RUNNER-UP: BEST HOTEL POOL – SMITH HOTEL AWARDS 2015
Picturesque pavilions are tucked among tall tropical palm trees at Rayavadee hotel in Krabi, is set on glittering beaches against dramatic limestone cliffs. This Thai retreat offers tropical indulgence with four excellent restaurants, a grotto with cave dining, a serene spa and swimming pool that resembles a peaceful lagoon.
Ninety-eight one- and two-bedroom pavilions and four beachfront villas.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 11am (2pm is standard).
Double rooms from $600.11 (THB18,201), excluding tax at 17.7 per cent.
Rates include breakfast and Krabi airport transfers (please give at least 24 hours' notice of your arrival). Transfers are not available between 11pm and 5.30am; if your arrival or departure falls between these hours, contact the hotel in advance.
At the hotel
Spa, tennis and squash courts, gym, watersports and activities centres, billiards table, table tennis, jogging path, games room, boutique, library with CDs, DVDs and free WiFi. In rooms: TV, DVD/CD player, Erb toiletries, minibar, free bottled water.
Our favourite rooms
To add lashings of romance to your stay, opt for a garden-endowed Spa Pavilion and bubble away in the outdoor Jacuzzi. Rayavadee’s mushroom-like pavilions all have two floors, large couple’s bath tubs and snuggly-cushioned wooden swings instead of sofas.
The large lagoon-style infinity pool is encircled by verdant landscaped gardens and looks out onto the sea.
Don’t forget your sea legs and anti-nausea tablets if you plan to leave the resort – the only way to get anywhere is by boat. If hanging off craggy cliffs is your thing, make space for your climbing shoes.
Smoking is allowed in designated outdoor areas and in the four restaurants. All pavilions are non-smoking. Room rates for New Year's Eve include a Gala Dinner (for two).
Welcome: baby cots are free, and extra beds for older children are available for THB2,450 a child a night (THB5767.30 on New Year's). Babysitting can be arranged with hotel staff for THB350 a child an hour, with two days' notice.
Rayavadee uses local food where possible, including seasonal fruits and herbs grown on site. Recycling is encouraged and pavilions and villas were designed to blend into the tropical landscape, preserving existing plants and coconut trees.
The 24-hour private-dining service means you and your Mr/Mrs can enjoy intimate eating when and where you wish – go for a starlit beach barbecue.
Resting millionaire – loose shirts and linen jackets.
There are four eateries: Raya Dining caters to Western palates; Krua Phranang is the best choice for scrumptious Thai seafood dinners by the beach; Raitalay Terrace is for daytime snacking and evening meals by the pool; and the Grotto offers light bites in a spectacular limestone cavern, with special seafood barbecues several times a week.
There’s a bar in each of the four restaurants, with signature drinks at each one, but the Grotto is the most romantic environment to sip a long, cool cocktail at sunset.
Three of the restaurant kitchens close at 10.30pm, although dinner and drinks are served until 11pm. The Grotto stays open until 8pm.
Available 24 hours, with breakfast options, Thai and international snacks and larger dishes, barbecue fare and desserts.
Luxe Rayavadee resort sits at the heart of the gorgeous Phranang Peninsula on Thailand's Andaman Coast on the edge of the Krabi National Marine Park, surrounded by sheer cliffs that rise from the coast and sea.
Fly into Krabi International Airport, just 23 kilometres from the resort's access pier (or around a 25-minute drive). Krabi is served by numerous direct daily flights from capital Bangkok. Private jet charters between Bangkok and Krabi can also be arranged. Call our Smith24 team to book your flights. The hotel offers free transfers by air-conditioned van and boat from and to Krabi Airport; please give the hotel at least 24 hours' notice if the transfers are required (transfers outside of the scheduled speedboat times will be charged as private transfers).
Phuket is the nearest big town, about a two-hour drive away.
Accessible only by sea, guests arrive after a short, buzzy speedboat trip to the resort pier. Rayavadee can also organise private transfers from nearby islands Ko Phi Phi, Ko Lanta and Ko Yao Noi, Phuket or Phang Nga towns, or Phuket International Airport; prices on application.
