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Koh Samui is a small island off the coast of Southeastern Thailand, and popular with weekend travelers from Bangkok and Singapore as well as with longer term visitors to Thailand. In the piece, I will try to help you choose the right resort in Koh Samui, based on my personal selection of the best luxury resorts.
Choosing the best luxury resorts in Koh Samui
Driving along the Eastern shore, heading South, we spotted an endless stream of high-end resort signs. It started with the Banyan Tree, the Le Meridien and the Renaissance and continued with an endless supply of hotel options. In fact Koh Samui has the highest number of beachfront resorts in the world, at 270, according to The Beachfront Club, an organization who aims at sharing information about the reality of beachfront claims.
About an hour drive away from the airport, on the island’s furthest point, we entered the very steep climb towards the Conrad Koh Samui, our final destination.
The collection of luxury resorts did not end there though. On subsequent drives around the island we spotted the Intercontinental, a few kilometers from the Conrad, with similar views and design, followed by Nikki Beach, the Movenpick, the Four Seasons, the Vana Belle, A Luxury Collection Resort, and the W Retreat. Finally, topping the list of exclusive properties, is the Six Senses, on the Northern tip of the island, closest to the airport, if only isolated by a zig-zagging road. With so much offer, and leaving price aside, what is the best place to stay on Koh Samui?
To choose the best luxury resort in Koh Samui, FOR YOU, I have put together a list of the few I would consider. There are high-end options with price tags above the $500 a night rate but also some alternatives hovering around $300. There are plenty of truly affordable options, but on this article, I would like to focus on the luxury resorts.
Best area to stay on Koh Samui
Although the Koh Samui is not very big, distances can be long, relatively speaking, so it is good to know what your plans are and if you want to be close to the noise and buzz to enjoy evenings out. From the airport to the bottom East part of the island, where the Conrad, it takes about an hour. It is not so much the number of kilometers as much as the condition of the roads. They are not bad, but they are not great, and I would suggest not trying to rent a “ghetto” car like I did (bad decision Alex! 🙂 ) because you will feel every bump and every uneven surface on the road in your bones, and it isn’t smooth, I can testify to that. If you only plan to drive around on a tour, then location does not matter. But beware, all cruises and sailing tours out to the Ang Thong Marine Park and Koh Tao depart from the Northern part so if you are staying South that means getting up over an hour earlier than everyone else, and that could mean 6am for a whole day sailing cruise. So, location matters but only if you plan to venture out.
Another consideration when talking about location is the beach. You will often read that Koh Samui does not have nice beaches. I could not agree more. Many of the resorts have fabulous clifftop views and infinity vistas but no beach to speak off so if that is your idea of paradise, location, and the specific resort, will matter. Where possible, I will include details on the beach below from my personal experience or from comments and reviews from others.
Six Senses Koh Samui
Six Senses can always be relied upon for the type of barefoot rustic luxury that delivers fabulous service, incredible locations of natural beauty and organic, local food experiences. The brand is a winner for those for whom opulence and sophistication are superfluous and who prefer privacy and nature. What is it like? Check out my review of the property in the Maldives, the Six Senses Laamu or even the one in Chengdu, where the pandas are, on the Qing Cheng Mountain.
Six Senses Koh Samui is located on the Northern tip of the island, near the airport, and faces a few scattered islets in the Gulf of Thailand. Whether you prefer to hide in the jungle or stare into the ocean, you will find the right hideaway for you. Six Senses Koh Samui is unpretentious and personal. Expect the usual lime green, pale orange and yellows to accompany the cinnamon wood and natural elements and a bit of violet for measure. Food is always centerpiece here. Play hide and seek with other guests, Six Senses are known to master the art of screens and bamboo walls to provide maximum privacy.
There is a small bay with a beach and sun beds to lounge around.
TripAdvisor gives it a 4.5 rating with 700+ reviews and 55 Bad or Terrible. Prices for their jungle hideaway villas are not as ridiculous as you may expect and start at $460.
Check latest room rate and more photos here.
