Southern Thailand has seen an uptick in the number of family-friendly luxury properties, especially in action-packed Phuket. However, there is something to be said for choosing a calmer location where families can enjoy together time free of recurring sales pitches for theme parks and souvenir stands. Pimalai Resort & Spa, on the tip of island province Krabi, accomplishes a true vacation-in-paradise experience without trying too hard.
Getting to the resort itself is an adventure kids of all ages will enjoy. It begins with a drive from Krabi Town’s airport to a dock where guests are met by a motorboat. The boat speeds them past scenic islands to a jetty off Old Koh Lanta, shaped by the cultural influences of Thai, Chinese and Malay residents. From there, guests are driven by another van to the resort.
Pimalai never marketed itself as a family resort, but still has much to offer families, especially those with kids at elementary school age and older. While baby-sitting services can be arranged with at least one day’s advance notice, there are plenty of activities that will prompt everyone to put down their phones and electronics to embrace nature and adventure within the lush landscape.
On property, there are two infinity pools, as well as an outdoor sports center with two floodlight tennis courts, basketball hoops, badminton and table tennis that kids can enjoy with adult supervision. However, as Pimalai’s mission is to immerse guests in Koh Lanta’s natural bounty, it also offers access to lessons at the Gold Palm PADI Dive Center, as well as a mangrove eco-tour, an educational forest walk, elephant trekking and free rentals of sailing boats, canoes, bicycles and paddle boards. There are also Thai cooking classes with hotel chefs available for 1,950 bhat (about $60).
The newest attraction at the property is a Muay Thai boxing academy with daily classes, a treat especially for kids already enrolled in martial arts classes back home and for adults who seek something new to try in addition to yoga classes and spa treatments.
Pimalai also offers off-property excursions to national parks Koh Ngai and Koh Kradan, and the Koh Haa Islands. A per-person fee of 2,500 bhat ($75) includes a BBQ lunch or on-board canapé buffet, beverages, use of snorkeling equipment, park admissions and pristine and crowd-free beaches. Its Old Town excursion, meanwhile, is a wonderful rainy day outing that provides exposure to daily life in Southern Thailand beyond the well-appointed tourist hubs as well as a fun mix of shops. There are also several delightfully noncommercial restaurants such as Pinto, serving a delicious selection of vegetarian and seafood dishes.
At Pimalai, families can genuinely feel at home, thanks to landscaping and architecture that makes one feel like they have the resort to themselves, even during busy seasons. A perfect lodging solution for larger families or multigenerational groups is one of the Hillside Ocean View Pool Villas. The multilevel dwellings include two large bedrooms, a soak-sized infinity pool and a stand-alone living room flanked with a well-appointed mini-kitchen.
Room packages also include daily breakfast with a mix of Thai and Western food items at two of the restaurants inside the main buildings. On-property restaurants that can be enjoyed at an extra charge include Seven Seas (western cuisine), Spice & Rice (Thai) and fine beachfront dining at RAK Talay.