Where Paradise Meets Luxury: Layana Resort & Spa
When the driver of our clattering tuk-tuk turned into the lush gardens that herald the entrance of Layana Resort & Spa, I felt as if I was stepping into a world entirely removed from Thailand’s dusty roads crammed with motorbikes and rickshaws.
Arriving at the main entrance, I was greeted warmly by staff members wearing welcoming smiles. Once checked in, they escorted me to my garden pavilion room overlooking a verdant courtyard of grass and gently swaying palm trees. The bed was adorned with adorable towel elephants and the phrase ‘Welcome Home’ spelled out in leaves and fresh flowers. This message of being at home, and being welcomed as an extension of the Layana family, would be reinforced time and time again throughout my stay.
Stefan Heintze, the resort’s General Manager, showed me around the property, the centrepiece of which is the spectacular infinity pool and adjacent jacuzzi. We completed our tour in the lounge area by the pool and restaurant, where an informal reception was in full swing, with delicious appetizers and an array of wines available for all guests to enjoy. After an exceptional dinner at the resort’s formal restaurant, I retired to my room, satisfied and in a state of excited anticipation about the days ahead.
Layana is an adults-only resort located alongside the pristine and private Phra Ae Beach on Koh Lanta. Located roughly two hours south of Krabi in the Andaman Sea, Koh Lanta is a quieter, relaxed alternative to the more energetic party islands of Koh Samui and Phuket. The main island, Koh Lanta Yai, is approximately 30 kilometres from top to bottom and is fully accessible by local transport. The island is best known for its pristine white sand beaches, mangrove forests, limestone outcroppings, and rainforests in the interior of the island. Predominantly Muslim — along with many of the southern Thai islands — Koh Lanta offers a tranquil pace of life, a welcome respite from the chaotic hustle and bustle of cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Translated from Sanskrit, layana means, ‘a pause in time’, an apt description for a resort with an agenda of relaxation, health and wellness. The resort offers 51 elegantly furnished, modern Thai-style suites, each with a private balcony and view of either the lush garden or the tranquil Andaman Sea. The resort’s private two-bedroom pool suite, called La Maison, is replete with butler service and a host of amenities including an in-villa chef.
As well as being a place to indulge, to enjoy the sun and hear the waves crashing below, the resort offers private transportation to the nearby destinations of Phuket, Krabi, Trang, and Phang Nga via its luxurious charter boat. Excursions on offer included sightseeing tours, snorkelling trips, scuba diving, and sea kayaking. I was eager to explore the nearby islands, so left the logistics in the hands of the capable staff that arranged a chartered snorkelling trip to the Trang Islands.
Located south of Koh Lanta, the Trang Islands are comprised of three quiet islands: Koh Muk, Koh Kradan and Koh Sukorn. The islands are fantastic for easy snorkelling and have incredible views both below and above the clear azure water. Koh Muk was home to the highlight of the trip — the Emerald Cave. Accessible only when the tide is out, the Emerald Cave is a dark passageway, which after a heart thumping ten-minute swim, leads to a perfectly isolated interior beach on the island.
I also opted for Layana’s signature Sundowner Cruise, consisting of a personal tour of Koh Lanta and nearby areas on a traditional Thai longtail boat. During the cruise the coastal landscape changes dramatically, from towering palms to mangroves brimming with monkeys, many of them scampering along the beach. I indulged in a refreshing bottle of rosé and some delicious Thai canapés while cruising the Andaman Sea as the sun gradually dipped below the horizon.
It was on these kinds of perfectly lazy days that I opted to enjoy evening cocktails and a casual dinner at the resort’s Sundowners beach bar, a stylish area furnished with plush patio couches and loungers lining the edges of the infinity pool.
On other evenings it was impossible to resist the pull of the resort’s formal restaurant, Tides, which sits on the edge of the beach overlooking the ocean below. Diners can choose to sit inside behind elegant French doors or sit outside on the patio enjoying the swirling breeze. The restaurant serves traditional Thai dishes, as well as Asian and Western cuisine, catering to any palate. I was fortunate to experience the beach barbecue, where diners are welcomed to eat at the private beach and to choose from the tens of dishes on rotation, buffet style. From fresh seafood, sushi, and Thai dishes, to carved roasts, it was truly an incredible meal in an unbelievable setting.
As my time at Layana drew to a close, I felt satisfied and deeply relaxed, and indescribably sad to leave the resort and the family environment the staff of Layana resort had so graciously created for us. As my luggage was loaded into the van waiting to spirit me away to Krabi, I hugged every staff member who had gathered in the main lobby, such is the feeling of family and warmth that emanates from this truly special resort.
Brian stayed as a guest of Layana Resort & Spa.