For many guests of Anantara Rasananda boutique hotel, it's not the first time they've been to Koh Phangan. The style-savvy travellers at this beachfront resort have often had their first taste of the isle in their adventurous 20s, when the beach parties drew them in. Now, they come for a more refined version of barefoot luxury, arriving at Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach aboard Anantara's red-roofed speedboat. Once you've set foot on the white sands, it's a matter of meters to the greenery-girdled suites and villas, all of which have private plunge pools overlooking the gardens or lagoon. For most, sunset cocktails and dinners on the sand have replaced late-night revelry, and highs are now sought in beachfront yoga classes and spa sessions.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of wine to enjoy at the restaurant or in your room, plus a 10 per cent discount at the restaurant
Noon; check-in 2pm. Day-use rooms are available on request for a fee.
Double rooms from £221.50 (THB9,087), including tax at 18.7 per cent.
Rates usually include buffet breakfast.
At the hotel
Spa, yoga deck with a sea view, gym, kayaks, gardens, beach, library, WiFi. In rooms: flatscreen with Apple TV and Netflix, Bluetooth speaker and Nespresso coffee machine.
Our favourite rooms
Go for any of the rooms with 'ocean' in their name, as you're guaranteed your own sun-bed on the beach. For privacy and pristine sea views, book a second-floor Ocean Pool Suite. Of the got-it-flaunt-it persuasion? Plump for an Ocean Garden Pool Suites below, where your pool and relaxation sala are set on the public beach.
Rooms come with private plunge pools, plus there's an aqua-blue infinity pool slung between the bistro, bar and beach, perfect for splashing and lapping.
Indulgent sessions are on offer at the Anantara Spa, a serene retreat nestled among ponds, boulders and lush foliage. Chill out in a traditional herbal bath or the tropical steam cave, then take your pick of luxurious indoor and outdoor treatment rooms for one or two. Signature treatments include the Rasananda Bliss with a floral foot bath, oil massage and after-sun treatment; or the Journey to Siam, which pampers with a foot ritual, steam, body scrub and Thai massage. Perched atop a flat rock, the yoga platform is the perfect place to salute the sun, looking straight out to sea.
Big shades, a tiny bikini, and something floaty to wear to the restaurant. Shoes are optional.
Plan your stay around Koh Phangan's famed Full Moon events – party people should book early for the monthly mashup; those seeking relaxation should stay away.
Welcome, although the hotel prefers to peg itself as an adults' escape. Under-4s stay free if they share parents' bedding; extra beds for 4–11-year-olds cost THB1,500 a night (includes breakfast); THB2,500 a night for over-11s.
In-villa dining and private beach degustations with matched wines are available for those who want to rev up the romance.
Leave your shoes in your villa so you can wriggle your toes in the sand. Clothing should be cool, floaty and flirty.
Overlooking the pool, sandy-floored Bistro @ the Beach eatery offers a crowd-pleasing menu throughout the day, making it a one-stop shop for breakfast, mains, snacks and desserts. Sink into a circular cushioned banquette, dine barefoot at a rustic wooden table, or sit inside under the striking cane lanterns. Japanese flavours take centre stage at Yukinoya, where a chef mans the teppanyaki grill right before your eyes, cooking the catch of the day, Tajima beef and local lobster with theatrical flair. Pair with one of the sakes on offer, which are sourced from across the Japanese archipelago.
World-class wines, champagne and cigars are on offer in poolside bar the Lounge. Live music, weekly cocktail parties and tasting sessions up the fun factor.
Bistro @ the Beach is open from 7am until 11pm. Yukinoya serves dinner from 6.30pm to 10.30pm.
You can have light bites or a lavish meal served in your villa until 11pm.
Anantara Rasananda is set on the Thai island of Koh Phangan, 15 kilometres north of Koh Samui.
Fly into Samui Airport on Koh Samui, 15 kilometres from Koh Phangan. Operated by the hip, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing people at Bangkok Airways, it receives the airline’s regional jets from Bangkok, Phuket, Singapore and Hong Kong, among others. Thai Airways also flies from Bangkok.
Narrow, steep roads make driving here tricky for the uninitiated. You can hire cars on the island, but we recommend tootling around town on a bicycle instead.
Anantara Rasananda has scheduled shared speedboat transfers between Koh Samui Airport and the property, which can be arranged for THB1,750 a person both ways (THB1,000 a person, one way). You'll be met at the airport and taken by car to the hotel's beach lounge at Bangrak Pier. Scheduled speedboats depart Koh Samui pier at 12.30am and 5pm, and depart Anantara Rasananda at 9am and 2pm; the journey takes 40 minutes. Alternatively, hire a private speedboat, available anytime between dawn and dusk, which includes sparkling wine and canapés onboard. The boat can carry up to six passengers on one journey and costs THB15,000 one way or THB27,000 return. Call the Smith24 team to book. Or, you can take the public ferry (THB1,400 a person for a roundtrip, THB700 one way), which includes free land transfers between Koh Samui International Airport or hotels in central Chaweng and Bang Rak, to Koh Samui’s pier.
