Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary, Koh Samui, Thailand
Serene and soulful holistic spa for all your wellbeing needs
Best for: Solo travellers seeking genuine guidance and solace
Not for: A family spa getaway
Takes up to 100 guests
Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary is a privately-owned and elegantly natural holistic spa retreat set on a lush tropical hillside at the quiet end of Koh Samui. A fairy tale ravine strewn with granite boulders and tropical plants, it slopes down to a private, chalky-blue lagoon and has a hilltop spa with elevated, open-air treatment rooms and serene ocean views. Book a wellbeing programme for relaxation, stress management, detoxing, fitness, weight loss or emotional balance. Rooms are serene and uncluttered, the Thai staff gentle and genuinely compassionate. Come for deep rest and real change.
This independently owned holistic spa has a genuine feel-good factor and top quality health and wellbeing programmes and interesting workshops that attend to your mind body and soul. The elevated, open-air treatment rooms with sea views are so uplifting they made us want to weep. The staff are genuinely kind and compassionate and you feel well looked after by an expert team.
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.
Read our expert review
Caroline Sylger Jones and her husband Tom review this exceptional holistic spa in Thailand and find themselves reenergised with bonkers yoga, dawn walks and backgammon
Select a wellness programme devoted to relaxation, stress management and burnout, detoxing, fitness, sleep enhancement, weight management or emotional balance to ease you back to wholeness, or create your own bespoke experience in consultation with a naturopath, who will guide and support you through the most appropriate mix of therapies, treatments and activities.
The combination of nurturing therapies, good nutrition and personal guidance in Kamalaya’s nature-rich healing environment is a great way to rest, boost your immune system and reignite your passion for life, and Kamalaya’s therapists and staff know how to help you truly relax.
You can come here to do absolutely nothing, but we recommend booking onto the Relax and Renew programme, the gentlest of Kamalaya’s Stress & Burnout Management programmes which uses healing treatments (such as head, foot and body massage) to achieve relaxation and renew energy.
More on the ‘pampering side’ of the spa experience, this programme offers holistic activities designed for people who need to step back from their life, recover balance, really relax, and find energy again.
Kamalaya is expert at helping you manage your stress levels. If you have sleep issues, the Sleep Enhancement programme aims to re-establish healthy and restful sleep while addressing sleep issues through naturopathy, Chinese Medicine, massage therapy and mind-body balance.
If you’re depleted, anxious or overwhelmed, go for the Asian Bliss programme, which draws on the Asian healing traditions of Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine and Thailand to support the nervous system and restore emotional and psychological balance. It also includes gentle yoga and exercise.
If you’re suffering from chronic stress, go for the more intensive Balance and Revitalise programme, which combines eastern and western medicine and takes a long-term approach to stress management through nutrition and lifestyle changes alongside stress release therapies and deeper therapeutic treatments.
There are two tiers of the Balance and Revitalise programme to choose from – Basic and Comprehensive. On both you’ll have 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. The Comprehensive version includes deeper support through the use of herbal remedies and supplements.
To help you regain your emotional balance and work out which way you want to go next in life, Kamalaya has a team of Life Enhancement Mentors. Rajesh Ramani, Smitha Jayakumar and Sujay Seshadri have all have lived a monastic life for over a decade in India, and can guide you into awareness of your habits and teach you how to let go of past experiences, manage stress, or deal with anxiety and grief.
Kamalaya’s 5 or 7 night Embracing Change programmes are an opportunity to work closely with them. Focusing on emotional balance, they will help you rediscover and reconnect with yourself during your time at Kamalaya and as an ongoing process back at home, as they include tools to use back in your daily life. Sessions with the mentors are also part of programmes such as Asian Bliss and Balance and Revitalise, and can be booked independently if you are staying here on an a la carte basis.
Kamalaya makes a perfect place to cleanse, and there are three levels of detoxing you can do here. The intro to detox programme is three to five nights, and the basic and comprehensive detox programmes are either a week or a fortnight. Each combines medical science, a dedicated detox menu and holistic therapies such as use of a far infrared sauna and Chi-Nei-Tsang (Taoist abdominal massage). The longer programmes include colon hydrotherapy, reiki, herbal remedies and supplements too.
This is also a perfect place for a digital detox. 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 to use the wifi in your rooms (there is no wifi in common areas), but Kamalaya’s little signs dotted around the place reminding you about the positive power of a digital detox are inspiring.
There are fitness group classes you can drop in and out of daily here, including Aqua Fitness, Fitball, Abs/Buttocks/Thighs, STS Suspension Training, 360 Circuit Training and Stretching. Classes take place in the state-of-the art Shakti Fitness Centre or the smaller Padma studio, and a morning beach walk is also available. You can also book private Pilates, super stretching and personal training sessions.
For a more intensive experience, book a personalised Basic Optimal Fitness programme, which includes private instruction and guidance from a Kamalaya fitness expert.
Exercise bunnies who want to train more but also try out relaxation techniques and stretching and get advice on a healthy lifestyle should go for the Comprehensive Optimal Fitness Programme, which includes fitness training, yoga and nutritional guidance, and emotional and mental support, complemented by a selection of therapeutic wellness treatments.