Worth getting out of bed for
Rayavadee runs countless trips and excursions, including island visits, scuba trips, sea kayaking and snorkelling. However, lounging in your pavilion watching the local monkeys misbehaving can be equally entertaining.
As Rayavadee’s private speedboat skims across the crystal-blue waters and shimmies into one of this spectacular Thai hotel’s three bays, Mr Smith remarks that ‘Bond’ might have been a more appropriate surname to adopt for this scene. Yes, although I doubt James would have just had his mother phoning him on his mobile phone to wish him a wonderful honeymoon and not to forget to send the neighbour a postcard.
Part of Rayavadee’s allure is its exclusive location; only accessible by boat from Krabi, it’s fantastically private. It’s also breath-stoppingly beautiful: three azure-lapped sugar-white beaches are crowned by vast, jagged limestone cliffs, pocked and riddled with caverns and caves. Say ‘untamed tropical paradise’ and most people would draw something like this on their mental sketchpads. Few, however, would have the talent to do it justice. Met from our watery chauffeur with a warm welcome befitting old friends, rather than first-time guests, unsurprisingly we’re bursting with excitement about what delights are in store us on this very special leg of our trip.
Tropical in every sense, we’re led through this luxury hotel’s perfectly manicured, verdant gardens to our pavilion. You could be forgiven for mistaking the resort for a tribal jungle village, one belonging to a tribe with a fondness for Jacuzzis and spa treatments and a talent for landscape gardening. As we arrive at the colonial-style, mushroom-shaped villa, Mr Smith comments that it reminds him of places he fantasised about since childhood. I giggle and hope the word ‘Smurf house’ doesn’t translate easily into Thai. I should perhaps cite a more seductive cultural reference, such as mention that the film version of Alex Garland’s ‘The Beach’ was filmed near here? As for the aforementioned abodes, don’t worry, Rayavadee’s stylish sandy-coloured villas are best suited to discerning international sybarites rather than white-hatted, blue-skinned cartoon characters.
All of the award-winningly designed two-storeyed villas are fashioned from a dark wood complemented by neutral tones and subtle lighting, ensuring they’re in perfect harmony with the coconut palm-studded habitat. Downstairs we have our own living room, and up a curved staircase we find an incredibly spacious bedroom. But what’s grabbed our attention most? The floor-to-ceiling bay window overlooking those foliage-filled grounds? The fresh sweet-smelling orchids? Nope – the jars of homemade cookies that our guide tells us are restocked daily. Brilliant! The ensuite bathroom holds more bottled treats – little corked containers of pampering potions such as Rayavdee’s sea salt scrub and a jasmine after-sun. A deep, round bath decked out with candles fit for a cathedral, blows Rayavadee’s honeymoon credentials through the roof. And there is no shortage of romantic rendezvous at our villa – a suspended sofa on the groundfloor is perfect for out-of-water snuggling, and the double sunlounger on the patio is ideal for secluded tanning as a twosome. After admiring some of the other lovely touches (pebbles in the basin, a large wooden oar for a towel rail), I figure it’s time we get stuck into the roadtesting part of our reviewing.
Swimwear donned, we’re eager to dip our toes in a pool and feel the warm white sand of Railey Beach. Consulting our map of the resort, we notice two main red-brick walkways: M1 and M2. Don’t let the motorway-sounding names deceive: the most traffic you’ll catch on the resort’s interconnecting paths is the occasional bike – the main method of transport for the staff. Or maybe a golf buggy – after all, this 98-pavillioned, 60-acre resort is sprawling.
As soon as we get to the sapphire-coloured infinity pool that seemingly melts into the Andaman Sea, quicker than I can even think ‘a bottle of chilled water would be nice’, an attendant appears with one, while another expertly tucks luxurious towels into sunloungers, complete with plumped pillow. Tempting as it is to collapse there and gaze up at the palm trees, adventure-junkie Mr Smith reminds me that a walk to Princess Lagoon had been recommended. I picture a gently ascending path winding its way up through peaceful jungle. Our map has neglected to indicate any contours, so the almost-vertical incline that would give Chris Boddington a nosebleed, comes as a small surprise.
