Start your day on a spiritual note with a visit to one of the island's most impressive landmarks. Not far from the hotel, the massive golden-coloured statue in a seated position which ascends 12 metres into the skies and is visible from the air as your aircraft comes into land, is built on a small island connected to Samui via a causeway. A stairway flanked by the mythological Naga leads up to a viewing platform if you want to get up, close and personal. Vendors selling amulets, religious artefacts, souvenirs and food crowd the base. Ignore them all, say a prayer, make a donation and move on.
Located near Ban Thurian, this is the island's most impressive and is actually two separate falls. Easily accessible by car, Namuang 1 has a 20-metre drop and a beautiful swimming pool at the base. With water cascading down from an 80-metre drop, Namuang 2 is quite a hike from the main road but well worth the effort.
For some crazy fun in the sun, head over to Bophut. Regular golf rules apply, but no experience or expensive equipment is needed. You tee off with a football, attempting to kick it into a hole the size of a wastepaper basket, and the aim is finish under the course par, which meanders through a beautiful coconut grove.
Spend the afternoon touring Koh Samui's neighbours in traditional long-tail boat decked out for comfort with sofa seating and a canopy against the sun. Known locally as the "Four Islands-Five Islands" as one island is hidden behind another when viewed from the shore, they are covered with stunted trees clinging to their rocky slopes, and are home to thousands of swifts who build their nests on rocky outcrops, which eventually end up in pricey bird's nest soup in Hong Kong and China.
The tour takes in caves, hidden beaches, limestone pinnacles, and the remote dwellings of the security guards stationed there to keep away poachers from the nests. Return to the Five Islands Restaurant for a refreshing shower, cocktails and a delicious sunset dinner on the beach.
Relax on a lounger at this island institution with one of their famous cocktail buckets, as a DJ spins a playlist of island chill, club favourites, and deep house late into the night while fire dancers light up the sky with their pyrotechnics.
Another day in Paradise with so many choices and so little time. Head out with the TK Tours long-tail boat from Thong Khrut harbour to this tiny isle a few hundred metres off Koh Samui's south-western coast. Surrounded by a reef with fan coral, giant clams and a wide variety of fish, it offers excellent snorkelling and swimming options. A wooden walkway allows visitors a glimpse of the mangrove forests, while a short trek to the main village inland will lead you to a seven-metre whale skeleton on display.
This is the place to update your island wardrobe with some exotic ethnic chic. While owners Dana and Barak design most of the collection that includes stylish wispy dresses, flirty beach cover-ups, and sexy swimwear to handbags, jewellery, scarves, belts and sandals made from natural fibres, they also source from designers around Southeast Asia and beyond. Men don't need to despair as they stock shirts, pants, vests, and tee shirts too.
If there is one place you should dine at, make it here for its combination of comfort food and classics that mixes and matches modern British and European cuisine with smidgeons of international influences. Think moreish runny yolk scotch egg with asparagus for dipping and garden herb salad, or the sumptuous slow-cooked pork belly with a soy bean purée, green vegetables, egg yolk croquette, caramelised red onion and sage jus.
Nor should you leave without sampling their cocktails, especially the odd 'Old Fashioned Swine', house-infused bacon bourbon, grade B maple syrup and angostura bitters twisted with orange or the scrumptious 'Peanut Butter Martini', larder-infused peanut butter cup vodka, milk, and chocolate.
Catch the 10.30pm edition of the two-hour revue at Starz Cabaret, where gender benders channel their inner woman, impersonating Britney Spears, Madonna, Tina Turner and Beyonce. Las Vegas it may not be but it features some great acts and cheap drinks that might have you singing "Hit me baby, one more time".
Huge stone animals stalk prey, apsaras stand frozen in dance, while elsewhere deities sit in meditation and musicians play silently amid tropical bushes and flowers. Located at the highest point on Samui, this oddball garden depicting Buddhist and Thai folklore, culture, and fables, is the creation of local fruit farmer Nimm Thongsuk. Getting to it is an adventure in itself with several viewpoints offering panoramic views of the southern end of the island.
Perched atop a rocky cliff along the Chaweng Noi beach, this is a great spot a lunch break. It combines an incredible ocean panorama with great Italian and Thai food and friendly staff for a fantastic dining experience. Top recommendations include the red tuna carpaccio, fresh basil and cherry tomatoes, the sumptuous risotto with white truffles, sautéed onions and Parmesan shavings in a light cream, and the range of pizzas.
If water sports get your adrenalin going, call Water Edge Sports. While they offer wakeboarding, waterskiing, parasailing, jetskis, banana boats and towables, it is their cutting-edge sea toys that are the star attractions, especially the ones that make yuou channel your inner James Bond like the Jetlev-Flyer, which uses pressurized water to propel the rider into air at the speed of 47 kmph. Other toys include the Super Air Nautique 230, a boat with an amazing controllable wake system that allows you to surf the wake without a handle, and the Seabob Cayago F7, which offers relaxed gliding, sporty driving or diving safely under water just like a dolphin.
Pitstops at Cera and Bowtiful for a bit of retail therapy are a must. The former is a showroom of Khanchai Wirattanakul, the island's top ceramic artist who takes his inspiration from the island's natural beauty, and the shapes, colours and textures that surround him, he produces colourful, contemporary works of art that are both original and dramatic.
The latter is a small streetside shop in Lamai selling exquisite jewellery, either handcrafted by owner Bow and her friends or sourced from other designers. The beautiful pieces in stock are fashioned out of wood, stone and shells, silver and semi-precious stones.
