[As written for Handbag.com, April 2014]
Sunshine, beach, boats and elephant rides – the Andaman Coast in Thailand has it all.
Picture it now: Palm tree-fringed beaches, the sun blazing, you’re sipping a banana milkshake, while swinging gently in a hammock and your view is of the turquoise sea. You might even have a massage later, while watching a sunset…
We found this bliss on Thailand’s gorgeous Andaman Coast. Using the main hubs of Phuket and Krabi as bases, it’s easy to enjoy the area’s much-loved islands, as well as nip across to the more secluded ones. Here are our top spots…
Known for being the ‘chill out’ island, Lanta has somehow maintained its rustic cool edge, despite many tour boats flocking here each day.
Escape the crowds by heading 20 minutes south of the port to the family-run Nature Beach Resort – where clean beach huts welcome you to island life. Rooms are basic but with the gloriously warm waters nearby, you won’t be spending much time in them anyway. At sunset, bars lay cushions along the sand for cocktail o’clock – but we recommend you book in a Thai massage next door, which can be enjoyed while watching the pinks, oranges and red spread across the sky. Owners Nee and Ede can help organise snorkelling tours to the Trang Islands and inland elephant treks. Don’t miss Lanta Old Town for souvenir shopping or a plate of the seafood fried rice at the appropriately-named Beautiful Restaurant. The Lowdown Bungalows start from THB800pn (£14.50), although you could bag a bargain at THB600 (£11pn) depending on how busy they are at Nature Beach. Boats go from Krabi, Ao Nang and Koh Phi Phi. lantanaturebeachresort.com
KOH PHI PHI
Koh Phi Phi has a reputation as Thailand’s party island but head to the northern tip and you’ll be greeted by the silky golden sands, warm emerald waters and the eclectic mix of wooden bungalows with floor-to-ceiling glass walls of Zeavola Resort.
General Manager Florian works hard to maintain Zeavola’s sustainability ethos, and has even built a water reserve system and introduced anchor buoys to prevent boats damaging the coral reefs. Each morning, you’ll wake up to the sounds of the singing sunbirds he has helped nest. Don’t miss: Daily boat tours to the famous Maya Bay, where Leonardo DiCaprio filmed The Beach in 1998. The resort’s specialised Dive Centre also organises boat trips, where you can swim with Sea Turtles and Black Tip Reef Sharks. The Lowdown Rooms at the Zeavola Resort start from £140pn, including daily breakfast for two. Don’t miss the 25% discount on spa treatments from 1 May – 31 October. Daily transfers from Phuket are available. zeavola.com
Usually overlooked as just a hub, Krabi boasts one of Thailand’s most stunning coastlines. While the main town attracts backpackers and nearby Ao Nang caters for the older market, it’s Tub Kaek Beach’s Amari Vogue that gets our vote.
Here you’ll find the perfect balance of secluded beach and activities. Lying on the near-empty sands, you’ll find yourself mesmerised by the region’s trademark jagged cliffs and can even get involved with a game of beach volleyball with fellow holidaymakers. If you fancy a change of sunbathing spot, the idyllic Amari pool is just as inviting. Don’t miss Take the hotel’s 20-minute transfer bus to Ao Nang, where you can jump on a longboat (£4 return) to stunning Railay Pranang Beach. Boats sell Pad Thais and cocktails all day while you can laze in yet another setting of complete paradise. The Lowdown Amari Vogue Krabi offer ‘The Great Escape’ four-night package for THB8,755 (£163pn), which includes airport transfers, a three-course set dinner at Bellini, free use of the hotel kayak and a 60-minute signature mood massage at the Breeze Spa. amari.com
HOW TO GET THERE
Domestic carrier, Air Asia, flies to Krabi and Phuket’s International Airports from £25.