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.”
Banyan Tree99/9 Moo 4, Maret, Samui
Follow the island's eastern shoreline until you get to a secluded bay. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you get to a place that looks like it could be in a James Bond movie. Look up and you'll see private villas attached to stilts on the rocky hillside. This is Banyan Tree. It's more pared down than some of Thailand’s more opulent resorts but still totally considered, with individual swimming pools and hammocks, rain showers, and an incredibly attentive staff. The wellness program is the star here. And by wellness, we mean a huge spa that focuses on hydrotherapy (ask the staff to recommend a treatment that’s in line with your goals) and Thai massage. There's also a respected yoga practice. This is where you come to recharge. For a little more action, a hotel shuttle will bring you to Lamai, a charming little city five minutes away.
Anantara Bophut99/9 Bophut Bay Tambon Bophut, Koh Samui
We fantasize about making a permanent move to Anantara. The resort is on the larger size—106 rooms—but still feels quaint and private with its thatched roofs and intricate walkways woven through lush greenery. (And the greenery is everywhere.) It’s a playground for the active and curious. There's Muay Thai, paddleboarding, yoga, cooking classes, Pilates, weight training...we could go on. If you're looking to stay supine, the spa, with its ornate Chinese décor and pristine treatment rooms, is where you’ll have one of the most intense (in a good way), invigorating massages of your life.
Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui219 Moo 5 Angthong, Koh Samui
Maybe it's the emerald jungle cliff on which it sits. Maybe it's the oceanside villas with private infinity pools. Or maybe it's that you can walk out of your room and take in what looks like the entire Gulf of Thailand. Whatever it is, this is one of those rare hotels that make you forget there is an outside world. Adding to that feeling, each villa has a private butler on hand for whatever you need. And what you need might be the fresh grilled island fish, spicy chicken satay, and a creamy mango smoothie. And while you’re at it, maybe an appointment at the spa? Get the lava shell massage. A skilled clinician will get your comfortable on a warmed bed in an oceanside veranda. She'll rub away any tension, stress, knots—you name it—with a heated lava shell filled with algae and seaweed gel. It's odd; it's therapeutic; it will leave you feeling like butter.
Sala Samui10/9 Moo 5, Bann Plai Laem, Koh Samui
Sala is a departure from the traditional thatched bamboo villas of Samui. The look here is streamlined: all white and mahogany wood décor with minimal accessories. It still has everything we love for an indulgent stay, including bathtubs that could pass for small swimming pools. The pristine spa offers traditional Thai, Swedish, and a Chinese-Ayurvedic-Thai combination massage on its menu. Ask your clinician to have your treatment outside, where the ocean sounds will put you in a blissful state between sleep and consciousness.
Six Senses Samui9/10 Moo 5, Baan Plai Laem, Samui
Consider this when booking your room here: Do you want a five-second walk to the beach or an endless view of absurdly blue water? Six Senses hugs an oceanside rain-forest-covered hill, which means each of its sixty-six private villas offers a slightly different perspective, some shadier, some right on the sand. But you can't go wrong with any of them—or anything at this resort, for that matter. You'll spend your mornings here having coffee and fresh jackfruit on your private patio before heading to the beach for yoga. Afterward you may walk along the bamboo jungle path to the spa, where you'll spend two hours getting massaged with hot stones. What's next could be anything...Muay Thai...an afternoon nap. Soon enough, you'll be hungry for dinner at Dining on the Rocks, the restaurant on the top of the hill that overlooks what appears to be the entire world (and serves the freshest, crunchiest, spiciest organic papaya salad on the island).