General Information

1. District historical background

The name "Samui" is from an unknown language; it has been presumed that the word "Samui" came from the Malay language and some have said it is derived from the Hainan language and/or Tamil language; it has even been assumed to be derived from the name of a tree. However, "Koh Samui District" is today is an important district of Suratthani.

2. General Condition

Koh Samui island has approximately 227 km2. (142,031 rai), accumulated with the area of another 50 islands surrounding makes total area of Koh Samui district stand at 252 km2 area (157,273 rai). A population of approx. 61,318 including those non-registered and tourists makes 6 times higher amount than registered population as per civil database. The number influences huge and rapid development in Koh Samui.

Location and geography

Koh Samui island is located on the continental shelf, middle of Thai Gulf, about 84 km notheast of Surat Thani province, (9°30N, 100°E), 20 km from the main land, 750 km from Bangkok. The island area is approximately 227 km2, 21 and 25 km at its widest point, ranged as a third biggest island in Thailand (following Phuket and Koh Chang).

Koh Samui is the district under administration of Surat Thani province, surrounded by 53 other islands total area 314 km2. Among all islands under Koh Samui district, Samui island is the biggest with highest volume of population, followed by Koh Pluay, Koh Tan, Koh Mae Tao, Koh Chuek, Koh Som, Koh Wuajiew, Koh Lak, Koh Rikan, Koh Wutalab consecutively. In addition, there are groups if island which are Koh Pluay and Koh Mae Koh composed as Angthong Island (Moo Koh Angthong". The territories of Koh Samui District to others are as follows:

  • North About 15 km north of Koh Phangan, Surat Thani province,
  • South About 40 km south to Khanom district, Nakhon Si Thammarat province
  • East Connected to Thai Gulf
  • West Connected to several districts under Surat Thani province such as Don Sak, Kanjanadit, Mueang, Tha Chang and Chaiya district.

Source: as of 20 January 2015(the date of research).

3. Politics and Government
30 August 1956 Koh Samui was first governed as a sanitation district with a village, listed as village number 3 under Angthong sub-district.
25 May 1999 Samui Sanitation was changed into sub-district by virtue of Sub-district Act
9 June 2008 The Ministry of Interior annouced the change of Koh Samui sub-district into Municipality of Mueang Koh Samui.
14 September 2012 Koh Samui, according to the announcement of the Ministry of Interior, was changed from Mueang Koh Samui Municipality into Nakhon Koh Samui Municipality. The governing administration covered whole Samui district: 7 sub-districts, 39 villages. During that time, Nakhon Koh Samui Municipality was the only local administrative organization, subsequently, the Nakhon Koh Samui Municipality and Koh Samui was considered to be under the same governing authority.

The administrative structure of Nakhon Koh Samui Municipality consist of central, regional and state enterprise organization as follows:

No. Type of organization Organization
1 Central government authority 1. Samui Local Revenue Office
2. Surat Thani Revenue Office, Koh Samui branch
3. Surat Thani Excise Office, Koh Samui branch
4. Koh Samui Office of the Prosecutor
5. Koh Samui Court
6. Office of Probation, Koh Samui, Surat Thani
7. Legal Execution Office, Koh Samui, Surat Thani
8. Koh Samui Prison
9. Surat Thani Land Office, Koh Samui
10. Welfares and Labour Protection Office
11. Weather Watch Station
12. Koh Samui Report Station
13. Koh Samui Immigration Office
14. Tourism Station 5
15. Koh Samui Depot Highway
16. Naval Base Maintenance 3
17. Koh Samui Customhouse
18. Koh Samui International Disease Control Division
19. Koh Samui National Broadcast Station
20. Marine Police Station 3, Division 6
21. Koh Samui Forest Management Office
22. Koh Samui Watershed Management
23. Angthong Marine National Park
2 Regional Administrative Organization 1. Koh Samui District
2. Community Development of Koh Samui
3. Koh Samui Agricultural Office
4. Koh Samui Public Health Office
5. Koh Samui Military Recruiting
6. Koh Samui Provincial Police Station
7. Borphud Provincial Police Station
8. Koh Samui Hospital
9. Koh Samui District Non-Formal and Informal Education Center
10. Surat Thani Office of Transportation, Koh Samui branch
3 State Enterprises 1. 4 Post Offices
2. Telecommunication Center
3. Tourism Coordination and Development
4. Koh Samui Telephone Service Center
5. Provincial Electricity Authority
6. Provincial Waterworks Authority
4 Local Administration Office 1. Nakhon Koh Samui Municipality

