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A private rental villa combines every modern home comfort with a front row seat on nature's spectacle; you can also use your holiday home as the perfect base to explore cultural and natural treasures.

“Thailand's most popular islands offer an impressive combination of highlights”

Staying at a luxury private villa on a stunning tropical island like Phuket or Koh Samui is an appealing holiday diversion in itself, and many guests from around the world are more than content to spend most of their vacation time enjoying the villa’s many comforts and private facilities, rarely leaving the villa grounds.

For visitors that also enjoy a few sights and activities during their trip, most private villas are located within easy reach of multiple attractions. Despite being separated from the mainland, for inquisitive and active visitors, Thailand's popular islands are filled with diversions, whether they prefer culture, nature or adventure.

Day trips, tours and expeditions can easily be arranged through the villa manager who is often a mine of local information and can offer suggestions and recommendations for activities that may not be so easy to find online or in guide books. He or she will also know the best operators and agents to use for excursions, which can mean the difference between a memorable or an average experience.

It’s always a pleasure to head back to home comforts after a day of island
exploration, especially if there’s an exquisite Thai meal waiting to be enjoyed, specially prepared by the villa’s own private chef.

Here are a few suggestions for island pursuits, along with a few personal recommendations provided our villa managers on Phuket and Koh Samui.

Cultural Classics

Thailand is known for its spiritual side and it's always worth visiting one of the Kingdom's impressive, ornate temples during your stay, even if it's the island variety. On Koh Samui, Big Buddha temple is the most popular for visitors thanks to its idyllic oceanside location and impressive, 12 metre holden statue of the Lord Buddha. According to Patpicha  Sathaporn (Lek) Villa Manager at The Headland Villas, however, it's also nice to visit one of the less crowded, local temples on Samui to get a real feel for the calming atmosphere they exude. “I always like to recommend a visit to Wat Hin Lad, which is hidden away in a forest at the bottom of a waterfall,” she says. “The peaceful, natural surroundings are what make island temples so special.”

Local Flavours

Thailand's main cities are well known for their bustling markets, with stalls selling every type of food, handicraft and souvenir imaginable; but the islands also boast a number of regular local retail attractions known as “walking streets”. On Koh Samui, the largest of these takes place every Friday in Fisherman's Village Bophut when stalls set up along the beachside strip offering a plethora of delicacies and mementos. Meanwhile on Phuket, a trip to the old town on a Sunday evening offers a fascinating contrast ot the beach. That's when the island's main heritage street is closed off to traffic so that local cooks and craftspeople can show of their delicious local dishes and creative home-made crafts. “It's a great opportunity to taste some real local food,” says Khun Oil, Assistant Estate Manager at SAVA. “Guests always come back with really nice, original gifts for their friends and family when they take a trip to the Sunday Walking Street.”

Natural Wonders

Staying in a private island villa often puts you right in the heart of nature with fabulous ocean views and lush tropical surroundings contributing to the pleasure of the overall experience. For guests that also want to explore more remote natural attractions, tours can easily be arranged to visit soothing waterfalls, breathtaking view points, jungle trails and offshore islands. Trirat Sirisan (Opal), the Villa Manager at The View on Koh Samui suggests a half day safari tour as a great way take in a few of the island's natural highlights. “Organized trips are a fun and easy way to explore the island's beautiful waterfalls, forests and fascinating rock formations,” she says. “You can even stop off along the way for an elephant ride through the jungle or see Samui monkeys in action picking the coconuts for the farmers. It's a great day out for families.”

Adventurous Activities

Although Phuket and Koh Samui are not dedicated dive destinations in their own right, each island is but a short speedboat ride from some of Asia's most spectacular underwater reefs. From Koh Samui, dive sites like Sail Rock and Chumpon Pinnacle offer the real deal for scuba enthusiasts, with colourful corals, schools of tropical fish and even the chance to spot rare marine creatures like whale sharks and turtles. Meanwhile, off Phuket, the famous sites around the Similan Islands offer divers spectacular marine landscapes and a huge variety of underwater species. Back on land, Zip-lining is a popular adventure activity that takes you high into the jungle canopy. “Canopy rides are an exciting way to see a different side to the island,” says Teerapong Kongpan (Bee), Villa Manager at Lime Samui Villa 2. “On Samui you can even see the mountains and the ocean at the same time as you fly through the trees.”

Closer to Home

Of course, when you rent an island villa, you will often be staying right next to a secluded stretch of beach or close to a peaceful palm forest with walking trails or small country lanes to cycle along as you explore the tropical surroundings. Many villas come with their own pool toys, bikes, kayaks, paddle boards and other holiday accessories, so guests can enjoy plenty of activities in the privacy of their personal holiday home, as well as enjoying a variety of island sights and attractions. “Most of our guests like to stay mostly in the area close to the villa,” says Khun Nancy, Villa Manager at Ananda on the Jivana Estate. “The beach and ocean are right in front of the villa so it's easy to enjoy all the natural attractions in Natai without going far.”

Koh Samui villa managers who gave their tips and suggestions...