Why Is This Place so Great?
When hearing about Thailand’s third-largest island, the first thing that’s normally brought up is the crazy nightlife at Chaweng Beach and the even more insane beach bash thrown on said beach every 28 days to celebrate the Full Moon Festival. That being said, those looking to avoid nightlife will still have a great time at Koh Samui on the much quieter Lamai side of the island.
Lamai is filled with high-end accommodation that mostly consists of suites and villas next to a long strip of beach. The area boasts its large selection of restaurants, (quieter) bars, shops, and modern Thai art. Those visiting on a Sunday will even be treated with a night market to attend selling an array of handicrafts, leather goods, clothes, and Thai street food.
While it may be fun to venture towards the Chaweng area from time to time, visitors who have absolutely zero interest in nightlife can avoid the area and still have an amazing time. Visit the Bophut area filled with temples, museums, a fisherman’s village, and a Big Buddha to top it all off, travelers can get a healthy dose of culture on their visit. Koh Samui, especially the Lamai side of the island, is also filled with lush jungles and natural wonders to explore with great scenic vantage points over the gulf of Thailand. The island is also known for enjoying watersports, but avid divers looking to add another notch to their record books may want to go elsewhere (try Phuket) since Koh Samui is amongst one of the most expensive places to dive in the country due to its distance from dive sites.
Luxury Koh Samui
Luxury Hotel: Banyan Tree Samui
Banyan Tree Samui is a villa-only resort nestled on a private hill, overlooking the azure waters of the quiet side of the island in Lamai. Although this is our luxury pick, it also satisfies our lifestyle requirements as well. The resort takes sustainability quite seriously and has created its own Corporate Social Responsibility team consisting of well-versed conservationists who have assisted in implementing sustainable initiatives including reusing gray water in landscaping, reducing waste, cleaning the local area, and creating a coral regeneration project for healthier marine life. This has led the Banyan Tree Samui to become the first hotel to be awarded the EarthCheck Gold certification in Thailand.
The resort’s 88 villas provide guests with a minimum of 1,400 square feet of space, which all include its own private 377 square foot infinity style pool, an outdoor whirlpool, deck space, separate living space, as well as a luxurious bathroom with twin vanities, large soaking tubs, and separate rain showers. Providing impeccable service, each villa is designated with their own host (concierge) who will take care of any reservations and excursions you may desire. Guests are also provided with a complimentary Samsung smartphone, which has the capability of making complimentary local and international calls, provide WiFi hotspot to your cellphone, and to call your host’s direct line whilst exploring the island.
The Banyan Tree Samui is family-friendly with an array of family villas available containing two bathrooms and two bedrooms (one king bed and two twins) with the capability of sleeping up to five people. Those looking for added luxury may look into staying at the resort’s Presidential Pool Villa, which consists of two one-bedroom ocean view villas (each with their own infinity pool and whirlpool), connected by a communal dining room, living area, and additional outdoor terrace space.
The resort offers a ton of activities on the property. Enjoy lounging on the sands of a private beach, or explore the bay with complimentary use of stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, catamarans, snorkel, and windsurf gear. Motorized water sports are banned on the resort’s bay to ensure guest safety, but guests are still able to book island tours, sunset cruises, snorkeling trips, and private picnics by speedboat. If guests prefer to stay out of the ocean, the resort also has two communal pools – one for adults and the other for families.
Guests looking to stay dry can head to the resort’s gym and yoga center to enjoy tons of complimentary classes including yoga, pilates, Muay Thai boxing, amongst other aerobic classes. Banyan Tree Samui also offers less intensive activities including cooking classes, learning the art of mixology, or exploring the resort’s library and games room filled with books, magazines, DVDs, table tennis, and a snooker table. Guests looking to explore the island can hop onto the resort’s complimentary shuttles that go to either Chaweng to explore the night markets and nightlife or Lamai which features modern Thai art, great scenic views, a Buddhist temple, and a museum showcasing Koh Samui’s history; however, keep in mind that the shuttle times are infrequent so time your activities accordingly. The resort also features a kids club for young guests between the ages of 4 and 12 to hone their skills in arts and crafts and Thai dance or participate in a variety of activities whilst making friends.
Banyan Tree Samui’s spa features are one to boast about. The resort features its own hydrothermal experience called The Rainforest. Within this indoor space, guests will be able to enjoy an ancient Asian wellness philosophy using the healing power of water by alternating between hot nourishing treatments (such as steam showers, rasul, and sauna) and cool soothing treatments (including ice fountains, vitality pool, and rain walks) that focus on different areas of the body to restore health. Ten treatment rooms are available in an adjacent building where guests can indulge in a variety of ministrations including Coconut Jasmine Rice Facial, Royal Banyan Herbal Pouch Massage, and Jade Face Massage.
