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Hotel review: W Retreat Koh Samui (Thailand)

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

Today (January 21, 2014): Hotel review: W Retreat Koh Samui (Thailand).

Explore nine miles of tropical island paradise, where private-pool retreats, a tropical beach and six restaurants and bars electrify the night. Located between Maenam and Bo Phut, W Retreat Koh Samui enjoys a pristine beach location in Thailand. The 74 all private pool retreats offer all the indulgence and luxury you could possibly ask for. Ultra chic and cutting edge design is awaiting you at the W Retreat Koh Samui, in addition to stunning sea views.

W Retreat Koh Samui features in my top 10 list of the most amazing hotel lobbies in the world.

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 hotel is managed by W Hotels Worldwide, the hotel category buster and industry innovator that is owned by Starwood Hotel & Resorts.
  • Without any doubt, the impressive, semi-outdoor lobby with lotus pond is thé attraction of the hotel, offering spectacular views over the shimmering turquoise Gulf of Thailand with distant islands on the horizon. In the evening, the bar is wonderfully enlightened, and becomes a trendy, yet intimate place to spend time with friends, family and loved ones.
  • The location is quite spectacular, on a hill along a wide, sandy beach on the northern peninsula where Bo Phut and Mae Nam bays come together.
  • The hotel showcases innovative architecture and an alluring vision of cutting-edge design that will mainly please the younger crowd (20 to 40 something), as is the case with most W hotels.
  • The luscious villa settings complement the stunning landscape outside. The 74 spacious rooms come in 7 categories (ranging from jungle oasis to extreme wow ocean haven) and feature earthy wood elements and chic stone tones. They all come with cutting-edge technology, an oversized bathroom, and a large private pool. Rooms are either located near the beach (these rooms come with their own garden) or on a hill overlooking the sea. Beds are heavenly soft and feature pillow-top mattress, fluffy goose-down duvet and 350-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets.
  • The beach club is a pleasant spot to spend the day: swaying in a hammock or stretching out under the shade on the very comfortable sun-beds is a pure delight. One part of the beach faces the west and is windless. The east facing part is very windy and one of the best kite-surfing spots in Thailand.
  • The W Retreat staff does a great job! Everyone is genuinely friendly and discrete at the same time, and will do all they can to make your holiday a success.
  • The Away Spa is lovely and treatments are moderately priced. Nestled within five luxurious pavilions, the seven treatment rooms blend vivid colors with inspiring scents, imaginative sounds, energizing lighting and detoxifying potions laced with local flavors.
  • The hotel beach enjoys sunshine all day long, and you can marvel at spectacular sunrises and sunsets.
  • Food is excellent: Namu offers elegant Japanese fare, while The Kitchen Table mixes up world favorites.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

This boutique resort is amongst the best in Koh Samui. And while it is not my personal island favorite (this honour is for the Four Seasons), it is definitely a luxurious resort and one of the best W hotels. Nevertheless, you may want to know the following issues when making a booking:

  • The main swimming pool, coming with breathtaking sea views, is located a few floors under the lobby, and about a 10 minute walk (including an elevator ride) from the beach. This means that you have to choose to spend your time either at the beach or at the pool, as you cannot combine them. OK, I admit, this is a first world problem. Nevertheless, an extra pool at the beach would definitely enhance the experience.
  • The resort has no hot tubes.
  • While the location of the hotel is great, the beach itself is underwhelming (not the tropical idyll that you expect in a country like Thailand). The colour of the sand is brownish, and the grain of sands are quite rough (it is unpleasant and even painful to walk barefoot on the beach). In all honesty, the W Retreat beach cannot compete with the beautiful stretch of powdery white sand at the Four Souseason Koh Samui Resort.
  • The vegetation is not as lush as compared to the palm-studded and jungle covered hotel grounds of other resorts, such as the Four Seasons and the Banyan Tree. If you want a tropical experience with lush vegetation around you, then you might be disappointed.
  • Internet connection is sometimes very slow. WiFi is available in the rooms, but there is no WiFi at the beach. This may not bother some, but I did miss it to surf the internet on my tablet while lounging on the beach.
  • The hotel grounds are not completely private: a small road runs through the resort. You don’t have to fear traffic, but it does mean that you will share the beach with non-guests. Maybe it is not possible due to local laws, but the attractiveness of the hotel would increase if its domain was fully private.
  • Keep in mind that when you choose a villa with ocean view (except for beach front villas), you will be located at a hill, a 10 min walk away from the beach (the hotel can also take you there with their very efficient buggy system). All rooms on this hill face the east, so there is no chance to catch the sunset from any of these rooms at all.
  • While buffet breakfast is excellent, I cannot help but compare it to the amazing buffet breakfast of its sister hotel, the W Retreat in Bali, which offered a lot more choices because of the addition of warm dishes to the buffet.
  • While very nice and lush, Koh Samui’s beauty is inferior to that of other paradise islands, such as the Seychelles, Maldives, Bora Bora, and the Caribbean. The beaches at Koh Samui are nothing to write home about (with the exception of the stunningly beautiful private beach of the Four Seasons) and the island feels very crowded. Nevertheless, I truly enjoyed my time in Koh Samui, and I would recommend it for a few days of relaxation after a sightseeing tour in Thailand or after 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: 7/10
  • Design: 8/10
  • Rooms: 8/10
  • Food: 7/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Overall experience: good: 7,8/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • If you want to have a room with a view, book an ocean view escape.
  • If you want to stay close to the beach, book either an ocean front haven, wow jungle oasis, wow ocean haven or extreme wow ocean haven.
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal a luxury hotel like the W Retreat Koh Samui (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Save money: From time to time, the W Retreat Koh Samui features on Luxury Link which offers the best deal.
  • Starwood Preferred Guests (SPG) with Gold or Platinum status are well treated, with – amongst other benefits – free WiFi, complementary room upgrade (when available), early check-in or late check-out  (when available), and free breakfast (SPG platinum). Click here to read my review of the SPG program (with pros & cons).
  • Read my tips for preparing 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 ifs 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. Click here to read our review of the Banyan Tree Samui.
  • 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.
  • 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

