Great for escaping the kids and the hustle-bustle of Thailand's major tourist spots.
What is it? Boutique resort
Will set you back: From 8000 THB p/n
If you know anything about the Thai resort scene, you will know the competition is stiff. Layana Resort & Spa has an outstanding reputation, so our expectations were up there when we arrived at this eleven-year-old resort. Discretely tucked away down a long, tree-lined driveway off a main road in Koh Lanta, the entrance to the resort isn’t lavish. What the resort is, though, is quintessentially Thai. Elegant simplicity is highly valued at Layana Resort & Spa, which means “a pause in time” in ancient Pali Sanskrit. This expression is at the heart of every element of the resort, which is children-free and situated on the best beach in Koh Lanta.
Due to the nearly-finished second pool being built near the main lobby when we arrived, we were picked up in a buggy and taken to the second lobby / part of the bar positioned next to the original resort pool. This gave us a good opportunity to have a quick sticky-beak of the resort grounds and layout. One of the first things we noticed is how much of a leading role the natural surroundings play at the resort, which creates an atmosphere of instant calm and serenity. And, to culminate our excellent initial impression of Layana, the staff who welcomed us with a cold drink and lei was extremely professional, friendly and didn’t hesitate to give us a brief rundown on the resort.
The emphasis on the natural environment at Layana Resort & Spa is huge. It means that everywhere you look you see green and blue, and you can’t help but feel relaxed. As for design, when comparing the interior design with the exterior design and presentation of the resort, the latter wins by a long shot. The resort is positioned to make the most of the fabulous beachfront, and its boutique feel combined with a spacious layout, two oversized swimming pools and lashings of lush green grass pretty much make it a tropical hideaway from heaven. It really is one of the more beautiful resorts we have stayed at, and the pool areas in addition to the stunning beachfront restaurant and bar mean it is hard to beat in many ways.
As for the interior design, though, this left a little to be desired in our Ocean Deluxe Suite. Simplicity is the dominant theme here, which is strongly aligned with the natural surroundings, and this wasn’t a problem in itself. What was, was the lack of attention to detail and luxurious finishings in the rooms. For those, you will have to stay in the jewel in the resort’s crown, the two-bedroom pool villa, La Maison, pictured above.
Although the views are gorgeous in the Ocean Deluxe Suite and it is private and romantic, the room felt very tired and in some areas such as the second floor, a little unfinished. Furthermore, the room’s layout didn’t make the most of the stunning view as well as it could have. What we did love was the bathroom and outside shower, even if we were a little nervous that the neighbours could see in from their second storey!
We stayed in an Ocean Deluxe Suite with its beautiful ocean outlook. The two-storey villa itself was comfortable, although we felt that the large space wasn’t properly utilised. The upstairs queen-sized lounger is a nice idea, but we felt a lounge you could sit on rather than just lie down on would have been a better choice. We loved the romantic suggestion by staff, though, to have the lounger made up as a bed so couples can sleep “outside” and wake up with the view. If only you could wake up to the view in the comfort of the actual bed, unfortunately positioned downstairs!
We did, however, enjoy the attention to detail given to the room’s amenities, such as the delicious home-made cookies in the mini bar and the capsule coffee machine. It was also refreshing to have a hotel for once remember to stock the fridge with milk, which sounds silly but this small detail is often overlooked!
Layana has a gym and a multi-award winning spa called Linger Longer Spa, which recently took out Condé Nast Johansen’s award for Best Spa Treatment Menu. With the launch of the new half Olympic-sized Wellness swimming pool, as well as completely new gym facilities and a custom-built juice bar, the new “Wellness Zone” is complete. Although we stayed too early to see the final product, it was looking to be an amazing addition to the resort, which focuses strongly on relaxation and wellness. We’ve been told Layana now also offers daily sunrise yoga overlooking the new pool and the resort’s lush gardens.
Something incredibly unique about Layana Resort & Spa is the sheer size of the grounds. With its two oversized pools and extensive gardens, you would expect it to host hundreds of guests and yet it only has 57 rooms. That the resort maintains a quiet and peaceful, boutique-like environment is crucial to the resort’s management. For this reason, Layana doesn’t allow group bookings and so as a guest, you never have the feeling of being surrounded by dozens of other people, or risk a rowdy group ruining your chill-out time at the bar. At the pools, especially, the chances of you not being able to bag a lounger are virtually zero. With nearly 100% of the guests holidaying as part of a couple, privacy and serenity are valued above all else.
The staff at Layana are a credit to the resort. Each individual we spoke to seemed to genuinely love what they do, expressed in their happy and relaxed nature, and keenness to chat to each of the guests. The breakfast service was particularly good, and both the staff and the chefs were enthusiastic in their approach.
During our stay we discovered that a large portion of the guests that were staying at Layana at the same time as us were returning guests. Many had stayed at the resort not just once before but multiple times, and for one couple it was their 11th time to the resort, having visited every year since its opening. I have no doubt a big reason for this loyalty is the excellent and friendly reception they undoubtedly always receive from the staff.
Unfortunately, the dining was one area in which Layana underwhelmed us. On arriving at the resort we made our way to the casual dining area, Sands Bar, for lunch. What a disappointment. The chef seemed to prepare our lunch in a temporary-like kitchenette area at the bar, and when our meals were brought out, they were irritatingly bad for what were two ravenous people.
My nasi goreng tasted nothing like the traditional Malaysian offering – it was dry, and the satay chicken on the side was, well… missing the satay. When I complained to our waiter and observed the lunch chef, he seemed genuinely confused and evidently didn’t seem to know what he was doing. It was suddenly obvious why nobody else was eating in this part of the resort. Later, we dined at Tides and this was definitely an improvement on our lunchtime experience.
The restaurant had a sushi and sashimi special which, although lacking the usual polished standard of Japanese food, was tasty. The best dining experience we had, though, was at the resort’s 11th birthday buffet celebration, which followed the grand opening of Layana’s new Wellness Pool. The daily breakfast buffet and a-la-carte menu was also very good, and we loved the healthy, cleansing juice shots that changed daily.
Koh Lanta Yai is the larger of the two islands that make up Koh Lanta, located two hours south of Krabi International Airport. It requires a little more effort to make your way to this piece of land compared to other destinations on the mainland, but once you arrive at Layana it is absolutely worth it. The island is secluded, quiet and maintains its traditional local character, striking a massive contrast to nearby Phuket. The resort is nestled on the island's north west coast, right on the shores of the 3km stretch of Long Beach - without question the most beautiful beach on the island. Just a short drive away is the local village of Saladan with its traditional houses built on stilts, local vendors and Thai, freshly-caught seafood restaurants. The landscape as you drive through the island is gorgeous virgin rainforest and feels completely unspoiled. Book your stay at Layana Resort & Spa here.
children-free, quiet and peaceful beach holiday.