Vana Belle, A Luxury Collection Resort
As opposed to other resorts set on high hills, the Vana Belle, A Luxury Collection Resort, lays low on the beach but still offers infinity Gulf views and much opulence. It is more local in spirit, favoring teak wood over marble, but modern in delivery and I love the elevated beds a few steps higher than the outdoor spaces to make you feel like a princess.
The hotel is one of the few on a proper stretch of beach, on Chaweng, although since it is the most popular beach on the island it may get crowded. Can’t make everyone happy.
The Vana Belle has an almost perfect TripAdvisor review with only 7 Bad and Terrible reviews over 420, quite an achievement. Prices start at $600.
You can check latest room rate and photos here.
Banyan Tree Koh Samui
Perfect Thai architecture and interiors on this beauty on Lamai Bay, near the well known phallic rocks. Banyan Tree Koh Samui may not be as dramatic a location as the Intercontinental or the Conrad, but it provides incredible outdoor pools, jacuzzis and 360 degrees on some of the larger villas some set amidst the jungle greenery. Because of its location, you are likely to be able to enjoy both sunrise and sunset. The small bay has a quaint beach too.
The resort is the first one to offer full hydrotherapy services at the Rainforest Spa. Get wet in the Rainforest Trail, a journey through its 10 hydrotherapy experiences. The resort is kid friendly with even a children only pool.
TripAdvisor gives the resort a great round up. At almost 1,000 reviews it has only 20 Bad or Terrible ratings. Prices start at $700 for the Deluxe jungle pool villas.
You can check the latest rates and more photos here.
Conrad Koh Samui
The most impactful and memorable part? The infinite ocean views from the pool villas, perched on the steep side of a cliff, with complete privacy. Sunsets here are to die for as the resort faces West. Total isolation as well. We almost didn’t make it up the hyper steep hilltop on our rental car.
Conrad Koh Samui has a Thai fine-dining restaurant and the option to dine by the pool in one of the cabanas for a romantic evening under the stars. Walk or swim to the floating platforms in the water, where you could tan topless, or the sunken hanging sea hammocks. Scoot up and down the steep hill on the resort’s buggies, you would not want to walk up the hyper steep curves on your own feet, trust me, I arrived at breakfast after a pathetic 2min walk, covered in sweat, it is hard work.
As the most expensive resort on the island with the Four Seasons, it justifies the price on the brand name and the dramatic island backdrop. Service is impeccable and, despite the sprawling grounds and the long distances on the buggy, all our demands were attended to in record time, from a buggy to move around to a bucket of ice to enjoy a bottle of Prosecco to a bug spray to make sure only I had a feast, not the mosquitoes. The Conrad epitomizes romance. Check out the large Residences at the top with two-story, two bedroom villas offering even more dramatic living. B-R-E-A-T-H-T-A-K-I-N-G.
If beach living is what you are after this ain’t the place for you. The Conrad is certainly perched above the sea and the beach is nice but rather small and unimpressive. But you didn’t come here to laze around the beach but to spend time with your loved one cuddling up on your private terrace or in the free-standing bathtub complete with sweeping Bay views.
As with most Conrad, prices don’t come cheap. Pool villas start at $800 but, can you put a price on this view? Plus it has the best TripAdvisor score of all resorts with 650 reviews and only 7 Bad or Terrible experiences.
Check the latest room rate and more photos here.
Intercontinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Resort
Choose from beach or hillside villas in this stunning resort not too far from the Conrad on the Southwest of the island. The Intercontinental Koh Samui is also facing the sunset and the Five Islands of Angthong National Park. The resort is modern and comes in white tones. You can also choose to stay at one of the suites in the main building for a more affordable price but that would be a shame, nothing can beat the sunset views from the privacy of your own pool. If you don’t have your own, you can choose from the resort’s 7 swimming pools. It is slightly business-like, with conference rooms and plenty of plugs by the side of the desk. One of the room types is called Executive. Nuff said.
TripAdvisor score of 4.5 on 731 reviews with only 44 Bad or Terrible. Rates start at $350 for advance purchase.
Check latest prices and more photos here.
For the swankier and sexier travelers Nikki Beach opened its first resort on Koh Samui. Following the brand’s slogan as “The Sexiest place on Earth” Koh Samui’s beach club offers spacious villas facing the island’s longest pool. And if you fancy unlimited champagne with a side of Sunday Brunch, this is the place to see and be seen. The beach in front of the resort is not the best on the island but the rest is in the middle of a busy strip with plenty around. One of the few places you can actually walk out off.