1) Population: The data from Office of Local Administration, Nakhon Koh Samui Municipality as of 31 March 2013 indicates that Koh Samui has a population of 62,388 people, which are divided into 30,334 males and 32,054 females, in a total of 42,500 families. Among this number, there are 5,459 elderlies and 442 disabilities. The population density is 274 people/km2. Moreover, there are 300,000 non-registered population and approximate 3,000 tourists/day.

2) Inhabitation: the population live in 3 islands-- Koh Samui, Koh Pluay and Koh Tan, mainly in the sub-districts where tourism is the major business such as Angthong, Maret, Borphud and Maenam district. Within the districts mentioned, islanders settle their residence as a community i.e. Nathon, Maenam, Hua Tanon. Chaweng and Lamai are considered as the center of tourism and entertainment areas.

No. Sub-District Number of population Number of house
Male Female Total
1 Angthong 5,799 5,888 11,687 5,363
2 Lipanoi 2,456 2,617 5,073 2,455
3 Taling Ngam 2,772 2,920 5,692 2,605
4 Na Mueang 2,390 2,505 4,895 2,427
5 Maret 4,119 4,611 8,730 6,915
6 Borphud 8,857 9,278 18,135 16,435
7 Maenam 3,941 4,235 8,176 6,300
Total 30,334 32,054 62,388 42,500

Source: Database of civil registration as of 31 March 2013

3) Nationality: Major population is of Thai nationality, some Chinese and Malaysian. Chinese mainly settle in town and trade goods while Malaysian Muslim are fisherman and settle down along the shore. Nowadays, there are more Westerners living and operating tourism business in Koh Samui.

Source: as of 20 January 2015(the date of research).

4. Economic

At present, the structure of Koh Samui economic consists mainly of Agriculture and followed by Tourism,Commercial and Services and Industryrespectively.


Koh Samui has total agricultural area of 102,745 rai. Coconut is the main industrial crop in term of quantity and value. Plantation in Koh Samui is for consumption and export to the main land. Coconut ranged as the higest exported plants, followed by a particular fruits. However, the island currently have to import vegetables, fruits and some food from Mueang Surat Thani and other nearby districts due to increasing amount of tourists.

Most of the fishery in Koh Samui is a small costal business, fishing along the shores while the rest do fresh water fishery such as aquarium fishes. Thirty percent of the product is for their families while the seventies percent is sold to local markets and restaurants. Nevertheless, such production is insufficient for the whole population as the number of tourists is increasing. Another factor is the limitation of fishery as in a year; fishermen could sail out during non-monsoon period which lasts for only 4-5 months. Further problem is decreasing amount of sea animals every year as a result of adverse impact from waste and garbage which are disposed to the sea. For this reason, sea food is also subject to the import from other sources.

The livestock quantity from animals such as chicken, ducks, pigs, buffaloes and cows in Koh Samui is low comparing to other districts in Surat Thani. Mainly the animals are raised for household consumption and for labour. Seldom that the islanders raise animals for trading purpose, which in some cases, the domestic animals are traded as an additional income rather than main. For this reason, the quantity of animals raised in the island is not enough for the high demand from its population and tourists and subsequently, needed to be imported from other regions.

Service and tourism

Tourism Industry Development started officially in 1986 under Koh Samui Tourism Development Plan. As a result, the tourism in Koh Samui expanded rapidly resulting in incresing number of tourists, hotels, accommodations and following cash turnover.

