Dream of a tropical island paradise and you could be dreaming of Koh Samui. While it's only Thailand's third largest island, chances are you've heard of it. Up until the late 20th century, Koh Samui enjoyed blissful isolation in the Gulf of Thailand with little connection to the mainland. But such undiscovered natural beauty could only stay secret for so long. By the 1970s the island began making its way onto the tourism map, beginning with intrepid backpackers and transforming into the second most popular island destination in Thailand (after Koh Phuket).
Today, Koh Samui draws travellers in from all over. Its pristine beaches, lush forests, unique history and Thai cuisine proving a potent combination. Away from the chaos of Bangkok and the rowdy nights of Phuket, Koh Samui lends itself to relaxation. It's a destination where you don't have to venture past the resort pool, but if you do, you'll be met with palm-fringed beaches, majestic waterfalls, big Buddhas and glistening temples.
Samui is also a popular wellness retreat destination with plentiful and affordable spa treatments and massages available, or more hardcore health regimes in onsite spas and detox retreats. Just the thing to balance any excesses at the famous Full Moon Party (plus half- and quarter-moon soirees) at nearby Koh Pha-Ngan where bucket drinks, fire shows and dance raves take place on the shores of Haad Rin.
While Koh Samui isn't without its fair share of commercialism, for all the fast food outlets and knock-off designer bags lies a paradise of dirt roads, full moons, tropical reefs, coconuts and untouched sand. The stuff that tropical island dreams are made of.