Absolute Sanctuary, Thailand
Well-curated affordable wellness retreats with gracious, well trained staff
All types of guests looking for a rest and health reboot, from the solo traveller to couples to small groups of friends.
Those in need of total luxury. Rooms are immaculate and comfortable rather than luxurious.
Set into a small hillside on Thailand’s Koh Samui, Absolute Sanctuary is a popular, value-for-money wellness resort with a good mix of active, restorative and detox packages to please a variety of tastes and levels of fitness. Programmes are effective, the atmosphere unpretentious, and guests aren’t pressured to follow a regimented schedule. You can expect a high standard of pilates, yoga and fitness classes taught by brilliantly trained staff, as well as nutritious food, daily swoon-inducing massages and gracious Thai hospitality.
This is a good value retreat, true to its offer, with a relaxed and inclusive atmosphere and a friendly and consistently good team. If you are not on a detox, food is plentiful with an extensive superfood Thai based menu to whet all appetites.
The resort is not on the beach, though Chaweng and Choeng Mon beaches are within easy reach by shuttle which departs twice daily. Cheong Beach is walkable in 10-15 minutes down a fairly quiet road.
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Choose from 3, 5, 7 or 10 day packages devoted to yoga, fitness, destress, Pilates, detox and spa, or book a 30 or 60 day programme for total lifestyle change. Programmes are flexible and can be modified to suit your needs. During free time you can do laps in the 20 metre infinity pool, indulge in massages and facials, or visit attractions nearby. There are cooking classes and workshops also on offer.
Group yoga retreats led by visiting teachers are held throughout the year, or you can choose to join Absolute’s yoga programme, choosing from 5, 7 and 10 day packages. With 4-5 regular yoga classes daily, you can add on more classes irrespective of the programme you’re on. Whether you are a new to yoga, or advanced, classes will deepen your practice and programmes include daily massages, refreshing juices and nutritious food. All types of yoga are on offer – from hot to restorative, detox-friendly to ashtanga, dynamic to yin, in two large yoga studios with mats, towels and equipment provided. Meditation and pranayama precedes some classes too.
Choose a Be Fit programme for 5, 7 or 10 days if you want to improve or kick-start your fitness routine. Personalised sessions with the very knowledgeable and effervescent resident trainer consist of weights, cardio, flexibility and core strength exercises. One-to-one sessions are balanced with a Pilates Reformer class, unlimited yoga classes and massages.
The Anti Stress programme for 5, 7 or 10 days is designed to rebalance the mind, body and spirit through relaxing and healing spa treatments, nourishing foods and supportive emotional therapies.
For beginners or aficionados alike, this programme includes an individual consultation class to determine your level, and two group reformer classes daily. You’ll also have signature offerings such as a wellness consultation, massages to release tense muscles and unlimited group fitness classes.
You can choose from 3, 5 and 7 day spa packages devoted to treatments and pampering, which include grounding yoga classes, nourishing cuisine and healing Thai foot, head and body massage therapies. Sessions are held in the private spa rooms or the Thai massage sala.
Whichever programme you’re on, you’ll have treatments and can book more if you so choose. The highly experienced, mostly Thai therapists are trained in the Absolute signature style, with customary ceremonies of herbal tea and cold face towels before and after treatments. Pevonia facials, manicures and pedicures, as well as scrubs and wraps are also on offer. You can also book specialists for more esoteric treatments such as EFT, crystal healing, astrology and dream analysis.
Detox programmes can be changed to suit your needs, and last for 3, 5 or 7 days. Ultimate Detox is a full fasting programme, while other programmes include two cleansing meals a day as well as daily manual lymphatic drainage massages and colon hydrotherapy sessions (or every other day for beginners).
Colonic hydrotherapy is done on proper colonic beds, with a trained nurse who closely monitors water temperature and flow, and administers a gentle abdominal massage to encourage the abdomen to release, if you would like.
You’ll also have a Bio Impedance Analysis, two or four detox drinks per day, two ‘Good Green Stuff’ shots per day, two detox meals a day (if you are not fasting), two liver flush drinks and a daily coconut juice. There’s unlimited broth soups, group fitness and yoga classes and meditation sessions and you’ll have a final consultation with guidelines to take home.
For those with the time and desire to overhaul their lives, there are also 30 or 60-day Lifestyle Change programmes. The longer stay is an extension of other programmes and includes lifestyle coaching to help you identify specific goals and reach them.
Bedrooms: There are 38 comfortable bedrooms across five buildings to suit varying budgets. The Deluxe Rooms in the highest building are a bit more spacious than others and have distant views out to the Gulf of Thailand – they are worth the climb up the stairs. All rooms are clean and comfortable, though the Moroccan décor feels a little bit dated in places. Thai toiletries (hair shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and body moisturiser) as well as hair dryer, beach bag, bathrobe, yoga mat are provided in room.
Other spaces to be: You can also find a quiet spot in the outdoor tent area in the garden or in the community lounge area at the corner of The Love Kitchen.
If flying international and connecting through Bangkok airport allow two hours for a comfortable transit. For those who find eating two servings at once, too much, you can ask to take one meal away in a doggy bag for later. Absolute Sanctuary is part of the well respected Absolute You group which also operates 14 fitness studios, and Fit Food a healthy food delivery service – so if you’re in Thailand for longer, you might want to check them out.
When to Go
Koh Samui has beautiful weather all year round. The hot season is March and April with an average daily temperature of 32.
The ‘cold’ season runs from November to January and you may get rain, sometimes quite heavy, but even then temperatures hover only just below 30, so you are pretty much guaranteed good weather throughout the year. The Sanctuary is busiest when there are yoga teacher training groups doing courses, but these are advertised in advance and it won’t feel overcrowded even when full.
Detoxers tend to enjoy their juices by the pool, and there are flasks of broth or herbal tea, available at all times. For others, meals are served in the Love Kitchen dining room, or outdoors on the small verandah. The fit out is heavy with dark furniture, but the friendly, casual atmosphere makes up for the lack of buzz.
Meals are truly heathy, use superfoods, grains, hormone-free meats and ocean-caught fish, and are designed to be nutritious without an excess of calories. Each meal consists of two courses and a freshly made juice or teas to choose from.
The menu is extensive and might consist of fresh fruit and hot cakes with coconut yoghurt for breakfast; Thai glass noodle salad followed by steamed fish in banana leaf or vegetarian red curry for lunch; then a soup and a piece of grilled fish or chicken with veggies for supper. Naturally sweetened healthy desserts such as double-dark chocolate cake and coconut panacotta are on the menu as an option for the second course or if you want to up the two courses to three. There is no alcohol, but coffee, fresh juices, and teas can be ordered.
Absolute Sanctuary employs local staff and aims to source as much of its food as locally as possible. Towels can be reused to save water. There are quarterly beach clean-up days which guests can join, and recycled glass bottles for water in the bedrooms, which can be re-filled at various water points throughout the resort.
88 Moo.5, Cheongmon, Tambol Bophut, Amphur Koh Samui, Suratthani 84320, Thailand
Airport: Koh Samui
Transfer time: 5 mins