With one of the hotel’s expert guides enlisted, and permanent ropes to grab pointed out, it turns out to be great fun. It’s all very ‘Jurassic Park’ – thankfully without the rampaging dinosaurs – and the view, when we get to it, is stunning. Just as we’re admiring the sparkling aqua lagoon below and contemplating the drop down to it, I remember a pressing engagement back at the resort. ‘I would love to carry on,’ I tell our guide, ‘but I simply have to be back for my facial at 5pm.’
The Rayavadee Spa is reason alone to spend time in this heavenly Thai resort. Therapeutic Thai herbal ingredients, masterful masseurs, a vast array of treatments, and soothing ambience – I don’t feel too short-changed about cutting short our walk. An hour of pampering later and I’m feeling a little spaced out for my next appointment – one that’s continuing in this less-strenuous vein. Plans to meet Mr Smith at the Raitalay Terrace Bar for a game of Scrabble are boosted by a two-for-one on cocktails. Strictly in the interests of reviewing duty, you understand. Well, it’s practically mandatory at sunset, isn’t it? With a spring in our step, we return to our luxury villa to get ready for supper.
Another reason that so many well-heeled sun-seekers flock to Rayavadee is the food. With four restaurants, running a delectable gamut of flavours from Thai to International, even the most pernickety of diners will find something to please the palate. The Grotto is the most scenic of the four – cleft into the cliffside and carpeted with cooling sand, it frequently sees yacht-set doyens moor up and drop in for a candlelit dinner. We’ve booked a table overlooking the ocean at the hotel’s acclaimed Thai and seafood restaurant, Krua Phranang.
With enough hiking under our belts for one day, we hightail it there in one of the resort’s at-your-service golf buggies. En route, we glimpse a surreal sight – a chef’s hat seemingly gliding across the top of a hedge. Just as I remind myself I did only have one G&T, its wearer reveals itself to be a cook peddling his way to work. As we tuck into our delicious, fragrant, chilli-enhanced Thai meal supper we raise a toast to Rayavadee’s beloved bike-riding chefs.
The romance of Rayavadee is intoxicating. After an indulgent breakfast in Raya Restaurant the following morning it should be time to pack up, but instead, thanks to fantastically cheap air tickets we decide to rebook our flights. Shopping in Bangkok is swiftly sacrificed in favour of a few precious extra hours at Rayavadee. A later check-out time is arranged for us and a member of staff tells us our transfer to the airport is ready whenever we desire it. ‘Never,’ sighs Mr Smith, but sadly this isn’t an option.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Rayavadee’s Guestbook below.
We absolutely loved our time at the Rayavadee! This is the second time we have visited this beautiful resort and we will continue to come back. The staff is always very helpful and willing to accommodate our needs. And the complimentary message that came with our room was amazing! One of the most beautiful places in Thailand and we will continue to come back to this beautiful place!
Noise or crowds.
Stayed on 26 Feb 2019
It really is paradise! It feels a little like living in the jungle and the hotel tries to be as little disturbance to nature as possible with its look and feel. That doesnt make it less luxorious! From the food to the rooms to the Spa: everything is perfection with its love for details and service. Lets not forget those many lovely and genuinely nice staff members, who make your stay a truly luxurious experience.
There is not really peace and quite at the beaches, since there are many boat taxis arriving and departing all day long that bring a lot of tourists.
Stayed on 8 Dec 2018
Wow. Wowzee wow. Come here immediately. The scenery is the biggest draw but it's quite simply one of the most luxurious experiences you will ever get, from the transfer by speedboat to the spa treatments to the little welcoming touches in your villa on arrival. All three(!) beaches are worth checking out, and Princess Cave is a fun, if NSFW, sight to take in too.
Make sure you have enough funds on your credit card for a pricey stay. The beach barbecue at the Grotto will set you back quite a bit!
Stayed on 21 Feb 2018
Beautiful grounds, great food and cocktails, stunning scenery.