The Koh Samui Guide
In Thai, “koh” means island—and we’d wager that “samui” means perfect. Okay, not really, but you wouldn’t be far off in thinking that Koh Samui, off the coast of eastern Thailand, is the perfect island. From above, Samui looks like concentric circles of color: The center, dense with lush, green jungle, is surrounded by a ring of white, powdery sand, which is surrounded by an endless sea of sapphire-colored water. It’s a screensaver of a landscape. Colossal mountains jut out of the ocean, and quaint bamboo huts line the shores. Samui is a feast of natural beauty, but there are also restaurants that serve the freshest ceviche and juiciest island fruits, and the locals treat you like family.
“Samui has everything you need for a wellness getaway—massages, healthy food, healthy drinks, Ayurvedic wellness, essential oils…everything,” says Briohny Smyth, a global wellness leader and yoga instructor. Smyth, whose mother is Thai, has a deep connection to Samui. Every year, she and her children spend the summer on the island. “You feel taken care of in the most luxurious way,” she says.
To dive into all that luxury, we zeroed in on the best places to stay, eat, explore, and rejuvenate, so you leave the island feeling like yourself—only, let’s say, more “samui.”
PoppiesBo Put, Koh Samui
A casual hotel restaurant along Chaweng Beach, one of Samui's most popular locations on its east coast, Poppies' roots on the island go back to the mid-’90s. It's a great spot for a good lunch with a view, and it’s known for traditional Thai cuisine (the grilled fish here is excellent) with a Western twist. Afterward, check out the hotel’s tropical gardens or go for a walk on the beach to complete the Thai postcard fantasy.
Coco Tam’s62/1 moo 1 Bohput, Koh Samui
It's a little touristy, a little loud, and totally worth it: Get a daiquiri made with island fruit and sit on one of the massive beanbags on the beach. Once you’ve settled in, you'll probably want to get another daiquiri and stay for the beachside fire dancers who perform every night. And if you spend at least $30 (about 1,000 Thai baht), you’re free to lounge in one of the hammocks. The food (mostly fried) isn't exactly healthy, but it hits the spot when you're craving a late-night snack.
Saffron99/9 Moo 4, Maret, Koh Samui
A terrace seat and a drink at dusk make for a magnificent start to dinner here, as the sun dips over the sea and behind the jungle-covered mountains. But you’re here for the food, not just the view. Chef Renu Homsombat refined her craft in kitchens across Europe—including Germany’s three-Michelin-star Schwarzwaldstube in Baiersbronn—before taking the helm at Saffron. Homsombat’s menu has all the classics, like pad Thai, but also highlights regional flavors by incorporating ingredients like banana blossom, prawns, and jasmine-scented water chestnuts in rich coconut milk.
Kiree9/99 Moo 3, Chaweng Noi Beach Surat Thani Koh Samui TH
Come here for the Thai tapas—small plates of grilled shrimp over stir-fried papaya noodles and crispy pork with cashews—and to propose. We're not kidding. This is probably the most romantic restaurant on the island. Ask to be seated outside and you'll have a table overlooking the Gulf of Thailand with no one else around you. Order some champagne (there’s a lengthy list of wines and bubbly), and enjoy what will likely be one of the most memorable meals of your life (proposal or no proposal).