Best island in Thailand for: Families and first-timers, honeymooners and yoga bunnies
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 (there’s even a branch of Boots); nervous first-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 rainforest, is our number-one 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.
The best hotels on Koh Samui: At Banyan Tree Samui, villas rise from the peninsular in different shapes and sizes, but all come with a garden view or sea view of Lamai Bay. In the family and couple villas, rainfall showers are big enough for two, and grand bedrooms open up to reveal private infinity pools.
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.
If you like rumbunctious friends-and-family holidays, consider taking over a party pad. Near Chaweng Beach, Baan Mika is a luxury villa made up of six 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.