The resort also has three main restaurants – The Edge, Sands, and Saffron. The Edge is open for service during breakfast and lunch hours offering a wide selection of Western and Asian foods for breakfast and an à la carte menu during lunch. The Edge is also known to have the occasional pop-up restaurant that operates during dinner hours.
Sands serves barbecue-style fresh seafood and prime cuts of meat that can be char-grilled, wood-fired, or rotisseried, on the beach during lunch and dinner. Equipped with its own bar, guests can indulge in a number of unique cocktails.
Saffron is a dinner-only restaurant and is one of the best fine dining restaurants in Koh Samui. Serving an authentic Thai menu, similar to that of the original Saffron from the Banyan Tree in Phuket, patrons will receive a quality Thai dining experience. Some of the best dishes at Saffron include the Chicken Dumplings, Beef Salad, and Crab Curry.
Guests staying here should also enjoy the In-Villa Dining. Guests have the option to enjoy à la carte items in the pool enjoying the view whilst eating off a floating tray, or they can even order the Villa Barbecue for dinner where a personal chef will come to your villa to create your meal and a personal server will help attend to any needs.
Luxury Activity: Hire a Private Sailing Yacht Charter to Visit Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park is comprised of 42 islets spanning across 39 square miles of space. Its pristine beaches, limestone cliffs, lush jungles, deep blue lagoons, and plentiful wildlife served as the inspiration for the novel “The Beach” by Alex Garland, which many may know as the box office hit filmed in Koh Phi Phi that Leonardo DiCaprio starred in.
To this day, Ang Thong is amongst one of the most popular excursions when visiting Koh Samui since the government only authorizes specific tour companies that operate from Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, or Koh Tao to take visitors to the National Park. As a result, tons of suppliers can be found selling boat tours along Chaweng and Lamai Beach, which are all usually packed with well over 30 travelers per boat that in turn creates an over-crowded and rushed experience throughout the excursion where visitors only see the most popular attractions, likely at the same time as other tour groups. Since Ang Thong is normally the highlight of most peoples’ trip to Koh Samui, we highly recommend booking a private tour to leisurely explore the area with general guidelines on what you’d like to do and see without a structured schedule to avoid the crowds once you near the islands.
There is so much information about Ang Thong that we’d like to share, so we thought it deserved its own article. To read more about the special activities to do in the National Park, recommendations on the type of vessels to hire, and once in a lifetime experiences to stay overnight (keep in mind that it’s near impossible to see all the islands comprehensively in even a week) click here.
Luxury Dining: Jahn at Conrad Koh Samui
Jahn is a dinner-only dining establishment at the Conrad Koh Samui. The restaurant only has a seating capacity for 28 patrons. Consequently, it has two seatings per night – the first at 5.00 – 8.00pm to enjoy the sunset whilst gazing out of the restaurant’s floor to ceiling windows, the second from 8.30 to 11.30pm for a later romantic atmosphere lit exclusively by candlelight. Serving contemporary Thai cuisine, the restaurant serves three different tasting menus alongside their à la carte. The dishes to highlight include the Tom Yum Goong, Goong Yang Ma Praw Hom (Slow Cooked Lobster), Tomato and Alaskan Crab Salad, Wagyu Masaman Curry, and Kai Oob Fang (Sous-vide Smoked Chicken).
Lifestyle Koh Samui
Lifestyle Hotel: Six Senses Samui
Six Senses Samui is located on the northern tip of the island in the Bophut region, which is in close proximity to the airport, Fisherman’s Village, the Big Buddha, and the pier to visit Koh Phangan.
The resort is incredibly environmentally friendly. Since recycling has not been institutionalized in Koh Samui, the resort has taken it into their own hands to create their own system that eliminates paper, aluminum, glass, and plastic waste on the property while composting organic matter by using a composting plant and feeding their resident goats organic waste (such as tree leaves) since they’re known to process it well.
Set on 20 acres of land, the resort’s 66 villas have a minimum of 1,400 square feet, providing guests with ample space and privacy during their stay. All villas are furnished and finished with reclaimed or renewable wood and bamboo thatchings. Containing high thatched roofs, the rooms are designed to be naturally cooler but also have ceiling fans and precision air conditioning systems installed in them in order to precisely control the temperature and humidity levels in the rooms by absorbing hot air and releasing cool air in return. The absorbed heat is stored for later use to assist in heating the water in the room.
