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Nestled on its own hill, the Four Season Resort Koh Samui provides an uber-luxe retreat from daily life. Pros: Gorgeous entry-level villas with private plunge pools, incredible food and beverage and personalized, five-star service. Cons: Hefty price tag, and a bit of a trek from the airport.
Hoping to surprise my girlfriend with a once-in-a-lifetime birthday getaway, I decided to plan a trip to the island of Koh Samui, Thailand. After reading reviews of luxury hotels on the island, I splurged for a three-night stay at the Four Seasons Resort, which looked truly special.
Little did my girlfriend and I know that even our wildest expectations of this property would be exceeded at every turn. Even now, several weeks later, we still speak wistfully about returning. (My bank account will be happy to know the closest we’ll get to this for now is looking at our photos and *maybe* setting ExpertFlyer alerts — just in case a great redemption pops up.)
Since Four Seasons does not have its own loyalty program, we were stuck paying cash for our stay. Fortunately, we were traveling during shoulder season, so the rates were a bit lower than peak times. Even so, the base room, a one-bedroom pool villa, was going for roughly 32,000 Thai baht per night (about $1,000 per night).
We could have booked through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts, using The Platinum Card® from American Express, which included some valuable perks, such as daily breakfast, early check-in, late checkout, an upgrade subject to availability, and a $100 spa credit for use during the stay.
Alternately, we could have booked on Hotels.com using my Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card for 10% cash back on the card, and stacked that with our pursuit of a 10th night free with Hotels.com rewards. Together, this would effectively have provided a 20% return, a great value, despite not entitling us to a spa credit or a delicious free breakfast.
Even though I usually do irrational things when I know that there are chocolate chip pancakes and freshly baked pretzels on the breakfast buffet spread, I wasn’t prepared to book through Amex FHR and spend $1,000 a night for a hotel room. As our check-in date approached, I noticed that the hotel was pricing out at $650 per night on Trip.com (an OTA owned by parent company Ctrip). When I saw that there was breakfast included in the reduced Trip.com rate, it became a no-brainer.
The Four Seasons is located at the northwest corner of Koh Samui, far away from the main “downtown” area of Bo Phut, so if you’re looking for a place in the middle of the action, this isn’t it. Me? I was thrilled to have found a place where I could enjoy my complimentary breakfast buffet in total peace.
We arrived at the Koh Samui airport in the morning, fired up Grab, Uber’s equivalent in Southeast Asia, and were quickly in a car on the way to the hotel. The 35-minute drive was at once entertaining and excruciating.
Our beat-up Mitsubishi groaned and moaned as we lurched through the hilly terrain up to the hotel, dodging pedestrians and livestock. About halfway through the drive, my girlfriend noted that the Lufthansa First Class car transfer at Frankfurt Airport had been far more comfortable and enjoyable. (Astute observation, thanks.)
After the 765 THB ($25) ride, we arrived at the hotel. Its beautiful entrance is neatly tucked away from the main street down a lengthy service road — the first sign of the hotel’s remoteness and serenity.
The hotel has 71 rooms, with 60 pool villas and 11 private residences, all with different vantage points overlooking the Gulf of Thailand.
After reaching the Arrival Sala, we were quickly whisked away to a couples’ ottoman overlooking the resort and the gulf. Once seated, the hotel’s GM and Resort Manager came by to introduce themselves and wish us a pleasant stay. Less than one minute later, we were welcomed by a hostess who offered us sandalwood scented cold towels and a welcome drink. In the span of two minutes, we had already been welcomed by four hotel employees. This is what it must feel like to be The Points Pups.
The hostess quickly escorted us to our “standard” one-bedroom pool villa via one of the hotel’s many golf cart-like “buggies,” which criss-cross the property at all hours of the day. Given that the hotel is built into a steep hillside, most guests used this option to get around the property.
We were assigned room 501, an 1,108 square foot villa perched high above the Gulf of Thailand. The room was indescribably peaceful. Every person has their place of complete calm (my girlfriend calls this an “Anti-Times Square” place). Villa 501 was my “Anti-Times Square” place on this trip.
I opened the door and walked inside to see a plush, signature Four Seasons bed that had been thoughtfully decorated for my girlfriend’s birthday. As she correctly quipped, “There’s nothing ‘standard’ about this room.”
The bed was very comfortable (as is expected for the brand). I appreciated that the nightstands on each side of the bed had an abundance of international outlets.
Near the entrance of the room was a small desk and chair which offered an ideal place to work during the day. The desk looked out onto the idyllic gulf, with a gentle breeze wafting in through the windows. For those needing to stay connected to the outside world, Wi-Fi was available and reliable across the resort, with speeds as high as 12 mbps download and 5 mbps upload.
Beyond the bedroom was a vanity area, split into his and hers sections — sheer luxury compared to my NYC apartment. Each had its own full-sized closet, which easily fit our carry-on bags.
To the left of the vanity area was the shower (which would definitely pass the TPG shower test), a toilet and a soaking tub.
The bathroom was spacious and also offered impressive views of the water and surrounding landscape.
Bath amenities at the hotel were non-branded and in reusable containers, which worked out well for me because I didn’t have any space left in my carry-on to bring back extra hotel shampoos.
