The Sanctuary is very rare in having rooms at all price levels, from cheap shared dorms to lovely private houses. This creates a levelling, democratic feel to the place. It's compounded by the staff - known as 'crew' - acting as if they're on a par with the guests. They make friends with you, have a chat when they take your order, remember your name. There's no sense of servility, just of warm friendliness.
The atmosphere encourages guests to be friendly to each other too and to start conversations in a way that often wouldn't happen in other hotels. For this reason, it's a good place to go to if you're travelling alone.
Most guests seem at ease with the alternative vibe, and because everyone's dressed in similar scruffy, slightly hippy clothing, you don't know if you're talking to a film star or an impoverished student. This is rather refreshing.
We stayed in Star House, which is wonderfully private and has its own bathtub on the sunbathing terrace, with lovely views. The downside of the privacy is that it's a veeery long climb up the hill in the heat. We thought it was worth it; others might not.
The food was generally delicious, and if you're not vegetarian, you can always have fish or seafood. Evenings can be fun. There's an open mic night on Thursdays, and one night we watched a movie on the beach, lying on sun loungers. Bring earplugs for the Friday night party, though.
The main problem with The Sanctuary is how hard it is to get to. I flew from London overnight on a Friday and didn't get there till lunchtime on Sunday. The last ferry from Koh Samui to Ko Pha Ngan leaves at 1800, so I had to spend a night on Koh Samui and wait till the next morning. It can also be quite hard to get from Haad Rin, where the ferry stops, to Haad Thian, where the hotel is. If there aren't other people also wanting to go, the taxi boat driver will charge you a fortune. The Sanctuary pretty much shrugs and leaves transport up to you, which is quite nerve-wracking if the seas are rough, the boats aren't running and you have a plane to catch.
The only other gripe is you have to pay in cash, and if you don't arrive with enough, you have to make an annoying and expensive trip to Haad Rin to get some more. My advice is to take out more than you think you need at the ATMs at Koh Samui airport when you arrive.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Established in 1991 The Sanctuary is a unique beach front resort offering beautiful houses, comfortable bungalows and budget dorm beds & boasts a 300 + vegetarian and seafood menu & bakery. Offering a diverse Spa menu & Detox fasting center, day trips, Kayaking, snorkelling and our gym to encourage you out of your beach front hammock. An eclectic mix of guests ensures a special beach holiday. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- The Sanctuary Island Hotel Koh Phangan
- The Sanctuary Island Spa