The stunning Thai island with something for everyone

With a rugged coast, sparkling Gulf of Thailand waters and a hilly interior cloaked in tropical jungle, it is no surprise that Koh Samui has been tempting travelers for decades.

Beyond the resorts lining the east and northern coasts, there is still plenty of room for discovery: dive in reefs resplendent with staghorn coral, angelfish, butterfly fish and stingrays; sail around the pristine archipelago of 42 islands which make up the Ang Thong National Marine Park; rent a car and seek out bamboo-built fishing villages, romantic waterfalls and serene Buddhist gardens; or just laze on the beach, ending the day with a seafood dinner and a before-bed massage.

  • Hotel
  • Foursquare

Zen yoga and picture-postcard marine parks

Water babies will be in their element on Koh Samui, which is surrounded by the warm, turquoise Gulf of Thailand and picture-postcard beaches at every turn. The most popular amongst them is Chaweng, four miles of baby-soft white sands bookended by reefs with calm gently-sloping waters in between. It is a brilliant spot for families, with tons of aqua-activities on offer – kayaking, kite-boarding, fly-boarding, jet-ski safaris – and plenty of child-friendly restaurants dotting the shore. For something more serene, try Mae Nam. Situated in the quieter north of the island, this beach is all sugary sands, swaying palms and gorgeous views of Koh Phangan island.

If you fancy an off-island day trip, hire a catamaran for a private tour of Ang Thong National Marine Park, which spans more than 40-square miles of cerulean seas peppered with dozens of limestone islands, diamond white beaches and teeming reefs – look out for hawksbill and green turtles amid the kaleidoscopic corals. Try to find a trip that includes kayaking around cliffs and into sea caves with a pit stop at Emerald Lake, cupped in the centre of the island of Koh Mae.

Another form of escape can be found at the island’s many yoga centers (try Trinity Yoga) and day spas such as Tamarind Springs where you can perform sun salutations on jungle-shrouded platforms as day breaks over a sea of molten gold or book in for a traditional Thai massage that leaves you with muscles as loose as ribbons.

In the evening, head to the lantern-lit streets of Fisherman’s Village in Bophut where you can stroll between vintage boutiques, organic health-food cafes and charming al fresco restaurants (seaside fine-dining restaurant Zazen is particularly romantic). It is a great spot every night but really livens up on a Friday with the arrival of the Walking Street market, when every inch is taken over by stalls selling an artsy array of local handicrafts – oil paintings of village scenes, lacquerware dishes, hand-carved wooden elephants – as well as clothing, fashion accessories and souvenirs.

Not quite ready for bed? Nikki Beach Club is the original and still one of the most fashionable spots on the island, with DJs flying in from across the globe and millionaires popping champagne corks over neon-lit swimming pools. The Ice Bar, a kind of indoor igloo, completely hewn from ice with the temperature set at -7 degrees, is also great fun.

Share this Guide to Koh Samui