Koh Samui's Top 10 beautiful boutique resorts

Samui is top in Thailand for boutique & beautiful beachfront resorts

Koh Samui is Thailand's boutique-&-beautiful showcase, with more creativity and fine design per metre of sand than any other place in Thailand. And considering just how many outstanding new beach resorts have opened throughout Thailand since year 2000, that is a bold statement and a huge accolade for this little island of style.

From over 270 true beachfront resorts that this website has qualified on Samui, perhaps 20 – 30 can compete head-on with the country's most outstanding, boutique establishments. That's more trendy, carefully designed places than can be found on Phuket or in any other beach destination in Thailand.

The average visitor to Samui does not easily see many of these trendy Samui resorts. Geography plays a big part in concealing many of the finest examples. There is a new trend among creative architects and designers to seek out hidden shores, like rocky coasts with great views, remote beaches and deeply forested corners, in which to craft their new creations.

Here I have chosen 10 distinctly boutique resorts that I believe represent the best of this genre – and unfortunately have had to leave out a number of other good candidates.

The Library, Chaweng Beach; a splash of modernity on an 'old' beach

With Chaweng being the first beach to be developed with beachfront resorts, it has a large number of rather old establishments. Most are still quite attractive, though, due to the big trees and gardens in which they are immersed. Amidst its leafy green neighbours The Library virtually leaps out and says 'Look at me!' Here the combination of ultra-modern design and bright red beach accessories makes a statement, telling people that boutique and beautiful has arrived in the middle of Chaweng. Even the swimming pool makes its own statement with bright red tiles.

While I am personally wary of minimalism in architecture – it is sometimes an excuse for unimaginative, box-like buildings or justification to replace the native trees with decorative plants – here minimalism has been blended into the natural environment in an effective and delightful manner. The view from one building to another is through leaves. The walk through the centre of the resort to the beach is green and shady. And when the guest reaches the beachfront, The Library’s most powerful design statement leaps out; that red pool and white library overlooking the sands.

See The Library resort on its own pages.

Poppies Samui Resort, Chaweng Beach Far South –leader of the boutique trend

Poppies should be credited with initiating the boutique era on Koh Samui when it opened its stylish, cleverly-designed rooms on South Chaweng way back in 1994, a time when most hoteliers were still building square box hotels and cookie-cutter resorts. The owner already had a famous resort in Bali, and the kind of experience needed to produce what would become almost a sensation on Samui. It was surely the success of Poppies that convinced many other developers that boutique was the right direction for both their profits and the island's future.

Poppies showed that building fewer rooms of better quality, with good design and careful planning, was financially viable and smart. Countless other hoteliers and architects came to Poppies on inspections, looking for ideas. Here was the creative spark that set Samui’s boutique era alight, helping turn this island into a stylish showcase for Thailand.

In addition to comfortable rooms blended into a beautiful garden, Poppies established a quality beach-side restaurant that pulled in customers from around the island with appealing fusion cuisine, becoming the envy of many other hotels. Poppies Samui might be the oldest of the new crop of boutique resorts, but the guest experience within remains as delightful as ever.

Zazen Boutique Resort & Spa, Bophut Beach

For a unique beachfront, Zazen deserves real accolades for creativity. Walls along the sand generally destroy a beach's natural look and cut guests off from the sand – not advisable at all. Here, however, a rather tall beach wall has been put to interesting use, with little alcoves dug back into it to create private areas that are ideal for relaxing by sand and water while avoiding the sun. There’s simply nothing else like it on the island.

With just 26 rooms Zazen Boutique Resort is small and intimate, with fine design and decor throughout. The use of running water, natural materials and lush foliage reminds us of Bali – not an accident, I may add. The ochre colours contrast nicely with the tropical foliage to create a warm, harmonious blend that is naturally soothing. The intimacy of rooms, beach and coconut palms adds to the overall sense of calm in this delightful little place, the personal creation of a Thai woman with a passion for fine design and the creativity to produce something different.

Elements Boutique Resort – a romantic beach hideaway far from distractions

Elements Boutique Resort is perhaps the most isolated of the fine-design, boutique resorts on Samui, hiding on a quiet patch of sand in Samui's far southwest corner on Phang Ka Beach. It shares 450 metres of sand with just one other neighbour, in a quiet, non-invasive relationship where they occupy opposite ends of the beach and can hardly see each other.

Ultra modern design with the natural colours from the elements are contrasted with splashes of powerful red. Most of the open spaces are moulded with stone, again reminding us of the 'elements' theme throughout. Elements Boutique Resort thus offers stylish accommodations with the ultimate in tranquillity – ideal for those seeking a genuine beach escape with all of Samui's many interruptions on the far side of the island.

With private transport – either a rented motorcycle or car – visitors can enjoy the tranquillity of this remote beach and access a number of interesting restaurants on this side of the island, plus the quaint little town of Na Thon.

Punnpreeda Beach Resort – Bang Rak

Punnpreeda Beach Resort goes a long way towards turning a very ordinary location into a special little one – by employing smart layout and attractive design. It's small. It's cosy. And it's right on the sand of Bangrak Beach, where space between road and beach squeezes most resorts, but allows Punnpreeda a respectable 70 metres of beachfront. This beach's large public jetty gives easy access to those coming and going by sea, while many small restaurants and bars at the Big Buddha end of the beach have made this the sunset viewing centre for Samui.

