite easily, and we recommend you do so. It really brought together everything that this resort is about and made sense of it. Plus it’s amazing to see where all your dinner comes from!
Aleenta Hua Hin is a remarkable place to experience Thailand. It’s a luxury resort all right, but there’s absolutely no pretension here. And that’s why it fits in so well in Pranburi, nurturing the local area – not exploiting it.
It’s focused on the simple things in life – but the simple things done well.
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What do you look for in a sustainable resort? Have you been to Thailand? Where did you stay? Tell us in the comments!