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Hotel review: Banyan Tree Samui (Thailand)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.

Today (October 1, 2014): Review of the Banyan Tree Samui Resort (Thailand).

Surrounded by waters that invite, entice and serenade, Banyan Tree Samui is infused with a timeless air of delicious mystery. Overlooking scenic Lamai Bay, the resort features elevated structures designed to reflect traditional Thai architecture, and is nestled in a series of cascading terraces on a private hill cove in the southeastern coast of Koh Samui. Retreat from the dizzying pace of modernity into this secluded haven where the hours melt into each other gently and peace is within your touch at all times.

Banyan Tree Samui features in my top 10 list of the world’s best resorts with private plunge pools.

In this review (more info and photos below the slideshow):

  • Pros & things I like
  • Cons & things to know
  • My verdict
  • Tips for future guests & save money
  • Comparison with other Koh Samui luxury hotels
  • Best time to visit
  • How to get there

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • The hillside, beachfront resort occupies its own private, horseshoe-shaped bay in the southeast corner of Koh Samui. You will not share the bay and beach with anyone else, except for the other hotel guests (so, no disturbance here from annoying vendors).
  • As one may expect from a resort of this caliber, the service that you receive from the minute you arrive at the property until you leave is unrivalled. A dedicated villa host makes sure that all your needs are met during your stay.
  • The pristine beach, lined by rocky boulders and lush palm trees, is gorgeous, and the clear water (at least on a calm day) has wonderful blue shades. Snorkeling, canoeing, and sailing equipment are available to all guests.
  • The resort’s landscape and gardens are absolutely beautiful and breathtaking.
  • The resort is very spread out and hilly, but an efficient buggy service will take you to wherever you want to be in no time.
  • The inviting and very large main pool overlooks the beach and scenic Lamai Bay.
  • The 78 oversized, asian-style villas are thé attraction of the hotel (and superior to any other hotel accommodation in Koh Samui). White walls are punctuated with sliding glass doors that open to large, glass-railed patios. All villas come with a private, stunningly beautiful and large plunge pools. Most villas enjoy a lot of sunshine (hillcrest villas even have sunset views) and some have an outdoor jacuzzi adjacent to the pool.
  • The resort has a beautiful wellness area. One of the highlights here is the Banyan Tree Spa Samui Rainforest, the region’s largest Hydrotherapy Spa. You can also chill out with a read in the library, or stretch a little in the yoga room.
  • Banyan Tree Samui has a taste for good eats. All sorts of good eats, actually: sample authentic Thai at Saffron, International favorites at The Edge, beach barbecue at Sands, and cold bevies at the Lobby Bar and Pool Bar. Breakfast buffet is outstanding and the variety of cuisine on offer is impressive, from Continental to Asian. In-room breakfast is offered as well.
  • The state-of-the-art gym includes treadmills, elliptical and cycling machines and an extensive range of free weights and machines facilitating strength training.
  • The shuttle bus to Chaweng and Lamai makes it convenient to explore these lovely, local towns.
  • Complimentary wireless internet is available throughout the resort.
  • The resort is family friendly: opened daily for children aged 4 to 12, the Kids’ Club features a variety of activities for entertainment. Babysitting services are also available with advanced notice.
  • For those in need of tranquility and peace of mind, the resort offers a beautiful adult-only corner.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

This ultra-chic resort is amongst the best in Thailand & Asia. But you may want to know the following when considering a booking here:

  • Villas are built quite close one to another, and not all of them (including their plunge pools) are completely private. So if privacy is a must, make sure to book and request a villa with absolute privacy.
  • The beds at the Banyan Tree are a little on the hard side (which seems to be an issue at many Asian resorts).
  • While the beach is nice, it is not a powdery white sand beach as advertised on the Banyan Tree website. It is a golden crescent of sand. The only powdery white sand beach on the island is located at the Four Seasons Koh Samui.
  • While walking on the beach during my stay, I found large pieces of debris that were still there the next day. Obviously, the beach needs to be cleaned more often.
  • Service at the beach can be slow and inefficient from time to time.
  • Sunset views are only possible from the hillcrest villas (not from the beach nor from other parts of the resort).
  • While Koh Samui is a very nice and lush island, its beauty and scenery are inferior to that of other exotic islands such as the Seychelles and the Maldives The latter islands have truly the most beautiful, powdery white sand beaches of the world, while the beaches of Koh Samui ar far from idyllic (with the exception of the private beach of the Four Seasons). Nevertheless, I do recommend a stay of a few days at Koh Samui after a sightseeing tour in Thailand or a city-trip to Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or Bangkok (which all have direct flights to the island with Bangkok Airways).

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 8/10
  • Design: 9/10
  • Rooms: 9/10
  • Food: 9/10
  • Service: 8/10
  • Overall experience: very good: 8,6/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like the Banyan Tree Samui (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Save money: enjoy free VIP perks at Banyan Tree Samui when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, free WiFi, and $100 USD food & beverage credit).
  • Dinner at the Thai restaurant Saffron is a must (request the outside table in the corner which has amazing views of the beach and bay).
  • Book (or request and keep fingers crossed for an upgrade to) a villa with a jacuzzi. My favorite villa type is the Royal Banyan Ocean Pool Villa. For a resort map, click here.
  • From time to time, the Banyan Tree Samui features on Jetsetter, which offers the best deals (with huge savings of hundreds of dollars).
  • Read my tips for prepare your trip in time.

