In an age of traveling millennials with endless new demands, it’s quite impressive that a traditional Thai hospitality brand is able to tap into its market so seamlessly. The Centara Reserve Samui marks the debut of Centara Hotels and Resorts’ first high-end luxury reserve category, and does so in a subtle yet familiar way that’s refreshingly exciting, and coincidentally or not, truly Instagrammable. Here’s how.
We weren’t surprised to find many Thai families staying at Centara Reserve Samui. After all, Centara has been a well-known and well-loved Thai hotel brand for years. However, it’s interesting to see how the Reserve category translated and somewhat teleported Centara into a new era. Sleek design and architecture (by famed AvroKO, no less), a selection of inspired restaurants, and plenty of scenic landscapes make for a memorable vacation here. Rare, refined and truly a novelty for the brand, we signed up for a few days this month. Here are our thoughts.
[All images courtesy of Centara Reserve Samui]
Check-in: The Centara Reserve Samui
Centara Reserve Samui is located at the quiet end of Chaweng, arguably Samui’s finest beach and nightlife district. It’s hard to find a luxury resort in Samui that can beat this location, balancing both tranquility and entertainment – and very close (about 15 minutes) to the airport on top of that.
Pre-renovation and reimagining, Centara Reserve was known as Centara Grand Beach Resort Samui. Those who have stayed at this resort before can recognize a few things if they think about it carefully, though in essence the property has undergone a wild and wonderful transformation.
Colonial design elements are greeted with a contemporary twist and a sense of modernity persists throughout. From the moment you log into the property, the urge to pull out your phone is crazy. Tall palm trees, the sprawling white sand beach, winding staircases, a beach club atmosphere, lush gardens and pavilions give an awe-inspiring sense of arrival, especially when the sun is shining.
184 rooms, pool suites and beachfront pool villas make up the Centara Reserve Samui. During our stay, we called the Reserve Pool Suite our home for two nights.
The open-plan bedroom has a small outdoor plunge pool and a day bed, as well as light and bright interiors. There’s a free mini-bar stocked with snacks, and as a central highlight, a free liquor bar, too. Rum, whiskey and gin are available for guests to concoct their own cocktails during their stay, with the help of a cocktail shaker, jigger, bar spoon and strainer in the room, like a professional.
Further in the bedroom, next to the bed, there is a sleep therapy clock that helps restless snoozers fall asleep in peace, as well as a special button on the phone. Labeled “Surprise of the day”, customers are encouraged to press this button and receive a mini treat delivered to the room. The button can only be used once a day, and somehow makes you want to stay more days and experience more surprises.
Small perks and quirks like this are a small but meaningful new milestone for Centara, and fun for customers to discover too. There’s an overall sense that aesthetics have been a top priority in the design of this resort and its experience, and it’s charmingly executed.
Dining at Centara Reserve Samui follows a similar ethos: beautifully designed spaces host creative menus with something to ‘gramm up before you swallow.
The star of the show is undeniably Act 5, a modern international gourmet restaurant, where every dish is accompanied by a certain theatrical flair. Think of your steak bursting into edible paper flames, the smoke coming out of your oysters, and cheeky desserts that look like flowerpots, lava bombs, or even dish sponges. Meanwhile, in Sa-Nga, the small contemporary space allows diners to enjoy new-age Thai tapas with authentic local flavors in a relaxed setting. We loved that you could sit at the bar counter and explore dishes like tom yum cappuccinos, pumpkin curries and crying tiger beef to grill yourself.
At Salt Society, you’ll find the cool kids on Sunday brunch or enjoying fresh seafood dishes during the week. Here, the cocktails are to be seen, such as the glass in the shape of a puffer fish or the sangria freshly prepared at the table. At The Terrace, international cuisine can be enjoyed throughout the day, as well as the buffet breakfast in the morning. The latter offers an interesting selection both on the line and a la carte, including mini grain croissants, gluten-free bakery options, and Asian and Western favourites. Finally, at The Gin Run, patrons who enjoy a good drink can unwind with over 35 handcrafted gin concoctions and sample some interesting infused gins that have been flavored with wasabi, rosemary and roses, to name a few. only a few.
Experiences and facilities
The heart of the Centara Reserve Samui experience definitely lies in the outdoors. From small pool access rooms to a large central pool and children’s wet play area, there are plenty of options for snorkeling and diving. We particularly liked the very photogenic infinity pool reserved for adults, which stands like a sort of transparent cube in front of the beach.
Beyond the waters, there’s also a fitness center, yoga pavilion, event rooms, meeting spaces, and the Reserve Spa. The latter has 7 treatment rooms and a spa herb garden, from which herbs and spices are picked and picked for use in treatments and throughout the resort.
This latter practice underpins another very important element of the Centara Samui Reserve: sustainability. Nowhere in the resort did we find much use of unnecessary plastic or paper; even the resort’s kayaks are wooden. No signage in the rooms is marked with paper and there is no plastic enclosing in-room amenities. The station details can be found on a Smart TV, and while slightly unsettling at first, it sheds light on how times and priorities have evolved, and Centara has evolved with them.
It’s hard to compete with the existing luxury properties in Samui, as there are already a plethora of private villas, private butlers and popular gourmet restaurants. What’s smart about Centara Reserve’s approach is that it feels targeted to its loyal fanbase, but also the rise of savvy millennials. “Grammability, sustainability and a smart focus on unique dining experiences give Centara Reserve Samui a distinct edge for contemporary demands.
While Thai heritage and Thai hospitality are still at the heart of the guest experience, it is exciting to see Centara begin a new chapter for a new audience with the Centara Samui Reserve – a story that can be enjoyed both by the family with the children, and the couple with Kir Royales at brunch.
Centara Reserve Samui, 38/2 Moo 3, Bophut Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui; +66 77 230 500.