Despite that the nearby airport sends planes overhead, this area is becoming a trendy eating and drinking zone, with many people coming here from Chaweng for the sunset they do not get on the east. Punnpreeda Beach Resort is thus part of the movement to gentrify the Big Buddha part of the island and give it a new, fun image.

This beach also provides good accessibility for those on business on the island – it’s where I always stay – or those who want to get around and see the rest of the island.

Pavilion Samui Boutique Resort, Lamai Beach – modern has replaced the hippy huts

Pavilion Samui Boutique Resort sits right in the middle of one of Koh Samui's best beaches, one that was chosen by the first backpackers to the island in the early 1980s for its tropical perfection. Here the sand is wide and the water is especially deep, providing the best swimming conditions on the island. No offshore reef obstructs the beach here. Surrounded by pleasant 3-star resorts, Pavilion is a step above the neighbours, with modern, Thai-style design and architecture being its major attributes. It offers small but beautifully designed private villas opening onto their own pools, and some onto the sand.

The main pool is quite big for a small resort, and it has a nice bar overlooking the beach. The beachfront is bare of shade trees and too hot at midday. Come evenings, is it a delightful spot to watch the colours in the sky reflect on the ocean.

Despite that it is one of the oldest resorts on Lamai Beach, Pavilion Samui Resort has constantly upgraded over the years with every more stylish ways, leaving its neighbours looking rather ordinary. Today it is certainly the most stylish beachfront establishment in this part of Lamai.

Sala Samui – ultra luxury and high style facing Choeng Mon Beach

The superbly designed Sala Samui is the sister resort of the now-famous Sala Phuket Resort in Thailand's most famous of beach destination on the Andaman coast. Both are trend-setters on their respective beaches, and their design has been called cutting edge, winning numerous accolades. Sala Samui provides pool villa accommodations in mini walled compounds, giving guests the ultimate in privacy, surrounded by a moody world of design distinction.

The resort area is quite large, allowing plenty of space for 69 rooms and compounds. The main public pool is quite close to the beach, and water features with lilies are interspersed, giving this area some unusual contours. Sala Samui's beachfront area is natural and pleasant with the native trees still in place, and the main restaurant – modern and stylish, of course – enjoys view of both beach and pools.

The location on Choeng Mon Beach is relatively quiet, but still provides easy access to the nightlife and dining centres of Chaweng and Bo Phut beaches.

Melati Beach Resort, Thongson Beach

Hidden away in Thongson Bay, on a beach that few visitors find, Melati Beach Resort has invested a large portion of its design energy into landscaping. Blended with Thai elements, the result is a lush, tropical world that is distinctly Oriental. The smaller of the two public pools has a 'secret garden' atmosphere, while the larger one offers pleasant beach views.

Accommodations are all luxurious, with many being pool villas in varied configurations. Virtually everything in the resort is either surrounded by, or holds lots of lush foliage. Melati Beach Resort is thus suited to those seeking fine-design resort in a verdant forest atmosphere, hidden on a little-seen beach but not too far from the island's two best-known restaurants and shopping centres, Chaweng and Bophut.

Anantara Lawana - creative design, architecture & luxury on Chaweng Point

The public areas of Anantara Lawana are of particular interest, with creative design around all corners. One of the highlights is the 'tree house' restaurant perched on the little hill overlooking resort and beach. Guests enter up elevated boardwalks and dine on platforms hanging out among the leaves.

Matching the good reputation of the Anantara name, the accommodations are luxurious, with the two-storey 'house' style buildings down green lanes rather unusual. The beachfront area with infinity pool and beach bar exhibit more creative design, though the shade of some big trees would be welcome.

Anantara Lawana Resort sits on the little beach around the northern point of Chaweng that we call Chaweng Point. The water is shallow here, as it is on most of Chaweng north, so swimming is restricted to high tide. Things are especially quiet here, without jet skis, beach parties or anything like a crowd. The razzmatazz of Chaweng's nightlife is so close, however, it is within walking distance. It makes this resort a great refuge for those who want to enjoy luxurious beachfront accommodations while mixing fun nightlife with a tranquil beach with pretty views.

X2 Samui Villas – ultra-minimalist, modern beach escape hidden in a forest

For ultra futuristic design and architecture, X2 Samui Villas surely leads the way on Koh Samui. Here we find the principals of minimalism taken as far as they go on this boutique island. A large measure of the design was the art of blending the resort into the natural environment with minimum disturbance. Where other resorts bulldoze, refill and landscape their environments, X2 blends in among the trees and landforms that were always there, making it that much more natural. With just 27 villas in a large resort area, accommodations and the public spaces enjoy lots of wide open space surrounded by shady trees.

X2 Samui Villas is almost lost on the far southeast corner of the island on Laem Set Beach, one of the most tranquil and scenic parts of Samui. The beach in front is exceptionally wide and sandy, and ideal for beach games and walking. The resort has plenty of natural shade by the beach, making it a great spot for absolute tranquillity and relaxation. There are lots of scenic places in this area suitable for long, peaceful walks.

by John Everingham