Tips for a Health Retreat at Kamalaya Koh Samui, Thailand
Visiting Kamalaya Koh Samui for a health retreat is a commitment. It’s a commitment to healthy living and well, it’s a commitment to stairs and walking uphill. Because Kamalaya is on a hill. A big one. Get ready for all the uphillness! If you’re planning a long stay — I’m not the only person who stayed two weeks — I have a couple of tips and pieces of advice for you that may make your health retreat easier and more enjoyable. I searched in vain for tips for Kamalaya Koh Samui before my stay and had to sort through hundreds of online reviews before I found a few actionable pieces of advice, so I hope the wonders of the Internet bring this post to the attention of all those who are planning a Kamalaya Thailand visit or looking for a health retreat on Koh Samui.
Everything You Need to Know about Kamalaya Koh Samui!
- Bring books. Paper ones. On the detox program, you will spend a lot of time in the infrared sauna, which is 45 degrees C. A lot of people complained about boredom, but I had a bunch of great paperbacks with me so my 30 minute sessions sped by. I also spent a lot of time in the two pools, and loved lazing around with my paperbacks. Check out my favorite recent reads for some suggestions.
- Bring slip-on shoes. As you go from treatment to treatment, you will constantly be taking your shoes off and putting them back on again. Sneakers are a hassle. I prefer sandals with ankle straps, and even those were a pain. In hindsight, I wish I had brought a pair of Birkenstocks or something.
- Get a Thai SIM card at the airport. While there is wireless in your room and in the reception area — and if the breeze blows the right way, you can also get a connection at the cafe during lunch and at the main pool — having a Thai SIM card made me the envy of many a guest. I bought 15 GB of data at the airport on one of the tourist SIMs they sell right after baggage claim. Surprisingly, I only used about 4 GB of data, and that’s with a lot of Snapchat. (In NYC this summer, I was using 2 gb of data a day sometimes!) I know Kamalaya Koh Samui wants everyone to digitally detox but I really wanted to easily stay in contact with friends and family.
- Pick your disposable underwear wisely: During your treatments, there are two types of disposable underwear: regular and g-string. I found the g-strings deeply uncomfortable, so I learned early on to ask for the “big ones” if the room setup looked like it only had g-strings.
- Get that big betal leaf starter at dinner. The food at Kamalaya Koh Samui is truly delicious. There’s one starter that gives you a bunch of (delicious) betal leaves and then a cornucopia of seeds and other little bits to put in each leaf and eat. It’s very prettily presented — an Instagram moment — and it’s very filling and delicious too.
- Bring bug spray. The American in me brought a ton of bug spray — Zika fears — and I really went overboard. But definitely bring some. While the resort does a great job of spraying and putting mosquito repellant candles and incense around, nothing beats a good bug spray. I found that my bites generally occurred at dinner or on the way back to my room after dinner. Note that you can ask the staff at the restaurants for bug spray.
- Don’t be afraid of the community table: As someone who tends to lean more towards the introvert end of the spectrum, tt took me a good six days to join the community table, but then I am so glad I did. Guests from all over the world, and I met Dan Lepard’s sister too!! (Dan is a well-known baker in London.) I found that people didn’t tend to join the community table until around 7:30 pm or so. This is one of my biggest tips for Kamalaya Koh Samui.
- Ask for a mattress topper: The beds are pretty darn firm. While I do like a firm mattress, this was definitely too firm for me. The resort offers mattress toppers to those who ask. While it wasn’t perfect — a Tempurpedic would have been better — it was a lot better than the regular mattress.
- Don’t buy a hat at the gift shop. My last minute emergency hat purchase — we were heading out on a boat ride — cost me $173 USD. Yes, you read that correctly. The hat is, uh, handwoven in Ecuador, so there’s that. But I am an IDIOT. I was not paying attention to the exchange rate. I just wanted a hat. 🙁 So buy a nice straw hat from Amazon before your trip. You can get hats in town at the beach for like $10 USD.
- Take the Kamalaya boat ride! It was truly gorgeous. There was a masseuse on board and the food was delicious and we went snorkeling and we saw the sun set and the staff were lovely and kept bringing us more and more snacks. Note that the boat ride stops at some point in October because of the low season, so definitely check to make sure it’s running.
- Bring — and wear — sunscreen. This probably goes without saying. But even when it is overcast, the Thai sun is surprisingly strong.
