Koh Samui is one of the main islands in the Gulf of Thailand and without a doubt one of the most touristy. Unlike Phuket, it still has a strong island feel to it and if you head away from the crowds of Chaweng Beach, you might even come across a few truly authentic little corners of the island.
Spanning some 93 mi², the island of Samui is pretty average in size and can easily be explored by car or scooter, for which you'll easily be able to find a parking spot. The east coast, where you'll find the famous Chaweng Beach, is the busiest.
Chaweng Beach is considered the most beautiful beach on Koh Samui, and at nearly 4 mi, it is certainly the longest. Despite its crystal-clear waters and having managed to maintain a certain charm, it is completely overrun with resorts; in fact, you'd be hard-pushed to find a single square metre of unused space along the coastal road. There's no shortage of nighttime entertainment or fireworks here, but it's certainly a far cry from the tranquil surroundings the island once offered.
Further south down the east coast lies the village of Hat Lamai. The beach here might not be as magnificent as the one at Chaweng, partially because it's not as long, but it is peppered with many of the rocks typically found in the region. If you want to see the 'Hin Tan' ('Grandfather Rock') and 'HinYai' ('Grandmother Rock') during your stay, head for Lamai. These widely-photographed rock formations have been shaped by the sea and wind into devilish phallic forms, and offer the ideal spot from which to watch the sun set. The surrounding area abounds with places to enjoy a drink in the evening.
To the north, meanwhile, you'll find the villages of Bophut and Hat Maenam: both of which provide access to the other islands in the gulf, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. The north coast is also where you'll find Bang Rak Beach, also known as "Big Buddha Beach".
The south coast is one of the least developed parts of the island, although an increasing number of resorts are springing up there.
Chaweng Beach is the best known and longest beach in Samui.© Patrice Hauser
These rock formations are named Hin Tan and Hin Yai (Grandmother and Grandfather), and can be found in the south of the island.© Patrice Hauser
Koh Samui's waterfall, Nam Tok Na Muang, is not woth a visit during the hot season, when the water is only a trickle!© Patrice Hauser
Before the island's tourism developped, Samui was once covered with dense tropical forest.© Patrice Hauser
The art of boxing is deeply woven into the country's culture. People often gather in bars to watch the fighting and make bets.© Patrice Hauser