Travel Guide: Koh Samui, Thailand

thailand koh samui jungle club ocean view

Koh Samui, Thailand Verdict: Overall I don't think I would recommend it. I hate to say that because we had a gorgeous villa with a private pool overlooking the ocean but the beauty sort of started and ended there. For me, there are just so many other gorgeous beaches around the world to check out that I can’t see coming back to this one in particular again. But hey, been there done that so good to know!

Where we stayed:Silavadee Spa & Pool Resort (breakfast included in our rate)

When & how long: Early March - 4 days, 4 nights

Getting there (Visas):  We flew into Koh Samui from Siem Reap (quick layover in Bangkok on Bangkok Air). NO visas are needed for Thailand. Just your passport!

Koh Samui Airport: Actually a nice airport but the shops are all along a little road leading to the gates so if you're there early take the stroll from the check-in area to the gates by foot instead of on a little free golf cart.

Food & Activity (Short & Sweet):

  • Starfish & Coffeefor dinner in Bophut. Right on the beach at Fisherman's village, definitely, go on a Friday night so you can stroll the awesome night market first.
  • Jungle Club for lunch with the most fabulous view. Plan to spend a couple hours eating a leisurely lunch of pad thai sitting on bean bags overlooking most of the island and ocean.
  • Vikasafor yoga & super healthy vegan cafe food. Yoga classes in a yurt overlooking the ocean and acai bowls abound.
  • Prego for Italian/Pizza in Chaweng. This place looked cool and the food was alright. It was a nice little break in the South East Asian cuisine.
  • Sea Salt Restaurant for dinner. I liked this place, but not worth the 30-minute taxi ride. Go if you have a little while to wait (details in Nitty Gritty)

Some Background (the set up):

I had a really hard time picking Koh Samui and the hotel itself, and honestly it was one of those things that, as I became more and more overwhelmed by all of the positive and negative reviews I just had to pull the trigger and say a little prayer that this pin drop spot on the other side of the Earth would work out to be fine, maybe even nice!

As it turns out, what we saw of Koh Samui was pretty meh, save for a few nice experiences.

Basically, it’s a backpacking island with lots of tourists and the shopping/food is very much geared for that. Think Reggae Bars - which always seems so odd to have outside of oh I don’t know… Jamaica. But alas that’s apparently what the Thai think European and Asian tourists alike want to experience on their warm weather holidays. All of that said, the place did grow on us a little, as is often the case when you visit foreign countries because well, they are foreign. Especially traveling pretty quickly across 4 countries, only seeing one city/town in each, but never the less picking up distinctly different vibes from each. It seemed by the day or two in whence we finally started to understand the pace, the etiquette, the expectations, we were already preparing to make our next move.

The Daily/Nitty Gritty combined:

Day 1: We arrived late afternoon to Koh Samui to gray gloomy skies which immediately made me nervous of an impending vacation spent inside, however that was totally incorrect. We only had rain that first evening and potentially another evening shower another day but otherwise, it was hot and sunny every day. At each location, earlier on the trip, we had lovely airport pick up service from the hotels that went swimmingly and seamlessly, sadly here we did not. I don’t know if we will ever really know what happened as it was most certainly lost in translation but somehow our driver wasn’t there and some other taxi dude filled in for him… but he didn’t bring a sign and between our attempts at communicating and his chatting with some airport information lady it was a bit of a cluster figuring out if he was really “our guy”. Alas, he was and got us to the hotel albeit about an hour later than planned. The hotel was nice but again they weren’t equipped with stellar English to explain what had happened. The hotel was lovely, but we both agreed what would really pick up their game would be more of a wow factor entrance. The rooms were beautiful, the views stunning, but the initial impression is a little underwhelming for such a fancy hotel. Once checked in and shown to our room we relaxed and cleaned up for dinner on site. We had a pretty delicious Thai dinner at the Height which was just steps from our room (always feels funny to put on makeup and dress to walk 4 yards doesn’t it??). They had left us a delicious chocolate cake and champagne in the room since it was our honeymoon of course and we indulged. Truth be told all of the other hotels also gave us champagne and we literally didn’t drink any of it - whoops! Is there a word for people who are the opposite of alcoholics, if so we are them.

That night we were pretty tired so early to bed, who am I kidding, I think we may have had one night the whole trip where bedtime was after 9:30 PM.

