Anantara LawanaResort & Spa acknowledges Koh Samui’s first settlers with its Chinese-influenced design: birdcages in reception, hurricane lamps, shophouse architecture and calligraphy art. You won’t forget where you are though, thanks to Thai hospitality, Chaweng’s beaches and the buzzing nightlife, just a stroll away.
Get this when you book through us:
A welcome drink and fruit basket, 15-minute head and shoulder massage, premium internet access and 10 per cent off at the spa, restaurant and bar
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £154.43 (THB6,321), including tax at 18.7 per cent.
Rates usually include buffet breakfast and free WiFi.
The spa has nine treatment rooms, six of which are for couples. Unless you're allergic to coconuts, try the signature Coconut Paradise therapy, which lasts for 200 blissful minutes and includes a floral foot ritual, a coconut scrub, a coconut body wrap and a coconut massage.
At the hotel
Beach, spa, library, CDs and DVDs for guests to borrow, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, DVD player, minibar, slippers, bathrobes, Anantara bath products.
Our favourite rooms
At 52sq m, and with their own private balcony with outside seating, it's hard to believe that the Deluxe Lawana rooms are the hotel's lead-in room category. Grey wood-panelled walls, Chinese paintings, hurricane lamps and beds with billowing white mosquito nets up the ante. If your budget permits, splash out on an Anantara Pool Villa. They're worth the price hike for their generously sized private pool set amid lush greenery and the unusual ceiling, which mimics an inverted Chinese roof.
You’re going to have certain expectations from a beachside pool in Samui and Anantara Lawana won’t disappoint – picture swaying palms, soft white sand and a peaceful turquoise infinity pool. Twice a day, staff complete a circuit of the pool and beach, doling out fresh fruit skewers or ice lollies.
Shoes you can dance in (on a beach).
Welcome. Extra beds (THB850 a night for ages 4-12) and cots (free) can be added to all rooms. Babysitting is available on request.
Wannabe Tarzans and Janes: book that treehouse, quick. Talk to staff about Dining by Design, which will see you dining practically anywhere on the resort – private beachside table for two, perhaps?
Spruce up for Tree Tops (and leave your flip flops by the bed). Anything goes at Ocean Kiss.
Ocean Kiss offers all-day dining by the beach and pool. Breakfast is a generous, crowd-pleasing spread; lunch and dinner are both à la carte. Tree Tops is the hotel's award-winning fine dining restaurant, with just eight tables, each one occupying its own private treehouse amid the tree canopy. The menu is concise and considered, with main courses such as lobster, Wagyu striploin and snow fish green curry. When your main course arrives, a salt selection will come with it, talked through by your own personal salt guru – try Hawaiian bamboo jade salt, or black-truffle salt.
Cocktails are served at the Pool Bar throughout the day (we liked the Lawana Sling, a muddle of pineapple juice, lime, orange, ginger ale, vodka and Campari). The hotel is rightfully proud of its award-winning wine list. Let the resident wine expert talk you through the best grapes to match your meal (Tree Tops' seven-course degustation menu includes carefully matched wine).
Ocean Kiss serves food until 11pm; Tree Tops until 11.30pm. The last drinks are mixed around 11.30pm.
Available 24 hours, room service spans the full restaurant menu while Ocean Kiss is open (plus the children’s menu, too); a smaller selection is available later.
Anantara Lawana is in peaceful northern Chaweng, a 15-minute stroll from Chaweng’s popular nightlife scene.
Koh Samui Airport (www.samuiairportonline.com) is 6km away (a 10-minute drive). Alternatively, fly into Surat Thani Airport (www.suratthaniairport.com), serviced by daily flights from Bangkok on Thai Airways and Orient Thai Airlines, on the mainland. From there, you’ll need to hop on a boat.
Forget wheels – this is an island getaway.
Regular ferry transfers connect Surat Thani to Koh Samui’s main pier at Nathon.
Worth getting out of bed for
If you’re gaga for golf, swing into action at the nearby Santiburi Country Club (www.santiburi.com; +66 (0) 7742 1700-8), a par-72 course with 18 hard-to-hit holes. The hotel can organise cultural and historic tours of the island: the beach temple tour uncovers two of the island’s most amazing Buddhist temples. Be taken for a spin around the island in a Land Rover, or borrow mountain bikes and explore at your own pace. If you’re in need of a retail fix, stroll into nearby Chaweng and stock up on beachwear (or get a tattoo, perhaps?). Have a cheap massage on the beach while you’re here.
The Cliff Bar & Grill (+66 (0) 7744 8508; www.thecliffsamui.com), located loftily on the cliff between Chaweng and Lamai, offers up dazzling views and delicious dishes with a Mediterranean influence. The design of Spirit House Restaurant (+ 66 (0) 7741 4101; www.spirithousesamui.com) mimics a traditional Thai village: there’s a central temple, surrounding Thai villas, outbuildings, courtyards, canals and exotic spice gardens. The dining room, set in the temple, is decorated with teak wood furnishings; there’s also a cocktail bar with wall drawings and silk curtains. The Larder Samui (+66 (0) 7760 1259; www.thelardersamui.com/) is just opposite the hotel, at the top of Chaweng Beach Road. The menu betrays chef’s love of simplicity (as well as his suspect sense of humour); try ‘bellyful’ – confit pork belly with roasted carrots, bread sauce and parsnip purèe – or ‘ninja roll’: crisp-skinned salmon with nori, roe and wasabi foam. Rockpool at Kanda Residences Samui (+66 (0) 7723 4500; http://kandaresidences.com) has earned a solid reputation as one of Samui’s best dining spots. Eat here and you’ll soon see why.
