If Modernist architecture is more deeply engaged in dialogue with its surroundings than most, then Kerem Luxury Beachfront Villas is a conversation you want to get in on. Designed with noted architect Gary Fell, these four spectacularly appointed hideaways, tucked into a tropical hillside – also Koh Samui’s most alluring outlook – have whole window walls gazing over the Gulf of Thailand, greenery-buffered terraces and roofs, direct access to a private beach and lush aspects wherever you look. And alongside adoring nature, a cosseting environment has been fostered for guests; you’ll have your own infinity pool, bend-over-backwards experience manager, a well-stocked wine fridge, sleek Italian furnishings and high Thai art. All in all, these are uniquely chic havens, destined to be a talking point.
Four lavishly outfitted villas set on a tropical hillside, each named after a type of wine vine (Solaris and Syrah, Muscat and Gamay).
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm. Guests must be at least 25 to check-in.
Double rooms from £527.42 ($644), including tax at 7 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of 10% per booking prior to arrival.
Rates include an Asian- or Western-style breakfast with tea and coffee, airport transfers, parking, one 60-minute massage each, daily fresh fruit plate and luggage storage.
Consult with the concierge if you need a romantic boat trip booked, motorbikes hired, breakfast customisations, spa spoiling or anything else this side of legal.
At the hotel
Private beach, gym, sea kayaks and paddleboards to borrow, concierge, charged laundry service, free WiFi. In rooms: private pool and furnished deck with barbecue, full kitchen (fridge stocked with wine, hob, oven, grill, microwave, dishwasher, Nespresso coffee maker, kettle and teas, crockery, cookware and cutlery), a personal ‘experience manager’, daily housekeeping and a turndown service, TV with Netflix, portable sound-system (on request), Pañpuri bath products. The Beachfront Villas have a cinema room too.
Our favourite rooms
Famed modernist architect Gary Fell (who designed Smith stablemate and near-neighbour Samujana) and the eye-for-detail hotel owners have presented you with a difficult choice, because we’re drawn to each of these luxurious hideaways. ‘Kerem’ means ‘vineyard’, and so the villas have been laid out like terraced vines tucked into a stepped hillside, hugged by greenery and culminating in a dramatic rock-and-sand private beach. Whole window walls and infinity-pool decks give the 180-degree Gulf views due reverence (with a glimpse of the Big Buddha too), and within, rough-stone and concrete walls match high-gloss spaces. Local artworks, textiles and earthenware make these feel like homes and give them roots; while slick Italian Meridiani furnishings, bedrooms that feel like suites, direct beach access, wine fridges and enormous ensuite bathrooms lay the luxe on thick. Picking a favourite is near impossible, but the two Terrace Villas on the upper level have a slightly more impressive panorama of the skyline, while the Beachfront Villas have a cinema lounge, larger terraces and salas for watching rose-tinted sunsets.
Each villa has its own private infinity pool, large enough for laps and blessed with a view.
Even paradise can be perked-up, with massages in the privacy of your villa (all guests get an hour-long massage for free). And, there’s a very well-equipped gym onsite, with a power cage, free weights, pulleys, a spinning bike, treadmill and more; personal trainers can be booked and private yoga lessons arranged (there are mats to borrow).
A good handle on scooter driving etiquette, spray for the mozzies, breathable clothing, activewear for adventuring and reef-safe sunscreen. Villas are well stocked with any creature comforts you’ll need and if you’ve forgotten anything your ‘experience manager’ will soon be on the case.
The property is not suited to guests with mobility issues.
Children are welcome and villas have space for families to stretch out, plus added privacy. Babysitting can be booked 24-hours ahead, nannies with a week’s notice; pools have a shallow section (plus toys and inflatables) and the beach is paddle-safe.
All ages, but swim-confident kids will fare the best here.
All villas have plenty of room to sleep even larger and multi-generational families.
The waters are safe for paddling by the hotel’s private beach, but it is rocky in places, so you might want to try peaceful stretches of shore close by, such as Maenam or Cheong Mon. Otherwise, the vividly decorated temples, gentle waterfalls, botanical gardens with mystical statues and day trips to Ang Thong Marine Park will enchant both them and you.
Each villa’s private infinity pool has a shallow end for little ones to wallow in and pool toys to borrow, but parents should keep a watchful eye out.
Having your own kitchen gives you flexibility over mealtimes and what your smalls eat. Breakfasts can be customised (for a fee) and if you bring in a private chef, you can dictate what you dine on – the poolside barbecues will be especially fun family feasts.
The concierge can call in a babysitter (with 24 hours’ notice) or nanny (with seven days’ notice), prices vary.
Bring gentle mozzie spray and sunscreen, and any essential baby kit.
Kerem Luxury Beachfront Villas tries to stay as green as its leafy surroundings. Waste is kept to a minimum and water usage is limited; recycling is carried out, plastics are kept to a minimum and a water-filtration system is being installed. And each villa has a thriving living roof and fulsome plantings all around.
