Located just off the east coast of Thailand, and the country's third-largest island, Koh Samui is a beach-lover's dream. Just about as close to paradise as you can get, the island offers more crystal-clear waters and white sandy beaches than you can shake a stick at! With an annual tourist population that dwarfs the number of locals, Koh Samui attracts everyone from families and those drawn to lazy days lounging in the sun, to backpackers and younger tourists determined to party til that sun comes back up.
The south and west coasts of the island are generally quieter and more relaxed, perfect for visitors who want to loll on the beach and soak up the culture of the local villages. Lipa Noi, a pretty little beach on the west coast is nice and isolated, allowing you to swim and sunbathe in peace. A little further to the south, Phang Ka offers wonderful resorts and even better sunsets. Thong Krut, on the far south-west of the island is a traditional fishing village well worth a visit, and the starting point for most of the boat trips to nearby Koh Mudsum and Koh Tan.
The north and eastern sides of the island cater to quite a different market, with a buzzing nightlife and equally buzzing beaches that are famous the world over. Chaweng is a hive of activity and the hub of Koh Samui's nightlife, not to mention its restaurants and diving tourism, while the quieter, more chilled vibe of Chaweng Noi beach to its south can provide a much-needed break away from the crowds. Choeng Mon in the north is the most exclusive part of the island, offering fancy resorts and private beaches. While on this part of the island, make the trip to the Big Buddha. 12 metres in height and resting on its own island, this impressive bronze statue is not to be missed.
Bang Rak and Bo Phut offer tourists an opportunity to experience the traditional side of Thai island life. Bo Phut holds an excellent night market every Friday evening, with souvenirs and delicious local street food in abundance.
A 50-kilometre ring road circles the island of Koh Samui, making it easy to get to any and all of the beaches and, if you feel like getting off the island, Koh Phangan and Ang Thong National Marine Park are easily accessible by boat.