- KO LANTA, THAILAND
Staying at Pimalai Resort
Nestled into the tree-filled hillside, on a quiet strip of beach at the southern end of Ko Lanta, is the peaceful, tropical oasis known as Pimalai. People often eschew Ko Lanta, and look instead to its more popular island neighbor Ko Pi Pi or look up the coast to Krabi and Ao Nang, but those that do venture south find a peaceful island with a more untouched feel. If you're planning a visit to Ko Lanta, look no further than Pimalai Resort, as I'm certain that it is one of the best if not the best place to stay on the island (it's also a great value, especially in low season!).
Hotel check-in essentially begins when you arrive at Krabi airport, as a staff member greets you at the arrivals lounge and loads you onto a comfortable van with others arriving at the same time (in my case this was just one other couple). Then begins the 45min-1hr drive to Pimalai's private pier, followed by a 40 min boat road on one of the resort's private boats to the hotel. This service alone is worth the stay at the resort, as organizing transfer onto Ko Lanta can be time consuming and a pain. Pulling up to the beach, I was most struck by how well the resort blends into the surrounding environment. Although the main building has a prominent position overlooking the bay, the individual bungalows crawl up in the mountain and fade away into the trees.
After checking in at the lovely open-air lobby overlooking the Bay, I was whisked up the hill to my room in one of the hotel's golf cart-like vehicles. I had booked a simple Bay View Room, but as we drove up the hill I quickly realized I had been upgraded as we had entered the Pool Villa portion of the property. Each pool villa has its own plot of land amidst the trees with varying views overlooking the coast. A private gated entry opens to a two-structured unit with the pool and cabana centered between the two.
On the left is the living area and a full kitchen, complete with a coffee machine and snacks as well as a full bathroom. On the right is the bedroom with a large bed, lofty wooden ceilings, and a gigantic bathroom with a soaking tub and separate shower. The vibe is somewhat retro, which I quite enjoyed, but I imagine some people might whinge about wanting something more modern.
Getting around the property was easy with a quick call to the front desk. Within minutes, a golf cart swung by to pick me up and drop me at my requested destination. An even turn down service with orchids placed on the pillows was definitely a nice touch.
The hotel includes breakfast with all rooms at one of two dining locations depending on what area of the hotel you are staying in (beach or hillside). The spread is elaborate and includes a variety of buffet items as well as made to order dishes. The service is great, and after one morning the staff greeted me by name and knew my coffee order. For other meals the hotel has several restaurants open for lunch and dinner: a high end french-style dinner restaurant, an authentic Thai restaurant, a pool-side lunch spot, and an all day beach-side restaurant with a seafood focus. I didn't try all the options, but the Thai restaurant had an extensive menu with a delicious tom kha gai.
Compared to other beaches in Thailand, the beach in front of Pimalai is quite clean and the water is nice and warm. As there are only a few other places on the beach, it is also refreshingly quiet. The resort has a section set up with comfortable loungers and umbrellas for lazy beach days, but the chairs seemed to fill up quickly after 10am, so plan accordingly. A selection of water equipment is also available to use: paddle boards, kayaks, mini sail boats, etc. I opted for a daily morning paddle board when the waters were most calm, which turned out to be a great way to start the day.
Besides the numerous private pools at the pool villas, the hotel has two large pools for guests to enjoy. The upper pool has sweeping views over Kantiang Bay, while the lower pool has peek-a-boo views of the beach. Both pools have a handful of loungers with umbrellas and are close to restaurants. Although I didn't spend much time at either of these pools, they seemed quite nice and the water temps were pleasant.
Amidst the leafy jungle is Pimalai's private spa, offering a whole list of spa services including massages, facials, wraps, scrubs, and more. Individual spa bungalows are connected by meandering pathways, water features, and lush landscaping. Although you can of course find cheaper massages in Thailand, I thought my 90 min Pimalai Signature Oil Massage was excellent and worth the price (still much cheaper than a similar length massage at home!). Tea is offered before and after each service and can be enjoyed while overlooking the outdoor gardens. I do wish there was more of a traditional bathroom/robe changing room set up to use before and after your service, but it seems that is only reserved for certain treatments.
Besides the above mentioned beach activities, Pimalai has a selection of organized tours and activities to fill your days. Options include cooking classes, yoga or muay thai classes, island hopping boat tours, sunset cruises, scuba or snorkel ventures, hikes, and more. A full sports center is also available for guest use on the property. Despite not opting to try any of these myself, other guests I met on the way back to the airport were raving.
All in all, my Thanksgiving stay at Pimalai was everything I had hoped - relaxing, beautiful, and easy. I would happily return again in the future.