At first I wasn’t sure whether to write this post – Koh Jum Beach Villas is a true hidden gem, a rare find in South East Asia today. Simply put, I wasn’t sure whether to share my discovery for fear the resort would be changed by an influx of new visitors.
But the truth is it’s too good not to shout about, and so here I am, letting you into the secret that is Koh Jum Beach Villas.
Where is Koh Jum?
Koh Jum is a small island off the coast of Krabi, Thailand, surprisingly untouched by tourism when islands such as Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta and Raley are a short boat trip away. These tourist hubs – visible from the villas themselves, are overwhelmed by sun-seeking visitors every year, to the point that Koh Phi Phi’s Maya Beach, made famous by Leonardo di Caprio in The Beach, had to close in order to let the ecosystem recover from over-tourism.
Koh Jum is the complete opposite. As I spoke about in a recent post, a trip to Koh Jum is like stepping back in time to Thailand 20 years ago. You feel like you’ve escaped to a desert island – it’s oh so peacefully quiet, with locals waving and saying hi as you pass them along the one concrete road that navigates the island from top to bottom. Let me give you an example of how quiet it is – in off season (when we visited) you can stroll along the beach for half hour without seeing a soul!
The few resorts on the island are scattered along its beaches, the majority of which aimed at budget travellers and backpackers. Koh Jum Beach Villas is the one luxury resort on the island, and offers spacious private villas in a luxury setting.
Introducing Koh Jum Beach Villas
My other half, Justin, found Koh Jum Beach Villas while looking for somewhere special to go to celebrate my turning 40. In full diva mode I’d said I wanted to stay somewhere really special, like an overwater bungalow in the Maldives or Mauritius. Sadly these were beyond our budget, but while I gave up, J continued to search for somewhere that would fit my criteria and discovered the resort.
Made up of 19 separate villas, Koh Jum Beach Villas is a small resort that exudes a real feeling of exclusivity. Each villa is privately owned and managed by the resort. They vary in size, with standalone bungalows for couples wanting a romantic break up to complexes made up of multiple villas around a pool – perfect for family getaways. However, set out across the resort’s spacious tropical garden, you still have a feeling of privacy and escapism.
Since the trip was booked I’d poured over images of its beachfront villas and jaw-dropping sunsets, so as you can imagine I was pretty excited and had high expectations when we made our way to the resort.
Getting to Koh Jum is an adventure in its own right, as I explained in my last post, but on arrival we were greeted at reception by the staff and taken to our villa, Baan Noi Chai Ley, by the guest service manager Mandy. As we were shown around I was ecstatic – it was everything I’d hoped it would be.
Our villa – Baan Noi Chai Ley
Taking our shoes off on the porch and entering the room we discovered the space was huge – it’s the only time we’ve lost each other in an apartment! In front of our king-size four-poster bed was a seating area with sofa, chaise longue and coffee table, and the glass doors opened up onto a large balcony with table and chairs. Every day I enjoyed my morning cuppa here, looking out over the Andaman sea onto Koh Phi Phi in the distance.
The bed was amazingly comfortable too, and I adored being lulled to sleep by the sound of the sea. Supposedly one night there was a massive storm, but I slept soundly through the whole thing!
Behind the bed is a kitchenette area, where you’ll find the fridge and mini bar, tea and coffee making equipment, cutlery and crockery. Everyday you’re given four glass bottles of drinkable water triple distilled on-site, but of course there’s places all over the island (see eco-friendly credentials) to refill your drinking water for free.
There are also drawers and hanging spaces for your clothes, so you don’t have to live out of your suitcase.
Turn around and go through the beautiful distressed doors and you’re in your bathroom, where you’ll find two sinks and the toilet. Through the glass door and you’re outside, where you can shower under the stars or sun in a twin shower area.
Although the villas do have air con, they’ve been designed to make the most of the natural sea breeze as all the doors and windows open fully. Mandy recommended enjoying it like that at night time, but although I loved the idea of it, the reality of the night heat and risk of inviting mosquitoes in made me decide to leave the doors closed after housekeeping came and did their evening turn down.
