Setting The Scene Little did the early backpackers, who first discovered Samui's glorious tropical beaches back in the 1970's, ever dream that an island with no roads and zero infrastructure would develop into the tourist haven it has become today. Thailand's third largest island has progressed from being a largely unknown and isolated island community, into a glorious tropical holiday resort of international fame in the space of little more than thirty years, with more than 1 million tourists annually. Famous for the splendour of its glorious white sand beaches, many of which are protected by coral reefs, the island has great natural beauty. Palm trees dot the coastline, with the inland granite heart covered in tropical rainforest and picturesque plantations of coconut and fruit farms. The offshore coastal views are breath-taking. Looking out in a northerly direction across the azure-blue Gulf of Thailand, you will see the nearby Koh Pha Ngan; look to the north-west and you will see the fabulous Chumphon Archipelago of over 40 (mostly uninhabited) islands, which together form the Ang Thong National Marine Park. And let's not forget Ko Samui's legendary sunsets. Sadly, uncontrolled development in recent years has taken its toll on the popular beaches of Chaweng and Lamai, and the beach in the central area of Chaweng is now totally obscured from the road by tourist developments. The whole area tends to suffer from overcrowding during the high season. But there is a lot more to Koh Samui than just Chaweng beach. What’s To See While Samui has more areas suitable for families than its two nearby island counterparts, there is still something for everybody. The party beaches of Chaweng and Lamai line the east coast, and along the north shore, the beaches of Mae Nam and Bang Po have some classic backpacker joints. There are also many other relaxed beaches scattered around the island, including some great places for those looking to get away from it all. We've covered all the best beaches in our three beach highlights, and have listed some great budget places to stay in the accommodation section. As far as water activities are concerned, swimming off most of the beaches is quite safe, including for kids. The nearby Ang Thong Marine Park with its hidden lagoons and coral reefs is a kayaking and snorkelling paradise. Scuba divers can find some of the finest offshore dive spots in the world, and then there's the latest water sports crazes of SUP (stand up paddling) and kiteboarding, both of which are very popular here. Samui is a great place to get on a motorbike and explore the island's interior, with its beautiful waterfalls and fascinating temples providing great destinations to head for, but half the fun is just in the journey. The locals are friendly if you need to ask for directions, and the island is big enough for an adventure, but not large enough to get too lost! The weather can break into a downpour at any point, so ensure you have something waterproof to protect your valuables! There's plenty to entertain on the island - a round of real golf or the fun-filled 'football golf' variety; a stroll through the "old world" Fisherman's Village at Bo Phut; and rum tasting, before - not after - you take a leisurely afternoon's drive through some scenic and tranquil coconut plantations. Popular spiritual pursuits include Yoga, (for which Samui is now a world-renowned centre), and meditation. After dark, you can go partying and clubbing, especially in the Chaweng and Lamai area with the myriad of bars, clubs and discos to suit every taste and pocket. You can dine at fine restaurants serving international cuisine, fill your stomachs at the "hole in the wall" Thai food shops, gulp down a burger in a fast food joint, or just snack from the ubiquitous Thai street food stalls. And for a change - as if you need one - you might like to take in a couple of Muay Thai boxing matches at one of Koh Samui's two dedicated stadiums. After a hard night's partying, or maybe winding down from one of the many extreme sports activities, you can always try a traditional Thai massage. As wherever you are on the island, you will never be far away from a willing and expert masseur.