Lay of the land: Koh Samui is an easy island for resort lounging and beach bumming but it can be a pain to get around. Taxis don’t use meters, charging about $200 to get from one side of the island to the other. You can rent motorbikes for about $60 per day, but many do not include insurance. If all else fails, try to hail a songthaew open-air truck that starts at $5.
About the beaches: Though the most famous stretch of sand on the island are Chaweng and Lamai Beaches, they’re certainly not the most intimate. Skip the big names and instead opt for little more privacy at inlets such as side-by-side Coral Cove and Crystal Bay, which are set off by big boulders. There’s also Mae Nam on the northern side, which has maintained a low-key vibe with a sprinkling of little eateries nearby. Of course, the most undisturbed natural beauty is in the snorkeling epicenter of Ang Thong National Marine Park. You can bask in the area’s glorious clear waters all day on a snorkeling day trip with 100 Degrees East (day trips from US$136. www.100degreeseast.com).
What else is there? Outdoorsy types may want to explore the Namuang Waterfalls ($12 to enter via “Magic Garden” sculpture park): head there in the morning to take advantage of the swimming holes along the waterfall. The surrounding half-baked tourist center is a little scummy, but the 20-minute hike to the waterfalls will transport you far away from that scene.
Get a little R&R at Tamarind Springs Classic Spa (from $400. 05/7 Thong Takian, Koh Samui, (+66) 77-424-221, www.tamarindsprings.com), which offers up several spa packages, along with access to natural herbal steam caves and rock pools.
If you’re out to impress, then book a table at Dining on the Rocks at the Six Senses Resort (9/10 Moo 5, Baan Plai Laem, Koh Samui, (+66) 77-245-678). The restaurant is built across 10 teak wood decks all at varying levels. Each hosts only four tables at a time, providing an intimate dining experience and a 270 degree-view of the sea. The food holds its own too: go with the “5 from Stefano” tasting menu (from $763) from Chef Stefano Leone, who has taken a sophisticated spin on homey Italian food. Ask about Table 100—a private table on a nearby ledge.
Where to stay: Speaking of beautiful beaches, the Four Seasons Koh Samui (from $7,612. 219 Moo 5, Koh Samui, (+66) 77-243-000, www.fourseasons.com/kohsamui) has claimed one hell of a plot of land, as well as one of the island’s most secluded coves. The arrival here is dramatic: you slide through a narrow wooden door only to be hit smack in the face with an astounding palm-fringed view over the hotel’s villa rooftops and off to the ocean. It’s a complete treat: thanks in part to the private villas, plunge pools, buggy transfers and a never-ending breakfast buffet.