If you want to lose weight, the Ideal Weight programme helps you identify areas of physical imbalance and related emotional or mental patterns, and receive expert guidance towards achieving and maintaining your optimal weight.
Yoga classes run daily at Kamalaya and are available for you to drop in and out of – resident teachers offer a range of styles including Hatha, Gentle, Vinyasa, Yin, Restorative and Iyengar. For something totally yoga-focused, choose a Personal Yoga Synergy programme, which includes private one-to-one yoga sessions with customised instruction along with complementary treatments, including ayurvedic therapies. There are also date-specific group yoga retreats guided by renowned ‘Yin & Yang Yoga’ teacher Simon Low.
These small (up to 12 people) results-oriented group retreats give you time to explore particular areas of interest in greater depth and to benefit from the support network of like-minded individuals. They run on set dates throughout the year.
Upcoming Life Enhancement Retreats include explorations of emotional wellbeing with Kamalaya’s Life Enhancement Mentors and self-discovery retreats with Kamalaya co-founder Karina Stewart, Master of Traditional Chinese Medicine and a maven in the field of health and wellbeing. There are also date-specific group yoga retreats guided by renowned ‘Yin & Yang Yoga’ teacher Simon Low.
Whichever programme you choose, there’s a soothing leisure pool, 25 metre lap pool, two steam caverns and delightful plunge pools built into the rocks with views out to sea for you to use, plus every conceivable complementary therapy and pampering treatment on offer.
As well as a huge range of massages and spa rituals, these include over 70 treatments incorporating holistic medicine and complementary therapies from eastern and western traditions, such as ayurveda, naturopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine and other holistic therapies.
Everything is delivered by over 70 certified wellness professionals from naturopaths, doctors of Chinese medicine and western medical doctors to registered nurses, nutritionists, life transformation experts and ayurvedic and Thai therapists. You’ll also have access to a range of visiting health practitioners.
You don’t have to come alone here. Though guests are mainly professionals travelling solo, you’ll also find mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, couples and friends mixing and mingling. The ratio is 60% female, 40% male. Hair dryer, slippers and bath robes are all provided so no need to bring them.
When to Go
There’s a pleasant tropical warmth at Kamalaya all year round. The busiest season is December to April, and quieter months are May to July. April and May are the hotter months, when it gets very humid.
The rainy season for Koh Samui is from late October to December – it’s still a beautiful time to visit as it’s not so hot, the surroundings are lush and green and there are still sunny days. Christmas and New Year is the peak season, so make sure you book well in advance.
At Kamalaya you eat in one of two thatched restaurants, the water-side Amrita Café (for lunch) and Soma, the main restaurant, for all meals. Here there’s a community table for solo travellers who want to be sociable, but you will feel just as comfy here dining alone if you choose.
The enterprising fusion meals are a delight – delicious yet still genuinely healthy. A fusion of Eastern and Western culinary traditions, the menus include extensive vegetarian options as well as fresh seafood, poultry and lamb dishes.
If you are on one of the wellbeing programmes, cleverly labelled menu options make sure that you are eating just what you need, and the staff seem to know which programme you are on and help you choose. There are separate menus for those on Detox or Ideal Weight programmes.
Favourite items include Mung Bean Risotto, Banana Flower salad, Spicy Gotu Kola salad, their own raw chocolate cake and their signature detox juice made from fresh coconut water, pineapple juice and sweet thai basil. Cooking lessons are always on offer, but you can make them all at home using recipes available online.
There are fresh coconut or fruit sorbets as desserts, home made smoothies and juices, and treats such as honey scraped fresh from the comb. With tastebuds satisfied, it is easier to steer clear of alcohol, which is just as well, as it’s imported and it isn’t cheap. Delicious healthy teas are readily available too.
Kamalaya has a dedicated Green Committee and continually strives to improve its sustainability credentials. It employ staffs who share its values and treats them well, fostering an environment of care, trust, respect, fairness and teamwork. Staff help out with green projects on the Koh Samui and do a monthly beach or area cleaning, and as many resources as possible are re-used and recycled. Food waste is composted for the gardens, waste water is processed and used for gardening, and the kitchens use energy efficient chillers. Food is sourced organically and locally wherever possible.
The retreat also uses biodegradable straws and lunch boxes, natural cleaning products, environmentally friendly mosquito spray and coils, and has no plastic bottles on site – guests are provided with re-usable flasks instead, though you do get plastic water bottles for airport transfers.
Only indigenous wood (rather than teak) was used for buildings. Bedrooms, open air massage rooms and yoga pavilions are built to enhance natural air flow, and mosquito nets are fitted to allow air flow and outdoor living. Garden and pool lighting is kept to a minimum. Saunas run by appointment only and are switched off at other times. The superior suites have solar-powered heaters, while all bedrooms use Airconsaver, a micro compressor air-condition device able to reduce energy consumption for cooling by an average of 20%.
Near Laem Set beach, Koh Samui
Transfer Time: 45 minutes by road from the airport or 4/5 hours from the train station