Modern, boutique resorts have arrived on Koh Chang in style

Filling this list of Top 10 romantic boutique beach hotels on Koh Chang was easy. Surprised? This island is not, after all, one of Thailand’s most famous beach destinations. But years before foreign tourists discovered this large, undeveloped island with natural beaches it had been a favourite among Thai visitors from Bangkok. A few dozen hotels in the 2- and 3-star range were already here by year 2000. But when, in year 2005 the Thai prime minister declared Koh Chang the next tourism target for upgrading to 4- and 5-star status, a mini boom set in and beachfront land prices skyrocketed.

Today The Beachfront Club has qualified and mapped 97 true beachfront accommodations on Koh Chang, and at the current rate of growth that number will surge past 100 this year (2015). While the majority fall in the 3-star range, there are now far more luxury 4-star beachfront hotels than there are budget ones.

Boutique, stylish beachfront resorts are in vogue across Thailand. So many are popping up on islands and beaches that it appears like something of a nation-wide competition, with developers and designers continuously trying to out-do each other with innovation and style. While Koh Samui is the leader in Thailand’s boutique stakes , Koh Chang is tagging along quite nicely, as this list illustrates.

A couple of our resort choices were selected not for the classic reasons of architecture and design, but for landscaping and the creation of natural environments through the surrounds of their resorts. One was chosen for the dramatic colours of its landscaping, contrasting its red beach sand for striking effect.

Note that there is another Top 10 list for this island, Koh Chang’s Top 10 Best Family Beach Resorts .

Panviman Koh Chang Resort – classical Thai architecture in a lush coconut grove

Hiding among the coconut palms in the middle of Khlong Phrao Beach, Panviman Koh Chang Resort is one of the most visually striking of all beachfront hotels on Koh Chang. Traditional Thai architecture with red roof tiles and white trimming is dazzles against the lush green of the forest and lawns and the blues above. Built through a wide area of coconut plantation, the resort has been kept green and low-density, with just 50 rooms in an area where another developer might have placed 150.

Many of Panviman’s single-storey rooms have direct access to pools shared in small, private groups. The main pools close to the beachfront restaurant are large and attractively tiered. As the photos show, this is one of the most eye-catching resorts built into the most natural environment on this beach.

The Chill Resort & Spa – an ultra-modern design statement for Koh Chang

The Chill Resort & Spa is one of the few ultra-modern resorts on Koh Chang with cutting-edge design in the minimalist trend. A small and compact resort of just 38 rooms, it carries modern styling from its flat roofed architecture into the guest room interiors where the minimalist look is most pronounced. Both the lobby and restaurant display more of the exceptional design that distinguishes this establishment. See the photos in the hotel’s full page.

Bai Lan Beach at The Chill is a bit narrow, but nice and sandy, leading down to clear water. It’s a bit shallow at low tide, but the beach has quite a few trees at the top and looks natural and relaxing. Despite that the resort has neighbours on both sides, this beach never appears crowded, and the natural appearance is preserved by trees in both directions and the forested mountain behind.

The Chill has a spa with steam room and massage services, plus it offers guests a library. This is an ideal, relaxing getaway for couples seeking island tranquillity with a real touch of style.

The Dewa Koh Chang – a fusion of Asian influences on Klong Prao Beach

This resort near the bottom end of Klong Prao Beach brings more diverse architectural styles into its stylistic blend than any other on this list. In The Dew Koh Chang we find distinct touches from the Indonesian islands, and hints of Melanesia in the grass thatch roofs and walls. Teak shingle roofings are drawn from Lanna Thailand, while the ramparts of a Chinese fortress overlook the main swimming pool.

This is a new take on the ‘Tropical Asian’ style that was initiated in Bali and Sri Lanka two generations ago and has been a major influence over Southeast Asia’s hotel industry ever since. And the interesting thing here at The Dewa is that this mixed bag of styles comes together as a coherent unit; stylish, modern with many hints of old or far-off worlds. The Dewa is both interesting, and pleasant on the eyes. And a relaxing retreat for guests who find their way into this interesting potpourri of Asian influences.

Gajapuri Resort & Spa – a small, friendly village behind Kai Bee Beach

Gajapuri Resort & Spa says it was designed to resemble a village, and indeed it does have much of that feel. Most accommodations are set back from the beach where they are gathered around a green heart consisting of lawns, the swimming pool and the restaurant. Elevated boardwalks are used to connect many of the rooms.

The shingle roofs and wooden exteriors add to the village tone, while the interiors of rich, polished woods indeed remind one of the houses of old Siam. Rooms are open-plan, with many breaking out onto big balconies. Accommodations include luxury 2-bedroom villas with private pools while ‘standard’ rooms are in small garden chalets. All windows can be opened, and rooms have fans for those who would prefer to turn off the air-conditioning.

The green mountainous backdrop can be seen from the restaurant and other parts of the resort, adding to the far-away feel that the resort imparts.

The beach at Gajapuri has a thick line of trees at the top, providing shelter that allows guests to remain there throughout the day.

Barali Beach Resort – small boutique with striking design

When arriving at Barali Beach Resort , even before reaching the reception, a guest realizes that this resort was designed and built with passion. The grand entry through gardens and lawns is simple but very elegant, setting a mood borrowed from old Asia. The striking rooftops throughout the resort perpetuate this ambience, though the old-world flavours they bring are part of a distinctly modern environment. Barali offers yet another interesting interpretation of ‘Modern Asian’ architecture and design in a beachfront resort.