Worth getting out of bed for
Busy Tong Nai Pan Noi beach is the setting for Anantara Rasananda, so you'll be living the life aquatic when you stay here, with swimming, kayaking and snorkelling up for grabs. For the more adventurous, scuba diving sessions to Ang Thong Marine Park can be arranged. Up the luxe factor by chartering the hotel's private yacht, Minor Affair. The dashing 20-metre pleasure craft can take up to 12 guests for day-long jaunts to Ang Thong, private tours around the island and overnight journeys further afield. Koh Phangan is covered in jungly rainforest, which can be explored on guided treks. For a culture hit, visit Kuan Yin Shrine, an ornate Chinese temple overlooking Chaloklum Bay, or Wat Koh Tham Temple, a mountaintop meditation retreat.
I’d love to say we were poker-faced grown-ups during our tour on arrival at Anantara Rasananda, but that wouldn’t be telling the truth. The fact is that Mr Smith and I were basically doing high-fives every time our guest assistant turned her back. And we’re really not the high-fiving types. Admittedly, we were still on a high having just arrived via the resort’s speedboat – a glorious 30-minute ride from Koh Samui taking in much of Koh Phangan’s striking coast. I should also add this was our honeymoon, which surely made us that much more silly. But, having deliberated over a number of the resort’s rooms before booking our Ocean Garden Pool Suite, we were grinning like idiots by the time we were shown around.
At the risk of sounding a little complacent, it wasn’t the stunning wooden features that won me over, or the extremely comfortable king-size bed. Nor was it the beautiful big bathroom, although there’s a lot to be said for having every product on-hand before even thinking about unpacking. For me, it was all about outside: our private outdoor shower, sheltered day-bed for two, sunbeds reserved just for us on the beach and, the pièce de résistance, the plunge pool. Could it really have been me who wondered upon booking whether we would actually want a pool so close to the beach? If you’re wrestling with this same big life question, the answer is a definitive yes, not least for the jealous looks it attracts from the odd passerby.
We certainly made the most of our five days – and by that I mean we did very little. For starters, we needed to allow good time each morning for the buffet breakfast, best enjoyed at the tables in the sand. Think Asian soups and stir-fries, eggs made to order, cold meats, fruit, fresh-baked treats, cheese and other goodies. Then we would retreat to our day-bed of choice – for me it was on the beach; for Mr Smith it was under the sheltered sala. Add to this picture free, fast WiFi, several novels and on-the-house minibar spirits to sip on (in the afternoons, honest!), and we were happy to stay put.
Throw in a swim in the ocean, a dip in the plunge pool, a light lunch, maybe a snooze, more swimming, a shower to freshen up and it would be time to head over to happy hour at the resort’s gorgeous poolside bar. Each evening, a different Thai-inspired cocktail is on offer. We took our sampling duties seriously: we’d sit at the bar, sun-kissed and rested, slurping on drinks as the sun would go down, all the while chatting to the friendly bar staff – the ultimate nightly tropical routine. Don’t miss the cocktail with Thai basil; after extensive research, we concluded that it was our clear favourite.
A different dinner concept is also offered each night at the resort’s restaurant, with everything from Thai set menus and ‘surf and turf’ to pizza nights when films are shown on screens set up on the beach. One night while cocktail-testing, we were invited to their special weekly meet-and-greet at the wine lounge. Here we were treated to free wine, cocktails and fancy canapés while we mingled with staff members and guests. It meant we could see the enticing cloches and trays of crab, fish, curry and salads being set up for the seafood buffet ahead, and so we were wooed and booked in. The line-up of food was fresh and delicious, but we’d made a rookie error: we’d scoffed too many canapés earlier. Something tells us they know what they’re doing by putting these particular events back to back… But the food is great and the service extremely attentive, and if you’re curious like us, ask about their Thai wines – the Monsoon Valley Shiraz made in northern Thailand was surprisingly good.
It wasn’t all food, drinks and lying around though – we cleared a spot in our busy schedule to take a massage treatment together at the resort’s spa. Much like the rest of the resort grounds, with its carp ponds and beautiful lush greenery, the spa setting was fantastic. If they had rooms available in this tranquil oasis, I would book in. It was here we enjoyed one of the best Thai massages we’ve had and it left us floating for the rest of the evening.
Though there are plenty of activities available, here and elsewhere on the island, we were so busy filling our days with all that relaxing that we didn’t get to them. Not that we regret it. This would have to be one of the prettiest beaches on Koh Phangan, with an ideal mix of beachfront restaurants and a quiet little village with general stores, bars and eateries. If you’re like me and have stayed in a hovel on the party side of the island in a former backpacking life, you’ll love and appreciate this resort even more. Just be warned that the speedboat ride back to Koh Samui isn’t anywhere near as exciting as the one across. Funny that.