Have a fruity concoction (or three) at Bar Solo (+66 (0) 7741 4012-5; http://barsolosamui.com/) on Chaweng Beach.
The path to Anantara Lawana Resort & Spa straddles a creek with flames coming out of it; life here is so mellow, even fire and water get along. At the massive, open-air structure serving as a front desk, helpful concierge Christian gives us cold towels to beat back the tropic swelter, then pours us ginger tea from a small wooden urn. Footmen whisk our bags to the room as Christian shows us the massive estate. There’s the beachside, multi-tiered pool area, the spa, the bars and a restaurant where each table is its own treehouse – however ridiculously fictional that may sound. We made reservations when we booked the room; we recommend you do, too. ‘Table eight is the highest, but seven is the best. I’ll take care of it,’ Christian says with a smile.
The tour ends at a private gate. Beyond is our Anantara Pool Villa. ‘Is this all ours?’ we ask; ‘Of course,” responds Christian, as though anything less would be silly. Then he’s gone. The villa has vaulted ceilings made of hundreds of wooden slats, like a gravity-defying game of Pickup Sticks. Here we discover the resort’s hallmark: options. There are myriad shampoos, lotions, a plate of fresh local fruits and a TV with international channels (one features a Russian-speaking police dog). By the bed is a menu… for pillows. Firm? Soft? Angel-feather? It’s your choice. The divide between bed and living areas is a swinging partition, so the layout is customisable. We create a giant rumpus room immediately. There are three bathing options: indoor shower, outdoor shower, or enormous soaking tub by the pool. The pool! It must be 40 feet long, 15 feet wide and – most importantly – all ours. I hop in and, with only my eyes and ears above sea level, I hear Mrs Smith inside yelling, ‘Cold beers!’ I pause. ‘Iced pint glasses!?’ She runs out, hands me a brew and takes hers to the covered seating area, which becomes her home for most of our stay. Its symmetrical elegance evokes a religious shrine, making my wife the goddess of this yard.
Dinner is at Tree Tops. Up and up we walk, to lucky table seven. Christian was right – the view is 270 degrees of perfection. The clouds loaf about over the sea. The sunset shines gloriously on our faces. Romance is in the warm air. Dinner is collaborative: we choose sashimi, three kinds of scallops, and steaks. To drink, the sommelier suggests the perfect pairing. Each treehouse has its own iPod with multiple playlists, and we settle on Nineties R&B. Between courses, a citrusy, seafood amuse bouche arrives in a sardine can. A salt specialist offers selections from all over the globe: Himalayan Pink, or South American Smoky? For dessert, colourful macarons arrive. Sated and sloshed, we stumble home. I don’t remember what happens after returning to our room, but I’ll bet a gallon of French truffle salt I passed out in a satisfied doze. The next morning we’ll be more active. We promise. After breakfast.
It’s the biggest buffet I’ve ever seen: a dozen food-and-drink bars, plus a refrigerated room of cheeses, meats, and whatever else I pile on in a frenzy. We gorge. When the food coma wears off I decide to stretch, but accidentally cough and pull something in my neck (a hazard of being 34). There’s nothing else for it, I must be rubbed…. My 90-minute spa massage is 30 minutes longer than Mrs Smith’s manicure (‘it was very thorough,’ she says. I don’t ask questions) and involves aromatherapy, guided contortion, and tons of me going ‘ahhhhhhh’. This place is classy, so I’m not fully naked. Instead, I’m given a disposable mesh Banana Hammock that makes my man-parts look like a manatee caught in a fisherman’s net.
Revitalised, we hop on a free kayak and row for five minutes to a totally deserted island. There, we play at being scientists, taking measurements, rubbing sand between our fingers, testing the water temperature relative to the air. It’s conclusive: this is the perfect day. Back on the mainland, we flop on the big red day-beds and drink coconut juice garnished with blue ‘Curaçao caviar’ for three hours.
Before nightfall, we have drinks at Tamarina on the bay just northwest of us. We lie on hammocks and watch the waves crash in. To our right is the famous Big Buddha, a giant gold statue who, facing inland, is missing one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. Next up: nightlife in Chaweng Beach… At Starz Cabaret, gorgeous kathoeys (perhaps better, if more controversially, known as ‘Lady Boys’) lip-sync pop classics with Vegas-level choreography. One drink minimum; fun to the maximum. The night ends at Ark Bar, Koh Samui’s biggest beach party, where fire-dancers put on a spectacle that can be seen for miles.
On our final morning we bathe in both showers, take a victory lap of the breakfast buffet, check out with the ever-gracious Pancake and Yam at the front desk, and fly off into the sky that, again tonight, will deliver legendary sunsets for the folks we’ve left behind at Anantara Lawana…