Hotels & Resorts

Review: Avani + Koh Lanta Krabi Resort

A T+L guide to lo-fi Koh Lanta, starring the new Avani+ resort that brings a bit of swish to the Thai island without overpowering its chill.

Avani Pool Villa, Avani + Koh Lanta Krabi Resort

Avani Pool Villa

By Chloe Sachdev

Apr 8, 2022

SOME PEOPLE WILL WANT TO describe Koh Lanta as hidden gem. This is not the case. In-the-know backpackers with well-thumbed Lonely Planets have been washing up on this island’s shores since it was lantern-lit without infrastructure. And at least some of you readers out there contributed it once being voted third favorite island in Asia. But now with patchy electricity and scatterings of low-slung buildings, a few smart hotels have planted their flag. Avani + Koh Lanta Krabi Resort is one such example.

Avani + Koh Lanta Krabi Resort

Located on the main island of Koh Lanta Yai and perched on its own teeny-tiny peninsula on the west coast, Avani + Koh Lanta Krabi Resort juts out into the ocean, like it’s trying to break free from the rest of the island. A sandy fringe of coast on one side, dramatic rockery on the other, wrapped by the sea, its location feels far away, but it’s only a five-minute bumpy tuk-tuk ride into the gentle hustle of dusty Saladan, the first port of call for travelers straight off the ferries.

There are no shortages of beaches in Koh Lanta. With some of the longest stretches of sand in Krabi province, plus short ones, hidden ones, talcum to biscuit-tinted, and rocky beaches, name a shorefront spot you’re after, and this go-slow island will have one. Fair warning: between the two communal pools, swim-up pool bar, poolside restaurant, and cliff-side cocktail bar at Avani + Koh Lanta Krabi Resort, you might not make it into the warm Andaman Sea. But you will see it from your ocean-view villa.

Avani Pool Villa, Avani + koh lanta Krabi Resort
Avani Pool Villa

It’s by no means the flashiest resort on the archipelago, but it feels like a fresh pop of color on this time-warped island. It’s big but not overcrowded, with 92 guest rooms, deeply comfortable private pool villas and a supersized two-bedroom residence. The rooms are bright and modern. Traditional elements are subtly woven in, like the hand-drawn wallpaper of Malay motifs and classic chinoiserie floor tiles, a homage to the melting pot of Muslims, Thai Chinese, and the once nomadic sea gypsies (the Urak Lawoi) that give this island its roots. There are lovely sandy beaches nearby, including a secluded horseshoe beach, which laps at the bottom of the hilltop resort.

The main communal pool, with its swim-up bar and sunbeds scattered both in and around the pool, is populated in the heat of the day with oil-slicked sunbathers, a few young families, and retired leather-skinned Euro couples, all taking the pleasure of leisure seriously. It’s the kind of scene that makes you thirsty for umbrella adorned creamy piña coladas and too-sweet bright-blue cocktails. Whole languid days can pass like this, moving slowly between your private pool villa, the communal pool and intervals in the spa.

Cliff Restaurant, Avani + Koh Lanta Krabi Resort
Cliff Restaurant
Reggae Bar Treehouse
Reggae Bar Treehouse

When the sun starts to slip, that is the signal to move to the hotel’s groovy Reggae Bar. Sitting along the rocky beach, the wooden decked bar, styled like a row of individually small, thatched huts with funky floor cushions, is a lovely spot to watch the purple glow over the Andaman Sea. It serves punchy cocktails, with lots of lime and loads of ice, which are good starters before taking on the lethal Lanta Spice – the rocket fuel signature cocktail of gin, rum, vodka, tequila, chilli and soda.

For those not averse to blinding hot hangovers, the night can take you beyond the hotel to a few small bars in Saladan Village, serving boozy SangSom buckets and frothy Singha beer, but it’s a laid-back scene, with upbeat pop music played in tandem with televised football reruns.  This isn’t a full-throttle hi-jinks town like those in nearby Phuket.

The island was only hooked up to electricity in the mid 90s, and still feels relatively unplugged. And that’s the point. Traveling to Koh Lanta takes effort and can be a multi-modal affair. The closest airport is Krabi, followed by a ferry or speedboat to the lo-fi island. Visitors who make it here are trying to get away from it all.

Saladan Village, Koh Lanta
Saladan Village, Koh Lanta. Photo by khunpepe/Getty Images/Canva

Rickety restaurants and ad hoc food carts line the road stretching the 30 kilometers from Saladan Village to the most southerly point of the island. Or cut across the island’s lush jungly spine and rubber tree plantations to Koh Lanta’s Old Town on the east coast, once the island’s main port for trade and now a dinky town with a couple of lantern-adorned Chinese temples, shops and restaurants in teak stilted houses.

On the seemingly endless shores, you’ll find the kind of chilled-out dining you’ve come to Koh Lanta for. Long Beach is plodded with sand-in-your toes restaurants and bars like the popular restaurants Thai Cat and Fat Turtle, serving a mixture of Thai and Western dishes to blue-eyed Scandi families, and on neighboring Kaw Kwang Beach, a few resorts, guest houses, bars and restaurants with beanbags, hammocks and low-lying tables dot the blonde sand. It’s the same vibe along Khlong Dao Beach, another spot near Saladan with a smattering of beach bums and families. On the dusty main road, roadside shacks all whip up their versions of southern Thai cuisine, like Laanta Seafood, an institution serving Thai-style belly-burning seafood curries, cumin crusted fried fish and all manner of charcoal grilled seafood, or if you’re craving some Northern spice there’s Lap Roi Et, a literal Isaan hot spot.

Koh Haa
Koh Haa

If you want to break the slow-paced rhythm, explore the archipelago. Take a longtail boat to Tung Yee Peng Mangrove Forest. For the more adventurous, go diving around Koh Haa, a collapsed volcanic island with steep drop offs. There are also caves, waterfalls, hikes and many other little islands. Nothing is “secret” or “undiscovered”, and this is true for Koh Lanta in general, it’s an ever-evolving scene. But for now, the sea is tranquil, the beaches are quiet, and the jungle is green.

avanihotels.com/en/koh-lanta-krabi; doubles from Bt4,090.

All photos courtesy of Avani + Koh Lanta Krabi Resort.

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