All rooms also feature large indoor bathrooms with twin vanities, sunken deep soaking tubs, outdoor showers, and six senses bathroom amenities dispensed through reusable porcelain bottles. Every villa has a split level design featuring outdoor deck spaces on the ground floor with stairs leading to the villa containing additional outdoor terrace space large enough for two daybeds to lie vertically. Out of their 66 villas, 59 of them (all except the Hideaway Villas) have their own private infinity pools that are approximately 195 square feet large located on the ground floor of the villa. In addition to this, each villa is assigned a personal Guest Experience Maker to assist with any requests, reservations, and excursions guests may desire.
Larger parties may want to book The Retreat. Featuring two one-bedroom villas each with king-sized beds, a walk-in closet, full-sized large bathrooms, and one with an outdoor bathtub, this villa is interconnected by wooden deck pathways to a communal living room area, outdoor dining sala, and 420 square foot private infinity pool. The Retreat provides its guests with the best oceanfront views from all rooms and the privacy when wanted.
Six Senses Samui has tons of activities on property. Guests can venture to their small private beach to participate in their regular beach and temple cleanups, use their complimentary kayaks or snorkel gear, or take a Muay Thai boxing class on their beach-side sala. The resort also books diving and snorkeling trips in Koh Tao Island, by Sail Rock, and Angthong National Marine Park, as well as catamaran and authentic Thai Junk excursions to go island hopping or enjoy the sunset on the ocean.
Visit the resort’s spa to take advantage of the daily complimentary yoga, tai chi, pilates, or stretching group classes. Get an award-winning treatment from their spa afterward. Some of their best and more unique treatments include four hands treatments, ancient Thai Boran massage, and Reiki Chakra Balancing treatments. The spa also has a meditation sala and a walking meditation area to enjoy.
There are tons to do for foodies here too! Guests can join a morning market tour to experience a local Thai culture that many tourists don’t get to see, then learn to cook Thai cuisine in the resort’s kitchen. Join the resort’s weekly sustainability walk to the Farm on a Hill where their resident goats and chickens live (guests may even be able to help collect eggs if asked nicely!) and admire the neighboring vegetable and herb garden. Guests who are interested in getting to know others on their trip can also join the weekly Sunset cocktail party that takes place every Thursday, or watch movies under the stars every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Six Senses Samui also has its own library featuring a variety of books and magazines. The library is where younger guests often have their kids club where they can participate in a variety of activities (that usually cost an additional fee). Consequently, we suggest picking one out and lounge by the resort’s large horizon-edged infinity pool to enjoy a relaxing environment instead – this is one of the best places to watch the sunset on the resort, after all.
More adventurous guests who want to explore the island can rent mountain bikes from the hotel on a complimentary basis for up to two hours to see the neighboring Bophut area, or take a complimentary shuttle into Bophut or to Chaweng Beach.
In addition to In-Villa Dining and light meals that can be ordered by the pool, the resort features one main restaurant – Dining on the Hill. During breakfast hours, the restaurant operates a buffet-style breakfast with numerous stations featuring made-to-order items and fresh kombucha, smoothies, and juices. The restaurant serves light meals and Thai Tapas during lunch hours, but be sure to dine here at night since Dining on the Hill serves its award-winning menu featuring local Thai dishes. The food served here has fully organic choices and sourced from their vegetable farm (as well as eggs from the chicken coop) where possible.
Lifestyle Activity: Learn the Art of Muay Thai Boxing From Actual Muay Thai Fighters
Run under the World Muay Thai Council, Lamai Muay Thai Camp is amongst one of the best Muay Thai training facilities in Thailand. The gym has seven instructors, all of whom have fought between 100 to 300 matches in their careers. Fostering a friendly family-like environment, the camp offers training to complete beginners to advanced and professional fighters looking to improve their technique. While private sessions are available, adult group classes are offered daily from Monday to Saturdays with morning classes at 7:00am – 9:00am, Strength and Conditioning classes from 3:45pm to 4:45pm, and evening classes from 5:00pm to 7:00pm. The establishment also offers childrens classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:00pm to 5:00pm.
For Lifestyle chose: Khunnay
Khunnay is a fully vegan restaurant serving Thai cuisine next to the Chaweng Park and Garden and in close proximity to Chaweng Beach as well as the Samui International Muay Thai Stadium. This dining establishment serves an all-you-can-eat-buffet featuring some spicy and mild options of curries, soups, deep-fried delicacies, and noodles or an extensive a la carte menu filled with vegan renditions of Thai favorites including Pad Thai and Spring Rolls. If you choose the buffet, don’t be greedy! The restaurant charges an extra fee for any leftovers on your plate. So only take as much as you plan to eat.
