Clay Beach Samui’s three private villas, which are vast in size and muted in style, comprise a refined coastal stay that feels like Koh Samui’s best-kept secret, where the postcard-pristine views are a given and direct access to sand is assured. Each villa has been done out with the generous proportions of a Beverly Hills penthouse, all open plans and lofty ceilings, and avoids wellness gimmickry and a throbbing party spirit in favour of muted interiors by Jonathan Levi that feature greys, darkwood, pared-back brass and clay sculptures. Although exposed stone is a hallmark here, this is certainly no stoney-faced stay – staff have a no-worries-all-smiles approach as warm as Koh Samui’s tropical weather.
There are three beachfront villas, each with five en-suite bedrooms.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. If check-out time is later than 6pm there’ll be an additional night’s charge. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £1597.79 (THB68,480), including tax at 7 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of 10% per booking prior to arrival.
Rates include either a continental or Thai breakfast. Although a loaded stack of pancakes is difficult to resist, we recommend you try a taste of local flavour, which includes a bowl of congee. Guests get a one-way airport transfer too.
Once you’ve gleaned all you can from those recipes, book a cooking class with a villa chef so you can get some hands-on tips on how to work the wok.
At the hotel
Villa managers, chef on request, four private pools, two kitchens, direct beach access, BBQ equipment to use on the beach, free WiFi. In rooms: Smart TV, minibar, own-brand bath products.
Our favourite rooms
All accommodations are identical (only the selection of art and sculptures vary), so there’s little chance of feeling villa envy. Guests can rent either a three-bedroom courtyard or they can plump for all five bedrooms (three-bedroom courtyard and two lofts) if they really want to live large.
Even with the beach-facing views and the closed-community-style privacy, Clay Beach Samui’s crowning glory is that every accommodation is decked out with four private pools – enough so that you can practise a different stroke in each one.
There’s no in-house spa, but massage therapists and personal trainers can be booked for in-room massages, yoga, pilates or fitness sessions.
Forgo the classic poolside reads and brush up on your gastro knowledge by thumbing through Kin Thai: Modern Thai Recipes to Cook at Home, a colourful collection of recipes by chef John Chantarasak.
Each villa comes with a kitchen, so try creating some local dishes, such as a fiery, funky laab. However, if your culinary ability proves to be a recipe for disaster, there’s a separate chef’s kitchen in which a cook-for-hire can salvage your evening.
With enough space for large families, Clay Beach Samui accommodates guests of all ages. Cots and high chairs are included in the rates, and all four pools have child-friendly steps.
Each villa features a shallow plunge pool – but if your little one wants to showcase their inner Michael Phelps, they can make a splash in any of the other three options, all of which have child-friendly steps.
Although there’s no hotel restaurant, each villa is kitted out with two kitchens (one for guests, another for a chef-to-hire). Guests can fill out a pre-arrival list of what supplies they’d like from the grocery store and market – no Thai fruit bowl is complete without a mountain of mangosteens, rose apples and rambutans – and staff can pick up daily provisions, meaning more time for you to spend fine-tuning your backstroke in the lap pool.
Clay Beach Samui is on the western end of Bophut Beach, on Koh Samui’s north coast. Once you’ve checked-in, it’s a short stroll across the golden shoreline until you reach some of the island’s liveliest nightlife.
Samui Airport is a 15-minute drive away. One airport transfer (pickup and drop-off) is included in the rates; additional transfers will cost extra (approximately THB400 per journey). If you’re renting, there’s private onsite parking.
If you want to go all-out Roger Moore-era Bond, the hotel can be accessed by boat, seaplane, helicopter or jet ski. For full effect, remember to arrive in your green safari shirt and linen trousers. Golden gun optional.
Worth getting out of bed for
Even though Koh Samui is a catch-all destination that caters to party people and pilates-obsessed purists, it still specialises in the old-school pleasure of slow, lazy days spent topping up the tan. So, open your parasol – the deafening dancefloor fillers and a realignment of your chakras can wait for another trip. But, if all that vitamin D suddenly shoots new energy into you, leave the confines of your Clay Beach Samui cocoon and head for the island’s famous beaches, many of which have proved a muse for works of fiction and love songs. Chaweng is the island’s headline act, ideal for people-watching, white sand and big waves; Mae Nam is an escape from it all; and Lamai is defined by its little bays that are covered in ancient stones. Ride a boat out west to explore the topography at Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park, a 42-island archipelago that features limestone mountains, thick stretches of jungle, and pockets of hidden coves and caves that wouldn’t look out of place on the Goldeneye estate.
When it’s time to feast, swap the swimwear for something with stretch – as Koh Samui is surrounded by water, it’s easy to go a little Bruce Bogtrotter on all the fresh catch. At The Height, a hillside restaurant overlooking Laem Nan bay, the menu revolves around punchy and bright southern Thai dishes that have been reimagined through a contemporary lens, including a crab yellow curry, baked white prawns, and spicy dried red curry with minced chicken, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves. Seasoned cook Jeremy Simeon oversees the pots and pans at Chada, who prepares dishes revamped from the days of King Rama V, a monarch known for bringing European touches into the Thai kitchen. An eight-course meal here may incorporate an ‘Ocean Bite’ (cubes of tuna, crispy salmon skin, wasabi drops and chilli jam) or the royalty-worthy dish of pork with bitter orange dust.
For a taste of something other than tiki concoctions and fluoro-coloured mixes, pull up a red stool at the Drink Gallery’s teak bar and peruse its extensive catalogue of 40 signature cocktails – the Margarita’s Sassy Cousin is named for its bold, spirited mix of tequila, triple sec, passionfruit purée, vanilla, fresh lime juice and ‘salt air’; and you’ll likely fall hard for the Amour, a loving combination of vodka, mangosteen juice, lychee and lavender. Coco Tam’s, all wicker and lounge beds, is a popular beach bar without the smash hits, pounding playlists and selfie flashes.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this beachfront hotel in Koh Samui and unpacked their sand-covered Havaianas and Sunspel swimwear, a full account of their island break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Clay Beach Samui in Koh Samui…
In a country that excels in barefoot, luxury hospitality, design-conscious Clay Beach Samui has shaped itself as one of the choice stays. There are only three villas on site, all identical in look and layout, saving you the hassle of rifling through endless hotel listicles when planning your trip, and each hideout’s expansive footprint makes it ideal to share with friends and family (but you’d likely rather keep it to yourself). A pitch-perfect blend of wooden beams, shades of grey and refined antique finds lend it a feel that is both homely and luxe; there are four saltwater pools for each villa (because three isn’t quite the magic number when it comes to matters of this importance); and the finely tuned services, including a chef on request, will make your favourite concierge seem like Basil Fawlty. Wake up to the sight of small fishing boats bobbing on the seafront, then muster the energy to walk a few steps down to the onsite beach. However, shuttling between bed and coastline can be arduous, what with all that grainy sand getting between your toes and your productivity levels nosediving in the humid weather, so press reset by taking a plunge in your freestanding soaking tub.