If you’re after beachfront bliss, fine dining and luxe digs, the Belmond Napasai resort in Thailand’s Koh Samui may be for you.
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Koh Samui ticks all the boxes for couples after a romantic escape, boasting luxe accommodation, white-sand beaches, great food and a lively nightlife. It’s the quintessential toes-in-the-sand, tropical island destination where you can kick back, take a deep breath and just relax.
When it comes to luxurious resorts all the big brands are here, as well as some local Thai brands, all offering their guests a unique and pampered stay. Our home on this visit was the Belmond Napasai resort, situated on beautiful Mae Nam beach on the island’s north coast – far enough from the bustle of Chaweng’s busy night spots, but close enough in case we felt like a nightcap.
This secluded property sprawls across more than seven hectares of lush gardens full of purple bougainvillea and blooms of red hibiscus that punctuate the green of hundreds of coconut palms. Opened in 2004, the resort makes full use of its glorious hillside setting, ensuring every stand-alone villa enjoys sea breezes and the best ocean views.
The real drawcard of this resort, which is part of the prestigious Belmond group of luxury trains, cruises and iconic hotels, is the sense that you’re almost alone here. Even when it’s at capacity, there are no crowds around the pool, beach or in the restaurants. The feeling of peace and tranquillity is palpable, the sounds of nature your background music.
Check-in at the multi-tiered reception centre, with its blue-on- blue view of sky and sea, gives a real sense of arrival. A gorgeous Thai dancer showers new arrivals with red rose petals and proffers a welcome drink of fresh coconut juice. This building is the heart of the resort and leads to the restaurants, spa, beach and gym, all housed on lower levels. The villas step down the hillside in the other direction, quite separate to the public areas. At first glance, I thought we’d be getting our 10,000 steps a day just going to and from our accommodation, but getting up and down the hills is all too easy – simply dial reception and a buggy arrives within minutes.
Our oceanfront pool residence descended in three levels to meet the beach. A master bedroom and huge bathroom with terrazzo bath dominate the first level, with a fully fitted kitchen and lounge area with semi wrap-around balcony beneath it. On the bottom floor a chill-out room with private pool offers direct access to a rocky beach. The architecture is pure Thai, with interiors furnished in a mix of local teak and cool contemporary fabrics. Villas range from 62 square metres to a massive 4,000 square metres (accommodating up to eight adults), making this a great choice for couples wanting to share their space with family or friends.
Dinner on our first night – a six-course Thai degustation menu served on the beach by the glow of fairy lights and flame torches – was truly decadent and romantic. Dining is otherwise a casual affair, with all-day snacks at the pool bar, a Mediterranean-inspired menu at the beachfront restaurant, and Thai and international cuisine at the main restaurant, Lai Thai.
Breakfast is a standout, with western and Asian dishes to please any palate. You’ll also find cheap and tasty food at local cafés on the street outside the resort, while Bophut’s Fisherman’s Village, a five-minute drive away, is home to a wide range of restaurants and bars located in original Chinese- Thai shop-houses, most with fabulous views over the water to the island of Koh Pha-Ngan. Some lovely boutiques here sell clothing, shoes, jewellery and bespoke homewares.
Koh Samui is 25 kilometres long and 21 kilometres wide, so hiring a car or bike to explore it is a must. There are deserted beaches for picnics and tranquil waters for swimming. At The Five Islands, a beachfront restaurant in Taling Ngam, an unforgettable lunch of the freshest seafood and Thai cuisine awaits (be sure to try the spicy papaya salad with seafood). With jungle-clad mountains and crystal-clear waters, this area on the west coast is one of the most picturesque parts of the island.
Back at the resort there’s snorkelling, windsurfing, private yoga classes and even Thai language classes. And don’t miss a sunset cruise – primed with canapés and Champagne, we were taken by Belmond’s luxury speedboat to the west coast of the island as the giant, fiery orb slowly descended into the horizon, creating a shimmering orange wash across the sky and sea.
The speedboat will also take you to Ang Thon National Marine Park, a place of indescribable beauty where you can kayak, snorkel and dive in pristine waters. Then hike to the top of a hill to see jade green islands dotting the emerald waters as far as the eye can see. Look to the centre of the island to see the Emerald Lagoon, so serene and beautiful, it seems untouched by humans.
To find out more or to make a booking, visit the Belmond Napasai website here.