Surat Thani, Thailand
Somewhere in the Gulf of Thailand, there are three islands called Koh Phangon, Koh Yao Yai, and Koh Chang. You don’t have to pronounce them; you just have to know that the three of them comprise Santhiya Resorts & Spas. And the natural beauty of the islands can’t be overstated—the perfect beaches, the perfect views, the perfect jungles. You’ll feel like you’re in an Alex Garland novel—only with sunrise yoga, farm-to-table meals, Ayurvana facials, and your own private villa overlooking maybe the entire ocean. The resort is an eco-luxe resort, which means that your bed may be made of reclaimed wood, but your sheets will have very high thread counts.
Four Seasons Thai Cooking Class
219 Moo 5
You'll undoubtedly leave Koh Samui with a craving for the food. Thailand's spicy, savory, umami, and sweet dishes are satisfying, addictive, and incomparable to anything else. Which is why taking a cooking class while you're on the island should be a mandate. There are many to choose from, but the Four Seasons’ class is one of our favorites for its patient culinary team. One of the hotel's incredibly skilled chefs takes you through two dishes on the menu, starting with a tutorial on each one's history and ingredients before showing how it's prepared, step by step. You'll learn to make specialties like steamed sea bass with spicy lime sauce and grilled prawns with tamarind, which will impress back home.
Amari Palm Reef Resort, Moo 2
An efficient, professional diving school that offers PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certifications. You can keep it easy here and have the team teach you basic skills for breathing with scuba and snorkeling gear. Or you can go deeper with an intensive two- or three-day course for PADI certification. When you're ready to go into the deep crystalline waters, ask your dive master to take you to Chumphon Pinnacle, where you'll see white-eyed moray eels and great barracuda.
Dipabhavan Meditation Center
101/18 Moo 3 Tambon Maret, Moo 3
"Dipabhavan" essentially means "a private place to learn the teachings of the Buddha," which is what locals and tourists have been doing here since it opened in 2005. The center is based on Vipassana, an ancient form of meditation that involves a minimum of ten days of silent, self-observing mental training. You come here with two goals: to free your consciousness of misery, and to strengthen your mind-body connection. The practice is rigorous, daunting, and sometimes uncomfortable, but it's worth the mindfulness and peace you gain. The retreat is completely free of charge (they welcome donations at the end) and pared back (you won't get a full-service spa here), but the team looks after your every need.
Six Senses Samui
9/10 Moo 5
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).
9/99 Moo 3
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).
Tamarind Springs Spa
205/7 Thong Takian, Moo 4
A great massage isn't an anomaly in Samui. But it takes a little more searching to find one that will transform you, one where the clinician seems to understand every knot in your body. That's what you get at Tamarind. The staff here is trained in traditional Thai, Eastern, and Western therapeutic techniques and will knead, Rolf, rub, and press your muscles until they seem to melt. Go for the Steam and Dream treatment. You'll sit in an herbal steam cave in the jungle before indulging in a two-and-a-half-hour massage. By the time you leave, you’ll be so euphoric, you won't remember your own name.
48/10 Moo 3
For one goop editor, Muay Thai was the workout she didn't know she was looking for. It changed her entire perspective on exercising and mindfulness. The thing about traditional Thai boxing is that you can't focus on anything else but what's happening in front of you. When your master yells "kick," you kick (or "jab" or "uppercut"). It's a practice of being present. And one of the most fun, intense workouts you'll ever do. This particular gym is known for some of the best instructors in the country.
Vikasa Yoga Retreat
211 Bontji Moo 4
The idea of a yoga retreat can be intimidating, especially for the uninitiated. But Vikasa somehow makes its all-inclusive wellness hotel inviting. The team is friendly, welcoming, and incredibly knowledgeable about yoga. A trip here really lets you focus on, well, yourself. There are personalized vacation packages, where you can practice daily yoga and meditation, as well as more structured one-on-one training for those looking to become instructors. But yoga aside, its vegetarian restaurant, Life Café, is reason enough to visit. Order the Vikasa dumplings (carrots and walnuts minced and wrapped in rice paper and served with plum sauce) and mushroom ceviche with a probiotic honey and coconut milk colada.
102/9 Laem-Set Rd, Na Mueang, Moo 4
This is Briohny Smyth's favorite place on the island. Part hotel, part holistic wellness sanctuary, part yoga retreat, Kamalaya echoes Thailand's sentiment of wellness: To feel good, you must take care of your mind, body, and spirit. Which is why Kamalaya surpasses a traditional spa-like resort. The staff here focuses on those who feel worn out, depleted, tired. Going through a divorce? Head here. Tired of your job? Ditto. Restorative yoga classes, lengthy massages, acupuncture, guided meditation—it’s all here to cure what ails you. You'll eat organic meals free of any refined sugars and dairy (and meat and gluten, if requested). And eventually, you'll head back to your life feeling happier, lighter, and completely rejuvenated.
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