Puttin’ on the Ritz.
By Ashima Sethi
I can confidently say that glamour and glitz are just some of the things that come to mind when one hears the words Ritz-Carlton. Undoubtedly one of the most famous hotel chains in the world, the brand’s diverse properties are nestled in some of the globe’s most picturesque destinations, including Koh Samui, an idyllic paradise framed by turquoise waters, pristine white sand beaches and coconut groves.
As someone who only rarely gets to escape the city (something I think too many of us can relate to), I find myself prioritising more than just the promise of luxury when choosing the perfect slice of paradise to call home for a few days. Any hotel can be stunning in its appearance, but only with the right combination of excellent service, delicious cuisine, and activities on offer when you’re looking to pass the time, do you have the ideal place to unwind in Thailand’s famous tropical heat. But luckily for me, The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui offered everything I needed, and more, for a weekend in paradise.
My delight with my experience began almost immediately when the resort car picked me up and whisked me away on a scenic drive along the island’s coastline, giving me undisrupted views of the shades of azure that make up the surface of the sea. Upon arrival, I climbed a set of stairs to the resort’s lobby, an open-air pavilion complete with a tranquillity pond that reflects the breathtaking panoramic views over the island. I must’ve looked entranced by what I saw, as the attentive receptionist made sure to let me know that the view was even more awe-inspiring during sunset.
Soon, I was shuttled across the resort grounds in one of the designated golf carts, which allowed me to zip past the verdant gardens and climb the cliffside property with ease. Within a few minutes I arrived at my Ultimate Pool Villa. The capacious sanctuary is fitted with modern furnishings, each with Thai accents in the form of fine local fabrics that reiterate the resort’s mission to combine a luxury experience associated with the global Ritz-Carlton brand, with the vibrancy of the local island culture.
Apart from sleek interiors, the villa offers a breezy bathroom with double-basins, and a spacious interior and shower. It’s also equipped with an inviting king-sized bed (should you decide to never leave your villa), a comfortable living space that leads to an outdoor terrace, boasting a seating area for in-room dining with a view. Most spectacular, however, is the infinity pool that almost seems to merge with the magnificent blue waters of the Gulf of Thailand beyond it.
In total, the resort is home to 175 suites and villas, ranging from intimate Terrace Suites to the impressive Villa Kasara. Ideal for families or groups, it offers three spacious bedrooms, sweeping views of the bay, and a large private swimming pool. Regardless of what you choose, all room are ocean-facing and offer dreamy panoramas of the verdurous property.
As the largest resort on Samui, the property sits on 58 acres of lush land with plenty of things to do to pass the days. If you love the water, make your way to the oceanfront swimming pool, complete with comfortable sun loungers, before making the most out of the private bay, with your choice of stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking. One of my favourite activities, however, was enjoying a guided snorkelling tour of the inland Swim Reef that was brimming with dozens of species of tropical fish, including angelfish and black ocellaris clownfish.
For guests looking to keep up with their wellness routines, the resort also boasts onsite tennis courts, a well-equipped fitness centre complete with a kickboxing ring for a few rounds of Muay Thai, yoga on the pavilion and Pilates classes. To explore the surrounding beaches or bays, the luxurious Ritz-Carlton speedboat is available for specially-curated maritime expeditions, and the resort offers complimentary shuttle vans connecting you to the island’s bustling town of Chaweng, known for its markets and vibrant nightlife.
If you’re travelling with family, you’ll be delighted to know that The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui offers specially curated programmes to ensure your tiny tots enjoy their getaway as much as you do. The programme is focused on four pillars of inspiration: Water, Land, Environmental Responsibility and Culture, and offers activities like snorkelling discoveries in the swim reef, beach football, Thai language lessons, and arts and crafts.
If there’s something you must add to your to-do list at the Ritz, it’s a visit to the Spa Village. This tropical oasis boasts a glistening lap pool encircled by open-air cabanas, treatment suites and a breezy pre and post treatment lounge where guests can indulge in delights like warm ginger tea and biscuits after their spa experience.
The Spa Village offers a comprehensive list of treatments ranging from facials and beauty scrubs to massages inspired by local products. For a wellness experience that pleasures all the senses, opt for the Samui’s Coconut Heritage signature experience, which begins with a relaxing coconut scrub, followed by a unique Songkran-inspired shower ritual to prepare the skin for what’s to come. Next, a 90 minute ‘flow’ massage using warm oils relaxes the muscles and nourishes the skin, and finally a coconut hair masque will leave you feeling revitalised.
Of course, no holiday in the sun would be complete without fabulous food and drinks, and luckily for foodies, The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui is undoubtedly a destination for dining. For breakfast, Shook! serves an impressive mix of Asian and Western cuisine, including everything from fresh fruits and smoothies, to wok fried noodles, rice dishes and all the continental favourites. For dinner, the eatery transforms into the The Ranch, where diners can tuck into expertly prepared steaks in a cosy setting. Other options include Sea Salt, which offers light bites for lunch and lively seafood barbecues for dinner, and Tides, the resort’s poolside bar and cevicheria, which dishes up a variety of sublimely balanced citrus-cured specialties that are fresh enough to be enjoyed in Thailand’s blazing sunshine.
As night falls, the resort boasts several great spots to enjoy a sundowner, or two. Head to the lobby’s reflection pool for aperitifs and stunning views over the island; One Rai for Asian-inspired appetisers complemented by palate-teasing cocktails; or get comfortable at Tides Upper Deck, a breezy al fresco venue overlooking the beach for inventive concoctions and daily happy hour deals.
The resort also offers unique dining experiences if you’re looking to add some extra flair to your getaway. At Pak Tai, tuck into Southern Thai specialities while you dine in a personal pod overlooking the swim reef. On Saturdays, Baan Talat is a must-do. The market-style pop-up boasts live performances, musicians, and vendors serving the best that Thai food has to offer from carts and live stations, including grilled specialties, noodle dishes and classic desserts.
For a bespoke dining experience, look no further than The View Dining at The Peak, where you can enjoy wine by the bottle, and expertly crafted dishes like Wagyu Rib Eyein a Korean bell pepper sauce, and Grilled duck breastwith a balsamic and red wine reduction served with truffle purée, while taking in the tranquil ambience and panoramic views of the gulf. It was here, on my very first night at The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui, that I realised I was in for something truly special.
Considering the property offers stunning vistas from almost every vantage point, it is easy to see why The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui has become such a popular choice for intimate events, especially weddings. In addition to two multipurpose rooms (the largest being 124sqm) fitted with state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment and a versatile pre-function area, the resort offers a selection of outdoor venues encompassing the private beach, Sala Thai pavilion, and Tides Upper Deck, overlooking the sparkling turquoise waters.