Zazen Boutique Resort Spa

Bo Phut, Koh Samui, Thailand Book from

Stylish bungalows, warm seas, a heavenly spa and delicious food: this 26-room resort is a mecca for rest'n'romance
The beach is very narrow, but that seems to be the only downside of Zazen Boutique Resort Spa on the north coast of Koh Samui. Sitting at one end of Bo Phut, it’s a quiet and intimate place to escape with a partner, and it prides itself on its restorative qualities ('zazen' is a meditative pose). There’s a spa with a very long treatment list, a romantic restaurant serving Thai fusion cuisine, and you can idle away the days supping cocktails on the sand. But that’s just the start.

The 26 bungalows are gloriously decadent with enormous beds, Moroccan-style lounges and open-air bathrooms. Scattered through exotic gardens and coconut groves, their terracotta walls blend with the bird of paradise flowers, and the Garden Villas' glass doors give onto private terraces. Active types can go diving and snorkelling, ride on an elephant, swing through the rainforest canopy or sail out into the blue for deep-sea fishing. So if you’re wound up, wiped out or in need of something wonderful, treat yourself to a week here.

Highs

  • Really easy to get to; just 15km from Koh Samui airport, and a 5-minute taxi ride (or 15-minute beach walk) from Fisherman’s Village
  • Excellent service: staff get to know you by name, chilled face towels are handed out on the beach, and the famous Thai smiles are abundant and genuine
  • Luxuriously furnished suites with all mod cons, from iPod stations to lovely silk dressing gowns
  • Award-winning restaurant serving exotic Thai fare alongside fine French cuisine - probably the island's best dining
  • The spa treatments are superb - our Thai massage was the best of a dozen we tested in southern Thailand

Lows

  • The beach is pretty tiny, as you will have gathered (sunloungers are limited), and the sea water can get murky
  • The Deluxe Bungalows are only a few metres from each other - opt for a Garden Villa if you can
  • Food and spa treatments aren't cheap, but they're heavenly
  • The open-air bathrooms mean that mozzies are often a problem (no nets, though repellents are provided)
  • Bo Phut is fairly developed, but Zazen is at the quiet end of the beach; there are still hawkers present, though

Best time to go

Koh Samui can be affected by the northeast monsoon from October to December, with the worst of the rains coming in November. Travel to/from the island can be difficult during these months. January to April is high season, with hot and humid days; May through September are cooler, with pleasant breezes spilling over from the southwest monsoon during July-September.

Our top tips

It's worth picking up one of the free SIM cards handed out on arrival at Koh Samui and other Thai airports - especially if you intend to make local calls.

Great for...

Beach
Family
Foodie
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Beach Resort & Spa
  • 26 Villas
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Pool Table
Room:

Rooms

The 26 bungalow rooms feel like a traditional Thai home housed within adobe walls reminiscent of Mexico. All are similar in size and layout, but prices vary to match location. Wide glass doors open into an airy space with parquet floors, a raised bed platform and silk blinds over the windows. Each comes equipped with a flat-screen TV, iPod docking station, A/C and powerful fans, DVD player and WiFi, as well as a whole host of less technological but useful touches: gorgeous silk dressing gowns and slippers, kettle, socket adaptors, mozzie repellent, plenty of complimentary bottled water. Towels are fashioned into elephant shapes, beds strewn with orchid petals every night.

The décor is modern meets traditional, with hand-carved wood or leather furniture and decorative Asian art, including an antique Thai puppet and a funky driftwood sculpture in our room. Photographs of Thailand dot the walls and cushions are scattered on the lounge floor and sofa for cosy relaxation, Moroccan style.

Bathrooms are open air, with pebbled floors, plants, large mirrors and a rainfall shower. The walls are high so there’s no fear factor, but if we're being picky, the shower pressure and temperature did fluctuate, and the toiletries were not the most lavish.

We'd opt for a Garden Villa: they're tucked away at the back of the plot (so furthest from the beach) but look out onto leafy gardens, with a secluded sitout at the front - great for al fresco room-service lunches or shady reading. Their split-level interior is larger, with 2 single daybeds perfect for 1-2 kids. The Garden Deluxe and Beachfront Deluxe Bungalows are closely grouped together near the front of the resort, so you're nearer to the beach but also to each other; they're also smaller inside. We didn't feel the hefty premium of the Beachfront Deluxe was warranted by its position, especially since the beach can get crowded.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • WiFi

Eating

The food at Zazen Restaurant is superb and the restaurant deserves its great reputation on Koh Samui. Set a few paces from the water, with open sides and great sea views, it offers a choice of upscale Thai food and gourmet French-influenced cuisine - both as good as each other. Our gaeng phed ped yang (red curry with roasted duck and coconut) and the beef massaman were both superb: rich, flavoursome and not too spicy for western palates. Fishy options include tiger prawns in tamarind sauce and stir-fried scallops with green asparagus; or you can go international with beef tenderloin, tuna steak a la plancha or (dare we say it) a phenomenally good burger.

