Luxury is creeping onto many of Koh Lanta’s beaches, once famous for backpacker huts

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Koh Lanta is not an island known for luxury; backpacker bungalows and budget family resorts have been its forte for many years. However, scattered over widely diverse parts of the island we find a handful of deluxe and super-luxurious resorts meeting world-class, 4- and 5-star standards. And while most of them are relatively new, one old stalwart representative of sumptuousness, Pimalai, has been here since the 1990s, proving that people really will travel to remote beaches if the perfect resort is waiting there.

When assessing resorts I have noted several criteria, including, of course, the guestrooms, most of which I have photographed for this. Also of importance is the resort’s location, the quality of its beach plus the layout, design and landscaping of each resort’s grounds and facilities. All resorts included in this list have clearly been designed by experienced professionals. It was actually something of a surprise for this writer to find as many as seven beautiful establishments qualified for this high-end list on Koh Lanta. It shows how far Lanta’s movement upmarket has come in recent years.

When judging hotels for the Top 10 Romantic Resorts on Thailand’s Andaman beaches only one from Koh Lanta was included. However, after the recent survey for this list more establishments from Lanta will need consideration.

TThe other similar, ‘best of Koh Lanta’ pages in this site include Koh Lanta’s Top 6 Boutique Beachfront Resorts , and for those seeking a little-known retreat with lots of privacy, there’s Koh Lanta’s Koh Lanta’s Top 6 Hideaway Beachfront Resorts . And finally, for families seeking the top spots for the children we have Koh Lanta’s top 10 Family-friendly beach hotels .

Layana Resort & Spa, understated luxury on a quiet part of Phra Ae Beach

For couples seeking high-end luxury and genuine tranquillity on a beach without the sound of kids running, playing and shouting, Layana Resort & Spa is one of very few ‘no children’ resorts on this island. It’s also one of just a handful that truly earns its 5-star status. Located near the middle of Phra Ae Beach , Layana slumbers in a quiet zone with forests of casuarina trees on each side and no immediate neighbours. The beach in this area is wide and sandy with few rocks, running into calm, clear water throughout the high season – an excellent swimming beach.

Accommodations come in three configurations with luxury the key for all. The elite are the three individual, single storey beachfront villas that open to great beach and ocean views. All remaining guestrooms come in small, two-storey buildings submerged in tropical gardens, each with two or four units. Ocean Deluxe Suites have two floors, with the upstairs a living area with expansive views of the resort gardens and some ocean. The ‘standard’ rooms here are the Garden Pavilions, four per building, spread through the luxuriant tropical gardens.

Layana offers two swimming pools running through the centre of the resort to the beach, and a stylish beachside restaurant where guests dine with relaxing views over beach and ocean. The resort design is in the new Tropical Asian mode that grew out of Sri Lanka and Bali, with touches of traditional Thai.

Pimalai Resort, Koh Lanta’s first and justly most famous beachfront resort

If any single resort has done much to promote Koh Lanta to the world it is surely this, Pimalai Resort & Spa , which has become a 5-star icon of the island. This was the first luxury resort on Koh Lanta, opened in the 1990s when most of the accommodations here were still in the backpacker phase. The owner, a Thai business woman with great foresight, bought an extensive tract of land running up the hillside behind Kan Tiang Beach , one of the most beautiful on the island – despite that it was far down the island’s west coast. At that time the road was narrow, rough and uncomfortable, so Pimalai brought its guests in by speedboat, and still does.

As the photos show, Pimalai has been carefully integrated into the natural forest, making it an early pioneer of eco-awareness in this country – another reason for the many accolades it has won.

The foresight behind this resort has paid off handsomely, with Pimalai now recognized as one of the top beachfront resorts in the country, and one of Thailand’s finest, super-luxury hideaways. Pimalai was also named and listed in Thailand’s Top 10 Most Romantic Beach Resorts .

Needless to say, Pimalai’s accommodations are entirely 5-star, while the layout and design of its expansive public areas like pools and restaurants is also superior. Check the photos, or see the resort’s own page herein. The beach also matches these superlatives, for it too is one of the most beautiful on the island, with wide sand, deep water and virtually no rocks. This south end of Kan Tiang Beach offers some of the best swimming conditions on Lanta.

Crown Lanta Resort; unusual luxury secreted away on the Deer’s Neck

Built atop the headland at the end of Koh Lanta’s Deer’s Neck (Kaw Kwang in Thai), this resort is exceptionally unusual in both location and layout. Crown Lanta Resort & Spa is almost two resorts in one, so different are its upper and lower sections. The first portion of the hotel encountered from the reception is the ‘lower’, with three-storey hotel blocks built around a huge garden, with swimming pools lapping its bottom balconies – great for children.

Guests can take a golf cart, or walk, to the top section where we find another swimming pool surrounded by two-storey rooms. Nearby, super-luxurious and very private villas hang out over the hillside enjoying ocean views through the forest. The resort’s main restaurant sits at the very peak of the hill, with grand ocean and island vistas in all directions.

As the photos suggest, accommodations are spacious and sumptuous, with the widest range of great vistas of any resort on this island; garden, pool, ocean, forest and some beach views. The beach is, perhaps, the only weak point in this otherwise delightfully designed and located resort. The 50-metre walk down stairs to the very top end of Klong Dao Beach is, nevertheless, a small trade-off for most guests here. Another small, entirely private beach is also available to guests here, though it’s somewhat rocky – but great for privacy, sunbathing and relaxing.

