Pimalai Resort and Spa

Koh Lanta Yai, Krabi, Koh Lanta & Koh Kradan, Thailand Book from

Reviewed by Nikki Tinto
Secluded luxury resort set in lush tropical surroundings with stunning swimming pools, a jungle spa, a dive centre and a vast unspoilt beach
Ideally situated in Thailand's southwestern province of Krabi, Koh Lanta has long been a hotspot for backpackers. But unlike nearby Phuket and Phi Phi, the island has managed to go upmarket while retaining its slow, blissful vibe. Pimalai was the first of a clutch of luxury hotels to open on Koh Lanta and is arguably still the best.

Set in 100 acres of lush tropical gardens on the quiet southern tip of the island, it has direct access to a half-mile stretch of pristine white sand. Arriving by speedboat, you would never guess there's a largish resort hiding in the hillside's protected woodlands. The 121 contemporary Thai-style rooms, suites and villas are virtually hidden amid the cashew trees; the spa is designed to blend into the jungle, with pretty thatched pavilions made of teak, bamboo and river stones. Guests, mainly 30-something couples with a smattering of families, spend their days being pampered, chilling out by the fabulous infinity pools, windsurfing and kayaking. Beyond the resort, Pimalai offers hiking, elephant rides and trips to some of Thailand’s finest dive sites.

Highs

  • Beautiful tranquil setting with acres of well-maintained lush grounds - perfect for relaxing and enjoying nature - paired with a huge stretch of unspoilt sandy beach
  • Top-notch facilities including 2 spectacular infinity pools
  • Gorgeous jungle spa - imaginatively designed and the best Thai massage we've experienced
  • Good selection of dining options - the hotel has 4 restaurants (though they're quite expensive by Thai standards), plus you can wander along the beach to some laid back eateries and bars
  • PADI dive centre offering excellent diving and snorkelling off nearby islands, especially between November and April

Lows

  • More resorty and less personal than most i-escape hotels: on arrival we winced at the buffets, Thai performers singing rock classics at dinner and golf carts transporting luggage, but by day 2 we didn't want to leave
  • The rooms are very comfortable but the decor is rather generic-Asian
  • Some rooms such as the Pool Villas are a steep hike from the beach in the heat (then you'll appreciate the golf buggies)
  • Not for party seekers - most guests are in bed by 11pm
  • Off the beaten track and somewhat isolated from regular Thai life; guests tend to stay put in the resort

Best time to go

Go between November and March when it is hot, dry and not too humid. Low season is from May to October; it will be quieter and you can get the best deals. April, May, September and October are the hottest months, with high humidity, quite a bit of rain and seas can be rough depending on the incoming winds. Short sharp rain showers usually occur in the afternoon, with sun in between. Diving and snorkelling happen all year round - winds and visibility permitting - but they're best between November and April.

Our top tips

Go for at least 3 nights in order to justify the journey to Koh Lanta. To really unwind, 5-7 nights would be ideal - once you get into the rhythm you won't want to leave. Some combine a stay here with a few days at one of the other contrasting resorts on the island.

Great for...

Beach
Family
Great Outdoors
Spa
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Beach Resort
  • 121
  • Restaurants + bars (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Concierge Service
  • Tennis Court
  • Bicycles Available
  • Cookery lessons
  • Sports centre
Room: Pool Villa

Rooms

The 121 rooms, suites and villas are spread over 100 acres of tropical landscaped gardens, split in 2 by a small road. The décor throughout follows the same contemporary Thai style: solid teak floors, ochre-coloured Thai silk, floor-to-ceiling windows with bamboo blinds, occasional Siamese artefacts, carved wooden furniture, and art-deco style seating out on the veranda. Bathrooms (functional, but a tad dated) come with a tub (many with a nice view) and separate walk-in shower decked out in ochre-coloured tiles.