Dining tables are placed for optimum view ogling, but you might prefer having your breakfast floated over to you on a tray as you dangle your feet in your private pool.
As you wish, but maybe put some clothes on while the chef is there.
Breakfast is included in your room rate and will be delivered each morning. There are two styles: western, with freshly baked bread, jams, yoghurt, seasonal fruit and hot and cold drinks; or Thai with congee or soup, fresh tropical juices, coffee and tea. Otherwise, dining is ad-libbed using your full kitchen; your ‘experience manager’ can have an ingredient haul brought over from the market on request. For a special meal (or if you simply don’t feel like lifting a finger), a chef can be dispatched to cook up a custom feast or minister to a poolside barbecue (must be booked in advance); or to teach you how to make authentic Thai fare and impart knowledge that’ll last you way beyond check-out. You’ll need to book in advance and cover the chef’s fee, transport and market-price ingredients.
Each villa has a dedicated wine fridge, but if you want your regular fridge stocked with anything in particular for an extra charge – a few singhas or the locally distilled rum which goes down smooth – talk to your ‘experience manager’.
Guests can set their own breakfast time on arrival – service usually runs till noon, but exceptions can be made, or staff can leave the breakfast in your fridge for you to enjoy at leisure.
Staff will happily call in takeaway for you and bring it to your door. Delivery services usually stop around midnight.
The peaceful, upmarket Plai Laem neighbourhood where Kerem Luxury Beachfront Villas cascades down a vibrantly verdant hillside, is a languid arm stretching into the Gulf of Thailand, pointing to Koh Phang Nga and islet Koh Som.
Koh Samui Airport is just a 20-minute drive from the villas. The typical traveller route to the island is via Bangkok or Phuket, but there are direct connections from Krabi and Chiang Mai, Hong Kong and Singapore. Return transfers to and fro are included in your villa rate. If a regular plane seems too pedestrian, the hotel can advise on seaplane hire.
Compared to Thailand’s cities, driving around Koh Samui is a breeze; traffic moves at a relaxed pace and you can explore the whole island in an hour with a set of wheels. Hotels tend to be placed away from the action amid the most spectacular vistas, so if you want to join in the party scene (with a designated driver, obvs) you’ll be thankful for a car, scooter or motorbike. Each villa has a private parking space.
From Surat Thani’s Donsak Pier, you can ride a ferry or speedboat to Lipa Noi Pier or Nathon Beach on Koh Samui, a journey of around an hour. And, if you have some stamina you could kayak across from Surat Thani or Koh Pha Ngan. There’ll be someone waiting to pick you up when you hit land.
Worth getting out of bed for
Kerem Luxury Beachfront Villas’ setting is resplendent in its greenery, and at the foot of the palm-swathed hillside is a spit of golden sand – the hotel’s private beach, with salas for guests to get cosy in – and ancient rock formations giving way to the blue of the Thai Gulf. With leafy buffers and largely private villas all around, the chic Plai Laem neighbourhood is peaceful and picturesque with panoramic views over teeny isle Koh Som and out to Koh Phang Nga. But you’ve got your pick of sunbathing spots and always pleasantly warm waters protected by coral thickets, with Thongson and Cheong Mon close by. While it’s secluded and sedate enough for honeymooners, (gentle sunrise yoga sessions, cooking lessons and massages will divert you while onsite), this is no snooze – to the west you can visit the famous Big Buddha, gilded and serene at the top of a ceremonious staircase, and Wat Plai Laem with its 18-armed bodhisattva and spectacular storytelling murals. Bangrak Market has stalls of plenty and colourful bowls of piled-high delicacies. And, the Fisherman’s Village, laid out around Bo Phut Beach, is the island’s neon-flecked nerve centre for nightlife, shopping, massages and cute boho cafes. It’s here that you’ll find floaty dresses and Unicorn rubber-rings, bars with swing seats, and beach parties with revellers sprawled on bean bags; and it’s famous for its sense-stirring night market. To the east of the hotel there’s noted beauty Chaweng Beach, another aspect of the Gulf from Lad Koh Viewpoint, and the Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks, popular due to their uncanny resemblance of male and female genitalia – take your cheeky selfie and stop for ice-cream topped with caramelised pineapple. Head inland to do a mini tour of the island’s enchanting waterfalls (Na Mueang, Tan Rua, Khun Si), some of which you can bathe by; explore the folkloric statues of Namtok Tar Nim and its Magic Garden; and pay your respects to the mummified monk at Wat Khunaram. Take a wild day trip to Angthong National Marine Park for sightings of dusky leaf monkeys, long-tailed macaques, leopard cats, wild boar and otters, alongside flocks of exotic birds and rainbow shoals of fish. It’s a popular diving spot, and the dazzling archipelago was the setting for some scenes of The Beach. If you’d rather sample the marine life, hire a traditional junk boat and go fishing with a local – the hotel’s chef can help you cook up your catch on your return. There are few wrong times to visit the island, but November is when you might spy migrating whale sharks, and you’ll see the sky and water lit aflame as flowery offerings are floated out and paper lanterns are borne aloft during the Loi Krathong Festival.