Number of arrivals in December 2014, classified by immigration offices

No. Immigration Office 2014p 2013 Δ %
1 Suvannabhumi 1,557,261 1,422,491 +9.47
2 Don Mueang 269,148 175,087 +53.72
3 Au Taphao 3,475 5,720 -39.25
4 Chiangmai 70,056 48,713 +43.81
5 Hat Yai 9,009 7,574 +18.95
6 Krabi 58,145 29,533 +96.88
7 Phuket 347,799 333,502 +4.29
8 Samui 20,797 17,202 +20.90
9 Bangkok Port 2,413 777 +210.55
10 Samut Prakarn Port 25 16 +56.25

Source: Immigration Office and Department of Tourism

Remark: p means primary information

Nationality Amount (million) Ratio to total Percent of increasion
Chinese 4.71 17.60 68.83
Malaysian 3.00 11.21 17.29
Russian 1.74 6.50 31.93
Japanese 1.54 5.75 11.96
South Korean 1.30 4.85 11.48
Lao 1.11 4.14 13.33
Indian 1.05 3.93 3.61

Source: Department of Tourism data as of January 2014

Table showing amount of arrivals in Koh Samui (7 consecutive years)

Year Thai tourist Foreign tourist Total Revenue from tourism
(million baht)
2005 149,949 850,827 1,000,776 12,734.79
2006 84,310 755,766 840,076 14,001.28
2007 77,960 775,575 853,475 14,056.12
2008 72,826 666,578 739,404 15,279
2009 72,822 650,788 723,610 23,030.18
2010 141,040 652,140 793,180 14,685
2011 160,611 121,713 409,155 9,329
(*until the second quarter)

Source: Koh Samui Tourism Support Center (data as of December 2011)

Table showing top 10 nationalities of tourists in Koh Samui district

2008 2009 2010
Thai Thai Thai
German British German
British German British
Australian Australian Australian
French French French
Swiss Italian Israeli
Russian Israeli Russian
Swedish Swedish Swedish
Italian Russian Italian
American Swiss Swiss

Source: Koh Samui Tourism Support Center (data as of December 2011)

Table showing current occupancy in hotels/resorts (licensed accommodations)

Hotel Number of rooms Number of hotels
Small size hotel Not more than 30 rooms 276
Medium size hotel Between 30-100 rooms 168
Big size hotel More than 100 rooms 21
Total   465

Source: website SURATTS.COM/SURAT/INDEX.PHP data as of May 2011

Year 2013 remained a good year for Koh Samui. Comparing to the same period of the previous year, a number of tourists were increased by 20%, occupancy rate from hotels and resorts was up to 85%. Trend of income shows significant steady growth during the first half year of 2013. Average revenue growth of Samui was between 14-16 percent, alternatively, the revenue balance was approximately 15,000 million baht. In addition, total occupancy in Koh Samui were around 16,000 rooms.


Private industrial businessess are located in Angthong, Lipanoi, Taling Ngam, Na Mueang, Maret, Maenam and Borphud district. Major business concerns furniture made from coconut three, ice and drinking water manufacturing, car garage, cement block manufacturing as well as agriculture products such as coconut oil and dried coconut meat. Ice and drinking water manufacturing are the business which generates high rate of employement.

Financial institution

  1. 29 Commercial Banks
  2. 4 Non-commercial bank financial institutions
  3. 3 Cooporatives

Land use

  1. Agricultural use: approximately, the area of 227 km2 or 142,031 rai is used for agricultural purpose. Coconut plantation area is of 84,310 rai, followed by durian plantation of 11,037 rai. The reserved forest are at Hin Lad waterfall and Na Mueang Waterfall.
  2. Residence and commerce: The land use for residence and commerce purpose is widely located along the beach around the island with support of administration center and tourism service centers located at Nathon market, on the western coast. The accommodations, restaurants and bars are situated around the island with high density along the northern, south-eastern beach, within Maenam, Borphud and Maret sub-district.
  3. Types of land ownership are as follows:
    • 37,849 Land title deeds
    • 12,573 Nor Sor 3 Kor. (Certificate of Land Utilisation)
    • 2,203 Nor Sor 3 (Certificate of Land Utilisation)
    • 53 Nor Sor Lor (Certificate of State Land)

Source: as of 20 January 2015(the date of research).