One of the highlights of the room was the outdoor deck. Each villa at the resort has a private deck with plunge pool, chaise lounges, a day bed, and outdoor desk. How beautiful is that view?!
Surprisingly, the minibar, coffee/tea set, and fridge were all outdoors as well.
Because we spent so much time outside on the balcony, however, we found this unusual setup to be extremely practical and convenient. It was yet another example of the hotel nailing all of the little things that end up making a big difference.
Our one complaint about the balcony area was how cool the plunge pool was, making it uncomfortable to relax in for extended periods of time. I didn’t have a thermometer, but I’d guess that it was probably between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (just a tad bit colder than the cabin on board this LOT 787 Dreamliner).
Food and Beverage
My choice to book a room rate that included breakfast was instantly validated the moment I laid eyes on the breakfast spread. It was served daily from 7am-11am in the KOH Thai Kitchen restaurant, which turns into a Thai restaurant for lunch and dinner but serves international fare in the morning. We ate dinners off property, though, so we didn’t check out the dinner offerings there.
The fully stocked buffet had at least five different stations, including Eastern and Western cuisine. The food was all high quality, fresh and tasty. Some of the standouts were the freshly made blueberry pancakes, Thai-style omelet, and cooked-to-order fried rice.
In fact, the food was maybe a little too good. On my third trip up to the breakfast buffet my girlfriend was no longer willing to accept that each successive mission to carbohydrate heaven was purely for “review purposes.”
In addition to breakfast, we tried some light bites and cocktails from the pool bar, CocoRum, which served all-day drinks and light tapas. We really enjoyed the Mezze Sampler ($16) which was served quickly and tasted fresh.
Overall, food and beverage prices at the hotel were steep, but in line with expectations for a secluded, island resort. Drinks were about ~$18 each, while dinner entrees were ~$35 each.
The hotel also has a Mediterranean lunch and dinner restaurant, Pla Pla, located on the beach/pool level, though we ended up deciding to eat off property in order to save money and sample some delicious local Thai food.
The resort amenities were split between an upper level at the top of the hill and (naturally) a beach area at the bottom of the hill. The majority of the hotel’s villas were located in between these two areas.
Hoping to soak up every moment of island tranquility before our journey back to New York, we made our way down to the private beach area.
Down by the beach, there was a 50-meter long infinity pool overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. I tried swimming laps in the pool, but all of those pancakes got the best of me, and I switched over to the pool bar.
One level below the pool was the beach, which was always kept in pristine condition. I appreciated that chaise lounges were easily available throughout the day. Also included as part of the room rate were non-motorized sports, such as kayaking and paddle boarding, which we enjoyed one of the afternoons.
There was a kids’ club, named Kids for All Seasons, which looked quite busy. (We even snuck in and enjoyed some air hockey and ping pong games when we needed a break from the sun.)
Up the hill from the kids’ club was the hotel’s gym, located in in its own air conditioned hut. The gym had top-of-the-line Technogym equipment. It could have used one more elliptical and a true spin bike, but did not seem too crowded, and the wait for equipment was not more than 15 minutes the one time I went. (Unlike the breakfast buffet, I determined only one trip was necessary “for review purposes.”)
Appropriately, the resort also has an open air Muay Thai boxing ring right next to the gym with great views. Instead of trying Muay Thai, I practiced my sunset photography skills.
We were told that there were two outdoor, artificial grass tennis courts, but after scouring the whole property, we couldn’t find them.
Also on the same level as the gym and Muay Thai ring was the concierge desk, named The Living Room, with loungers offering stunning views of the bay.
Although we didn’t use it, the spa looked gorgeous, with individual treatment villas spread throughout the hotel’s lush gardens. There was even a beachside massage table set up for those who wanted to listen to the sound of waves while getting a massage.
That said, I can’t emphasize enough just how relaxing the resort was all on its own.
During the course of our stay, the staff was incredibly friendly and professional. The service was genuinely hospitable and never seemed forced.
One of the highlights was the unique pool and beach service.
During our time spent by the beach, we could indulge in a free mini barbecue station with roasted corn and bananas — my daily dose of fruits and vegetables! Then, 30 minutes later, scented cold towels were brought. Another 30 minutes later, we were bestowed with shot glass sized fresh papaya juice. Afterward, a staff member brought around a sunglasses cleaner.
The rest of the afternoon’s complimentary service included bite-sized pieces of fruit, a mini-mocktail, and finally a chilled facial spray. All the while, our waters were kept fresh and full. The service was perfectly attentive without being the least bit invasive, a truly difficult balance to strike.
The hotel is technologically savvy and offers an iOS and Android app to communicate with its staff. Since we spent most of our time lounging by the pool, we routed all of our requests through the app’s built-in chat feature. Hotel staff always answered our requests within minutes. It was like we had our own Marriott Ambassador, but instead of having to stay 100 nights to get it, we only had to stay for three (we just paid as if it was 100!).
The resort was the perfect escape from the NYC winter. The physical luxuries of the hotel were only outdone by the impeccable service. While the property comes with a hefty price tag and may not be appropriate for those looking to explore downtown Koh Samui, this is simply the nicest hotel on the island. If you’re looking to spoil yourself or that special someone for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, this is the place to stay.
All photos by the author for The Points Guy.
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