Boutique Koh Samui
Boutique Hotel: Ammatara Pura Pool Villas
Ammatara Pura Pool Villas is located towards the southern end of Lamai’s beach. Although the main street is within walking distance, guests can opt to take a short complimentary hotel tuk-tuk ride there to enjoy restaurants, shops, and bars.
The resort is a luxurious oasis steeped in Thai décor to bring the imagination of Raja living (the art of living like a King) to life. Shrouded in teak with accents of gold, the local Thai owners have meticulously designed every detail of the resort to reflect traditional Thai and Buddhist values and combined it with modern-day luxuries for added comfort.
This boutique hotel is on the small side with only 18 villas, which all provide guests with a minimum of 645 square feet of space that each come with their own private pool, laundry facilities, PC with complimentary wi-fi, oversized tub with jacuzzi jets, outdoor shower, walk-in closets, and fully equipped kitchenettes with full-sized fridges.
Ammatara Pura has the ability to host families in their 2-bedroom beachfront pool villa complete with two king-sized beds, two full-sized bathrooms, two walk-in closets, and a separate living room. An additional bed or crib can be made available upon request.
While there is a ton to explore in Lamai itself, the resort provides its guests with a daily activities program featuring complimentary events for in-house guests to join. These can include group jogging classes, fruit and vegetable carving, jewelry making, Thai cooking classes, painting, or trying on traditional Thai costumes with a professional photographer. The resort also has its own gym filled with Star Trac equipment, a yoga studio with panoramic views, and Thai boxing classes available on a one-on-one basis.
The resort has a beachfront restaurant, Amata, which is open for service all day. During breakfast hours it serves Full English and Continental Breakfast options buffet style. Following that, the restaurant operates on an à la carte basis serving Thai and Western dishes with Halal, Vegetarian, and Vegan options. Occasionally, the resort will also host a fresh seafood barbecue on the beach as well.
Boutique Activity: Play Football (Soccer) Golf in a Botanical Garden
Ever wondered what it would be like to combine Soccer and Golf into a hybrid game? Well, apparently many people in history have. Signs of the sport are seen dated back to the 1920s when a variation of the game was played in the United States under the name “code ball”, which never picked up in popularity. Another variation was played in Scandinavian countries in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s when the sport took shape into the game it is today by rule makers Michael Jansen and Bas Korsten. Samui Football Golf was the first in Asia to pick up on this trend and created the first Footgolf course in the continent in 2005.
The course has a total of 18 holes to play on, each named after a famous soccer player, where guests will have to kick the ball at the starting line over, around, and under obstacles in order to sink the ball into the designated hole. The size of the course is smaller in comparison to the proportions of a standard golf course, where players are estimated to walk a total of 0.75 miles to reach the end of the course, so golf buggies won’t be needed.
Samui Football Golf is an incredibly environmentally friendly company that loves its flora and fauna. Their employees are constantly growing new plants and help maintain the grounds by weeding, watering, mowing, and hedging where needed and constantly think of new ways to make the course more fun. At this point, the grounds hold over 300 different species of plants, including mango, durian, and banana trees as well as many vegetables and herbs which staff members will openly collect to supplement their lunch. There are also free-roaming chickens on the course whose manure is used to mix with homemade compost and tea in order to nourish the plants – the chickens are not to be hurt, so these moving obstacles create a more interesting game that may affect your par.
Each player will be provided with a complimentary soft drink, souvenir, football (or Futsal balls for children), and shoes if required. If booked in advance, the company will provide complimentary hotel transfers to and from Chaweng, Choeng Mon, Bangrak, Blai Laem, Bophut, Lamai, and Maenam. All other areas in Koh Samui can still request a hotel transfer, but there will be an additional 200 THB charge per person for the round trip service.
Boutique Dining: Supattra Thai Dining
Suppatra Thai Dining is located in Bophut, just 10 minutes away in walking distance from the Big Buddha. This family-owned dining establishment uses fresh ingredients from local markets and fishermen to serve some of the best Thai food in Koh Samui. While practically all dishes have had rave reviews, some favorites tend to be the Pomelo and Shrimp Salad, Blue Crab Curry, Massaman Curry, Panaeng Curry, and Home Made Coconut Ice Cream. The restaurant has an impressive wine and cocktails list too!
Since Supattra is a popular restaurant with limited seating, we highly recommend making reservations a couple days in advance by phone or by Facebook Messenger – they tend to respond relatively quickly.