Koh 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 were 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, Koh 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

W Retreat Koh Samui is located a 30 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 direct flights to Koh Samui.


RESORT OVERVIEW

RESORT OVERVIEW

RESORT OVERVIEW

RESORT OVERVIEW

W ENTRANCE

W ENTRANCE

LOBBY

W LOBBY

W LOBBY AT NIGHT

W LOBBY AT NIGHT

W LOBBY

W LOBBY

LOTUS POND AND WELCOME AREA

LOTUS POND AND WELCOME AREA

LOTUS POND AND WELCOME AREA

LOTUS POND AND WELCOME AREA

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

BEACH

BEACH

BEACH

BEACH

BEACH CLUB

BEACH CLUB

BEACH CLUB

BEACH CLUB

JUNGLE OASIS

JUNGLE OASIS

JUNGLE OASIS BATHROOM

JUNGLE OASIS BATHROOM

OCEAN VIEW ESCAPE

OCEAN VIEW ESCAPE

OCEAN VIEW ESCAPE BATHROOM

OCEAN VIEW ESCAPE BATHROOM

OCEAN VIEW ESCAPE

OCEAN VIEW ESCAPE

WOW JUNGLE OASIS

WOW JUNGLE OASIS

TROPICAL OASIS

TROPICAL OASIS

TROPICAL OASIS

TROPICAL OASIS

OCEAN FRONT HAVEN

OCEAN FRONT HAVEN

WOW OCEAN HAVEN

WOW OCEAN HAVEN

EXTREME WOW HAVEN

EXTREME WOW HAVEN

WOOBAR

WOOBAR

WOOBAR

WOOBAR

THE KITCHEN TABLE RESTAURANT

THE KITCHEN TABLE RESTAURANT

THE KITCHEN TABLE RESTAURANT

THE KITCHEN TABLE RESTAURANT

NAMU RESTAURANT

NAMU RESTAURANT

SIP BAR

SIP BAR

SIP BAR

SIP BAR

AWAY SPA

AWAY SPA

AWAY SPA

AWAY SPA

AWAY SPA WALKWAY

AWAY SPA WALKWAY


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1 Comment on Hotel review: W Retreat Koh Samui (Thailand)

  1. If you didn’t get to Ko Samui 10-15 years ago you missed out. Then is was a lovely palm tree fringed island with laid back people and atmosphere and US$ 5 a nite beach front bungalows. Now it is a mass tourism disaster, which hotels like the W continue to exacerbate. Pristine beachfront land is expropriated by the Bangkok based elites who build these monstrosities that are then put up for management by western companies like Starwood so Western hipsters can come for some sort of “authentic” Thai island experience. The local people and environment be damned! All the island in the Gulf of Thailand are severely resource constrained, especially when it comes to water resources and trash disposal and mega-resorts like this just make it worse. Also, don’t forget to come in the rainy season, when all these hotels block the natural drainage of storm water and the sewer systems (such as it is) backs up and floods all over the roads, hotels, and beaches.

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  1. 5 incredible lobbies from around the world – Ferrari Interiors

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