It’s all here, the punchy umami, playful sweets and sours, the cool and the fiery: Koh Samui is as culinarily exciting as you’d expect, with a slightly heavier focus on seafood (naturally). As a tourist hotspot, some eateries play it safe with Thai favourites (not that we’re complaining), but resort restaurants up the amour ante, and holes in the wall, humble hang-outs and street eats add authenticity to the scene. Krua Bophut is set on the beach and has all the ingredients for a memorable date night: twinkling trees, sand underfoot, marry-me views… And, while the set menus don’t reinvent the wheel, they give it a good spin, with the likes of green-papaya salad, lemongrass and prawn soup, coconutty green curry and deep-fried ice-cream. Zazen too is something of a romantic, with tables bathed in red lights. Its ‘Thai Discovery’ menus give a good overview of local flavours, but it’s worth flying to the French side for lobster with almonds, confit tomatoes and truffled potato purée and salmon fillet with a mustard crust and coconut mash. And, to elevate things – quite literally – book at Six Senses’ Dining on the Rocks, an on-high deck at the tip of a headland overlooking the Gulf, or Tree Tops further along the coast, where you dine on platforms tickled by palm fronds. But, the best of Thai eats are usually bang-for-your-baht snacks, soups and skewers at humble stalls and low-key cafés. In the Fisherman’s Village and Chaweng, sniff out wok-charred rice noodles swimming in an unctuous porky gravy with hunks of meat; skewered pork belly, neon yellow with spice, cooled by pickled cucumber salad; whole tiny birds or fat smoky sausages on a stick, dunked in sauces that sing; offal in a sweet-pungent ooze of blood, star anise and cinnamon; and either durian or coconut ice-cream (served in the shell so you scrape the flesh off with each bite) for dessert.
‘Sticky rice’ is a reason all by itself to visit Thailand, comfortingly doused in coconut milk and topped with fruit and ice-cream; Bar Baguette does an especially alluring iteration, although it’s also known for its healthier brunch bites: bruschetta with scrambled eggs, hearty salads, bolognese tacos… They also do a full English here, if you’re craving one. On the bougie-r side of street food is Oyster Bar x Samui, a stylish hole in the wall, where you sit on a stool and try top-tier European molluscs, topped with gold or caviar if you like; scallops the size of a small child’s fist; and langoustines sunk in lemon and butter.
Koh Samui’s a little less party-hard as, say, Phuket or Pattaya, but it still goes hard when it comes to hedonism. Chaweng is your good-time go-to, with late-night revels aplenty (just swerve the two red-light districts). Ark Bar centres the action around the three pools at its beach club, with DJs holding court and explosive fire shows. CocoTams is more chilled-out, with swing seats and bulky bean-bags on the sand, cocktails packed with tropical fruit and dangerously large globe glasses of sangria.
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 these tucked-into-tropical-terraces luxury villas at the northern tip of Ko Samui and unpacked their fisherman pants and shown off their new Thai cookery skills, a full account of being lavishly looked-after will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Kerem Luxury Beachfront Villas on Thailand’s fair isle…
When it comes to true love, when you know, you know. And, this is what the owners of Kerem Luxury Beachfront Villas felt when they found the verdure-swathed hillside that would become the site of their boutique retreat, at the tip of Ko Samui’s northeastern headland, and gazed out over the deep blue Gulf of Thailand. Just a 10-minute drive from the buzz of Bo Phut Beach and the Fisherman’s Village, yet serene and in pole position for sunsets that spin the colour wheel, they’ve nailed the location; and with a private spit of beach and dramatic rock formations at its foot, lush Thai landscaping all around and greenery as embellishment, it’s picturesque as can be. With noted architect Gary Fell (who also designed striking neighbour stay Samujana), the owners have created four dream-home modernist hideaways – the result of four years of planning and creating, with some Zoom art-direction of the finer details during lockdown. Clean-lined and chic, they give much attention to the view, framed in whole window walls and admired from pool-topped terraces. Within there’s a delicate balance of the contemporary and Thai tradition, with local artworks and textiles, imported Italian furnishings from Meridiani, concrete and stone accent walls and high-gloss full kitchens and enormous bathrooms. A dedicated guest experience manager is there to work whims into reality, a private chef sends over decadent breakfasts each morning (and is on hand to teach you the secrets of Thai cookery), and each guest is gifted a massage. Heaven for honeymooners, perfectly private for families, and simply charming all round, Kerem Luxury Beachfront Villas will fast become a Ko Samui favourite – well, when you know, you know.
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