Day 2: The next morning we made the walk down to breakfast and enjoyed quite the spread. I for one had almost the same thing every morning, it was good and never failed: eggs made to order, watermelon, banana, bran cereal and 2-3 coffees. Tom was a bit more adventurous but sadly we never went the Pho/dumplings route. I was tempted on a few occasions but future me warned that my day might not feel so lovely if started off with such foods. We spent that day lazing around, basking in the sun and heading down to one of the main pools to get salads for lunch. The afternoon was also spent in the sun by our private pool. This was lovely but also a little secluded for us turns out we really like to people watch. We also decided to take the free hotel shuttle into Lanai to check out the town. Sorry, but…yuck? I don’t know but it was not what we were expecting and was anything but charming. It was dirty, cramped and full of boozy tourists. Just not really our scene, but we saw it so that's that. That night we needed a break from coconut, curry, and rice so I did some quick research and found Prego, an Italian restaurant in Chaweng. It was decent and definitely satisfied our craving for something different. We had the calamari, the salmon with lemon cream sauce and spinach, as well as 2 kinds of pasta - carbonara and a beef ragu.

Day 3: I kicked off my morning with a light breakfast and a taxi ride by myself to Vikasa Yoga Retreat which was about 10 minutes away and offered outdoor yoga classes. It was lovely to move and breathe and I really enjoyed the experience. The place itself is very cool with great views, I don’t know what the rooms looked like but the vegan cafe looked delightful. After class, I came back to the hotel for more chill by the pool time, and sadly the hubs was so burnt from day one he spent the day in our AC chilled villa catching up on work. We ordered room service lunch and just LAID AROUND. We had been told that the night market at the Fishermans Village was worth checking out and we had dinner planned over there so we went a little early to check it out. Definitely a step up from Lanai, much more delightful experience. I still wouldn’t call it cute or charming but it was a nice little evening of observing interesting food stands, and local vendors with tables of slightly less “made in china” looking goods. We didn’t end up purchasing anything, though we meant to. Whoops. We had dinner at Starfish and Coffee, a seafood place on the beach I had read about. It was fine, but as I came to find out, it seemed pretty much on par with the other spots that flanked it for blocks and blocks on either side. Regardless it was a nice view of the ocean and we ended the night with some super delicious rolled ice cream, so I can’t complain.

Day 4: Our last full day in Thailand and we finally had it figured out…kind of. We did breakfast and then back to our villa for sun time. We needed to “get off the rock” of the resort so we opted for lunch at a spot that I would HIGHLY recommend called The Jungle Club. We were lucky enough to get a taxi driver who took us all the way up, but if you can’t, they will send down an open air jeep type car to get you from a meeting spot as it is a super trek up a major hill. The place is a resort with rooms that seemed to be about $77 a night!! The only downfall is, they don’t have AC and they are not walking distance to the beach. (At this point we had hardly walked down to the private beach at our resort so we discussed how the pool views were really the gold ticket here anyways). Lunch was delicious, I had a nice little salad and some traditional pad thai and we sat in bean bags with stunning views of the magnetic turquoise waters surrounding the island. The only disappointment here was that I finally found some amazing Buddhas/Ganesha that I just died over and it turned out they weren’t for sale. I was a little heartbroken since I didn’t ever find a replacement for those guys and have officially left Thailand empty handed. After lunch, we did in fact venture to the other main pool and our private beach and both agreed we had wished we made the short walk sooner. Despite a red flag in the sand indicating harsh water we did dip into our hips and enjoyed the deliciously warm sky blue waves that crashed fairly gently (I suspect a strong undertow though). We spent the afternoon enjoying a swim in the main pool with those sort of views that you just want to keep opening your eyes wider and staring harder at. Do you know the kind I mean? The ones that your eyes know are not normal and are intended to be soaked up but just simply gazing at endlessly, absorbing every detail to imagine at a later date. We concluded the day with a sort of disastrous dinner (but I’m going to say it was both to the fault of the restaurant and my slightly agitated hubby). I don’t know exactly where I read about this place, SeaSalt Restaurant at Sea Dance Resort, but it was a bit of a trek and when we got there they seemed positively stunned that we had made a reservation there for such a far away hotel. We were definitely their guests of honor and they made no attempt at hiding this fact in the first 10 minutes of arrival being greeted by each member of the staff. Sadly after that, it went downhill. The food was nice and pretty, but it took FOREVER and they forgot the dessert and had issues ringing us up and mostly I think they were just majorly understaffed and truth be told they were operating on island time and at that point, we just weren’t. Anyways, I would still recommend them because in my heart of hearts I think we caught them on a bad night and that if you were interested in a long slow meal it would be just lovely.

Day 5: Workout, breakfast, pack. That was all we had time for before heading out to the airport.

Also check out our first stop in Vietnam, our second stop in Cambodia, and our final stay in Hong Kong!