The resort does have several tactics to help with mosquitoes by the way – there’s a netting around the bed at night, a natural anti mosquito spray in the rooms for guests to use along with citronella and lemongrass incense for you to burn at dusk to keep the buggers at bay. I think they did the job pretty well!
Speaking of ‘wildlife’, you have to be comfortable with the local creatures if you stay here, but as an animal lover I was in my element. We had several gecko guests in our villa, and in the mornings it was fun watching the colourful Indian Rollers flitting from tree to tree. One particular highlight was watching two sea eagles fight over a fish. All I needed to make it perfect was a voice over by David Attenborough.
I wasn’t such a fan of the guests in my shower, however. One morning a beached cockroach greeted me, and one evening I spotted a tiny scorpion. Yes, it was the quickest shower I’d ever had.
There are animals all over the island for you to keep an eye out for, everything from dogs and cats through to monkeys and snakes – many of which are happy to come right the way up to your villa steps, including hermit crabs (the snakes keep to themselves up in the forest at the other end of the island, so no worries there). Most evenings we’d spot the cute crabs tottering across a resort pathway, and on the beaches I would go on ‘crab watch’ as you’d see literally tens of them running into the sea as your torch swept over them. Honestly, it was endless fun for this big kid.
The resort – and the Koh Jum community as a whole – has a focus on doing it bit to become more eco-friendly. For example, Koh Jum Beach Villas is part of an island-wide scheme called Koh Jum Trash Hero, which aims to use eco-friendly, sustainable options wherever possible. There are regular beach clean ups, which guests can join in with if they choose, however one of the biggest programmes focuses on removing the issue of plastic bottles.
Many of the hotels, B&Bs and hostels across the island offer guests a reuseable metal water bottle which can be refilled for free at points all over the island. Such a simple, but effective idea, don’t you think?!
There are also little environmental touches at the resort that also made me smile. Paper straws for example, and guests are kindly asked to turn off their lights and fans if not needed.
Facilities at Koh Jum Beach Villas
Like the island itself there isn’t a huge amount to do at Koh Jum Beach Villas but essentially that’s why you come here – the goal is total R&R!
Of course there’s a cute bar, which has its own little library, and a restaurant, both of which overlook the main pool (for those that don’t have their own!) but with the sea right in front of our villa we never felt the need to venture in.
As we visited in low season we were given a small breakfast menu of Asian and western dishes in the mornings, but as we discovered when we left (at the start of the high season) this turns into a large buffet when business really kicks off.
During our visit though, we’d be brought fresh juice, tea or coffee and a basket of bread and cakes to enjoy while we waited for our hot dish to be cooked to order. I cannot recommend their almond loaf cake enough – I’m actually going to have to email them to ask for the recipe!
There’s a small bar menu available in the day and then in the evenings the restaurant offers a decent selection of options along with different specialties from day to day (one day there was a BBQ, another time there was Indian dishes). The food was good but we found the prices quite high, especially compared to other ‘local’ restaurants on the island.
Again during high season there’s more going on, for example the staff join the guests in football matches, but we didn’t see any of this happening during our stay. The spa itself is also closed in low season, but I didn’t mind this at all, as the treatments were still available, but would take place in your room instead – something that would cost you an extra 200 baht (roughly £5) during high season!
A heavenly spa experience
I enjoyed what might be the best ever massage during my stay – a back, neck and shoulder massage that lasted a full 60 minutes. A lot of the time I had no idea what was going to happen next – I was slapped, poked, popped, bent and stretched, but it felt like bliss. It did my tight muscles the world of good and I had no aches or pains afterwards. Of course the cost was higher than the lady we saw on the beach, but still good compared to UK prices, as my heavenly massage cost just shy of £15.
The resort also offers push bikes, kayaks and snorkeling equipment free of charge to guests and paddleboards, bikes and tuk tuks can be rented. Still, as we found out the hard way, you can only take out the tuk tuk if you have experience driving one. We weren’t aware of this until we rocked up at reception, ready for our island adventure and was informed for health and safety reasons we couldn’t take it out.
