The perennially popular Thai island of Koh Samui has been a mainstay on the backpacker circuit for quite some time now. Over the past decade or so, a broader swathe of accommodation options have opened up on the Central Gulf Coast island, leading to an influx of more discerning, sophisticated travelers and offering visitors a wider range of hotels. Whether you want to splurge, save, or find a happy medium, here's where to stay.
The tranquil Scent Hotel is an intimate 14-room hideaway set on laidback Bangrak Beach. Eleven Sea Breeze Suites look over the elegant, turquoise-tiled pool, while the three Beach Front Suites offer beach views from private terraces. All feature chic, colonial-influenced design that makes use of a lot of wood. The main draw at this hotel, though, is its Mediterranean-influenced Le Jaroen restaurant where you can indulge in the five-course Chef's Degustation menu for $42.
The cheapest rates are to be found by booking a few months in advance and go as low as $73 per night, including breakfast. Round-trip transportation between the hotel and the airport (10 minutes away) is also included as long as you stay at least two nights.
Situated on a quiet stretch of beach, Anantara Bophut Resort & Spa is idyllically hidden away among tropical gardens and fountains, behind an elegant infinity pool that appears to reach directly into the Gulf. The hotel's 106 rooms are decorated in colorful Thai style and overlook either the gardens or the sea. The splurge-worthy Anantara Beachfront Pool Suite has the additional appeal of a four-poster bed and private plunge pool. On-resort activities are plentiful and include Thai cooking classes at Anantara Spice Spoons cooking school, cocktail-mixing classes, fruit-carving classes, and Muay Thai training. There are two restaurants on site, but by booking the Dining by Design experience, you can pick a point anywhere around the resort or on the beach and have dinner served there.
Rates start at $123 per night and include breakfast. Check the site for special offers, like the Anantara Bophut Spa Essence package, which includes a 90-minute spa treatment for two guests and starts at $205 per night.
While the island is home to show-stopping luxury digs like the Four Seasons, Banyan Tree, and W Retreat (each costing upwards of $700), for sheer sublimity of experience, and value for money, it's hard to beat Six Senses. Set on 20 acres of tropical rainforest, unobtrusively blending in with the surrounding environment and (unlike some of Samui's new builds) remaining respectfully below the tree line, the resort offers a serene hideaway in its 66 villas, most of which come with private pools. If you can manage to tear yourself away from your villa, the big infinity pool looks out across the Gulf and to nearby Orange Island. The resort's Dining on the Rocks open-air restaurant has won several awards for its inspired fusion cuisine, attracting island residents and visitors as well as guests, so it's advisable to make a reservation.
As with all Six Senses properties, the focus here is very much on wellness. The executive chef meets with guests upon arrival to discuss the scale of health-kick they plan to undertake during their stay, and adjusts menus accordingly. A variety of massages, holistic sessions, and therapeutic treatments are available in the spa, including a rejuvenating 90-minute Jet Lag Recovery Massage. Activities include yoga, pilates, Muay Thai boxing, visits to the on-site farm, movies under the stars, and, if you can bear to leave the resort, cultural excursions around the island.
Rates start at $352 per night (no pool) and include breakfast. If you want your own pool, that goes up to $484 and, if you are traveling with friends, rates for the huge two-bedroom Retreat begin at $1,827.