Koh Samui, Thailand (CNN) — Though Koh Samui might today be one of Thailand's most popular beach destinations, in the 1970s it was mainly a haven for island-hopping backpackers. The arrival of the island's first and only airport in 1989 changed all that, cutting the travel time from Bangkok by hours.
In the years to follow, most of the big names in global luxury hospitality moved in. But until now, they've all been located on the main island, lining its most picturesque beaches.
Enter Cape Fahn Hotel, Koh Samui's first private island luxury resort.
It sits just 300 meters (984 feet) from the shore of Choeng Mon Beach in the northeast corner of the island -- so close you can actually walk to it at low tide, which some guests do.
Otherwise, travelers are shuttled back and forth in under five minutes by a big-wheeled open-air truck or, during high tide, a small boat.
'Completely unique, completely new'
Part of Thailand's Cape and Kantary Hotels chain, Cape Fahn Hotel bills itself as a luxury boutique resort. Its size accentuates that "private island" feeling -- there are just 22 villas, each with its own eight-meter-long pool.
"It is something completely unique, it's something completely new," says Olivier Schneider, Cape Fahn's resident manager.
"We are very close to the mainland, yet we are so far. You can go back for shopping or sightseeing but return to this luxurious resort and enjoy all the benefits."
A member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, Cape Fahn Hotel officially opened in 2018.
Barely a year later, it's already upping its culinary game by pulling in one of the country's fine-dining heavyweights, chef David Thompson of Michelin-starred Nahm fame.
The Australian chef, a global authority on Thai cuisine, opened the resort's new Long Dtai restaurant this month.
Its name means "heading south" and, suitably, the menu highlights southern Thailand's rich culinary traditions -- a welcome break from the standard, generic Thai fare that tends to await travelers heading to the country's resort islands. As with any project connected to Thompson, authenticity is guaranteed.
The private island's private islet villa
An aerial view of Fahn Noi Island, a spacious two-bedroom villa divided from the rest of Cape Fahn.
Courtesy of Cape Fahn
The 22 villas come in a variety of sizes and views, some offering ocean views, others offering easy access to the beach.
But true privacy seekers will want to reserve Fahn Noi Island, a two-bedroom beauty sitting in its own little islet, divided by a small, shallow stream of seawater you can walk over.
This 600-square-meter space features an 11-meter pool, two separate living rooms and a large dining area for in-villa feasts.
It's surrounded by trees and offers dramatic sunset views, along with plenty of outdoor seating to enjoy them from.
Outdoor movies, private yacht tours
For guests willing to pull themselves away from their private spaces, resort amenities include: the Cape Spa; a fitness studio with its own boxing ring; a communal salt-water pool and plenty of non-motorized sports equipment including kayaks and paddle boards. Outdoor cinema screenings take place regularly on the beach.
There's a yacht available for charter too -- a great option for those who want to tour the nearby Ang Thong National Marine Park at their own pace.
The perfect Koh Samui day trip, Thailand's stunning Ang Thong National Marine Park is home to the country's famous Emerald Lake, among other highlights.
Sustainability is also on the menu at Cape Fahn, with the island devoid of single-use plastic items like straws, bottles, cups and cutlery. No chemical fertilizers or bug sprays are used on the property either.
"When we built Cape Fahn, we tried to take as much care as possible to protect the environment, the surroundings and the local culture," says Schneider.
"We tried to build something that blends naturally. Sustainability and care for the environment are among our top priorities within the entire Cape and Kantary Hotels group."
Cape Fahn Hotel, 24/269 Moo 5, T.Bo-Phut, A.Koh Samui, Suratthani, Thailand; +66 (0)77 602 301-2