Back in the day, Koh Samui was the traditional haven for fishermen who found refuge from the monsoon storms on this coconut-fringed island. And, well, nothing much has changed. Today, the island is a world-famous sanctuary — not just for fishermen, of course, but for all kinds of holiday makers. Embracing this essential spirit and culture of the island, the Ritz-Carlton Koh Samui — a luxurious 175-villa resort sprawling from hilltop to private beach — offers guests the best of both worlds. Whether you’re looking for cultural adventures or just pure unashamed idleness, the stunning vistas and outstanding hospitality will make your stay anything you want it to be.
[All images courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Koh Samui]
Arriving at the reception — an entire hilltop pavilion on its own — is like arriving at the check-point between the real world and the world of paradise you’re about to inhabit. You won’t be seeing this lobby again until you check out. But already, here you can peek at the astonishingly turquoise sea in the distance. You can feel the natural breeze working in harmony with the crisp cold jasmine-scented towel offered to you upon arrival. The air is so refreshing here you’ll hardly notice that almost the entire resort (apart from the villas and spa) is without air-conditioning. This is clearly a place for being truly in touch with the beauty of your natural surroundings. From here, we sip the rest of the jasmine-scented coconut water served in traditional Thai silver cups and hop on the cart towards our villas.
Through a vast panoramic maze, you reach your private villa. Surrounded by nature, you step into sleek interiors with colour swatches of blues, creams, and caramels. There’s a bowl of fresh fruit waiting for you, a private infinity pool out on the balcony, and a breathtaking view of pure blue. Freshen up in the naturally-lit bathroom where a stylish stand-alone bathtub sits in the centre with a jar of bath salts on the side. At the end of the day when you’re ready to sink in between the high thread-count sheets of the king-sized bed, you’ll find turndown service has placed some local snacks for you, such as coconut sweets and dried ginger — reminders of the island’s signature health-boosting flavours.
It’s called the “Spa Village” for a good reason; the place is quite literally the size of an entire village. The fabulous 3,800-square metre space is comprised of eight private treatment rooms, three massage pavilions, a yoga pavilion, a lap pool with cabanas, as well as a relaxation sala for your pre- and post- treatment refreshments. We highly recommend the ‘Blessed Flowers’ treatment for a combination of quality relaxation and a uniquely Thai experience. You’ll be on a 90-minute journey beginning with a gorgeous floral body scrub that’s washed off with a Songkran-style splash of Jasmine water to cleanse both the body and soul. Then, you’re in for a deeply relaxing one-hour flower oil massage — a fabulous way to give your skin a big glow that lasts the whole weekend.
Keep it fun and casual for lunch at Sea Salt, where you can lounge around with elevated poolside classics such as Yellowfin Tuna burgers and crispy grouper tacos, or try some Thai twists like the zingy Tom Yum pizza, which we loved. Alternatively, sit at the beach-front counter at Tides bar and try out a range of ceviche and tiradito dishes, a melding of the freshest lime-cured seafood with zingy, uplifting southern Thai flavours. Wash it all down with a range of delicious cocktails featuring complementary tropical flavours, like Mahiki Coconut Rum and Pandan spirits.
You’re not short for dinner options either. A true highlight must be Pak Tai, fine traditional Southern Thai dishes served by the resort’s unique reef pool with a Traditional Thai dance performance, all to highlight Thailand’s multi-textured culture. Your table is laden with traditional southern dishes perfected through generations, such as Kao Yum with the rich and subtly sweet “Voodoo” sauce. We also loved the “tree” of Miang Kahm leaves which you can pick off and fill with all the traditional fillings. Don’t forgo the dessert menu either — their mango sticky rice tart and marshmallow-encrusted durian ice cream are some of the dreamiest sweet treats.
If you’re craving more Western flavours, head over to The Ranch for the island’s best steaks and grilled meats. Order all the sides — you’ll be surprised at the scrumptiousness of their BBQ Corn and the parmesan-generous truffle fries.
Our favourite meal at the resort, however, was breakfast. Even for the five-star hotel frequenter, the breakfast buffet at The Ritz-Carlton Koh Samui will blow you away with the range of its options and the quality of flavours. The hilltop breakfast room provides three huge sections of Thai flavours, Western flavours, and an à la minute station for eggs, pancakes, and smoothies. Feast on everything from Kanom Jeen to scrumptious galaxy-iced doughnuts in the beautifully decorated dining room, or order room service and have it all from the comforts of your private pool.
As well as luxuriously tranquil surroundings, the Ritz-Carlton Koh Samui also offers fantastic introductions to local island life. You’re able to try out paddle-boarding or kayaking on the resort’s private beach, or snorkel with the dazzling sea life right at your doorstep in the resort’s specially created reef pool.
The resort also has tennis courts, yoga pavilions, and a Muay Thai Gym where you can sign up for lessons.
For an extra embrace of local culture, the resort hosts its own Baan Talat (‘market house’ in Thai) every Saturday evening. Recreating a classic market food stall setting, you’ll find a vast selection of authentic à la minute Thai street food dishes. Stroll along to the music of the live band and try everything from grilled Isaan sausages to Look Chup desserts. Afterwards, you can walk it all off by browsing the stalls of locally handcrafted accessories, bags, and souvenirs.
Even with all its crystal blue landscapes, luxurious villas, and impressive facilities, what dazzled the most about The Ritz-Carlton Koh Samui was its extraordinary hospitality. A combination of local Southern charm and the Ritz-Carlton brand of service, every member of staff we encountered made a heartfelt impression on us. Not only do you receive genuine smiles everywhere you go here, but you also soon discover that the ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ of The Ritz-Carlton Koh Samui each have rich and interesting past experiences that make them great hosts and conversationalists. Take the time to chat with a bartender at Tides, for example, and he might tell you he’s also been a photographer, snap a great picture for you, then offer you a drink on the house.
In many ways, this is one of the most special and unique properties of the Ritz-Carlton. Often known for their intense glitz and glam, the Ritz-Carlton here on Koh Samui offers a different spin on their signature brand of luxury. Incorporating Thai culture, design, flavours, and methods into a five-star experience results in a resort that is both incredibly sophisticated and yet down-to-earth, staying in touch with local values, character, and beauty. If you’re visiting Thailand or new to Koh Samui and looking to experience the unique local culture, you’ll do so with a relaxing and unprescribed getaway here. With their combination of unrivalled views and game-changing hospitality, The Ritz-Carlton Koh Samui captures the essence of the island for you in the best way possible.
The Ritz-Carlton Koh Samui, 9/123 Moo 5, Tambon Bophut, Koh Samui, +66 77 915 777.