Exotic Island Resort Steeped in Thai Culture
Little more than half a century ago, there wasn't a road or car to be found on the island of Koh Samui. The locals—mostly fishers and farmers—often had to navigate through miles of dense rainforests just to reach neighboring villages. Today, the island has paved roads and it's easy to get around, which has helped it to emerge as a popular resort spot. But Koh Samui still possesses a far-off feel; its beaches along the Gulf of Thailand have fine white sand and seem almost untouched. Minutes away from these exotic beaches you can find the Elements Boutique Resort & Spa, which honors Thai traditions while cultivating a more modern aesthetic.
With the water so close, it's only natural that a lot of the activity happens there, whether it's kayaking along the shore, snorkeling, or touring the gulf in a long-tail boat—a common watercraft in Thailand that is covered with a canopy and powered by an automotive engine. Bicycles are also available for rental, and it's pleasant to hike the nearby rainforest trails.
After a day out adventuring, stop by the onsite restaurant, Fai, which serves fresh-caught tiger prawns and lobster. Or, once a week, you can head to the beach at nightfall to savor barbecued meats and pineapple as local performers dance or spin fire sticks.
Back at the sea-view apartments, the decor has a tropical vibe—the walls are painted in vivid pink or mustard colors, there are wooden beds veiled with sheer white curtains, and walk-in safes hide your favorite coconuts. Head out to the private terrace, and you can lounge around and peer out to the sea. For further relaxation, head to the onsite spa, which offers Thai massages and holistic treatments that incorporate Tibetan crystals and reiki therapy.
Koh Samui, Thailand: Island Resort Town with Exotic Wildlife and Rich Buddhist Culture
Off Thailand's eastern shore, Koh Samui is set amid a cluster of islands in the temperate Gulf of Thailand. Its temperatures typically hover near a balmy 86 degrees Fahrenheit, thanks in part to tropical winds off the gulf that keep Koh Samui warm year-round. The warm climate and clear waters attract tourists to the island's many white sand beaches. If you want your experience to go beyond sunbathing, you can snorkel along vibrant coral reefs or go fishing.
Koh Samui has a longstanding Buddhist culture, and you can get a feel for the local traditions by paying a visit to some ornate temples in the area. Or take a short drive east to Tar Nim's Magic Garden, which was built by a local man when he was well into his seventies. These remote "secret" gardens can be tough to get to, but it's worth it to see the misty waterfall, tropical plants, and ornately carved Buddhist sculptures.