Koh Samui has been in the tourism business longer than almost any other Thai island, but rather than becoming passe, has embraced a new generation of resort goers, many of them upscale. Academy Award–winning holidays here include
fine stretches of sand
clogged with beach loungers, world-class international cuisine, luxurious spas and beach bar parties.
Behind the glossy veneer there's still a glimmer of the girl from the country. Look for steaming street-side food stalls beyond the beach
, backpacker shanties plunked down on quiet stretches of sand and secreted Buddhist temples along the backstreets
. To really get away, head to the south or the west of the island where you'll find authentic Samui family-run seafood restaurants, tourist-free towns buzzing with descendants of the original Chinese merchant settlers and long stretches of refreshingly wild and shaggy coconut palms.