- Natural wonders
- Heavenly Hanuman Bay
- Thai flair, Moroccan flourish
- Peaceful Bophut beachside
- Rustic luxe retreats
- Hilltop tip of Koh Samui
- Novel beach hideaway
- Swinging Chaweng
- Miami meets Samui
- Secluded south-east
Koh Samui Overview
- Beloved bays and beaches
- Coast life
- Sun-worshipping, bar-hopping
Cellophane-clear waters, pastel coral beds, beaches overhung with palm fronds… With raw ingredients like these, it’s no surprise that Koh Samui is considered one of the world’s best holiday destinations.
Phuket’s more relaxed sibling is a sun-blessed, moon-struck altar to carefree living: once a party-pleasure centre for the backpacker crowd, Samui has grown into a sophisticated tropical retreat. And while a stay here is all about admiring aquamarine seascapes and monolith-strewn shores, there are outlying islands, picturesque waterfalls and densely forested hills to refresh the beach-bored. Thailand’s third largest island may come to regret its popularity, but with a little effort, it’s still possible to find that idyllic paradise beach.
Keenly Koh Samui
It’s impossible to miss the posters for the Full Moon Party when in Samui. Once a lunar month, nearly 20,000 visitors take the 50-minute ferry ride to neighbouring Koh Pha Ngan, disembarking into a hedonistic party whirlwind. It’s an experience in itself, whether you’re young at heart or just plain curious. Smart hoteliers have also begun chartering boats to take you out and back for a short glimpse of the party – long enough to have a little fun, but not so long that you feel stranded; we recommend one of these abbreviated journeys for those who want to see what all the fuss is about without your fun turning into a feat of endurance.
- Cabs cruise around the more populous areas of the island. Meters are installed but their purpose seems to be primarily decorative, so agree on a fare beforehand.
- Tipping culture
- A 10 per cent service charge is usually added to hotel and restaurant bills, but staff seldom see this. Leave a cash tip for especially impressive service.
- Siesta and fiesta
- As on most tropical islands, regard for timekeeping is scant. Most hotels and large restaurants will operate regular hours, but you’ll find the more local establishments open late in the afternoons.
- Packing tips
- Bermudas, singlets, bikinis and sundresses are de rigueur. Flip-flopping is acceptable everywhere. Make sure you’re armed with insect repellent: Samui has some very single-minded mosquitoes.
- Recommended reads
- You’ll have heard of Alex Garland’s paradise-lost tale, The Beach, much of which is based on nearby Koh Phan Ngan. Try sci-fi escapism with The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson, or track down a copy of Carol Hollinger’s Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind for an engaging insight into Thailand through the eyes of an expat.
- As you’d expect from any fishing community, flipping-fresh seafood is noteworthy; look out for sour and spicy fish soup, prawns with tamarind, and oysters from mainland Surat Thani. There’s also an abundance of coconuts thanks to the prolific palms – delicious when paired with chilli, chicken, coriander and lemongrass in tom kha gai soup.
- Thai baht. £1 is approximately THB50.
- Time zone
- GMT +7
- Dialling codes
- Country code for Thailand: 66; local code for Samui is (0)77.
- Do go/don't go
- Koh Samui has two high seasons – from May to November and from January to March – both producing a high number of sunburnt bodies and motorbike mishaps. It’s still pleasantly sunny during the off-peak periods, but be prepared for rain.
Don't go home without...
...treating your body as a temple: Samui is Thailand’s holistic haven and if you’re looking to spa, detox or enjoy your best-ever massage, this is the place to do it. Bliss out at Kamalaya Spa (www.kamalaya.com); the site is built around an ancient spiritual cave-retreat for Buddhist monks. Spend the day recharging and then fill up on the fresh organic cuisine from in-house restaurant Soma. Alternatively, hit the Alchemy tea bar and treat yourself to one of the ambrosial tonics based on ancient recipes.