- Call the buggy. On a few days of my detox, I was definitely feeling sluggish and low. Conquering the hill after lunch was just not going to happen. The staff will very happily send a golf cart for you and it will seriously be there in two minutes. Do it.
- Get a Reiki treatment: “Hah,” I thought. “Laying of the hands??? I doubt it.” Well, I’m a convert now. My two reiki sessions with Jos were strange and weird and wonderful all at the same time. For hours afterwards, I felt amazing, and my poor right ankle — which I’ve sprained multiple times over the last few years — has never been better. All very strange, really. But good strange.
- Don’t overbook yourself. My schedule for my health retreat was super action-packed. Three treatments a day most days. I could have used some more downtime. If I go back, I think I’ll do a 7-day package of treatments, booked over ten days of stay. Seriously. This is one of my most important tips for Kamalaya Koh Samui. Unwind. Relax! (Update: When I returned to Kamalaya Koh Samui in 2017, I did a 9 day comprehensive detox program over 12 days which I liked better and allowed me to hit the gym every day and spend more time at the pools.)
- Pumpkin everything. The pumpkin curry and the pumpkin dumplings at dinner were particularly, pumpkinly outstanding. If you do one of the cooking classes, the chef will let you choose one of Kamalaya’s recipes to take home with you.
- Bring your own shampoo. If you’re on a program with a lot of treatments, you will take a lot of showers and particularly, if you have the Indian head massage, the natural shampoo that the hotel offers just doesn’t cut the coconut oil in the Indian head massage enough. It took me two days and six shampoos before my hair felt normal again.
- Embrace the coconut. I don’t think I’ve ever drank so much coconut juice in my entire life. It was always there for me. I have a new appreciation for the coconut. It’s delicious. At one point, I escaped the resort for a few hours with a couple of Australians on the resort bus. (See next point.) We stumbled into a beach bar and, still on the detox program, I asked the staff for some lemongrass tea. “No tea here. Coca-cola!” was the depressing response. “Ah but you must have a coconut,” I replied. And yes, it was delivered.
- Take the resort bus into town! It’s a small town and there might not be much going on but it’s still nice for a few hours and the beach is great and swimmable.
- Ask for lemongrass ice tea! Because I can only do so much coconut, I started to ask for cold lemongrass tea at lunch and dinner. Basically they will make the tea and put ice in it and serve it with Stevia leaves. This is not a standard option on the menus but they will definitely do it if you ask!
- Get a long massage the evening you arrive. I had a 90 minute oil massage on the evening I arrived and I went to bed afterwards and slept 12 hours. It was amazing. I had ZERO jetlag in Thailand. Amazing.
- Pick up a glass of water at the lunch cafe before heading to the pool. Staff don’t always service the main pool, so I learned early on to ask for a big cup of water before I set up shop. Also, there are extra towels in the restroom by the main pool. (By main pool, I mean the pretty one by the cafe for lunch.)
- Take the tours! In addition to the boat ride, I did the different island tours and loved them. Both times, I ended up with a private tour which was great. It’s a very beautiful island so definitely make some time to explore!
- Check out the library. There is a HUGE library of books guests have left behind off the reception area. In all different languages too!
- Do a personal training session. During my 2nd visit, I did a personal training session and LOVED IT. I told the training that I liked boxing so we did a bunch of boxing moves. It was great and I wish I had done more of it.
- Use the gym. Most days, I had it to myself. I just liked to go ride the stationary bike for 45 minutes and read my book. Great view of the water from the gym!
- Tell them which treatment rooms you don’t want: There is one set of treatment rooms that is way way up — there are a lot of stairs. (Up above the acupuncture building.) If you are not physically fit, you may struggle with this. I decided to treat it like a challenge but man, it was not easy. Later, they told me I could have asked for different rooms.
Prices for a Kamalaya Koh Samui Health Retreat
If you’ve got the cash, I highly recommend a trip to Kamalaya Koh Samui. I’ve been twice now — once in late September 2016 and again late September 2017. For a 9 day comprehensive detox program spread over 12 nights in in 2017, I paid £4399.00.This does not include flights. Also, I’m not sure if double occupancy is cheaper.
I am sure there are more tips for Kamalaya Koh Samui I can share — and I welcome any questions — but for now, those are my tips for Kamalaya Thailand. I hope you enjoy your stay!
I have one other post about Kamalaya Koh Samui that you may find helpful — it contains my initial impressions.