Twin Lotus Resort, Klong Dao’s premier adults-only beachfront resort

On an island renown for children-friendly resorts encouraging the family market, Twin Lotus Resort & Spa stands out as one of just two ‘adults only’, true beachfront resorts here. Here is a plush, quiet haven for couples seeking tranquillity on a beautiful beach while still having a convenient location. From its location near the north of Klong Dao Beach it is easy to venture out, on foot, for the restaurants, local culture and the few conveniences available in the island’s vibrant little village of Saladan.

Accommodations in Twin Lotus are divided into two distinct zones. Set to the back, where they face a huge area of open garden and forest, are two-storey blocks with ‘standard’ rooms, but of the distinctly luxurious kind. Along with plenty of natural ambience, the hotel blocks here are lined by huge swimming pools that give all bottom floor rooms direct pool access. Closer to the beach are single level, luxury bungalows called Seaview Villas, Beachfront Villas and Garden Villas depending on how close to the sand they are, and the view they provide. As the photos show, the interiors are indeed 5-star, with facilities to match.

The beach in front of Twin Lotus is excellent, with wide sand that is rarely covered at high tide, and a sandy bottom that runs far out, providing swimmers with excellent conditions. Just to the north there’s a long section of undeveloped beach with forests of tall casuarina trees, making this end of Klong Dao the quietest, and surely the most ideal for romantic couples seeking space for themselves.

Rawi Warin Resort, a bold statement in Thai-style architecture & design

As the aerial photo here shows, Rawi Warin Resort & Spa is a bold statement in Thai architecture laid out over a wide hillside, overlooking a beautiful beach. Lush foliage pushes up between accommodations, a mix of single and two-storey buildings that enjoy views over gardens, a central lotus pond, the beach and ocean. Many rooms look right up the length of Klong Nin Beach. This is a large resort of 185 rooms, with more public spaces and facilities than most. The swimming pool lies close to the beach, elevated a little.

The beach at Rawi Warin is soft, clean coral sand washed by the clear waters of the Andaman, and virtually always calm through the high season months. With a sandy bottom and only a few rocks, this is also a good swimming beach. Guests can also stroll up the beach a little to access the dozens of beach restaurants an sunset bars for which Klong Nin Beach is famous.

Accommodations are 5-star in style and facilities. Top-of-line are the beachfront villas with separated bedroom and living spaces, plus a small balcony overlooking the private pool – shown here. Rooms in different parts of this large complex offer entirely different advantages, views and places of access – but all remain under that umbrella of luxury and sumptuousness.

Baan Thai Lanta, traditional Thai styles hiding on Klong Khong Beach

Hidden away at the very south end of Klong Khong Beach, Baan Thai Lanta is the most recent addition to the top-end, 4- and 5-star resorts on Koh Lanta. It’s the only really up-market accommodation on this beach which is otherwise known for backpacker bungalows and youthful beach parties . The traditional Thai architecture and wide, spacious gardens, surely make this the most beautiful resort on the beach.

Baan Thai’s room interiors also reflect a love of traditional Thai design, with old-style red floor tiles and distinctly Thai panelling on the walls. Beds and furniture are in richly-coloured wood, as are the sliding, floor-to-ceiling glass doors that bring in much light from outside while giving guests views of the surrounding gardens. The trees need some time to grow, and will eventually envelop the resort and provide accommodations additional privacy.

The pool and restaurant are set back a little from the beach, leaving a wide area by the sand for guests to relax in. Big trees shade a cool and pleasant lounge at one end, while umbrellas are needed to keep guests cool along the top of the beach.

This end of Klong Khong Beach has a rocky ocean floor, making swimming difficult or impossible at low tide. At high tide it’s quite pleasant. Then, of course, there’s the nearby swimming pool. With time, the beautiful rooms and architecture of this resort will improve as the gardens and trees mature, bringing shade and cooling everything here.

Cha-Da Beach Resort, 5-star luxury on Klong Dao for couples & families

This large resort on a prime part of Klong Dao Beach is one of just a handful on Koh Lanta that aspire for 5-star status. In addition to its high-end luxury, Cha-Da Beach Resort also caters to families and has been featured in our list of Koh Lanta’s Top 10 Family-friendly Resorts. It offers huge swimming pools, pool-access rooms that children love so much, plus other child-oriented facilities.

The resort offers sumptuous rooms in small two-storey, four-room houses spread through tropical gardens towards the beach. The beachfront is somewhat narrow compared to the size of the resort, while the back section balloons out to house three-storey hotel blocks which all have an adjoining swimming pool. Here we find exceptionally long stretches of water for swimming, a pool bar, Jacuzzis, water slides plus those direct pool-access rooms.

Cha-da is large enough to accommodate families and children as well as couples seeking a spot of luxury and quiet on Klong Dao Beach.

Both Cha-Da and its luxury neighbour, Twin Lotus, are within walking distance of Lanta’s main commercial village of Saladan, where visitors come for the river restaurants, markets, shopping and to organize various other activities and trips on and off the island .

by John Everingham

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