Baan Hinta is located three kilometres south of the busy tourist town of Lamai. The closest restaurant is Mango Village, directly next door, which delivers freshly cooked Italian dishes to the villa. If you turn left onto the road you soon reach Sabinglae, one of the island’s best-known local seafood restaurants, while Rocky’s, renowned for its fine international cuisine is only slightly further along in the same direction. The much visited Hin Ta and Hin Yai (grandfather and grandmother) rocks are a short drive away from the villa, as are many of the islands tourist attractions including elephant trekking, temples and a whole range of spa and wellness options including yoga and Thai massage.
Lamai is Samui's second busiest beach and tourist town and even though it’s shorter than Chaweng, it rarely feels crowded. Lamai Beach is a relaxed place to visit, with laid-back resorts and beachside restaurants lining the shore. The water is deep enough for swimming all year round and this area is also the chosen location for several spas and health resorts. Lamai has a very peaceful feel during the day, but at night the town becomes morelively with shoppers, diners and revellers enjoying a night out in one of the many bars and clubs. There's also a sleazy side, but that's easy to avoid as it's centred around the bars right in the middle of the main strip. On the outskirts of the town to the south Samui's famous Grandmother and Grandfather rocks are a popular sightseeing spot and stalls sell local souvenirs along the road that leads to them. Further south still takes you to some of the island's best authentic Thai seafood restaurants.
The third largest island in Thailand, Koh Samui is just 21km at its widest point and 25km at its longest. The hinterland consists of forested limestone hills and the shoreline is made up of countless coconut palm-fringed beaches and bays.
Traditionally a coconut plantation and fisherman's haven, in the last few years the island has grown into a major holiday destination with regular connections to Bangkok and direct flights from Hong Kong and Singapore. Despite rapid development, Samui is small enough to retain its charm and its modest size also makes it a convenient, laid back location even during busy seasons.
As well as fine beaches, Samui is known for recreation, relaxation and fine food. The blue waters of the Thai Gulf provide a wealth of possibility for water sports, while on land the island is well known for its professional and indulgent spas and health retreats. Fresh seafood is a specialty at most of Samui's restaurants, but you can also enjoy food from almost every corner of the globe thanks to the island's strong international influences.
Each beach on Samui has its own particular character and ambience. The east coast beaches of Chaweng and Lamai are busy, commercial areas with everything from beach vendors to fast food chains, while to the north, Bang Rak and Bo Phut have a more relaxed local village atmosphere. Beaches like Lipa Noi and Laem Set on the western and southern shores feel much more remote and untouched.
Koh Samui combines comfort and convenience with a sense of real escape and this has made it a popular choice for residential as well as tourist development. The island is an eclectic blend of nature and sophistication, one that draws repeat visitors every year to indulge in its tropical delights.
The incredible beachside location and natural surroundings make it easy to slip into indulgent tropical island mode at Baan Hinta. Even though the villa covers several levels, the staff somehow manage to always be on hand with fresh fruit and cool refreshments, and the design of the villa means that even large groups can find cosy spaces to chill out when they want some down-time, and super-size social spaces to party in when they don’t. The soft natural tones and subtle lighting of the villa can also make it feel very intimate and romantic should the mood take you. Active members of our group made the most of the vast range of water sports equipment on offer at the villa (kayaks and paddleboards free of charge; windsurfers, jetskis and other motorised fun charged extra), while those of us who hankered after a little R&R had no trouble fulfilling our wishes. And there was plenty to keep the kids amused too. Aside from the above-mentioned fun stuff to do on the beach (which is only steps away), Apple TV, Xbox and a 120-inch outdoor movie screen made for entertainment heaven. The window into the pool from the ‘childrens’ bedroom was a good source of amusement too – just like having front-row seats for a show at the aquarium!
Despite being a very grown-up and stylish villa, Hinta is also an idyllic family holiday destination for those with older children. There really is something for everyone here.
Entering the villa’s lofty and bright split-level living and dining space, you are met with spectacular views over the pool to the glistening sea beyond. On the upper level, meals are served at a table formed from an enormous piece of beautifully carved local wood seating up to 14 guests. Adjacent, the kitchen is home to a selection of top-of-the-range kitchen appliances. From the dining area, sandstone steps lead down to the lounge where floor-to-ceiling glass doors open out to the pool deck and a pair of large L-shaped sofas make a delightful place to relax, read or enjoy a little distraction on the home entertainment system, which includes Apple TV and XBox. Outside, guests can relax on comfortable sun loungers on the deck, swim laps in the generous pool and, come nightfall, watch movies on the 120-inch projector screen. All five bedrooms at Baan Hinta are air conditioned and feature king-size beds, flat-screen TVs with satellite channels and iPod docks (plus a DVD player in the master suite). The first guest bedroom is situated on the upper level with dramatic sea views from its private balcony and a luxurious ensuite bathroom featuring an extra-large rain shower and terrazzo bath tub. The middle floor houses two more comfortable guest rooms, equally well furnished and of a similar style and design to the first but with a shared balcony. A cut-through leads to the fourth guest room (known as the children’s room), which boasts a huge window that looks straight into the waters of swimming pool positioned above. On the lowermost level of the villa – fronted by a small garden where two canvas hammocks offer the perfect spot for an afternoon snooze or a tender moment under the stars – is the master suite. With floor-to-ceiling windows looking directly out to the ocean, this is a romantic and intimate suite with luxurious features built around the granite rock formations. A short set of steps lead down from here to the soft sandy beach where loungers await for lazy days of sun worship.