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In the age of travelling millennials with endless new demands, it is wholly impressive when a traditional Thai hospitality brand manages to tap into their market so seamlessly. The Centara Reserve Samui marks the debut of Centara Hotels and Resorts’ first top-tier luxury Reserve category, and does so in a way that is subtle yet familiar, refreshing and exciting, and coincidentally or not, really Instagrammable. Here’s how.

We were not surprised to find many Thai families staying at the Centara Reserve Samui. After all, Centara has been a well-known and much-loved Thai hospitality brand for years. However, it is interesting to see how the Reserve category has translated and somewhat teleported Centara into a new era. Sleek design and architecture (by the world-renowned AvroKO, no less), an inspired dining selection, and plenty of picturesque landscapes make for a memorable vacation here. Rare, refined, and really something new for the brand, we checked in for a few days this month. Here are our thoughts.

Location

The Centara Reserve Samui is located at the quiet end of Chaweng, arguably Samui’s most beautiful beach, and the lively nightlife area. It’s hard to find a luxury resort in Samui that can beat this location, balancing both tranquility and entertainment — and very close proximity (approx. 15 minutes) to the airport on top of that.

Pre-renovation and reimagination, the Centara Reserve was known as the Centara Grand Beach Resort Samui. Those who have stayed at this resort before may recognise a few elements if they ponder closely, though in essence, the property has undergone a wild and wonderful transformation.

Colonial design elements are met with contemporary flair, and a sense of modernity persists throughout. From the moment you turn on to the property, the urge to pull out your phone is insane. Tall palm trees, the sprawling white sand beach, twisting-and-turning staircases, a beach club atmosphere, and lush gardens and pavilions make for an impressive sense of arrival, especially when the sun shines.

Accommodation

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 room features a small outdoor plunge pool and day bed, and light and bright interiors. There’s a complimentary mini bar packed with snacks, and as a central highlight, a complimentary booze bar, too. Rum, whisky, and gin are available for guests to concoct their own cocktails during their stay, with the assistance of an in-room shaker, jigger, bar spoon, and strainer, like a professional.

Further into the room, next to the bed, there is a Sleep Therapy Clock which aids restless snoozers to fall asleep in peace, as well as a special button on the telephone. Labelled ‘Surprise of the Day,’ guests are encouraged to press this button and receive a mini treat delivered to the room. The button is only allowed to be used once daily, and kind of makes you want to stay for more days and uncover more surprises.

Little perks and quirks like this are a small yet significant new step for Centara, and fun for guests to discover, too. There is a general sense that aesthetics have been given a top priority in the design of this resort and its experience, and it is executed charmingly.

Dining

Dining at the Centara Reserve Samui follows a similar ethos: beautifully-designed spaces host creative menus with something to ‘gram before gobbling.

The star of the show is undeniably Act 5, a modern international fine dining restaurant, wherein each dish comes with a certain theatrical flair. Think, your steak erupting in edible paper flames, smoke coming out of your oysters, and cheeky made-you-look-twice desserts that look like flower pots, lava bombs, or even dishwashing sponges. Meanwhile, over at Sa-Nga, the small yet contemporary space allows guests to enjoy new-age Thai tapas with authentic local flavours in a relaxed setting. We loved that you could sit at the bar counter, and explore dishes like tom yum cappuccinos, pumpkin curries, and grill-it-yourself crying tiger beef.

At Salt Society, you’ll find the cool kids on Sundays at brunch, or enjoying fresh seafood dishes during the week. Cocktails here are sight to behold, such as the puffer fish-shaped glass, or the sangria prepared fresh at the table. Over at The Terrace, global cuisine can be enjoyed throughout the day, as well as the breakfast buffet in the mornings. The latter offers an interesting selection both on the line and a la carte, including mini croissant cereal, gluten-free bakery options, and both Asian and Western favourites. Lastly, at The Gin Run, guests who enjoy a good tipple can kick back with over 35 handcrafted gin concoctions, and sample interesting infused gins that have been flavoured with wasabi, rosemary, and roses, to name a few.

Experiences and facilities

The heart of the Centara Reserve Samui experience definitely lies in the outdoors. From smaller pool-access rooms to a large central pool and kids’ wet playground area, there are plenty of options to dip and dive. We particularly loved the very photogenic infinity adults-only pool, which sits as a sort of transparent cube in front of the beach.

Beyond the waters, there is also a fitness centre, yoga pavilion, event halls, meeting spaces, and the Reserve Spa. The latter boasts 7 treatment rooms and a spa herb garden, from which herbs and spices are picked and plucked to be used in the treatments, and throughout the resort.

This last practice underpins a further very important element of the Centara Reserve Samui: sustainability. Nowhere in the resort did we find much use of unnecessary plastic or paper; even the resort kayaks are made of wood. No signage in the rooms is marked with paper, and no plastic encases the in-room amenities. Resort details can be found on a Smart TV, and whilst slightly unsettling at first, it spotlights how times and priorities have evolved, and Centara has evolved with them.

Verdict

It is difficult to compete with the existing luxury properties on Samui, seeing as there is a plethora of private villas, private butlers, and prized fine dining already. What is clever about Centara Reserve’s approach is that it feels targeted to its loyal fans, but also to the rise of the savvy millennial. ‘Grammability, sustainability, and a clever focus on unique dining experiences give the Centara Reserve Samui a clear edge for contemporary demands.

Whilst Thai heritage and Thai hospitality still lie at the very heart of the guest experience, it is exciting to see Centara begin a new chapter for a new audience with the Centara Reserve Samui — a story that can be enjoyed both by the family with kids, and the couple with Kir Royales at brunch.

Centara Reserve Samui, 38/2 Moo 3, Bophut Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui; +66 77 230 500.