With its trifecta of swoon-worthy tropical scenery, cutting-edge spas, and unbeatable, ocean-fresh dining, could Ko Samui be the most indulgent island getaway in the world?
Thailand’s second-biggest island has come a long way since its long-haired hippie days in the 1970s. The picture-perfect white sands and warm, azure seas haven’t changed, but today this palm-fringed jewel welcomes over a million visitors per year. Its thatched shacks have been replaced by world-class luxury resorts, its mushroom shakes have been superseded by sumptuous fine dining, and its previously undeveloped coastline now bristles with next-generation spas peddling the latest in wellness wisdom.
Samui also has a surprisingly diverse array of beaches — so if you tire of one particular patch of paradise, there’s always more just around the corner. Chaweng and Lamai are the most popular, but head further afield and you’ll discover shady beaches lined with French restaurants and Chinese shophouses, beaches overlooked by giant Buddhas, bays bobbing with colourful longtail boats, and Muslim fishing villages serving delicious seafood curries. What’s more, there are plenty of neighbouring islands to explore, many of them brimming with thick jungle, hidden waterfalls and coral reefs protected by the Ang Thong National Marine Park.
Not all of Ko Samui’s development has been good, but thanks to a law dictating that no building can be taller than the nearest coconut palm, you won’t find the kinds of mega-hotels and high-rises that have sprung up in parts of Phuket. Instead, expect ultra-trendy, low-rise luxury resorts hidden away between coconut plantations and the sea. Don’t come to Ko Samui looking for untouched nature and solitude, but if you’re after true indulgence in a tropical setting, there’s still nowhere better.