Review: Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui (Thailand)

fs-koh-samui

Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel or flight review.

Today (September 2, 2015): Review of the Four Seasons Koh Samui (Thailand).

Set on a tropical, palm tree covered cliff, the Four Seasons Koh Samui perfectly blends in with its spectacular natural environment. This is Koh Samui’s best luxury property (yes, I stayed at most of them) and a wonderful place to experience Thai island perfection in your private hillside luxury villa, shaded by coconut groves and overlooking the mystical Gulf of Siam and the talcum-white sands of the private bay.

The Four Seasons Koh Samui features in my top 10 lists of the world’s most spectacular cliffside hotels, the most insanely beautiful hotels in Thailand, and the world’s best spa and health retreats.

In this review (more info below my 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 Four Seasons Koh Samui enjoys the most spectacular location on the island of Koh Samui. Tucked away on a hill in a shaded and lush coconut grove and overlooking the blue waters of the Gulf of Thailand, the resort perfectly blends in with its spectacular natural environment.
  • The welcome ritual at the small open air lobby at the top of the hill is a memorable event: each arrival is marked with the sounding of a traditional gong, while the massive doors of the resort open to reveal a breathtaking view of the property and the mystical Gulf of Siam.
  • The villa accommodations are spacious, exquisitely decorated, and feature modern, luxury amenities. Colour schemes of turquoise blue or seafoam green complement the villas’ contemporary, southern Thai-style interiors. All villas come with a lovely outdoor space and a private, plunge pool, not so large but good enough to take a dip and even take a few strokes. You can choose between villas that are located hillside (away from the beach and overlooking the Gulf of Siam) or beachfront.
  • Koh Samui’s public beaches are not particularly idyllic. But the exception to the rule is the sublime stretch of beach at the Four Seasons with its talcum-white sands, towering palm trees, and transparent blue waters. This comes close to paradise! On Tripadvisor, some guests report that the beach is rocky, but they must have been at another resort, as I could wade in the water at low tide waist deep without encountering any rocks (there is a reef further out though). The beach is far superior to any other beach at Koh Samui, and even better, it’s totally private.
  • There’s a beautiful pool on the beach in case you prefer to swim laps instead of splashing in the sea.
  • During the day, the beach & pool staff serve small albeit tasty, complimentary snacks about every hour. Highly appreciated! In addition, the staff provides you a button to press when you would like to order a drink.
  • The tropical gardens and lush resorts grounds are very well maintained and beautifully landscaped.
  • As you would expect from Four Seasons – one of the world’s most exclusive hotel brands – the excellent staff is well-trained and the service they deliver is impeccable. From the girls at concierge, the spa staff, bugger staff, waiters and waitresses there isn’t one who wasn’t smiling and giving their all.
  • The Four Seasons Koh Samui is a gourmet paradise. It features 2 restaurants, where abundant varieties of fish and exotic herbs are coupled with Thailand’s sophisticated culinary traditions. Located right on the beach, is the Pla Pla restaurant, a rather casual spot for an extensive selection of fish and seafood and Western and Thai favorites in the daytime, while the venue is transformed into a stylish restaurant for creative Mediterranean cuisine in the evening. The other restaurant is the KOH, Thai Kitchen & Bar, which is located on a palm-covered hilltop and cooled by breezes from the Gulf of Thailand; it serves authentic flavors from the islands, along with excellent wines.
  • The resort has a superb spa, tucked away amid the gentle sights and sounds of the jungle, far from hectic urban life. The Spa’s nurturing treatments rely on centuries-old healing techniques and herbal and holistic remedies deeply rooted in Thailand’s rich spa heritage. Individual spa treatment rooms are housed in five salas – covered verandas – each with indoor and outdoor Thai-style massage beds.
  • This is one of the best Four Seasons resorts in the world (and I have been to a lot of them).

