Best island in Thailand for: Families and 1st-timers, Honeymooners & Yogaites
Koh Samui is the original Thai island. Where once it drew backpackers and ravers for its sensational beaches with cheap huts and full-moon parties; now it has grown up and smartened up, its not-so-rustic beach bungalows honed down to the very last detail – Koh Samui now has some of the best luxury beach resorts anywhere in the world, several excellent beach hotels, and some first-class spas.
All of which makes it ideal for those who want the joy of a beach holiday in Thailand without any of the roughness around the edges. Honeymooners can take their pick of super-luxe hotels, beach clubs and Michelin-starred restaurants; parents can go for family-friendly hotels with childcare and splash pools and Western food; nervous 1st-timers can make their first foray into South-East Asia surrounded by home comforts and limited creepy-crawlies.
Koh Samui is also possibly the best yoga and spa destination in the world.
Kamalaya, set high in the rain-forest, is the #1 destination spa and wellness retreat: the lodges are beautifully designed in local timber and stone – classic Thai architecture, all wood and greenery, open to the elements and surrounded by banana trees and bougainvillea.
Another is Absolute Sanctuary, another leading yoga retreat that is so good as to be life-changing.
BEST PLACES TO STAY ON KOH SAMUI: The island’s newest and smartest hotel is Panacea Retreat. Set on a hill above fashionable Bophut beach, it is made up of 5 enormous villas on a hilltop, sleek in teak and cedarwood, Travertine stone and glass. Each has an infinity pool. There are landscaped gardens, a private cinema, nightclub, boxing ring and gambling den. Sensational. Panacea Retreat, 51/25 Moo 1 Bophut, Koh Samui, Thailand(00 66 7743 0074; panaceasamui.com)
The Four Seasons Koh Samui, set in palm trees at the back of a beach on the north-west tip, manages to cater to both romantics and families. It’s still got the serene spa and candlelit dinners on the beach option, and the family villas have private infinity pools and separate sleeping areas for children. Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui, Thailand (00 66 77 243000; fourseasons.com/kohsamui)
At Le Méridien Koh Samui Resort & Spa on Lamai Beach there’s a range of activities for children, including candle-making, bracelet-making, fish-feeding and, hilariously, towel origami. Le Méridien Koh Samui, Lamai Beach, Maret, Koh Samui (00 66 77 960888; lemeridienkohsamui.com)
For a family holiday, Chaweng Beach, Baan Mika is a luxury villa made up of 6 suites around an infinity pool, which runs down to a children’s pool beside the property’s own private beach. There are also big, roomy living areas, a well-stocked kitchen, and an outdoor dining area and barbecue sala. From US$1,000 a night for up to 12 people (baanmika.com )