If you really want to push the boat out, a discreet "Chef's Table" upstairs in the Le Salon De Ti offers degustation menus (5-7 courses) to a maximum of 12 guests. Head chef Cyrille Keyser - French but fast becoming local (his wife is Thai) - creates truly innovative dishes and presents them with flair. One menu is tea-themed, another offers snowfish in white wine and vanilla sauce, and all are paired with tipples from Samui's huge wine cellar.

Breakfast (included and served in Zazen Restaurant) is a delightful buffet, with exotic fruits (think pomelo, dragonfruit and rambutan), fresh juices, cereals, homemade pastries, fluffy banana pancakes, excellent eggs Benedict and just-brewed coffee.

Throughout the day staff can bring you tapas and cocktails as you lie by the pool - such as chicken and coriander corn fritters, sesame and soy beef skewers and king crab cakes with dill tzatsiki. Alternatively the restaurant serves lunch or you can have meals delivered to your private terrace. There's also afternoon tea at Le Salon De Ti with a huge range of varietals, plus cakes and fruit. In the evenings the emphasis is high on romance, with 100 candles lighting the restaurant, jazz on the stereo and the sound of waves in the background. Enjoy a pre- or post-dinner drink at beach-front Le Rouge Lounge; they have a huge range of wines and cocktails to try out.

If you want to eat out one night, you can wander along the beach to Bo Phut Fishermen's Village (15-20 minutes) which teems with eateries of all flags, from traditional Thai to pizzerias and teppinyaki. Don't expect great quality though; our dinner at Starfish - recommended by hotel staff - was distinctly average and (like most in the village) overpriced, and after that we happily stuck to Zazen.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Work your way through the menu at Le Spa Zen. We enjoyed a blissful aromatherapy massage for 2 in a curtained, over-water sala from therapists who really know their meridians (though their English is only skin deep); and the 90-minute Thai massage was the best we had in a month travelling through Thailand. Other exotic treatments include the 'Sunset Kiss Ritual Massage' (to repair the damaging effects of sun and sea through drainage and hydration massage), a 'Jet Lag and Revitalising Body Wrap', or the 'Elixir Body Glow' (which protects the skin against free radicals to help you live longer!)
  • Wander along the narrow sandy beach, passing massage shacks and barefoot bars, to the "original fishermen's village" of Bo Phut, which still has its pier and street stalls (now selling disappointingly touristy tat)
  • The hotel has a relationship with a local dive school which has a high speed boat and max group size of 10; the legendary Sail Rock, Koh Tao and Ang Thong are all feasible as day trips; non-divers are welcome to come along for fabulous snorkelling
  • Go deep-sea fishing for barracuda, white snapper and shark or spend the afternoon windsurfing from the beach
  • Learn to cook Thai food - English-speaking staff will help you create 3 delicious meals and teach you to cut fruit and veg the traditional way. Conjure your carrots into lotus flowers, then eat the lunch you’ve just made
  • Head to the Samui rainforest and fly across the canopy at tree-top level, on cables. It’s a fab way to get a bird’s eye view of the jungle and see monkeys up close (plus you can let out a few Tarzan yells just for the heck of it)
  • Take a sailing trip to Ang Thong archipelago, a natural park of small islands, clear lagoons and exotic rock formations, which was the inspiration for Alex Garland's The Beach
  • Have a restorative yoga lesson. You can either join a class, have a one-to-one with a teacher or book in for a course and learn how to down-dog with the best of them
  • Take an organised tour of the island and see waterfalls, the erotic rock formations of Hin Ta and Hin Yai and the famous Big Buddha statue. You’ll also visit a coconut plantation to watch monkeys shimmy up the trees to pick you a nut, and go shopping in Nathon (knock-off Gucci, anyone?)
  • Go quadbiking, rent a motorbike to explore, have a game of golf or take a speedboat around the island - the hotel can arrange a whole host of other activities

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cooking classes
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Nightlife
  • Pool table
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Scuba diving courses
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Wildlife
  • Windsurfing
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are welcome but the setting is quite romantic and attracts couples in search of R&R, so you might feel self-conscious if you have hyper kids!

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

We'd recommend staying in a Garden Villa, which can accommodate 2 children comfortably on its sofabed, as well as fitting a cot. Numbers 28 and 29 are the most secluded. Otherwise the Beachfront Deluxe and Garden Deluxe Bungalows can each have an extra bed and a baby cot. Cots can be provided on request and are free of charge. The cost for extra beds varies depending on the age of the children.

Babysitting:

Babysitting can be arranged.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kids Activities on site:

There's a small children's pool.

Families Should Know:

The resort offers a medical service and there's an on-call doctor.

Kid Friendly:

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