Luxury Hotel Review – Banyan Tree, Koh Samui

Sun, Sea, Sand. Samui has it all. We came here when it opened 8 years ago. The stilted villas where a marvel in engineering. Their white legs looking a bit naked against its coconut tree green background. We longed to go back, how would this leggy teenager gracefully grow?

The Arrival

The experience starts way before reception. We are picked up in a car with the equivalent of ‘business class’ seats. Cold towels and water magically appears as we recline seats and watch a video on the big screen which drops down from the ceiling welcoming us to what is still an agonising 15 minutes away.  A call comes through; its Aiew our villa host, calling to check everything is OK? (well we don’t have complimentary slippers, PJ’s or a night mask, but we are coping). Minutes later we are sitting on sofas, sipping coconut and lemongrass drinks from test tubes and munching on coconut cookies.

Then we become human beagles as we smell, sniff and squish ourselves to into a new world of personalised aromas for our oil lamps, incense sticks and pillows. Throw in a mobile phone and the adventure starts with a lotus ceremony as we push our pink flowers into its watery pool and repeat a wish others have iterated “Please just one more day”…

The Resort

With supermodel curves she’s a knock out. Situated around a private cove of white sandy beach, the steep and undulating coconut tree covered hills protect privacy but cocoon you in your own little world. Banyan Tree (BT) is that bodyguard, artfully blending into the background but masterfully protecting its environment with its strong CSR program and ensuring the star of the show is always the focus. Here it does this perfectly, let’s face it you can’t go wrong with that bone structure! Building a low impact resort around nature with a conscious soul from its glass recycling bottles, to wildlife programs and something as simple as the refillable ceramic shampoo containers tell a story.

The Villa – Horizon Hill Crest Villa H06

After buggy’ing up narrow lane ways we pull back a wooden door and walk straight towards the horizon. The pathway opens up to a jaw dropping expanse of bay.

All villas are not equal. This is one spot where you do want to be on top of the world in more ways than one (unless you suffer from vertigo) which makes it a terrible idea. This is not a place for skinny dipping. Villas cascade down a hillside and many are on show. It becomes something of a mental daily battle, as to how much you care about someone seeing your bum whilst you shower v enjoying a view that good. These are first world problems.

A single sun umbrella, table and chairs separate the main one-bedroom villa with a separate second bedroom structure on the other side. If your travel mate snores like a walrus, you won’t hear a snuffle. A sunken king size bed is a ‘take that’ to old school sun loungers, while a jacuzzi and infinity pool lap up to patio doors, like a puppy that is constantly dragging you out to play. The main villa is BT elegance to a ‘T’. Marble floors, high ceilings and swathes of luxurious fabrics, art and room after room it just goes on.

banyan tree koh samuiService

Thoughtful touches are everywhere.  At breakfast even your handbags get their own little chairs like pampered pooches.  Each night a new gift arrives from signature toy turtles to mini pottery oil aroma lamps whilst robes and slippers are waiting for you. They celebrate personal moments beautifully without asking, from an impromptu afternoon tea to a birthday cake. The ultimate must be the bath moment…returning from dinner, our king-size bed has been given a silky red makeover with a love hearts made from rose petals. Following the glow of candles to the bathroom the smell of a floating flower tapestry of love hearts in the bath is wonderfully, deliciously, OTT romantic. But how can you get into a bath that pretty? It’s like the quandary of eating a chocolate Lindt bunny – how can you bite off its ears and still feel like you are a good human?

Spa and Leisure

If you are told to get ready for a ‘Rainforest Experience’ you may don khakis and mossie spray – but don’t. This is a unique spa experience. It starts with a misty rainforest drench walkway (ow! cold), steam room (oh! hot) then a swiss shower which feels like a million needles impaling skin (ooww), then sauna (mmm) and an ice bucket challenge (NO WAY! totally wimped out of that one). Having finished that assault course next is a set of hydrotherapy stations that bubble, pump and test your water resilience in a way no personal trainer can. You may find yourself floating downstream in a man-made tsunami. If a jacuzzi could take Viagra this is it. Good job you can lie down on warm ceramic loungers. You will be tucked in so you resemble a towel swathed mummy.

This could be enough for any mortal but there is a daily action packed activity list of adventures from snorkeling, yoga and if you are game the ultimate – a catamaran. All of which is complementary. Our instructor teaches us how to sense wind on our ears and tac, tac till we are out on the open sea. Of course you could retire to your own muslin draped sala on the beach, be served with iced water and towels, wait for the happy hour mini van to arrive or accept afternoon treats such as flavoured ice drinks or fruit. If this is what it feels like to be Cleopatra we are signing up.


Perched at the far end of the resort, high up on the hill is Saffron, their Thai signature restaurant. We are treated to our own Vogue photo shoot as our waiter thoughtfully ensures we don’t need to wrestle with any awkward selfie moments. The evening starts with a hand cleansing ceremony with jasmine and orchids before tucking into a shared platter of deep fried betel leaves, prawns wrapped in kafti pastry.

Onwards to mains of snow fish, Thai barbecue curried chicken papaya salad and a bowl of roasted pork ribs that’s a showstopper. All of this to a backdrop of a marriage proposal hundreds of feet below; the beach is lit up with hundreds of candles, a waterfall of fireworks erupts and we check with our waiter that she did, with all of her family around her, say YES!

WOW Factor – BT have mastered the art of luxury that makes you feel yourself. Warm, caring, thoughtful but also with a sustainable soul. Their breakfast buffets are legendary and generous, you have prosecco at 8am, these touches  others at this level don’t that make you feel on holiday. Many luxury resorts on the island are isolated, yet here its 5 minutes to Lamai. Taxis are expensive. The courtesy bus service includes Lamai and Chewang so you are not held hostage. Your BT mobile phone means that you feel safe and connected even whenever you explore.

Watch Factor – If you do want to be more ‘connected’ then the separate pavilion for the 2nd bedroom may not be your thing. If you do want privacy, its blinds down or work with the BT team to find the right villa, which might be nestled under a big coconut tree!

Banyan Tree, Koh Samui

99/9 Moo 4, Maret Samui Lamai Beach, Koh Samui, Ko Samui District, Surat Thani 84310, Thailand

Watch Banyan Tree Video

About the author

Karen’s corporate job back in the UK had included entertaining clients in some of the best restaurants. This ultimately sparked a curiosity 'Just how do they do that?' (she confesses she was brought up on meat and vegetables, so this was all very exciting). Currently a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Tastemaker', she’s flashpacked around the world, learning about wine, experiencing different cultures and cuisines and had a two- year love affair with it all. Originally from England, she finally settled in Australia and continues to be besotted by food, wine and travel preferring to focus on the luxury end of town (thread count does matter).


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