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While the superlatives for The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui roll off the tongue with ease, this is the sort of resort destination that requires so much unpacking that the best place to start is at the very beginning — with my arrival to the property, and the resulting view.
Specifically, the one I didn’t see (at least not immediately); after many hours of travel, I was just relieved to have arrived and was too busy gathering all my belongings to notice it. Finally, I looked up — and the view is everything. From the arrival pavilion at The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui, an infinity pool reflects the clouds and sky before dropping off into lush island vegetation. In the middle distance, a giant golden buddha (proper name: Big Buddha) sits on its own island. And across the bay, the mountainous terrain of Koh Samui climbs until it touches the sky, and further out in the Gulf of Thailand, the silhouette of Koh Pha Ngan stretches across the horizon.In short: Paradise found.
Set on 58 acres of a former coconut plantation, The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui is an ambitious newbuild resort project that began welcoming guests for a soft opening this past winter and officially celebrated its grand opening in June. The first Ritz-Carlton property to open in Thailand, it has set the bar for luxury offerings on Koh Samui even higher. “We’re now the largest hotel in Samui, both in terms of acres and number of rooms,” said Mahmoud Skaf, general manager for The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui.As an entrance point to the property, the arrival pavilion only teases at what else awaits clients’ discovery, including seven distinct dining concepts, a pair of private beaches, a beachfront pool, an open-air Muay Thai gym, a saltwater-fed Swim Reef and a 40,000-square-foot Spa Village. But first, to the room: Because the grounds are so sprawling and built into a steep hillside, chauffeured golf carts are the main means of transportation to and from various locations. There are pickup and drop-off points at every building; guests looking to catch a ride from their rooms need only make a quick phone call, and there will likely be a friendly driver awaiting their arrival before they’ve even made it to the meeting point. (The grounds are also very walkable, though it’s perhaps not advisable during the high heat of the day.) But I’m getting ahead of myself. About those rooms. The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui is an all-suite and villa property — 114 suites, including 12 two-bedroom suites, 60 pool villas and one three-bedroom tropical villa, Villa Kasara — and you’ll be hard pressed to find a bad view in the house. While we all dream about the ultimate ocean view — and indeed, there are some exceptional views to be had from the property’s Ultimate Pool Villas — for once, I found my lush forest and resort view to be just as enjoyable. From my third-floor suite, designed for maximum privacy, it felt like I was living in a tropical treehouse, thanks to the meticulous consideration that has been given to the grounds.
The property’s buildings were designed so that they’re suspended above the sloped terrain, avoiding slope-cutting and earth-clearing, and native tropical forest from its plantation days has been supplemented with additional indigenous plants, including ficus and pandanus. Mature palm trees from the coconut plantation dot the landscape in every direction and, in fact, the presence of the palms dictated the hotel’s design — from nearly any vantage point on property, the fringe of hundreds of palm trees catches the eye, rather than buildings or other structures, which feel more discreetly tucked away.Rooms at The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui are a suite dream, indeed, featuring an open floor plan where the bathroom connects to the bedroom, which flows into the living room, which opens out onto an expansive balcony. There are wall dividers tucked away, which, with a gentle pull, slide out to partition the space. But I loved the open sight lines across my 1,001-square-foot suite, preferably from the vantage point of the freestanding oval bathtub — the centerpiece of the show-stopping 215-square-foot bathroom — while I was submerged in frothy bubbles.As a majority of rooms were designed for double occupancy, The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui is an ideal destination for couples celebrating a honeymoon or wedding anniversary, or simply seeking a romantic island getaway. There’s plenty here that appeals to families, too — the resort’s private beaches are sheltered and calm, and staff can readily arrange family-friendly underwater adventures, fireside storytelling and private family beach barbecues. Additionally, the Ritz Kids program offers immersive explorations of the natural wonders and cultural traditions of southern Thailand.The DetailsThe Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samuiwww.ritzcarlton.com