For couples wanting to get away from the crowds, Koh Samui has a more laid-back atmosphere and is less developed than Phuket. It’s no longer a sleepy backwater, though, as Koh Samui has morphed into a stylish island destination with luxury resorts, spa treatments, cocktails and beaches.
The island is compact and easy to explore with the main ring road leading to most major attractions and beaches. Of all its attractions, the giant gold Buddha on the northeastern tip of Koh Samui is the island’s most famous – and most visited – landmark. Twelve metres high, it’s truly impressive and can be seen from the plane as you fly in to the island. To soothe the soul, head to the working temple at the statue and watch devotees make offerings of flowers and incense.
Chaweng Beach is the most well-known of the beaches, but there are plenty of others to discover in out-of-the-way coves. Also off the beaten track, the island’s mountainous interior is covered in lush forests and features numerous waterfalls.
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Chaweng Beach has several beach clubs where resident DJs help to create a cool vibe. Sip cocktails while watching fire twirlers at Ark Bar; lounge by the impressive oceanfront pool at KC Beach Club; and enjoy sunset cocktails at Nikki Beach Club, located on the west coast at Lipa Noi.
From small boutiques to markets and shopping malls, there’s plenty to fill your suitcase in Koh Samui. Stay cool at the glitzy Central Festival Samui, an air-conditioned escape with brand name boutiques, sportswear and electronic shops. There’s a central open-air atrium and landscaped gardens. There are four sections – Chaweng Port, Bird Cage, Fisherman Village and Beach Town Market – and more than 200 shops, bars and restaurants.
Best romantic dining
Dine on the rocks to breathtaking views at Dining on the Rocks.
Koh Samui has developed a reputation as Thailand’s spa capital. There are several spas dedicated to holistic health, offering a range of treatments from weight loss to detox. Day spas and luxury resort spas include Tamarind Springs, set in a lush tropical forest setting, and the Banyan Tree Spa hydrothermal experience, The Rainforest. Kamalaya specialises in yoga and encompasses 14 temples on the property, which is built on a cliff and has a cave once used by Buddhist monks for meditation.
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Couples will love
Cruising the Andaman Sea on a longtail boat is an unforgettable experience. Glide past soaring limestone cliffs, snorkel among colourful fish and coral in the balmy ocean, and stop to sunbathe on some of the many secluded beaches found on the islands in this part of the world. The aptly named Chicken Island is an interesting sight: a rocky outcrop that looks like a chicken’s neck and head. If you cruise to Koh Poda, look out for the restaurant boat, which is often anchored right on the beach. Ask your boatman to anchor beside it, and place an order for drinks and food. A delivery boy will bring your pad thai right to your boat… or to your towel, if you decide to hit the beach.
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Deep in the jungle of Koh Samui, the Secret Buddha Garden is a wonderland of sculptures, Buddhist mythological deities and fantasy creatures. The enchanted garden is the creation of retired farmer Nim Thongsuk, who started building the garden in 1976 (at the ripe old age of 77), and continued working on it for 24 years. The trip to the garden is a thrilling ride along a steep and winding road in an open-top four-wheel-drive jeep.