5. Tourism

List of countries and territories entitled for Visa Exemption and Visa on Arrival

Period of stay 15 days
Bhutan China Cyprus Czech Republic Ethiopia Hungary
India Kazakstan Latvia Liechtenstien Lithuania Maldives
Mauritius Oman Poland Principality of Andorra Russia Republic of Bulgalia
Republic of Malta Romania Republic of San Marino Saudi-Arabia Slovak Slovenia
Taiwan Ukrane Uzbekistan      


Period of stay 30 days
Australia Austria Bahrain Belgium Brazil Brunei Darussalam
Canada Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France
Germany Greece Hong Kong Hungary Iceland Indonesia
Ireland Israel Italy Japan South Korea Kuwait
Luxembourg Liechtenstein Malaysia Monaco Netherlands New Zealand
Norway Oman Peru Philippines Portugal Poland
Qatar Singapore Slovak Slovenia Spain South Africa
Sweden Switzerland Turkey United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States of America


  • Via airport, period of stay 30 วdays
  • Via land border, period of stay 15 days

except Malaysian nationals who cross the borderline from Malaysia whose granted period of stay will not exceed 30 days each time

Notice: For a holder of this type of visa may apply for a 7 days extension of stay

Period of stay 90 days (*country member (ABTC))
Australia* Brunei* Canada Chile* China* Hong Kong*
Indonesia* Japan* South Korea* Malaysia* Mexico* New Zealand*
Papua New Guinea* Peru* Philippines* Russia Singapore* Taiwan*
Vietnam* United States of America*        

List of countries which have concluded bilateral agreements on visa fee exemption with Thailand

Period of stay 14 days

Period of stay 30 days
Hong Kong Macau Mongolia Vietnam Laos Russia

Period of stay 90 days
Brazil* Chile South Korea* Peru* Argentina

*Diplomatic/Official Passport holder

List of Countries which have concluded agreements on the exemption of visa requirements for holders of diplomatic or official or service/special passports with Thailand

Period of stay 30 days
Cambodia China Laos Mongolia Myanmar Oman Vietnam

List of countries which are declared Yellow Fever infected Areas
Angola Argentina Benin Bolivia Brazil
Burknan Faso Burundi Cameron Central Africa Chad
Columbia Congo C?te d'Ivoire Ecuador Equatorial Guin
Ethiopia French-Guiana Gabon Gambia Ghana
Guinea Guyana Guinea Bissau Kenya Liberia
Mali Mauritania Niger Negeria Panama
Peru Paraguay Rwanda Senegal Sao Tome & Principe
Sierra Leone Somalia Sudan Suriname Tanzania
Togo Trinida & Tobago Uganda Venezuela Zaire


6. Tourist Destinations

Koh Samui Beaches & Islands

The beaches & islands of Koh Samui are amongst some of the most beautiful in the world, Chaweng beach and Lamai beach are most beautiful and most popular beaches. Both have a huge selection of accommodations suitable for every budget. Apart from its many lovely beaches and tranquil bays, Koh Samui is also noted for its high quality coconuts that grow densely everywhere. The best time to visit Koh Samui is from February to April when the sea is calm.

