It is on the speedboat ride that circumnavigates the island of Ko Lanta that the grandeur of Pimalai Resort & Spa really hits you. From the moment we landed at Krabi airport on the mainland, our journey south was seamless and luxurious. Just under an hour in your own private minivan gets you to the harbour crossing, where you board a speedboat destined for Pimalai. This part of the arrival experience is absolutely breathtaking; skipping over the stillest waters, weaving in between monolithic lumps of rock that are beautifully dotted around the Andaman Sea. Within 45 minutes, the boat begins to slow down as you traverse the bottom edge of Ko Lanta, and Pimalai comes into view…
Privacy is king here, and Pimalai’s façade hints at that sense of complete seclusion. As we pulled up to the floating jetty (remember to bring those sea legs), we were met by the friendly face of Franck, the general manager of the resort. It was a warm welcome after a breathtaking journey; looking up I could just about see a few villas sparsely dotted up in the hilltops above, all cascading down to the beach below. Blink and you might miss it if you were sailing past on a boat; only the lights and sound of the nearby Why Not? Bar would ever draw you in. You have a closer inspection of the villas as you are whisked up from the jetty along a network of roads/paths that snake through the resort. All of the buildings are integrated so well into the surrounding tropical landscape that it can be difficult to differentiate between man-made and natural.
After a quick and easy check-in, we were escorted up to our accommodation for our stay; one of the palatial Hillside Ocean View Pool Villas that overlooked the resort below. Nestled a good 50 metres or so above sea level it’s certainly a good climb from the ocean to the front door. Thankfully, it comes with its own pool and, if you want a change of scenery (not that you ever could) then the Seven Seas Restaurant has an incredible infinity pool and is just a few steps away. To get to the lower part of the resort (with the spa and beach), there is also a 24-hour shuttle service that makes the journey that little bit easier.
Back to the villa itself; it literally takes your breath away. Each entrance is individual and the resort is mapped out more like a private estate than a hotel. As you open your own front door, you walk out into a beautiful courtyard complete with infinity pool and cabana. The views from the pool are stunning; a panorama over the Andaman Sea, with the impressive Koh Haa islands silhouetted on the skyline. During the day, this area was drowned in sunlight, and by night you get a full view of the sunset and then a starry night sky. Off to the left of the courtyard is the bedroom and en-suite bathroom; the dark wood and four-poster bed make this feel very homely while still being in-keeping with the theme. To the right of the courtyard is a second living space; a living room complete with sofa and television, as well as another small bathroom and a kitchen. The villas have been created with privacy in mind, and every single whim and need is taken care of. While we did leave the villa a few times, you could easily spend two weeks without ever opening the front door. It really is that good.
Speaking on the rest of the resort, there is plenty to keep you occupied in Pimalai. The Seven Seas restaurant is the perfect place to have breakfast; panoramic morning views out to the ocean and beyond, above the infinity pool which juts out onto the jungle canopy below. The staff here were incredibly friendly and really made us feel at home every morning; a special mention has to go to Hreem who went above and beyond and always had a smile on his face. We did try out the other two restaurants in the resort, and Spice N’ Rice quickly became a favourite; the authentic Thai cuisine was absolutely beautiful with the beef dishes definitely hitting the mark. While the hilltop did provide incredible sunset views, the Rak Talay Beach Bar was also a great place to watch the sun go down along with a few cocktails in hand; any offering with rum in it is always a hit in my books.
In terms of non-food activities, then there definitely a few things I would recommend when staying at Pimalai Resort & Spa. We were lucky enough that our trip coincided with the Thai New Year, and so one day was focused on a water fight followed by fireworks o the beach. Afterwards we retreated to the spa; an absolute haven of tranquility and up there with one of the best massage experiences I have ever had in my life. From start to finish you feel completely at ease, and it’s very difficult to pick yourself back up off the massage table and do anything meaningful once the massage is over. We opted for a late-evening slot, topped up with incredible room service food (on par with the restaurant food) in order to then crawl into our beds post-slumber.
If you’re after something a little more active, then the snorkeling sunset trip to the nearby Koh Haa Islands could be for you. This was an absolutely breathtaking experience and we were lucky enough to be in a very small group on the boat. It departs the jetty at 2pm, so doesn’t eat too much into the rest of your day, returning through sunset at around 7pm. The boat ride there takes an hour or so, and is timed so that you arrive as most of the other tour operators are leaving. The lagoon is absolutely stunning, and the snorkeling certainly rivals anywhere else on the planet. After a few laps and a brief wander onto the lagoon beach, it’s then back onto the boat for the sunset cruise back to the mainland, complete with glasses of wine and canapes. Certainly a once in a lifetime experience and one to book yourself on if you stay at Pimalai Resort & Spa.
If the bright lights of Bangkok and the buzz of towns like Phuket and Krabi all get a bit too much, then I would highly recommend retreating to Pimalai for a few days, or even a few weeks, on a trip to Thailand. You can find out more on the Hillside Ocean View Pool Villas here; we did also spend a few nights in the which were equally beautiful, just not quite as opulent. Pimalai is part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection and the rest of their portfolio can be found on their website here. Treat yourself, and get booking.