The tasteful bungalows are snuggled into a thick tropical garden, and the public areas of the resort are generally open-walled with foliage spilling in. The resort offers a medium sized pool down by the beachfront, while some villas also have private pools. The resort has a luxury spa with massage and treatments. It offers bicycles for rent, a good means of transport for this part of the island. This is also one of the few resorts that offers guests mosquito nets and windows that can be opened – ideal for those who prefer to sleep with the breeze, not air-conditioning.

Amber Sands Beach Resort – simple, striking landscaping contrasts unusual beach

Seemingly lost on a forgotten corner of Koh Chang, Amber Sands Beach Resort joins this list of best boutique resorts not due to resort architecture, but instead for landscaping and environmental design. This little family-run resort lies on the island’s unusual amber beaches – and yes, the sand really does glow a strong amber colour, especially in the late afternoon light when we photographed it. Amber Sands has created a picture-perfect world of vivid green and soft red. Where well-watered, manicured lawns reach the beach they create a delightful contrast of green blades and amber grains. It’s simple but striking landscaping that glows in the evening sunlight, and dominates this quaint little resort.

The resort rooms are simple, clean and comfortable but not outstanding in anyway. It is the pretty, elfish coming together of contrasting colours that gives Amber Sands so much character.

Chivapuri Beach Resort – hidden in the forest on little-known Klong Kloi

Hidden in its small private forest at the far south end of Koh Chang, Chivapuri Beach Resort may not match the typical image of a modern boutique resort – yet it does have many of the criteria that brings people to choose hotels in this category. It is small, with just 20 rooms, and very private in its remote location on an especially attractive beach. The architectural style is traditional Thai, and the modern interiors are styled with rich wood floors and ceilings. The furniture is also Thai-style. The result gives plush living with modern amenities with a distinctly traditional ambience.

Outside, the original forest has been left largely intact, enveloping the resort in a natural, green environment. The swimming pool lies right on the beachfront, and guests take massage in the shade of the many beach trees. The water off this beach is somewhat shallow, with barely enough water at low tide. But the beach is peaceful with a strong tropical flavour, and is as quiet and relaxing as any stretch of sand on this island.

White House Bailan Resort – modest white maiden hiding in her private forest

This small and rather modest waterfront resort on Bailan Bay joins this Top 10 Boutique list due to its efforts to use simple but smart design to create an ambiance that is both pleasant and somewhat trendy. It’s obviously not one that’s employed expensive architects or designers, but it does show how good taste, imagination and simplicity can come together to create a pleasing whole.

True to its name, White House Bailan Resort relies on the power and simplicity of white to create easy-going, relaxing environments. The second dominant colour is that of the natural wood employed extensively in the restaurant and outdoors areas. Each of the small garden chalets, however, is pure white, contrastingly beautifully against the third and last colour here, the green of the lush foliage surrounding everything. Inside the guest rooms the white simplicity continues. Rooms are quite basic, but will suit many people looking for stylish accommodations at the budget end of the scale.

The beach at White House has just a narrow strip of sand surrounded by rocks, though guests can walk a few paces to the south to the wider beach in front of the neighbouring Mercure Hideaway.

Bhumiyama Beach Resort Koh Chang – comfort and style arrives on Lonely Beach

The arrival of Bhumiyama Beach Resort Koh Chang on a beach that was for years a backpackers’ secret retreat marks the beginning of a new era for Ta Nam Beach (or Lonely Beach, as foreign backpackers used to call it). Though it is not the biggest resort here (that is Siam Beach Resort) it is the first really modern and stylish accommodation here. Many of its neighbours are still cheap fan rooms where the young travellers fight off the mosquitoes.

Bhumiyama offers 46 modern rooms in two-storey, Thai-style room blocks in a thick garden-cum-forest, with a natural lagoon near the centre. Some rooms face onto the large swimming pool. From the beach the resort presents an attractive scene; traditional Thai roofs over its restaurant, hints of the rest of the accommodations in the thick foliage to the back and wide grassy lawns running across the beachfront to meet the sand.

The beach at Bhumiyama is particularly attractive, with plenty of sand running down to clear calm water through the high season. This beach is a favourite meeting spot for young travellers from around the world, and they congregate on the sand to mix, meet and match around sunset each day. Bhumiyama is thus ideally suited to those who would like to mix with the young international set, but fight off mosquitoes at night.

Remark Cottage Resort & Restaurant – getting lost in a private rainforest

Here is another atypical Koh Chang beachfront hotel that made it onto this Top 10 Best Boutique list for reasons other than architecture and design. Here, for a second time, environment and atmosphere are the traits that set this small, cosy resort apart.

Remark Cottage Resort & Restaurant has created an especially green, tranquil environment with the use of natural materials in construction, both indoors and out, and by infusing all 15 rooms into a lush tropical forest of the man-made kind.

Wooden facades and grass thatch roofs blend easily with full length glass doors in some bungalows. Interiors glow warm with red wooden floors and planked walls. The ceilings are matted bamboo held in place by dark wooden ribs. Some of the bathrooms display an especially creative blend of wood, rock and tile. The outdoors restaurant deck can be enjoyed on soft cushions in the cool shade of a forest canopy.

The lush jungle of palms, bromeliads, trees and other tropical shrubbery in which this little hideaway is immersed gives it a mellow, deep-forest ambience that is hard to match on this island. It’s quite enough to make you forget that the resort has little sandy beach – but then again, some people find a pebble beach entirely quaint – especially when there’s a beautiful tropical forest as backdrop.

by John Everingham