Friday, March 2, 2018

Stay: Hyatt Regency Hua Hin (Thailand)

We first visited Hua Hin five years ago when I was pregnant with Miss Nomad Foodie and we realized that we had airline miles expiring. Given the range of destinations we could fly to on miles, and that I'd feel comfortable bringing a 2-month newborn to, we quickly decided on Thailand. Granted, on that particular trip we spent most of our time at the resort, but I found Hua Hin to be much more relaxed than other areas of Thailand, meaning I didn't notice any touts.

From Bangkok, the drive to Hua Hin takes between three to four hours, depending on traffic. For our last two trips, we used Hua Hin Cab and found the service to be prompt, professional, and comfortable.

Stay: Hyatt Regency Hua Hin
Do: Hua Hin Vineyard Tour & Lunch
Do: Kui Buri National Park
future posts:
Do: Hua Hin Bike Tours
Dining in Hua Hin

We've since returned to Hua Hin and have spent the past two Christmas holidays at the Hyatt Regency Hua Hin. The hotel is located on the southern end of Hua Hin town, and has several pools set in a among truly lovely, lush gardens. And, despite the expansive gardens, we've never had an issue with mosquitoes.

Sea view beyond the gardens and pool at the Hyatt Regency Hua Hin
On our first visit, we stayed in their Club room. The bathroom was to the right of the entry, and featured a big soaking tub and separate shower. The tub was framed with two sliding panels, which could open up to the entire room, or closed for privacy. The kids loved the tub; I loved the retractable clothesline in the shower. I wish more hotels that have swimming pools would provide a clothesline, because where else am I going to hang swimsuits to dry without causing puddles? (I now bring this clothesline on my travels, and love it.) The room also came with an enclosed balcony, which featured a day bed that was made up with bed linens.

I had contacted the hotel ahead of time as Miss Nomad Foodie's birthday was during our stay, and the housekeeping staff came through with this super-cute decoration on the day bed. They also provided a chocolate cake, and our four year-old felt like a star.

Birthday recognition at the Hyatt Regency Hua Hin
On this most recent stay, we used one of Mr. Nomad Foodie's Globalist certificates to upgrade to a suite. The bedroom part of the suite was similar in layout and decor to the Club Room, but featured an additional outdoor covered patio.

Daybed made up with bed linens and desk area in the bedroom of a standard suite, overlooking the covered patio.
I find the beds to be a bit firm for my liking, so you can request to have an additional mattress topper added to the bed to increase the softness. Note that the iPod speaker system (on the night stand to the left of the bed) is a bit outdated in terms of the plugs, and so to use it, you have to bring your own 3.5mm auxiliary audio/speaker cable (Housekeeping did not have any to borrow, so on our first visit we weren't able to connect our phones to the speakers). However, there are plenty of plugs including USB ports on both sides of the bed.

The living area of the suite provided plenty of space to stretch out, and included a dry bar that spanned the length of the shorter wall facing the couch.

The bathroom had an enclosed toilet, separate shower and bathtub, and could either be opened to the room or closed off with a sliding panel.

This year, Miss Nomad Foodie requested a strawberry cake, and a strawberry cake she received.
Complimentary birthday cake

Our room came with a welcome fruit plate, which was refreshed throughout our stay, along with some locally dried fruit and crackers packaged in paper bags which were also made by local craftspeople. We also had a floral arrangement and two handwritten notes welcoming us to the resort.

Welcome fruit plate and snacks.
One of the reasons we like this hotel so much is that it's very family-friendly. The main attractions are the pools, which include a pool that winds like a river past a few wings of the hotel. It's not a lazy river, so there's no current pushing one along, but it does provide ample nooks for loungers with a bit more privacy.

This river-like pool flows into the lagoon pool, complete with an "island" that features the poolside restaurant. The lagoon pool then flows into a zero-entry beach pool perfect for the kiddos. The pool staff have bottles of water, towels, and some pool floats on hand to borrow.

Lagoon pool
There's also a tiny little wading pool and a 7-meter tall water slide that leads to the lagoon pool. While the signs say you have to be 1.2 meters in order to go on the slide, the staff allowed my daughter, at 1 meter, to go down the slide. Also, only one person is allowed on the slide at a time— unlike at the Grand Hyatt Bali, parents are not allowed to hold their children—so that is something else to keep in mind.

Club-level rooms and above access the Regency Club area of the hotel, which features it's own rectangular pool adjacent to the Regency Club lounge. There are signs posted in the area requesting quiet, so it's not suitable for children.

Another point to keep in mind is that the pools are not heated. While this was not an issue on our first visit in 2016, on our most recent visit, we experienced cooler and windy weather which meant the pool water was too cold. Even with shorties, the kids didn't want to play in the water.

That's not a worry, as there are two playgrounds. The newer one is adjacent to the baby wading pool, while the older one is next to the basketball court and tennis courts. I appreciated the variety of equipment for the kids to play with, and that a basketball could be borrowed from the fitness center for use on the courts.

Newer children's playground
Older children's playground next to the basketball court and tennis courts.
In addition, the kid's club, Camp Hyatt, features different activities each day. I was pleasantly surprised on our first visit to pick up my kids after their full day in the program to have my son ask me, "what are you doing here so early?" They were having so much fun they didn't want to leave! This is a rare situation since my kids have always been eager to go home from daycare. There is a charge for the kid's club, but a full-day program includes two craft activities and lunch. I appreciated the programming as the kids are not just inside watching movies and playing video games; they also spend time outside doing activities such as feeding the fish in garden pond.

Bridge/walkway designed to look like a boat over a pond filled with fish,
Of course, there's also the clean beach for beach combing and the expansive grounds for exploring and observing. The hotel also arranged seasonal events, such as caroling by local children at a school that is supported by the Hyatt community. At night, kid movies were screened in the dance studio, complete with beanbags and snacks, so that parents enjoying the evening canapés and drinks at the Regency Club just steps away have a chance at some kid-free time.

In addition, twice a week the hotel offers family movies on the great lawn adjacent to the beach, complete with popcorn. The outdoor screenings are a step up from the movies at the park we enjoy in the summer because the staff sets up lounge chairs. This was a super comfortable way for my kids to get their snuggles and cuddles with their parents while we watched favorites like Moana and Sing!.

Exploring the plant life in the gardens at the Hyatt Regency Hua Hin
The fitness center was small but well appointed, and the hotel will lend a yoga mat and light weights for use in the room. There were bikes which could be borrowed (which we didn't use) and fitness classes. I tried the yoga class and aqua aerobics, and to be honest, both classes were underwhelming,.

One Mile at a Time has an extensive review of the hotel from a stay during Christmas 2015. In general, that review matches my experience except that I think that the quality of the dining service has improved (the actual food items and dishes appear to be the same). The food we ordered - whether at the lounge, poolside dining at the You & Mee Noodle Shop and Poolside Bar, or through room service came quickly and correctly. There were menus for You & Mee were paired with each table next to the loungers, and you could also order via an app on your phone (which, to be honest, I couldn't download), although I never had a problem flagging a member of the pool staff, along with tags attached to each lounge chair outlining the hotel's policy on claiming loungers. Even during an obviously busy holiday season, I never had a problem finding an available lounge chair.

I think the General Manager rotated into his position prior to our first visit; he and other members of the management team were continually walking the grounds and greeting guests, during both the day and during the evening canapés at the Regency Lounge. I'm sure their active presence motivates staff to be their best!

In any case, I found the staff to be warm and friendly - one morning the buffet didn't feature my kid's favorite corn kernels. Not a problem, they quickly brought out a bowl of corn for her. I do wish that there were more cooked vegetable dishes, especially on the children's menu. For example, my kid's loved their penne with carbonara sauce, but just two broccoli florets is not enough veg for this mama.

Outdoor seating at Figs Restaurant (where the buffet breakfast is served) overlooking the grounds
On our first visit, we preferred to dine at the lounge in the morning—it's a more calm environment than at the main buffet breakfast—but on our most recent trip, we preferred the buffet breakfast with indoor seating because of the much cooler weather. While it isn't mentioned in the hotel literature, the Club does serve complimentary ice cream daily at 3pm.

Finally, my last two data points on services available just outside the hotel that were mentioned in the OMAAT review: I found the Thai massage just outside the hotel along the hotel's driveway to be mediocre and the service at Smile Laundry on point and as described.

In summary, this is one of my favorite resorts in my favorite vacation destination (Thailand, for it's hospitality, food culture, and value for money). It's well-run, comfortable, and makes relaxing with my kids easy. We've gone two winters in a row, and I'd love to make a tradition of it!

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