LINGER OVER LUNCH AT A HIDDEN GEM
- Travel to the top of a hillside for unbelievable views
- Experience classic Thai dishes
- Engage with locals and other savvy travelers
If you like your lunch with a side of adventure, then carve time out for the 45-minute ride to the Jungle Club. Be prepared for the hair-raising cutbacks that the cab will take on the way to this local hotspot hidden high on a hillside. The payoff—some of the island’s most Instagrammable views—is well worth the daring drive. Depart around 11 a.m. to beat the lunch rush and to claim a bamboo sofa or colorful beanbag with panoramic views overlooking the trendy Lamai and Chaweng neighborhoods. Order the crispy tempura shrimp and gang kiew wan gai (green curry with chicken), and sip an ice-cold draft beer or a fresh coconut juice as house music thumps in the background. Gather with the locals and other intrepid travelers hanging around at the bar.
The Jungle Club is a 40-minute drive from the hotel.
SAIL OFF TO A NEARBY ISLAND
- Commute to lunch on a picturesque longtail boat
- Feast on fresh seafood and sip cold Thai beer
- Snorkel around a coral reef that feels like yours alone
Nothing shouts “idyllic island life” quite like zipping across the waves to a private atoll for lunch. Your concierge can arrange for a speedboat or wooden longtail boat from Oceana Samui Charters to take you on the two-mile journey south to Koh Tan, known locally as Coral Island, for a leisurely meal at the pristine Coral Beach Restaurant. Take your seat—there’s not a bad one in the house—on the porch of this raised beach bungalow, have a chilly Singha beer, and order the coconut-crusted prawns, grilled fresh-caught grouper, and a satisfyingly simple platter of fried rice. From your table, you can gaze out at the reef, visible just beneath the cerulean sea, and upon the languid, meditative motions of fishermen casting lines. This island is too small for big boating groups, and blessedly free of crowds. After lunch, ask your captain to buzz over to Matsum Island, an even more deserted-seeming isle just east of Koh Tan. Here you can stroll the talcum-white beach or unpack your mask and snorkel and wade out from the sandy shore to swim with schools of colorful fish.
The hotel concierge can hire a speedboat or longtail boat with a driver to bring you to Koh Tan, about a 20-minute cruise from the hotel. A flat rate is set in advance, but a tip of 300 to 500 baht (about $9 to $15 USD) is a suitable thank-you for the driver.
GET A SPIRITUAL HIGH
- Visit a golden Buddha meditating high above the sea
- Cool off with the island’s best ice cream and sorbet
- Grab easy-to-pack souvenirs
Buddhism is central to Thai culture, and witnessing the devotion in action can be inspiring for even the most secular visitors. Get a closer look at Wat Phra Yai, the Big Buddha Temple built in 1972, that soars nearly 40-feet above the sea and is visible from the airplane window as you land in Samui. As with all temples in Thailand, shoes are removed at the entrance, so plan to arrive around 10 a.m. to avoid doing a fire dance for the locals as you tiptoe over hot concrete. Climb the steps to glimpse this gilded Buddha glistening in the sun, and observe the peaceful tradition of merit-making—the offering of fruit, flowers, drinks, or burning incense—from this mountainside temple. At the courtyard below, cool off with a scoop of creamy pina colada ice cream or guava sorbet (all sorbets are sugar-free) at Leonardo Ice Cream, home of Samui’s best homemade frozen treats. Bypass the vendors selling amulets and hand made soaps, and hit up the Blue Vanilla outpost—curry powder packets and coconut candies make for easy-to-pack souvenirs.
Hire a car for the hour-long trip to the Big Buddha Temple. Leonardo Ice Cream and Blue Vanilla are both at the base of the temple.
SAMPLE LOCAL MADE SPIRITS
- Tour a local rum distillery
- Dine on classic French dishes
- Raise a pint at the island’s only craft brewery
We’re not sure if it’s the high-proof potions or the flirty French bartenders that cast the deeper spell Magic Alambic Rum Distillery, but few can resist either. This French-owned outfit has been making rum for over a decade with locally grown sugar cane. Sample the natural white rum or one of the smooth dark rums infused with tropical flavors such as coconut, lemon, pineapple, or orange. Take a 10-minute self-guided tour of the property to learn about sugarcane harvesting and the 40-day distillation process. Balance your cocktails with a bite to eat at the on-site restaurant. The French chef turns out small plates along with heartier traditional Thai and Gallic dishes (boeuf bourguignon is a staple). Buy a bottle of your favorite rum on the way out and hop in a taxi for the 25-minute ride to the second stop: Bee’s Knees Brewpub. Here, local Singha and Leo lagers are swapped out for the island’s only locally-brewed craft beers on tap. Tasting flights include favorites like the Wheaty Bee, a pale malt beer brewed from German and Australian wheat, and Black Bee, an English-style porter made with chocolate malt. Choose your poison and enjoy a frothy pint al fresco.
Take a 15-minute cab ride from the hotel to Magic Alambic Distillery. Bee’s Knees Brewpub is another 25 minutes from there.