Recommended Beaches & Islands

1. Bang Po Beach
Location : North of Koh Samui
Bang Po Beach is a very quiet part of the island with small tranquil beaches scattered along the coast. Boutique resorts and luxurious villas guaranty a relaxing vacation and amazing sunsets can be watched while enjoying a delicious dinner at a beachfront restaurant. It is only a 10 minutes drive to Nathon, the capital of Samui, to do some shopping, banking or strolling through the market.
2. Big Buddha Beach
Location : North East of Koh Samui
Big Buddha Beach has smooth sand, good swimming preferences and is safe for children. From here you have fantastic views over the 12 meter high golden Big Buddha and the neighboring island of Koh Phangan. Big Buddha Beach has everything to offer like restaurants, bars and shopping opportunities and all kind of accommodations from simple beach huts to tropical resorts catering to all budgets. The nightlife of Chaweng is just a 10 minutes drive away and daily boats to Koh Phangan and the monthly Full Moon Party are leaving from here.
3. Bophut Beach
Location : North of Koh Samui
Bophut beach located next to Big Buddha beach, well retains its peacefulness due to the existence of a fishing village and a pier nearby. The beach at the village is small and not too suitable for swimming as there are many tour and diving boats going from here to other islands. Bophut Beach is good for water sports such as water skiing and sailing.
4. Chaweng Beach
Location : East of Koh Samui
Chaweng beach is the most popular white sandy beach, tropical hotels, a hopping nightlife, numerous restaurants and shopping opportunities makes Chaweng the most popular beach on the island's east coast. The beach is approximately 6 Km long. The strong point of Chaweng beach is its white powdered sand. During the day one can relax on the beach, enjoy some water sports or other activities while at nighttime Chaweng transfers to a bustling entertainment area with live music, cabaret shows, dance clubs and dining opportunities not to be missed.
5. Choengmon Beach
Location : North of Koh Samui
Choeng Mon beach is located 4 km. to the north of Chaweng Beach, the beach is lovely, clean and quiet beach is suitable for those who need a real relaxation. The water is rather shallow and makes it safe for children to play and snorkelers can explore the underwater world right from the beach.
6. Coral Cove Bay
Location : Between Chaweng and Lamai
Located between Chaweng and Lamai has some small secluded beaches like Thongtakian. Huge granite rocks border the coastline which makes this area good for snorkeling. Some resorts are nestled at the hillside with magnificent views over Chaweng Beach.
7. Lamai Beach
Location : South of Chaweng Beach
Lamai is the second popular beach after Chaweng which located 10 Km in the south of Chaweng beach on the east coast . The hundreds of coconut trees bending over the blue-green waters give Lamai a more peaceful and natural atmosphere. The sea gets quickly deeper making it perfect for swimming and water sports. Restaurants, spas, bars and shopping opportunities are plentiful. If you are looking for a relaxing few days on the beach, Lamai Beach is a lovely, peaceful beach and perfect for families and couples.
8. Lipa Noi Beach
Location : West of Koh Samui
Lipa Noi, or Sunset Beach, is the most serene and untouched beach at the west coast of Koh Samui just 5 minutes from the ferry pier to the mainland. It is the place for peaceful and quiet beach holidays away from the crowds with beautiful sunsets and scenic views of the Angthong National Marine Park and the mainland. As there are only a view resorts along the beach you will have plenty of space on the crystal clear sea. There is not much around but Nathon's shopping area is only 4 km away.
9. Maenam Beach
Location : North of Koh Samui
Mae Nam beach is located in the North of Samui with 6 kilometres in length. The beach is often quiet with smooth sand, the water is clear, clean and good swimming preferences, perfect for families with small children as the water is shallow and there is no noise from nightlife or traffic.

At Mae Nam Beach you will see Wat Na Parlarm (Wat Na Parlarm Temple). This is definitely a must see and the temple makes for some fantastic photo opportunities. Just before sundown is arguably the best time to visit.

Shopping opportunities as well as restaurants are located in the area, most within walking distance. It is just a 15 minutes drive to the action in Chaweng and 10 minutes to Bophut's Fisherman Village for some fine wining and dining.
10. Taling Ngam Beach
Location : South West of Koh Samui
Taling Ngam in the south west of Koh Samui is 45 minutes from Koh Samui airport and 40 minutes from Chaweng. It’s far removed from the rest of Koh Samui and enjoys an almost spiritual and soothing ambience in an alluring hazy light.

