The super-relaxed Thai resort of Krabi offers rare beachfront luxury at the legendary Rayavadee resort, travel editor Winsor Dobbin reports.
Quite a few people come to Rayavadee for the rock climbing and jungle trekking; most, however, are here to chill. With three beaches to choose from, many pavilions with their own pools and plenty of gourmet options, relaxing here is easy.
Rayavadee, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World group, is a resort for those looking for an authentic experience; a slice of nature along with a big dollop of indulgence. There is a sense here of being somewhere really special.
Set on 26 acres with beaches on three sides (and overlooked by dramatic limestone cliff formations that challenge climbers from around the globe), Rayavadee is accessed only by boat; the resort offers luxury speedboat transfers that get you in the mood for tropical opulence before you have even arrived.
Krabi Province, less well-known than Phuket, Koh Samui and Pattaya as a beach destination for Australians, is on the Andaman Coast, 800 kilometres south of Bangkok, and is dotted with picturesque fishing villages, one of which, Nam Mao Beach, also known as Railay East, is just a short stroll from Rayavadee.
The Krabi Marine National Park region is characterised by sandy beaches, clear waters and warm temperatures and you’ll find grottos, caves and countless tiny, uninhabited islands.
The pavilions at Rayavadee are set well apart amid lush jungle greenery and trees, which are home to wildlife ranging from langur and macaque monkeys to squirrels and lizards. There are 120 different palms and trees, including coconuts, mangoes, tamarinds and gooseberries.
The gardens are, not surprisingly, popular with wedding parties. Thai Buddhist ceremonies, renewals of vows and same sex union celebrations can all be arranged.
There are just 102 rooms across the leafy resort, so the vibe is very much boutique with all the accommodation in private pavilions ranging from two-storey deluxe pavilions (90sq.m.) with garden views, to the sea-view Phranang Villa with three bedrooms, its own pool and butler.
All accommodation has polished wood furnishings and richly coloured fabrics with mini bars, quality amenities, and lots of space. If your budget stretches to a pool pavilion it is well rewarded.
Activities on offer include speedboat charters to surrounding islands, diving, all non-motorised water sports, rock climbing, elephant riding, Thai cooking classes, tennis and squash courts, yoga, Thai boxing, well-equipped gym and a luxurious spa offering a range of treatments including massages and facials.
Choose from options like a Thai herbal scrub, a facial using Thai herbs or perhaps a hot stone massage.
For active types, daily options range from fit ball, Thai boxing, and tennis to cave hiking and walks to the hills above Nam Mao Beach.
All check-ins are conducted individually, there are golf buggies to zip you from one side of the resort to another, while the library has wide range of books, videos and computer terminals.
There are several dining options including The Grotto, built into an ancient cave, making it an ideal vantage point for guests who linger over cocktails while admiring the spectacular sunsets.
Kura Phranang, directly overlooking the beach, is an authentic Thai eatery where the chef has been installed since the resort opened 25 years ago. With views of limestone cliffs and tiny outlying islands it features traditional Thai dishes like whole sea bass with ginger and red duck curry.
Raitaly Terrace serves a la carte breakfasts and lighter dishes overlooking the swimming pool, while Raya Dining is the main restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with Thai, western, Indian and Japanese options. I very much enjoyed the copious buffet breakfast.
Complimentary afternoon teas are also available on certain days of the week – but make sure not to schedule one after you’ve done a cooking class. Private dining is also available in the pavilions from the 24-hour room service crew.
Rayavadee is privately owned; a rarity for luxury properties nowadays and has won a swag of awards. The staff, several of whom date back to the opening, are a delight, always smiling and willing to assist. It is just 35 minutes by boat from the popular day trip destination of Koh Phi Phi and just a short longboat ride from Ao Nang and Krabi Town. The resort’s tour desk can arrange any number of options dependant only on your budget.
For Thai food, bars, massages and shopping (without any of the craziness of Patong or Chaweng), there are plenty of options on Nam Mao Beach, which overlooks mangroves.
For the best sunbathing, Railway West on the other side of the resort, is beautiful, peaceful and pristine.
Getting there: Transfers to Rayavadee can be arranged from Krabi and Phuket Airports.
Rayavadee, 214 Moo 2, Tumbon Ao Nang, Amphoe Muang, Krabi 81000. +6675 620 740. www.rayavadee.com.