Disappointed was an understatement. Due to both my health and my balance issues neither a motor or push bike was an option for us, but in the end we found a solution – we hired a tuk tuk driver for the day, who took us to all the beaches and villages, so we got to truly explore island life!
Having experienced the insanely rocky roads (we had to push the tuk tuk out of a rut at one stage, and later we got a flat tire!) we were hugely grateful that we hadn’t gone out on our own, but I do think it should be made clear in the guide that there are restrictions to the hire, so others won’t be disappointed like us.
As well as our day exploring the island we also went island hopping, but I did feel that the trips the resort offered were very expensive. We’d always planned to just spend our time unwinding here though, so spent many a day reading by the beach and admiring the amazing sunsets. Koh Jum is renowned for its sunsets and having experienced them for myself I have to say they cannot be missed. The dramatic shades of red light up the sky with fire and it’s truly jaw-dropping.
It’s all the little touches that make Koh Jum Beach Villas a wonderful place to stay, and I have to say hats off to the staff. They’re all so friendly and attentive, asking our names on the first night and remembering them for the entirety of our stay. They’d ask us about our plans, chat with us in the bar and remember our favourite drinks. They were also always eager to help – they’d respond to requests quickly and let us know someone was on hand 24/7 if we had any problems. Mandy made me laugh by telling me about some of the odd late night requests she’d had from past guests – like a 2am call for a guitar!
Very attentive, you could see their goal was to make sure we had the best possible time during our stay and we really felt cared for. One morning a receptionist spotted J had some bites and gave him a tin of local ointment (which worked better than anything else we’d ever tried, so we’ve stocked up before leaving the island!). When he cut his foot one day, they were there fixing him up in no time, and checking up on him the following morning. Also, when they saw my embarrassing sunburn, they were off getting aloe vera to help ease it as quick as possible.
Every morning Mandy would stop by our tables at breakfast, check we were doing ok and see if we needed a hand with anything. She’d help with tips on what to do and see around the island and remind us she was there if we had any questions.
Most of the hotels on the island only open for high season, but Koh Jum Beach Villas is one of two that stays open all year round, giving staff the option of a regular income. This means that during low season they may take on different roles – for example our masseuses also worked in the restaurant at breakfast time, and others told us they’d do more maintenance work during low season etc. I liked this though; it was another way of showing the resort’s focus on supporting the local community and economy.
The best bits and the odd bits
I have to say that Koh Jum Beach Villas is an amazing place to stay and has definitely made my top five ‘hotels’ to date. There are loads of things I loved about it – the room, the bed, the exclusivity, the little touches, the views… I could go on and on.
But I won’t lie and say it was perfect in absolutely every way (is anywhere?!). The things I’m pointing out are very small, ‘first world problems’, but I want to give an honest review. Firstly, I found it odd that even when our do not disturb sign was on, housekeeping would knock. I’m guessing they’d done all the other rooms (low season remember) and were just waiting for us in order to finish up, but it meant I always felt like I had to get up and out of our room by 9 for them. It wasn’t like I was sleeping still, but I didn’t feel I could lounge away all morning in my PJs!
The other thing was that I often felt ‘sold to’. When discussing what we’d like to do or see during our stay we’d often be pushed in the direction of one of the resorts’ tours, which I felt were overly expensive. I understand that the reality was they wanted to make sure we were happy and got to do everything we wanted to, and support the local community, but sometimes it would have been nicer if the sales side had been toned down.
So now the secret’s out! You’re one of the lucky ones to now know about the amazing Koh Jum Beach Villas and this beautiful, peaceful island. My tiny bugbears aside, I cannot recommend this resort enough and I truly hope to come back and visit again, this time with the kids. I hear they have an amazing time during Songkran (something that’s been on my bucket list of experience for years!), so now I’ve just gotta persuade J that we can save up enough money for all four of us to go. Wish me luck!
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