Taling Ngam enjoys views of the 5 Islands, the mainland and the sunsets over Ang Thong National Marine Park. Visit the Five Islands restaurant for some delicious food and great views.
11. Thongtakian Beach
Location : Between Chaweng Beach and Lamai Beach
Thongtakian beach or Silver beach is one of the most idyllic small beaches on Samui, located after Coral Cove and just before Lamai. Its stunning seaview, white powdery sand and crystal-clear shallow water make this beach absolutely beautiful and unspoiled.

The beach is surrounded by hillltops, amazing rocks and coconut trees. There are a few small resorts there such as Promtsuk Buri, Thongtakian Resort, Crystal Bay, and Samui Yacht Club.

1. Ang Thong National Marine Park
Location : North West of Koh Samui
For tourists who come to Samui and want to appreciate marine nature which is still unspoiled, Mu Koh Ang Thong is the ideal place for them. It is among one of the most well-known islands that the tourists should visit since the beauty of these islands render a unique experience and atmosphere different from other islands.

Almost 50 islands are the components of Mu Koh Ang Thong. Each island offers different scenery. However, the most spectacular viewpoint from above is located at the top of Wua Ta Lap Island which needs a little climbing effort. Even though reaching the top of the island needs high endeavour, the infinite panoramic view of the Gulf of Thailand including several islands in different peculiar shapes is worth your sweat.

Mae Koh island is another highlight of Mu Koh Ang Thong. Likewise the breathtaking view always comes with little obstacle. Visitors need to waste their sweat a little before reaching Thale Nai (Inner Sea), which is the great viewpoint. A huge emerald lagoon, situated in the middle of the limestone mountains which gradually subside into an inland bay amidst the island. Inner Lagoon is another startling attraction in the world which is worth visiting.

Mu Koh Ang Thong is not far from Koh Samui; thus, most tourists normally purchase a one-day trip. Hence, the atmosphere in the evening and at night is pristine and serene.
2. Matsum Island (Koh Matsum)
Location : South of Tan Island
Matsum Island is just south of Tan Island, opposite the beaches by the Laem Sor Chedi and it is also a popular spot for a day trip. A long sandy beach is a favourite with local Thai tourists for picnics, and there are often groups of students camping on the beach or singing songs around campfires. It’s a good place to join the locals on a ‘tio’, Thai for day out.
3. Koh Nang Yuan (Nang Yuan Island)
Location : North East of Tao Island
The reasons why Nang Yuan Island is one of the most famous islands of the world are privacy and beauty. Nang Yuan Island is renowned around the Gulf of Thailand because of the clean white dunes linking three small islands together. This is one of the top ten most beautiful places of the world. Tourists who visit here come by boat for a day trip from the islands of Tao Island, Pha ngan Island, Koh Samui and the mainland.

Nang Yuan can be found in the northeast of Tao Island it can be seen from Sairee beach, the main beach location on the island. Some say that Nang Yuan Island is the tail of Tao Island. The island is tiny but there are piers, a restaurant, and a resort called Nang Yuan Island Dive Resort which is the one and only resort on island.

Several things that you have to do when you come to Nang Yuan Island are visiting the viewpoint, visiting the dunes linking three islands, and snorkeling. You can go to the viewpoint first which is located in the left of the island. You have to walk about fifteen minutes to reach the viewpoint at the top of the hill. Over there, it is a huge rock where you can see the blue sea and white dunes. Then you can swim around the dunes, relax on sun beds, or take some impressive photos.

Some interesting activities at Nang Yuan Island are Kayaking and snorkeling. This island is a favorite place for diving because of the three islands which shield the wind. It means that the sea is smooth so tourists can also enjoy kayaking. For people who love to dive, Nang Yuan Island provides a diving center teaching scuba diving, and scuba diving tours around Nang Yuan Island and Tao Island. There is snorkeling service available for experiencing the beauty of corals and fish around the dunes of the island.
4. Koh Phangan (Phangan Island)
Location : Thansadet – Koh Phangan National Park
Koh Phangan is a magnificent island with a rich marine ecological system. Sparklingly clear seawater and sandy beaches make this place popular among foreign tourists. Phangan gets exceptionally busy because this is the venue for the Full Moon party, one of the world-renowned beach activities that take place on Rin beach every full moon. It is said that Phangan Island is the most awe inspiring place to witness a full moon.

It is not only the joyful parties and music that attract people, but the natural beauty of the island itself has a magnetizing effect on visitors. For example, the tranquil Srikantang beach becomes extraordinarily beautiful in December and January because the seawater appears to be clearer than other times of the year. Try Nai-pan beach, which provides a peaceful and private atmosphere for swimming and sunbathing.
5. Som Island
Location : North of Koh Samui
Som Island is a small private island which is located just 600 meters off the north coast of Koh Samui, it looks close enough to swim to and only 5 minutes by speed boat from Samui Island. It is the only private island around Koh Samui.
6. Tan Island
Location : South of Koh Samui
Tan Island has a very distinctive shape, which is curved, and an ideal natural bay area. This is the reason why it is considered one of the best Koh Samui beaches. These beaches do not have many tourists because tour groups make few trips to these islands.

Formerly called Coral Island, Tan Island has made a name for itself as the ideal snorkelling destination as it has an abundant of corals. But almost all the corals have been killed due to bleaching, as a consequent of global warming and the rising of sea temperature. But some areas are still good for snorkelling remain.

The main livelihood of the inhabitants is coconut cultivation, fishing and tourism. Another tourist site is the mangrove swamps that the villagers are able to conserve.

An interesting legend told often by locals is that no dogs are allowed on the island. According to them, once a dog sets his foot in Koh Tan, it will start to go mad, howl, wail and die.
7. Koh Tao (Tao Island)
Location : North of Phangan Island
Tiny “turtle island” Koh Tao is a top destination for scuba divers though even non divers are easily drawn in by the island’s beauty and its inhabitants charm.

The tiny island of Koh Tao ("Turtle Island"), 45 km north of Koh Phangan, is one of the top scuba diving destinations in Thailand, if not the world. In fact, only Cairns, Australia issues more PADI certifications than Tao Island. While some globetrotting SCUBA snobs may express disappointment, the shallow, crystal clear waters of Tao Island feature abundant marine life and considerable coral that are certain to please both beginners and experienced divers, particularly as the island itself is so spectacular and the atmosphere on Tao Island is so relaxing. What’s more, the island, which is the site of important breeding grounds for Hawksbill and Green turtles, is now a center for environmentally friendly diving practices, including the reintroduction of hundreds of juvenile turtles to the island's ecosystem and efforts to preserve and grow coral reefs. Non-divers can appreciate the beauty of Tao Island, which seems relatively devoid of inhabitants while the majority of visitors are spending their days underwater, by taking a boat trip around the island to visit Tao Island’s many gorgeous beaches and bays, hiking to the summit of the island, studying yoga, or simply relaxing in a hammock and enjoying the view of nearby Nang Yuan Island, a spectacular attraction in its own right.

Over the past decade Koh Tao has transformed from a sleepy, yet popular place to get a scuba certification to the second most popular place in the world to do so. Once a destination almost exclusively for scuba divers and those looking to get away from it all, Tao Island is now also a destination for wild 20-somethings to warm up before or unwind after neighboring Phangan Island’s Full Moon Party. Fortunately, despite its quite small size, most of the beaches around Tao Island have retained a charming, laid back atmosphere and bungalows ranging from ultra-basic thatch roof to chic and boutique are available for those on any budget to enjoy the beauty of one of Thailand’s most spectacular islands.