The resort’s chef is creative and fabulous to say the least. Have a look at my good friend’s, Scott Eddy, photos on his facebook feed.
TripAdvisor has 285 reviews with an average rating of 4.5 and only 11 Bad or Terrible, that is pretty stunning. Prices start at $500 per night.
You can check latest room rate and more photos here.
Four Seasons Koh Samui
When I was a consultant in Africa and the Middle East, the Four Seasons I used to stay at where nothing like the swanky, luxurious and ask-all-you-can resorts of Asia and the Pacific. I vividly remember a rather grey Four Seasons Aman, in Jordan, where we spent too many late nights working.
Koh Samui’s 63 one to five bedroom villas and residences come all with their own pool. You can venture into the forest spa or send the kids to the kid’s club to enjoy peace and sip on that coconut cocktail complete with the tacky colorful umbrella.
Expect nothing less than uber-luxury, as in most other Four Seasons Resorts. The beach is nice too, one of the nicest you will find, and the villas, some set over two-story buildings with 360-degree views, come in various shapes and sizes. Beach, Beachfront, Deluxe, Family, Premier…you name it. Choose wisely.
The Four Seasons Koh Samui has a 4,5 rating on TripAdvisor with 900 reviews and only 20 Bad or Terrible, quite an achievement. Prices start at $800 per night.
You can check latest room rates and more photos here.
The famous red tiled swimming pool at this resort has become an icon of hotel architecture and design in the region. Alit at sunrise and sunset the red of the pool contrasts with the otherwise white of the rest. Instead of the blues and muted tones of most resorts, that blend in with nature, this Thai-run resort presents an urban environment for design brains and geometric buffs. Suites also feature the famous red and have jacuzzis, laptop sized safes and wireless headphones. It is a resort for the cool youngsters that were dragged away from civilization or for those looking for a red room of pleasure.
TripAdvisor reviews give it a 4,5 and highlight a 25 Bad and Terrible experiences out of 425. Nightly rates start at a less painful $340.
You can check latest room rate and more photos here.
I am a fan of Belmond. I like their Old World charm and the emphasis on genuine experiences reminiscent of a world gone by. I would love to board the former Orient Express train no rebranded Belmond, from the Raffles Singapore to Bangkok through the River Kwai absorbing all the history of centuries ago. I very much enjoyed my time at the Belmond Phuo Vao in Luang Prabang so I know their Koh Samui resort will be just as grand. Not all the villas and suites come with private pool like in other resorts but Belmond is all about personal service. Beware that the beach is not the nicest. Come here for a more affordable and charming stay.
TripAdvisor had 660 reviews with only 25 Bad or Terrible and an average of 4.5 rating. Nightly rates start at a more affordable $300.
You can check latest room rate here.
W Retreat Koh Samui
As sunset vs. sunrise goes, the W Retreat Koh Samui is the only resort on the island from which you can enjoy both. The resort makes an entrance with its floating lime green pool-sunken sofas, signature of other Asian resorts, like its sister property in Lankawi. A light wood color, cool simple chic lines, designer decor and the uber-fabulous amenities are all the expected details the W has got us accustomed to, so well thought out for the fun and young at heart, and oh-so predictable.Enjoy jungle or sea views in the spacious and modern rooms with electrical controls that do not require an engineering.
Some of the villas have private infinity pools. The brand is playful and funky, slightly cheeky, but delivers like a grown up. Complimentary 24/7 ice cream anyone? Enough reason for me, don’t you think?
The beach is nice and the resort provides footwear for the beach as there are broken corals. This is a public beach though so you may be offered a variety of Thai souvenirs while strolling around.
As with most other W properties, the WooBar is happening. Evenings are loud and filled with beautiful people but you need a taxi to venture out.
TripAdvisor gives it a 4.5 with 695 reviews and 35 Bad or Terrible experiences. Rates for the Jungle room start at $700.
Check latest prices and more photos here.
Disclaimer: All photos from the resorts websites TripAdvisor Professional photos