Forty-two jagged islands poke through azure seas featuring limestone massifs, tropical rain forests, deserted coves with white sand beaches, caves, waterfalls, mangrove forests, hidden lagoons and plenty of wildlife. Sea erosion has carved the limestone islands into fascination shapes with underground caves and natural stone bridges leading out to the water. Once a haven for pirates during bad weather it is now the Ang Thong National Marine Park.
Covering over 100 square kilometres of land and sea, it was also the inspiration for the Alex Garland's bestseller, The Beach (the movie was filmed elsewhere though). The area is also home to a rich variety of wildlife such as dolphins, sea otters, long-tailed macaques, leopard cats, wild pig, brahminy kites, kingfishers and more. Koh Paluay, the only island inhabited, is home to sea gypsies who still maintain their traditional lifestyle. While it is not possible to visit each island, day tours make stops at different locations for a combination of hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and beach time.
Highlights include the Koh Mae's (Mother Island) stunning beach and inland saltwater lagoon; a strenuous hike to the top of a hill offers a panoramic view of its sparkling green waters hence its name, Emerald Lake. Koh Sam Sao, or Tripod Island, has an extensive coral reef and a dramatic stone bridge as well as a number of hiking trails. Koh Wua Thalap, where the park headquarters are located, offers pristine white beaches and an underground cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites.
This watering hole has definitely raised the bar for nightlife in Chaweng. With its sexy décor, great music, six plasma screens showing major sporting events and a pool table, they have cracked the formula to good times. The resident DJs spin everything from lounge and downtempo to funky house and drum & bass. International acts like Hed Kandi, LTJ Bukem and Krafty Kuts also make periodic appearances.
Take a piece of Thailand back with you with a lesson in making some of the Thai cuisine you have enjoyed so far. Their twice daily three-hour class starts with the preparation of one of the Thai curry pastes, followed by a lesson on how to prepare three dishes. There is a different paste and Thai curry dish taught on each day. The dishes change every day and the class is followed by a meal of what you just cooked.
Tucked away in Ban Thale this is one of Samui’s secrets. And the only motivation to make the trip to this part of the island is the rum: super smooth with evocative aromas of lime, orange, pineapple, and coconut, though au naturel is also an option. Over 10 tonnes of sugarcane are processed in a season to distil around 5,000 litres of rum, using an alembic still imported from Armangnac. Visitors can get a tour of the processing plant and sample the products before making a purchase. A great way to share holiday memories with those back home.
Make the night a special one my stepping back in time through the white arched entrance set in the red brick rampart at The Spirit House. Within it resembles a Thai village of yore with most of the buildings being transported from the ancient capital of Ayuthaya, just outside Bangkok. There are open-air salas, a temple, rice paddies, spice gardens, canals and ponds. The facilities also include a cooking school and beautiful spa which features a rock pool with cascading waterfall.
Staff in period costumes serve traditional Thai dishes that include appetisers, 'wild rainbow lilies'; wild betel leaf, filled with fresh sea prawns, shredded coconut, crushed peanuts, spices and a tangy sauce; succulent sea prawns dipped in a light coconut batter, and the house specialty, massaman curry with chargrilled tender fillet steak accompanied by potatoes and peanuts. Finish off with ladyfinger bananas drizzled with rum syrup and coconut ice cream.
Another of the island's long-standing institutions to end your night at. The massive sound system and the resident band outputs Top 40 chartbusters, hip hop and reggae, and now and then international DJs add their own spin to the mix.
Hugging the mountainside between Chaweng and Lamai, this tight and challenging nine-hole course offers breathtaking panoramas of the beaches and surrounding islands. It was founded in 2006 by aficionados of the game to give enthusiasts an affordable and fun experience on the course. Fairly short at par 33, 2,200 yards, tee off, is uphill, from behind a huge boulder to the first green; the second is a steep downhill narrow with a slight dogleg and OB right, but with spectacular views.
Each hole will test even the experienced golfer with the severe drops and sudden elevations. The course is fairly well maintained but the road up to it can be a bit rough during the monsoon. There are no pro shops or caddies and a golf cart is a must. A small restaurant serves a basic menu and beverages. Golfers don't come here for the facilities but more for the challenge.
If golf is not your thing, then hang out in this place's amoeba-shaped infinity-edge swimming pool. During the day bronzed bodies lie supine on the signature cream-coloured sun loungers and daybeds as the sun umbrellas and swaying palm trees play light and shadow games with the sun. This is Nikki Beach. Billed as the ultimate beach club, available in different flavours in eight countries, and a favourite with the international jet set pack, it is reputed for bringing dining, music, fashion and entertainment together at one venue. Expect fire shows, international DJs, flamenco dancers and a variety of themed event.
Located in Maenam, this small eatery offers an intimate candlelit vibe with small details that reflect the art of traditional Thai fishing. The food here is Mediterranean fused with subtle Asian touches at prices that won't burn a hole in your pocket. And Chef Ferdinand Dienst is a warm and attentive host, greeting guests and guiding them through his small menu that changes every three months. Cleverly inventive, the dishes are beautifully plated with the top recommendations being homemade tortellini of lobster and salmon in a delicate tom yam velouté;
the jasmine-tea-crusted tuna steak bedded on roasted pineapple and Thai asparagus in tongue-tingling wasabi sauce. Nor should one leave without sampling the calamari with roasted watermelon and butter-lemon-sauce, or the perfectly seared duck breast on bok choy with a port of dried cherry sauce and minted-pea purée. Finish off a meal with the delightful chocolate mousse tempered with chilli and mango.