The island’s main attractions are its wonderful beaches; most people head straight to one, where they remain until they leave. The two most popular are Lamai and Chaweng, both on the east side of the island. They are the longest uninterrupted beaches on Samui, with good swimming and watersports and busy nightlife. Mae Nam and Bophut, on the north shore, are a little more laid-back and have a number of good quality, low-cost accommodation options, although expensive resorts rather than backpacker bolt-holes are taking over. Bophut is one of the few places where you can still see some of Samui’s traditional Hainanese houses, with fretwork balconies and windows, tiled pitched roofs and decorated eaves.
The least-developed area of the island is the southern tip, where the ring-road snakes inland from the coast, leaving a quiet corner away from the thud of dance music. For a much quieter scene, head for the remote bungalows down the west shore; an advantage of staying on this side of the island is the sunsets. If you can drag yourself away from the beach, explore the island’s interior, which is forested and hilly with some impressive waterfalls (in the wet season), or take a boat to visit the beautiful islands of the Ang Thong Marine National Park, featuring limestone massifs, tropical rainforests, coral reefs and beautiful beaches.