I have a checklist for what constitutes my version of paradise:
1. A gorgeous location
2. Something gorgeous to view
3. Someplace gorgeous to stay
4. The ability to tune out the real world and relish all of the gorgeous
Amari Palm Reef in Koh Samui is one example of my paradise. Located in the town of Chewang, it is far enough from the main drag, yet close enough to get to where the action is.
After taking my 130 baht taxi — which really isn’t a taxi at all but a van that shoves as many bums in the vehicle as there are seats and then heads to whatever section of the island the group is going, dropping them off at their respective hotels — and arriving to Amari, I know immediately I am in for a true vacation.
The open-air reception and lobby is outfitted with comfortable, beach-y lounges topped with fresh-cut flowers, and staff with smiles on their faces.
I sit and fill out my reservation form and am handed a sweet fruit drink and scented, cold towel to refresh before I am taken to my room.
And, what a room it is.
With 188 rooms, split between two areas (the main road intersects the property), I have the prime spot — an airy 45 meter junior suite on the second floor.The wall-to-wall sliding glass door opens out to a magical view of the pool, and beyond that the soft, white sand beach and glistening water.
Of course, the first thing I ever do when I check into a hotel is try out the bed. Living in Thailand, the beds tend to be a bit harder than I am used to (or would like), but the bed in my room is about as perfect as they come. It’s soft, covered in lush sheets, topped with a crisp blanket and four pillows. I snuggle my head into the pillow.
It’s the best pillow I’ve ever rested my head on.
The decorations in the room are quiet, but evoke an Asian vibe, and its the little details that really bring the room to life — fresh flowers in a sleek glass vase, a sculpture above the bed, decoration pillows on the couch.
And then, there is the bathroom. A nice-sized tub is situated next to the vanity (which is stocked with my absolute favorite line, Elemis), and then a separate shower and private bathroom on the other side.
In the closet, there is a beach bag, an amazingly plush robe, slippers and an umbrella for when it rains in paradise.
I glimpse out the window and look at the clear blue sky as the sun begins to cast that warming golden our glow, then head down to the Bar@C for a quick cocktail before heading out for the night.
When I return home to my room, and for the next two days, I struggle with the choice of staying in my room or heading down to the pool and beach.
I swear, it is actually a hard choice given how in love I am with the bright room, and, of course, my delicious bed.
My last night at Amari, I don’t do anything but relish the calm the room is able to evoke from me. I tuck myself into the soft robe and sit out on my balcony, watching as lanterns float into the sky, stars twinkle, and in the distance, a lightening storm erupts, casting blue streaks through the clouds.
There are two pools at Amari — one on each side of the road. Because my room is beachside, I stick to that pool. Here, there are plenty of lounge chairs and quick poolside service. One corner of the pool has a whirlpool to sit and relax in the sun. There is also a “water fall” of sorts separating the two main areas of the pool.
The crowd is diverse — kids, couples, friends — and a few balls float in the pool, beckoning vacationers for a quick game.
I spend most of my time at the pool, but that’s only because the water in the pool is far cooler than that of the beach.
It’s got incredibly soft sand, heaps of lounge chairs to lay on, but it’s the water that’s the problem.
Because it is so shallow in this part of Chewang, the water is warmer than a bath. I walk out a good distance, and it still doesn’t come up to my calves. The sea isn’t the best for swimming, but the view truly is spectacular.
Beds, couches and cozy tables create an idea of an alternative reality. While the booze is a bit pricey for my Chiang Mai standards, the luxurious lounge immediately gives way to a relaxation I haven’t felt in a long time. Sitting, sipping a cocktail and looking out as the sky turns to night over the water is a fantastic way to start my first night in Koh Samui, and more important, my first vacation in ages.
During the day, I snack on fish and chips (OK, not fantastic), and by night I meet one of my closest friends in Thailand for a cold, albeit pricey by Chiang Mai standards, beer.
Chiang Mai has ruined me in regards to wine. The typical wine I can order up north is the Mont Clare box crap. So, when I sit down to dinner and see a multi-page wine list boasting wines from all over the world (hand selected by the hotel’s general manager, Martin Kunzmann), my eyes nearly pop out of my head. Wine! Sweet! Delicious! Wine! In bottles!
That’s enough to make me fall in love.
But, there is more to Prego than just the wine. The open air restaurant situated across the street from the beachside half of Amari, has a chill vibe. And, gorgeous menu packed with Italian selections.
Sure, when in Thailand, eat Thai food. But, when there’s an Italian restaurant with items like Waygu on the menu, damn. Order. It. Up.
Even as a non-meat-eater, there are plenty of options. For my main course, the chef actually whips up a sensational sea bass served with grilled veggies and truffled, yes, truffled mashed potatoes. I haven’t had anything this divine since my Vegas days.
Since I’m so stuffed on the mashed potatoes (plus the smoked salmon app and main course), I can’t try any of the desserts, like the limoncello sorbet — even if my tastebuds say yes. Instead, I get a little glass of grappa to wash everything down.
I walk out feeling delighted, stuffed and blissfully happy.
The next day, I return to Prego to try one of the wood-fired pizzas. Perfectly crisp and delicious.
The breakfast buffet
Most breakfast buffets I encounter tend to lack veggie options. Not Amari.
The selection is huge and includes fresh-baked breads, an omelette station, cheese, fruit, pancakes, french toast and more — all served on the second floor of the resort’s other restaurant, Merante. With a view of the pool and sea, it is a great place to sip a morning cup of coffee, nosh on better-than-normal buffet items and prepare for a day in Koh Samui.
The spa offers a wide-range of treatments, including massage (naturally), scrubs and wraps, facials and more. While staying at Amari, I got a hot stone massage and loved it. Consultants meet with each person individually to determine what treatment would suit them best based on their needs, and then from there, it’s game on.
The customer service
I mentioned that everyone at reception had smiles. But, the customer service at Amari goes beyond that. When I want to book a trip off the island, the GM is the one to whip out a map and suggest places to check out. When I decided I want to head to a little island for the morning, his staff actually book me the trip, arrange a private car for me to explore other island goodies, and then slip an itinerary under my door that night with all of the details.
And, when my friend loses her phone, the front desk is the one to get on the phone and speak Thai to places she could have left it. Above and beyond the normal call of customer service, and something we are both grateful for, even if the phone never turns up.
The bottom line
Amari is luxurious without being pretentious; posh without being exclusive. It’s a place where couples, families and friends can all feel comfortable. The spa, with specials during the low season, is great value for the treatments. Prego is a fantastic spot for a fancy dinner, laid back lunch or just to sip wine (my favorite!). The property is close enough to the party of Chewang without being in the party, and given that transportation on the island can cost a good bit, its nice to know you don’t have to hop in a cab to experience something other than the property. For those in need of wifi, it is fast and log-in is easy. Plus, the entire resort is outfitted with it so you can make all of your friends jealous with those feet-in-the-sand pics on Facebook. Would I stay here again? Absolutely.
Editor’s Note: My time stay was courtesy of Amari Palm Reef, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy.