Perfect sand – Another typical Koh Samui scene. All that's missing is the obscenely large cocktail.
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Seafood heaven – Despite ongoing development in Koh Samui, there's one constant -- fresh, top-notch seafood is served everywhere on the island.
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Sanctuaries – The Gulf of Thailand island is a popular among tourists visiting wellness sanctuaries, such as Kamalaya (pictured).
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Samahita Retreat – Brush up on your pranayama breathing technique? Contemplate philosophy? In the rural south of the island, Samahita Retreat is a place to do both.
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Easy days – It's not all about the beaches in Koh Samui. But a lot of it is.
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Mummified monk – The mummified body of Dang Piyasilo, or "Luong Pordaeng," has been on display at Wat Khunaram since the Buddhist monk died in 1973 at the age of 79.
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Koh Phangan – Samui's neighboring isle of Koh Phangan is famous for its Full Moon parties, and rustic Sanctuary Thailand spa and resort.
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Eclectic cafes – Cafes on southern Thai islands have perfected a hippiefied-beachcomber, ramshackle style, exhibited here by Think cafe in Lipa.
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Island hopping from Samui – Ang Thong National Marine Park is a collection of uninhabited islands. Not counting wildlife. It's an easy day trip from Samui.
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CNN Insider Guides are thoroughly checked for accuracy. Given the fluid nature of the travel industry, however, some listings may fall out of date before guides can be updated. The best practice is to confirm current information on official websites before making plans to visit any business or attraction.
(CNN)Gazing on the developing island of today:
Upmarket dining scene.
It's hard to believe that up until the 1970s, no paved roads existed on Koh Samui.
It was only in 1989 that the island's airport was built.
While the isle's built-up northern and eastern coasts increasingly cater to the tourists, in the south and west locals still stick to the simple life, and traditions that brought backpackers on rickety fishing boats from the mainland to this island paradise in the first place.
A best of Koh Samui beachfront feast for locals and visitors, this restaurant is a well-kept secret among lovers of fresh local seafood.
The vast menu includes interesting southern delicacies like gaeng som, a popular local sour curry, as well as a full list of Thai favorites.
The red snapper with chili and mango salad is a treat, as are tiger prawns in tamarind sauce, if available.
Everything goes well with coconut juice straight from the tree.
Diners needn't worry about stuffing their face -- they can always work off the calories by going for a post-meal paddle in the restaurant's kayaks, offered free of charge.
Krua Chao Baan, 438/18 Moo.1 Maret Nr Silangu Temple, Ko Samui 84310 Thailand; +66 (0) 7741 8589
Think cafe has a prime sunset-viewing position.
It's hard to miss this funky little cafe.
Not just because of its location -- in the middle of the west coast, a few kilometers south of Koh Samui's capital of Nathon -- but because it's made from recycled shipping containers, refitted and daubed in bold yellow, red, blue and orange.
The fence of colorfully painted old tires is also an attention getter.
Like many establishments in the southern Thai islands, Think has adopted a hippie-beachcomber, ramshackle decor.
The collection of chairs and tables set in the sand at its covered entrance is the best place to watch the sunset with a drink in hand.
You come here for the Woo view toward Koh Phang An.
In the battle of scenic places from which to watch the sunset, Woo sets the bar high.
There's the infinity pool, with sunken, circular loungers, book-ended by a large white "W," which reflects in the water.
The amazing views northward look toward Koh Phang An -- particularly stunning as dusk falls and the lights come on.
A DJ is on hand nightly from 6-11 p.m.
Drinks promotions include Thursday's "Mo-Hee-Toe Madness" -- free flow of 10 signature cocktails for a small price (about $36) supplies lubricant for the evening.
W Retreat Koh Samui, 4/1 Moo 1 Tambol Maenam Surat Thani, Mae Nam, Ko Samui 84330 Thailand; +66 (0) 7791 5999
Nikki Beach Samui is part of the legendary global network of beach clubs founded in Miami in 1997, with branches in St. Tropez, Marrakech, Ibiza, Bali and -- until it closed in the summer of 2015 -- Phuket.
The brand identity is glamor and indulgence,
Starched white umbrellas shelter wealthy patrons sipping on champagne while they listen to DJ beats.
Immaculately dressed guests, often head-to-toe in white linen, start to arrive around noon and occupy the plush daybeds until late.
This beachfront resort has been selling Samui as a center of the wellness universe for more than 20 years.
Now with two locations -- the other is in the hills overlooking Lamai Beach -- the two decades since it opened have seen it attract people from all around the world for intriguing treatments that include hypnotherapy, Hawaiian healing and astrology.
The vibe is relaxed, with a convivial atmosphere that encourages guests to share their experiences and bond in a beautiful setting.
A shuttle runs regularly between the two locations.
Chaweng Beach gets a lot of criticism for crowds, but it's still a pretty darn nice strip of sand.
Picking which strip of Samui sand to plop down on depends on whether you're looking for white sands with no crowds or want to lay in front of a beach bar run by dudes who never seem to tire of listening to Bob Marley.
For action, the busiest strip of sand in town is Chaweng Beach.
It has the most concentrated accommodations and best nightlife.
Though crowded, it's a nice beach with white sand and turquoise waters.
Sunrise on Lamai.
Second on the popularity scale is Lamai Beach.
Not as busy as Chaweng, but with plenty of hotel options and a lovely beach, it's an alternative for traveling families who want to be in the thick of the action but without the wild nights.
Other good options include Choeng Mon, Bophut, Lipa Noi and Maenam.
If views of neighboring Ang Thong National Park are preferable to fine sand, there's Taling Ngam, which sits in a remote corner of Koh Samui. Keep in mind, this one is really far from the action.