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

The Four Seasons is definitely the best hotel on the island of Koh Samui, and also one of the best luxury resorts in Thailand, although the tropical beach idyll of Soneva Kiri is still the country’s most exclusive (and my absolute favorite) resort. I enjoyed my stay at the Four Seasons Koh Samui tremendously, but you may want to know though the following before booking a stay here: 

  • The resort is located in a lush coconut grove. As a consequence, some villas don’t get a lot of sunlight during the day on their terrace.
  • Only few villas have an open view to the sea. Most accommodations located on the hill enjoy sea views that are partly obscured by the tropical vegetation.
  • Due to the northern orientation of the beach and the surrounding mountain ridges, the beach is lacking sun exposure. It is in the shade about two hours before sunset and low clouds that hide the sun are often trapped in the surrounding hills. Nevertheless, the resort has a hilltop bar from where you can enjoy the late afternoon sun and watch spectacular sunsets.
  • The resort is built on the side of a steep mountain ridge, and to get around you mostly need to take a golf cart. These usually come very quickly but, occasionally, you will have to wait for 5 minutes or so.
  • Mosquitos can be a real challenge during the rainy season, so stock up on a decent repellant.
  • The breakfast buffet is a little underwhelming, probably due to the fact that the buffet is displayed in a rather small room, hence not allowing a larger buffet.
  • The Four Seasons is a family friendly resort. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have an adult only area, where people can go where they won’t hear screaming kids.
  • The Castaway Dinner – a barbecue buffet on the beach in the little sandy cove next to the main beach – is truly an exceptional, not-to-be-missed experience, but it was also the only time that the service was not good. My side dishes were only served after I had already finished my meat and fish. I guess it was just a bad coincidence of circumstances, but I was not offered any apologies for the inconvenience.
  • The lounge chairs on the beach are not the most comfortable ones, and cold use some extra cushions.
  • While working great in the rooms and throughout the resort, WiFi was not available at beach. This may not bother some, but I did miss it to surf the internet on my tablet while lounging on the beach.
  • While Koh Samui is a very nice and lush island, its scenery is not as beautiful as compared to 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 exceptional (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: 9/10
  • Design: 9/10
  • Rooms: 9/10
  • Food: 9/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Overall experience: exceptional: 9/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like the Four Seasons Koh Samui (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Save money: I recommend to book a stay at the Four Seasons Koh Samui through a Virtuoso travel agent, which has the benefit of complimentary VIP perks (e.g. villa upgrade, breakfast, early check-in , late check-out, and $100 USD spa credit).
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
  • Request a room with a lot of sunlight on the terrace, as some villas lack sunlight exposure because they are tucked away deeply in the jungle.
  • Request a villa that is locate high upon the hill, since these come with a better, more open view.

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.
  • 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 my 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. 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 LOUNGE
LOBBY LOUNGE
LIBRARY
LIBRARY
RESORT OVERVIEW WITH BEACH
RESORT OVERVIEW WITH BEACH
MAIN SWIMMING POOL
MAIN SWIMMING POOL
BEACH
BEACH
BEACH
BEACH
BEACH
BEACH
DELUXE ONE BEDROOM VILLA
DELUXE ONE BEDROOM VILLA
VILLA BEDROOM
VILLA BEDROOM
VILLA BEDROOM
VILLA BEDROOM
VILLA BEDROOM
VILLA BEDROOM
PRIVATE POOL DECK
PRIVATE POOL DECK
INVILLA BREAKFAST
INVILLA BREAKFAST
BATHROOM
BATHROOM
BATHROOM
BATHROOM
BEACH VILLA
BEACH VILLA
RESIDENCE VILLA
RESIDENCE VILLA
RESIDENCE VILLA - POOL
RESIDENCE VILLA – POOL
RESIDENCE VILLA - LIVING ROOM
RESIDENCE VILLA – LIVING ROOM
RESIDENCE VILLA - BEDROOM
RESIDENCE VILLA – BEDROOM
PATH TO SPA
PATH TO SPA
SPA RECEPTION
SPA RECEPTION
SPA PAVILION
SPA PAVILION
KOH RESTAURANT (BREAKFAST SERVICE)
KOH RESTAURANT (BREAKFAST SERVICE)
KOH DAYBEDS
KOH DAYBEDS
FOOD
FOOD
PRIVATE COVE DINNER
PRIVATE COVE DINNER
PLA PLA RESTAURANT
PLA PLA RESTAURANT
PLA PLA RESTAURANT
PLA PLA RESTAURANT
BEACH DINNER
BEACH DINNER
SUNSET OVER GULF OF THAILAND
SUNSET OVER GULF OF THAILAND
KOH SAMUI AERIAL VIEW
KOH SAMUI AERIAL VIEW

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