COMPARISON WITH OTHER KOH SAMUI LUXURY HOTELS

Once a hippy paradise, Koh Samui nowadays caters to the luxury travel market. The last decade, the island has seen the opening of a string of ultraluxurious resorts. I compare them here one to another, so that you can make the right choice when vacationing on Koh Samui:

  • The Four Seasons Koh Samui is the single best (and my favorite) luxury property on the island. It has the most spectacular beach of the island (none of its competitors’ beaches comes even close), the most beautiful resort grounds, and the best spa. The all-pool villa accommodations are wonderful but rather modest in style. The resort lacks some sun exposure because of its northern orientation. Click here to read my review of The Four Seasons Koh Samui.
  • The Banyan Tree Samui is the only real competitor of the Four Seasons on the island. Its oversized, Asian-style villas are the most luxurious on the island and will blow you away. Villas are not always very private though (definitely less private than those at the Four Seasons) and the mattresses at the Banyan Tree are quite firm and not so comfortable. Food at the Banyan Tree is the best on the entire island (especially at its Saffron restaurant). The service, beach and resort grounds are inferior though as compared to the Four Seasons.
  • While the W Retreat Koh Samui is definitely a luxurious, 5-star hotel, it is not as superb as compared to the Four Seasons and Banyan Tree (although it will attract a different, somewhat younger crowd, and rooms are slightly cheaper as well). The beach itself is underwhelming (not the tropical idyll that you may expect), food is excellent though not exceptional, and the resort grounds are not private (a small road is running through the property). On a positive note: the W Retreat Koh Samui has a stunning lobby and bar with one of the best views on the entire island, and it enjoys sun exposure from sunrise to sunset because of its location at the top of a small peninsula. Click here to read my review of the W Retreat Koh Samui.
  • The Conrad Koh Samui is the island’s youngest luxury resort. While the luxuriously appointed rooms all come with stunning ocean views and private pools, do not go here if you want a beach holiday as there is no beach worth talking about. As a ‘solution’ to the lack of a beach, the resort has a complimentary yacht service to the close by Koh Matsum island. The resort is oriented towards the southwest, allowing great sunset views from your room.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Ko Samui has two seasons: sunny and rainy. The best time to visit the island is from February through June, when the weather is marked by plenty of sunshine and very little rain. December and January are generally considered dry season months as well but are quite unsettled in recent years. Coming in the off months means heavy rains and potentially torrential storms. October and November are the rainiest months, however, compared to main land Thailand, Ko Samui does not suffer nearly as much rain  (as opposed to the Andaman coast side of Thailand) during what’s considered the “rainy season”.


HOW TO GET THERE

Banyan Tree Samui is located a 20 minute drive from the small Samui International Airport. The latter is an unusual airport because there is no indoor area, except the gift shop, despite the fact it being the country’s sixth busiest airport. Check the Wikipedia page of Samui International Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer flights to Koh Samui.


RESORT OVERVIEW

RESORT OVERVIEW

RESORT OVERVIEW

RESORT OVERVIEW

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY EXTERIOR CLIFF VIEW

LOBBY EXTERIOR CLIFF VIEW

RESORT OVERVIEW

RESORT OVERVIEW

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

BEACH

BEACH

BEACH

BEACH

BEACH

BEACH

BEACH HILL BACKDROP

BEACH HILL BACKDROP

RESORT OVERVIEW

RESORT OVERVIEW

PATIO DINING

PATIO DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT

SAFFRON RESTAURANT

SAFFRON RESTAURANT

SAFFRON RESTAURANT

ROMANCE ON THE BEACH

ROMANCE ON THE BEACH

BEACH RESTAURANT

BEACH RESTAURANT

SUNRISE IN VILLA BREAKFAST

SUNRISE IN VILLA BREAKFAST

PRIVATE BEACH BREAKFAST

PRIVATE BEACH BREAKFAST

RESORT OVERVIEW

RESORT OVERVIEW

DELUXE VILA BEDROOM

DELUXE VILA BEDROOM

DELUXE POOL VILLA

DELUXE POOL VILLA

DELUXE POOL VILLA

DELUXE POOL VILLA

BEACH VIEW FROM VILLA DECK

BEACH VIEW FROM VILLA DECK

HORIZON HILLCREST POOL VILLA

HORIZON HILLCREST POOL VILLA

PRIVATE POOL VILLA & JACUZZI

PRIVATE POOL VILLA & JACUZZI

PRIVATE INFINITY POOL

PRIVATE INFINITY POOL

OCEAN VIEW POOL VILLA

OCEAN VIEW POOL VILLA

HILLCREST VILLA BATHROOM

HILLCREST VILLA BATHROOM

SPA TREATMENT ROOM

SPA TREATMENT ROOM

SPA POOL

SPA POOL


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