x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Bring your dancing shoes to Koh Samui's coolest party zone

Hotel Insider At the new W Retreat in Thailand, Michelle Jana Chan revels in a departure from the backpacker scene.

The Wow Ocean Haven with swimming pool in the W Retreat Koh Samui. Courtesy Starwood Hotels & Resorts
The Wow Ocean Haven with swimming pool in the W Retreat Koh Samui. Courtesy Starwood Hotels & Resorts

The welcome

A shimmering, oversized "W" greets guests in the forecourt, followed by interactive digital floor projections that follow your feet as you walk towards the lobby. And what a lobby. A striking open space with circular seating sunk into the infinity pool and a library of fashion and design coffee-table books. The pool seems to merge into the sea, with killer views across to Koh Phangan.

The neighbourhood

The secluded north coast close to Bophut, the island's most charming area, with Chinese shopfront architecture, cute cafes and stylish boutiques. At least on one night, head to the spanking new restaurant 9 Gems, which serves up a storm of drinks and bite-sized Thai treats.

The service

Whatever/Whenever is the concierge ethos of W hotels, pledging they can organise anything from DJ lessons to midnight squid-fishing. But some staff seemed more caught up in acting cool than being attentive. On the beach, nobody was to be found for several hours, yet up at the infinity pool the boys could not have been sharper, armed with fresh towels and bottles of cold water. A special nod goes to the sweet staff at the vast Away Spa, which offers an array of massages, facials, manicures and pedicures, as well as Thaimazcal treatments based on Mexican tribal rituals but using local ingredients. There is a tennis court, a 24-hour fitness facility and a juice bar.

The room

The villas up on the hillside - roughly half of the 73 in total - have mesmerising sea views but some guests might want to call a golf buggy to be shuttled around the property. The other villas, perpendicular to the seashore, have good access to the beach but only the few at the end have sea views. I loved the private courtyards with their daybeds, loungers and decent sized pools. Rooms are trendy and slick - this is the W, after all - but I felt they sometimes bordered on the over-designed, with multiple textures and knick-knacks. Yet there were thoughtful details: Munchie Boxes, Bliss products, a snazzy mini kaleidoscope - and a squidgy teddy bear for solo travellers. Note that the W's 75 villas became 73 recently when two were demolished for safety reasons (after heavy storms and concerns over landslides). On the drawing board are the Residences, which will feature 17 secluded beachfront villas with three to five bedrooms at the retreat.

The scene

The hotel's dazzle is already pulling in model shoots and DJ gigs with its bright white decor, fluoro niches and Michaelangelo L'Acqua's ubiquitous mixes playing all over the property. You should come here to party although it seems not every guest knows that yet: there was a surprisingly large number of couples during my stay who did not want to join in the fun.

The food

Start the evening with a few passionfruit-flavoured drinks at Sip, the beach bar. After sunset, order the seabream carpaccio (450 Thai baht; Dh55) at Namu, the Japanese/Korean-inspired restaurant where chefs work in an open kitchen, although it's a shame there is nowhere outdoors to sit under the stars. The Kitchen Table serves an extravagant brunch, including gourmet fry-ups, freshly baked pastries, creamy quiches and home-made yogurts.

Loved

The self-service fridges called "sweet spots" that are scattered around the property and filled with freebie Cornettos, tiny tubs of Häagen-Dazs ice-cream and sodas.

Hated

The public access road cutting through the resort does dent the sense of seclusion. The beach is nice enough to look at, with its sweeping curve of sand and stunning views, but swimmers will find squelchy sand and a murky sea. Drinks service is limited to the bar area and isn't available at the beach loungers.

The verdict

Finally, somewhere on this gap-year island bolt-hole that is smart and decidedly adult. A party vibe runs through the hotel so make sure you bring your dancing shoes. Backpackers-turned-flashpackers, this is your No 1 choice in Thailand.

The bottom line

Stays cost from 20,179 baht (Dh2,483) per room, per night, including breakfast and taxes. W Retreat Koh Samui, 4/1 Moo 1 Tambol Maenam, Surat Thani, Koh Samui, Thailand  (www.whotels.com/kohsamui; 00 353 21 4930 491).