There are 64 Deluxe Rooms and while they may be the cheapest, they're not far from the beach and they certainly aren't pokey. Those on the upper floors have partial views of the sea through the trees, and all have balconies; from our room we enjoyed some memorable sunsets over the bay.

The 4 Bayfront Deluxe Rooms are slightly larger, though we didn't feel the additional space was worth the extra cost. However their standalone design and elevated views of the beach make them popular with honeymooners.

The 7 Pavillion Suites (sleep 2-6) are located near the beachfront and come in 2 sizes (1 or 2 Bedroom). All have a living-dining area and large wooden deck with partial views of the beach and bay.

Similarly, there are 7 Beach Villas (sleep 2-14) that also come in different categories (1, 2 or 3 Bedroom). These are set within landscaped gardens with direct access to the pristine beach just a few metres away. A cluster of four 1 Bedroom Beach Villas, which share a pool, can be taken individually or together to sleep a party of 8-14 people. If all 4 villas are taken, a communal living room, dining room and kitchen facilities are available to complete your own little estate. The larger villas each have 2 private pavilions, one with a large bathroom equipped with outdoor bathtub and the other with a living-dining area and kitchen facilities, these overlook the private infinity pool that offers views of the Andaman sea. Note that these may not be suitable for families with young kids as the pools have a steep-drop off and aren't fenced.

The 39 Pool Villas sit high on the hill above the existing Pimalai resort. These 1, 2 and 3-Bedroom Villas, with ocean views, are perfect for those who want complete privacy. You get a sizable infinity pool, an outdoor sunbathing deck, spa treatments in your own sala, a living room, a full kitchen and your own private chef if you desire - there is little reason to venture out! The Pool Villas are a short walk up a steep hill, and furthest from the beach and main breakfast restaurant (however, cars are available to ferry you around and there's a large, spectacular infinity pool, as well as cafe and restaurant on this same level). Note that these may not be suitable for families with young kids as the terraces and infinity pools have a steep-drop off, and the pools aren't fenced.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • WiFi

Eating

There are no less than 4 restaurants at Pimalai. Breakfast is served in the main restaurant Spice 'n' Rice, a huge room set under a soaring thatched roof and 3 sides open to the outside with sweeping views of the resort's pool, landscaped gardens and bay beyond. It's an impressive buffet, catering both to Thai and Western tastes: tropical fruits and freshly squeezed juices, continental and English breakfasts, eggs however you desire, as well as more exotic Asian fare. Lunch and dinner menus offer traditional Thai dining choices.

Rak Talay is the beach side restaurant which serves light meals and snacks including an abundant array of fresh, succulent seafood caught locally and grilled or steamed to your liking. You sit in huge rustic chairs made out of chunky driftwood while sinking your toes into the sand. Located up by the Pool Villas are Banyan Tree Poolside Cafe and the Seven Seas Restaurant both with truly stunning views of the bay. The former serves fine wood-fired pizzas, the latter offers decent fusion cuisine at 5-star prices, alongside which is an award-winning (Wine Spectator) wine list and an open kitchen so you can watch the chefs at work.

Guests in the Pool Villas and larger Beach Villas have their own kitchen (with oven, microwave, and fridge) and can buy simple ingredients in the local 7/11 store. A private barbecue chef is available to cook ensuite.

For those who want to go beyond the resort and eat out, we highly recommend a 5-minute stroll (heading South along the beach) to Same Same but Different, a welcoming bar and restaurant which offers cheap but excellent Thai food. In the opposite direction the Why Not Bar is a popular backpacker hang out.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
Eating: Seven Seas Restaurant
Activity:

Activities

  • Pimalai Spa: the fabulous spa is one of Pimalai's highlights. Imaginatively designed in a lush sloping valley, the 7 thatch-roofed treatment salas are joined by wooden walkways set over a waterfall and koi carp ponds. A range of aromatherapy massages, body wraps and scrub treatments are on offer, but don't miss the hour-long traditional Thai Massage given in the imposing open-air pavilion, followed by fresh ginger tea. This was the best massage we had in Thailand. Instead of whale music you hear real birds and rushing water; there's also an outdoor Jacuzzi and a herbal sauna (free to use, prior booking required)

