A spa with soul on Koh Samui in Thailand
The Quick Read: Kamalaya is one of the world’s best destination spas if you’re looking for genuinely holistic wellness programmes that take into account your whole being – choose to concentrate on yoga, detoxing, weightloss or fitness, or just come here to relax and replenish. The retreat is set beside a private lagoon at the quiet end of Koh Samui, in a fairy tale ravine strewn with granite boulders and tropical plants. Villas and thatched public spaces are serene and uncluttered, food is delicious and detoxifying, health experts are carefully picked and you’ll be well looked after by gentle and genuinely calm Thai staff. What’s not to like?
More on the property: This is a soulful destination spa in a serene setting – a fairy tale ravine strewn with granite boulders and tropical plants, leading down to a chalky blue-grey lagoon with a little beach. It’s at the quiet end of party island Koh Samui, and if you don’t mind climbing over a few boulders and ignoring the tiresome local dogs, there’s a much longer beach to walk on.
The whole place is centred around a tiny cave where monks used to come to pray – you can go there to sit a while and light a joss stick. There’s a soothing swimming pool, an elevated wooden-floored open-aired pavilion for yoga, meditation and tai chi, a huge hall with impressive acoustics for concerts and other activities, and plenty of shaded spaces and lounges to hang out in. Read a word from the queen and a word from the king on their stay.
More on the spa: Everything is designed to bring the outside in, but the star feature is the open air spa, where plunge pools, a rock steam room, relaxation areas and treatment rooms are set high up on a jungle-clad hill with soothing views out to the far horizon.
More on the treatments & activities: Every conceivable complementary therapy and pampering treatment is on offer here, as well as a host of high quality wellness progammes overseen by a naturopath to ease you back to wholeness. They are especially good at detox, stress relief and stress management programmes, or you can just come to indulge. You’ll have access to a range of visiting health practitioners and expert resident teachers. We particularly enjoyed sessions with Winnie Rode, a kind and gentle Tibetan Buddhist meditation teacher with over 20 years teaching experience who was formerly a body guard for the Dalai Lama, and our no-nonsense ayurvedic oil massages with Keralan therapists Ruby and Saimy.
More on Kamalaya wellbeing programmes: Choose from a set programme, or ask for you own tailor made version. Each programme starts with an in-depth consultation with a naturopath, who will put together a personalised schedule for you. Set programmes include:
Detox – the intro detox programme is 3-5 nights, the basic and comprehensive detox programmes are 7-14 nights. Each combines medical science, a detox menu and holistic therapies. The longer programmes include training sessions, colon hydrotherapy, herbal remedies and supplements.
Asian Bliss combines ayurveda, Chinese medicine and Thai therapies with yoga and exercise.
Relax & Renew, the least intensive programme, which offers holistic activities to de-stress, replenish energy levels and boost the immune system.
Emotional Balance is designed to help you through life changes and gives you tools to manage stress, emotionally-driven eating habits, work related difficulties, anxiety and grief.
Basic Balance & Revitalise which includes restorative and healing treatments, personal consultations with a naturopath plus advice on nutrition and anti-stress management to help you achieve a more balanced lifestyle.
Balance & Revitalise Comprehensive, a more intensive version of the above.
Ideal weight will identify areas of physical imbalance and related emotional or mental patterns, and guide you towards achieving and maintaining your optimal weight.
Optimal fitness – a personalised programme with private instruction and guidance from a Kamalaya fitness expert.
Sleep enhancement aims to re-establish healthy and restful sleep while addressing sleep issues through naturopathy, Chinese Medicine, massage therapy and mind-body balance.
Personal Yoga Synergy offers private one-to-one yoga sessions with customised instruction along with complementary treatments, including ayurvedic therapies.
More on the atmosphere: Kamalaya is a calm and peaceful place. You won’t find guests sitting around on their ipads or chatting on the phone as you are offered an hour’s wifi on arrival and after that encouraged to switch off. If you really need to, you can purchase extra time online but their little signs dotted around the place reminding you about the positive power of a digital detox are inspiring.
More on the bedrooms: These are contemporary, wooden-floored, calmly decorated villas, many with their own balcony and views of the sea and an outdoor shower-cum-bathroom. All the villas are spacious, and decorated with Asian textiles and carefully selected art pieces – book Kamalaya’s Beach Front Pool Villa to enjoy the expansive beach front balcony, sun decks and private pool.
Food & Drink: Kamalaya’s enterprising fusion meals are a delight, delicious yet still genuinely detoxifying. Home made smoothies and juices are always available, as well as treats such as honey scraped fresh from the comb. Cooking lessons are always on offer, and a happy afternoon class with chef Kai Mueller on our visit inspired us to cook creatively again once back home, something our stress levels hadn’t allowed in recent months. You can eat in one of two thatched restaurants, one water-side. In the main restaurant, there’s a table for solo travellers who want to be sociable, but you will feel just as comfy here dining alone.
If you are on one of the programmes their cleverly labelled menu options make sure that you are eating just what you need. The staff seem to know which programme you are on and help you choose the right meal. With tastebuds satisfied, it is easier to steer clear of alcohol, which is just as well, as it isn’t part of most of the programmes. Delicious detoxing teas are readily available too.
Fellow guests: People of all kinds in search of health and solace, including couples, mothers and son, and professional men and women on their own. Oliver Stone came here once to finish some writing – good choice Oliver.
What’s queenly: It’s an independently owned spa with a genuine feel-good factor and high quality health programmes. The elevated, open-air treatment rooms with sea views are so uplifting they made us want to weep. There’s a massive range of consistently good treatments, group retreats, holistic programmes and interesting ad hoc activities on offer from guitar concerts to sessions with Tibetan singing bowls. The staff are genuinely kind and compassionate and you feel well looked after by an expert team.
What’s lowly: If you are not on a pre-planned programme, timetabling treatments can be a headache – don’t book up too much in advance, so that you can go at your own pace and try any ad hoc activities that take your fancy. The beach is fairly small, and at low tide you have to wade pretty far out to have a proper swim. You will have to climb over a few boulders and ignore some tiresome local dogs to get to the neighbouring larger beach so you can have a long walk.
Costs: From THB 6,500 (about £120) per night for a person staying alone or THB 7,100 (about £130) per person sharing. A 7-night wellness package starts from THB 80,200 per person (about £1,483) based on two people sharing a Hillside room and includes transfers from Koh Samui airport, three meals per day, all programme treatments, therapies and classes and use of the resort’s facilities.
Reviewed by Caroline Sylger Jones
© Queen of Retreats