Now I am back. Back at Koh Samui, an island where I never spend much time yet still connect so many memories with. My last and failed relationship and my divemaster training, also failed in a way. I only ever went to Koh Samui to extend my visa and to transit through with said failed relationship. All I remember is an overpriced Samui beach resort were I spend 1000 baht on a cocktail – each – for his birthday. Since I always heard people say that there is no diving in Koh Samui and all the boats come to Koh Tao in any case, I wasn’t in a rush to head back.
That was until the Tongsai Bay Hotel invited me while I was on my way to Koh Tao for my solo diver course. The resort belongs to Green Pearls who only work with truly eco-friendly hotels. So if you are wondering where to stay in Koh Samui and sustainability is as important to you as being spoiled rotten look no further…
What makes the Tongsai Bay Hotel the best place to stay in Koh Samui?
As per usual I am traveling in off-season, something that has frequently paid off for me but lately not so much. But back in Koh Samui, I am in luck because off-season means the hotel isn’t even half full. Fewer screaming kids by the pool, no lines at the juice bar at breakfast and a Seafront Pool Villa as my not so humble abode. As the name implies it comes with uninterrupted ocean views, a beautiful outdoor living space, and a private pool big enough to swim in.
For many, the Tongsai Bay is simply the best place to stay in Koh Samui and the hotel has been around for over 30 years with many returning guests. It is easy to see why. Koh Samui has a reputation to be full of tourists and traffic, only little better than its full-moon party sister island Ko Pha Ngan. Whether that reputation is justified or not, you will be far from the action at Tongsai Bay. Half an hour and a world away from the pier where the ferry drops me off, I arrive in a tropical jungle paradise with a private beach and of course, a cat. I don’t really care for all the other creatures that live on the property but there is much to explore for nature and especially bird lovers.
I am being taken to my villa by buggy and my only complaint for the rest of the weekend is that I am not allowed to drive myself. Out of ‘protest’, I walk most of the time, something my calves are complaining about in return – Tongsai Bai is nothing but hilly and while I have the ultimate privacy in my villa it does come at the price of having to walk quite a bit to get to the restaurants or the beach.
Mind you, my villa is stunning enough to convince me, the beach lover, to spend most of the time at my own pool. I think I have mentioned before how much I dislike tiny plunge pools in hotels, right? While I am well aware that this is the first of first world problems, I can very much appreciate my pool here as it is big enough for proper swimming or in my case skinny dipping while sipping on wine.
While I usually wouldn’t recommend a hotel restaurant for authentic Thai cuisine, Chef Chom’s is worth a trip all the way from Bangkok. Classic Thai dishes mix with innovative cuisine like a vegan banana flower salad and I get to sample some of the best Thai food I have eaten. Another highlight for this cheese lover is the hotels homemade goat’s cheese, something I usually have to forgo when in Asia.
I also test the Po-Lad beach restaurant for a lunch burger as well as room service and conclude that while you are a bit off the grid at Tongsai Bay, that is actually a big plus. There is no good culinary reason to ever leave the resort.
Also if you need entertainment (I usually don’t but some people like to keep busy during their holidays!), there is plenty to do at Tongsai Bay. Watersports equipment is available free of charge, there are two large pools (one is adults only!) and they have a daily activity schedule with many events being complimentary. The schedule includes a movie night on the beach, a fruit sommelier class as well as cooking and craft classes.
Of course, the hotel can organize various tours and excursions for you, however, they have taken a firm stance against any kind of activities which include animal cruelty. If you really need to ride that elephant you will have to book it yourself. As an alternative, they offer a trip to the beautiful Samui Elephant Haven, a proper elephant sanctuary on Koh Samui and a place I highly recommend. It is one of the things to do in Koh Samui and great for sustainable travelers who had to go to Chiang Mai for an ethical elephant sanctuary in Thailand until now.
In addition, guests can visit the hotel’s organic garden which is just a short drive away. A lot of the restaurants’ fruits and vegetables are grown here and the hotel has its own nursery to keep their jungle surroundings well stocked. They also have a huge compost area, make worm tea as a natural fertilizer, and produce their own array of natural cleaning products that are used at the hotel. They also make a citronella concentrate for the rooms’ incense burners.
After these two excursions, I do little else and just write it off as ‘enjoying the facilities’ as part of my job. I have worked a lot in Bangkok and deserve a mini holiday. With that, I spent my time tanning or lounging in my private gazebo when the rain comes, watch Netflix while skinny dipping in my pool, and enjoy an extensive session at their Prana Spa. As you know by now, getting massages in Thailand is one of my favorite past times and so I am incredibly excited that the hotel has booked me in for an entire afternoon of pampering.
Where to find the best massage in Thailand.
The Return to Prana package they chose for me is usually meant for couples which means the romantic flower bath is a bit lost on me since I only have some big mosquitos to keep me company, but my scrub and the massage are lovely. As is the fact, that I feel like Indiana Jones in the spa which is surrounded by Banyan tree roots and general jungle life. If you come when the weather is a bit sunnier you can even choose to have your massage in a gazebo right by the ocean. Either way, pampering at its best!
What makes Tongsai Bay the best place to stay in Koh Samui?
I love a hotel that effortlessly closes the gap between being family-friendly and fitting for couples or solo travelers like myself. While I traveled in off-season, I am pretty sure the hotel never feels crowded as it is so big and has suitable rooms for everyone: hidden in the jungle for those seeking solitude, spacious villas for families, easy access room for people with strollers and babies, and even some specialty villas where all you will hear are the crashing ocean waves.
While the hotel totally spoiled me with my villa I was excited to see how spacious even the standard rooms are – not always a given even at the fanciest beach resorts in Koh Samui. And if that is not enough, there are plenty of indoor and outdoor communal areas – some explicitly for adults and others for kids.
Tongsai Bay makes such an effort when it comes to the environment: the organic garden where much is reused and recycled, afternoon snacks in a Tupperware, refillable bathroom amenities, and of course no plastic straws or water bottles. That in addition to the jungle-like setting, recycle bins everywhere, and the support of sustainable practices like the Samui Elephant Haven.
The bay sits on the northeast part of Koh Samui and offers absolute privacy. While beaches in Thailand are officially public you would need to swim here if you are not staying at this Samui beach resort.
Little touches: fresh ice every day, complimentary great coffee in the room (= ice coffee in the pool), fresh juice station for breakfast, and Eggs Benedict with Panang curry sauce. And have I mentioned their cat?? Seriously, my one and only suggestion for improvement would be permission for the guests to drive the buggies themselves. Ah, I guess a girl can dream…