  • Beach and swimming pools: Pimalai has direct access to 900m of unspoilt, clean, white sandy beach - a quiet stretch with a dozen or so sunloungers and parasols, and thankfully no hordes of hawkers, noisy long tail boats or day trippers so often found on the more developed islands. There are also 2 large infinity edge swimming pools with great views and comfortable loungers where guests tend to spend most of the day

  • Snorkelling: available all year, subject to weather and sea conditions. The Lanta Marine National Park features a number of small protected islands where a vast coral reef with brightly coloured fish and sea life can be seen. Pimalai has 7 modern speedboats offering regular excursions to Koh Rok (1.5 hr boat trip away) and other islands. Koh Muk is renowned for its emerald cave (Morakot Cave); a 60m long tunnel that runs through a mountain to a lagoon at the bottom of a sheer vertical shaft. Trips include snorkelling equipment and picnic lunch

  • Diving: available all year, but best November - April, weather permitting. Pimalai is well placed for reaching some of Thailand's best and most remote dive sites. The hotel has its own small PADI dive centre with both English and German dive instructors and 2 luxury dive boats. Dive trips are offered to Haa Island (an hours boat trip away), 5 small limestone islands, and to the world class sites of Hin Deng and Hin Muang (2 hour’s away). Visibility is typically 20-35m. Rainbow runners, giant barracuda, jacks, tuna, manta rays, and sharks (including occasional whale sharks) are seen regularly

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Dive centre
  • Elephant Trekking
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Scuba diving courses
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Well being
  • Windsurfing

Kids

Children are welcome at this resort and there's plenty to keep families amused, from building sandcastles on the beach (sometimes the simple things are the best) to snorkelling to nearby islands, learning scuba diving, and playing outdoor games at the sport centre.

From May to October only, a room can be arranged for day care if needed. Note that this is not a kids' club but your child can be dropped off here for a couple of supervised hours of play. As Pimalai attracts couples and honeymooners as well as families, there are a few areas reserved for over 12s only. Children are only allowed in one area of the upper hillside pool near the Pool Villas, but are welcome in the lower main pools near the beach.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

All rooms have day beds that can be turned into an extra bed. There's plenty to choose from, with 1, 2 and 3-Bedroom Villas and Suites. All have baths, and some of the larger rooms have kitchens.

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement, note 1 day's notice is required.

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots limited availability
  • High chairs
  • Night lights

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Creche/Kid's Club:

Between May and October the resort has a complimentary Toddler Day Care Room open from 9am-12pm and 1pm-6pm. It's supervised by staff and has a playroom with toys for 4-8-year-olds and a games room with Playstations for 9-12-year-olds.

Children's meals:

Food is available all day and the restaurants have a kids menu. Parents are asked to look after their children in the dining areas (waiting staff are carrying trays of hot food and beverages) including during the busy breakfast service. Note that the signature Seven Seas Restaurant (nearer to the Pool Villas) is a designated tranquil dining setting so while families can dine here, children are expected to remain seated and be quiet at all times, but there are other restaurant options (in the lower part of the resort). There's a meal delivery service so you can eat in room and there's an on-site shop

Kids Activities on site:

  • Kids pool
  • Toys and games
  • Huge sandy beach

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Beaches
  • Diving, snorkelling and plenty of watersports free of charge
  • Hiking and elephant trekking in national parks
  • Free mountain bikes to borrow

Families Should Know:

The Pool and Beach Villas have steep drop offs from their terraces and infinity pools, plus pools aren't fenced, so parents with young children will have to be vigilant here. With lots of steps, we found a baby/toddler carrier easier than a pushchair. A number of areas are for over 12s only.

Distances:

  • Airport 2 hours
  • Hospital: 20 minutes
  • Nurse: 24 hours service in resort
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
8/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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