While Thailand’s islands might take much of the limelight when it comes to those picture-postcard beach destinations, there’s plenty of stunning spots on the mainland too. Many of the best are in the vicinity of Krabi, a very laid back town in the south with some of the best food in the whole country. There are some famous (and touristy) spots such as Ao Nang and Railay beaches just south of the city; but if your full moon party days are behind you and you’re after something a bit more serene, then you just need to head a little further east out of town to the beautiful Tubkaek Beach. There’s a small run of mostly pretty luxurious resorts here, and the brand new Banyan Tree is the pick of the bunch.
First off, the setting is just incredible. The Banyan Tree is the northernmost resort on the beach so it feels a little more secluded and separate from the rest – just north of the resort entrance is a national park so there’s no danger of them being hemmed in by more hotels at any point. Set right on the beach, the views out over the crystal clear waters of Phang Nga Bay, with its towering limestone krast formations are pretty spectacular. From the beach the resort offers lovely landscaped gardens which lead back to the main pool, bar, restaurant and spa, as well as the beachfront villas, which are the pick of the 72 rooms on offer.
Our beachfront villa consisted of three separate rooms: an entrance area with bathroom and dressing room; a bedroom in the centre; and finally, a living room which then leads out onto a patio with a huge private pool and a garden featuring not one but two day beds as well as dining table. The pool deserves a special mention as it wasn’t just a tiny plunge pool – it actually wrapped around the sides of the villa, so you could access it directly from the sliding doors next to the bed if you wanted. We also loved the seat and table at the very front of the pool which was perfect for reading a book or drinking a beer. This one seriously tested our Dry January resolve.
Inside the villa, floor to ceiling glass windows on almost every surface means that the place is filled with light – luckily there’s a remote control for all the curtains! The design is very sleek and modern, a white minimalist take on the traditional teak Thai style architecture. White walls are accented with subtle illustrations or patterned tiles and fabrics and materials are premium throughout – marble, thick rugs, deep cushioned sofas and statement light fixtures.
Although proximity to the beach does feel pretty special, in all honesty there are no dud rooms here. Each of the 72 villas has its own private pool and jacuzzi, so no one has to be enviously eyeing up their neighbours. Plus if you’re after views of the bay, then the hilltop rooms would be the ones to go for.
If you can tear yourself away from your room for a few moments then there’s plenty on offer outside, from the Banyan Tree Spa to simply lounging around on beach bags on the beach. There’s also paddle boards and kayaks if you fancy venturing out on the water. We also took an 8km round trip hike into the national park along the Dragon’s Crest trail which was incredible but, be warned, extremely hard work! We were glad to be able to jump straight in the pool when we got back drenched in sweat from that one.
We were also glad not to have to go far for dinner that night, having booked in at the hotel’s Saffron restaurant. Perched up high above the resort, you actually reach it by funicular – we mean how many hotels have their own funicular?! We’re not sure we could have made it up any more steep climbs so it was very welcome indeed. Saffron could be considered the more high-end of the hotel’s two restaurants (the other being Naga Kitchen), and offers refined takes on traditional Thai cuisine, particularly dishes from the south. We particularly enjoyed a spicy crab curry; a smooth sour soup with fresh grilled scallops; and Moo Hong, a dish of braised pork belly that originated in Phuket. Saffron is open for dinner only but if you were to head up there for an early booking at 6pm you’d also get a spectacular sunset.
For breakfast there’s a huge buffet laid out in Naga Kitchen with everything you could imagine from fresh fruit, bread and pastries, to an egg section, noodle soup, rice and curries. You can also opt to have breakfast in your room which is well worth doing one morning, especially if you have one of the beachfront villas where you can take full advantage of the garden.
Banyan Tree Krabi is undoubtedly one of Thailand’s most impressive new hotel openings and easily the top choice for beachfront luxury in Krabi. There’s certainly not much going on in the immediate area but as long as you are looking for peace and quiet, beautiful scenery and a super luxe experience then Banyan Tree Krabi absolutely ticks all the boxes.
279 Tambon Nongtalay Amphoe Muang Krabi 81180, Thailand