The main ring road follows the perimeter of the island, meaning that getting around is relatively easy. A rental car is essential for those keen to explore and, although there are plenty of cheap motorbikes to rent, there are also, unsurprisingly, plenty of injured tourists. If you want to take a two-wheeler, get a helmet, avoid flip-flops and take things slowly.
Koh Samui's open-plan airport, with its bowls of free fruit and Hawaiian shirt- wearing-staff, is certainly one of a kind. It's operated by the hip Bangkok Airways (www.bangkokair.com), the only airline that flies to the island from Hong Kong, Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket and Singapore.
There's a comfortable sleeper service, with two-person first-class cabins, from Bangkok to Suratthani, where you're met by a bus and boat connection to take you straight to Samui (www.kohsamui-info.com/transportation/train.html).
Country code for Thailand: 66; local code for Samui is (0)77.
The Beach by Alex Garland; The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson and Thailand: True Stories by James O'Reilly and Larry Habegger.
Do go / Don't Go
The high season from February to May produces an unusually high number of sun-burnt bodies and motorbike mishaps. It's still pleasantly sunny during the off-peak periods, although be prepared for rain between May and November (October and November are the most moist months) and the power cuts that come with it.
Koh Samui tantalises taste buds too. Its island nature helps ensure its seafood is particularly noteworthy - and it's also blessed with an abundance of coconuts thanks to the prolific palms. Thanks to tourist-led rejuvenation, the dining scene is thriving, diverse and surprisingly sophisticated, owing a lot to the diligence of the Samui Culinary Circle, an association of idea- and ingredient-sharing chefs and caterers (www.siamdiningguide.com).
Cabs cruise around the more populous areas of the island. Meters are installed but their purpose seems to be primarily decorative, so agree a fare beforehand. Check the standard rate with your hotel or get your concierge to hire one for you.
A 10 per cent service charge is usually added to hotel and restaurant bills, but staff seldom see this. Leave a cash tip for especially impressive service.
Thai baht. £1 is approximately THB65.
Bermudas, singlets, bikinis and sundresses are de rigeur. Flip-flopping is acceptable everywhere. Make sure you're armed with insect repellent - Samui has some very single-minded mosquitoes.
Koh Samui's indigenous population has a strong Muslim background, so the characteristic Buddhist architecture that defines much of mainland is less in evidence here. Having said that, Samui does boast the 12-metre 'Big Buddha' in Wat Phra Yai, an enormous golden statue of the seated Buddha, that's well worthy visiting. Thailand's national sport, Muay Thai boxing, is showcased at Chaweng Stadium - the largest in the country - and offers an unforgettable evening's entertainment. There are even training schools available if you fancy your fists.
Samui wasn't made with shoppers in mind. The usual beach garb, pirated DVDs and souvenirs are easily available along the Chaweng stretch. Cute bikini boutique Life's A Beach (+66 (0) 7742 2630 ) carries a wide range of Aussie bikini brands including Wahine and Seafolly. For more up-market shopping, Iyara Shopping Plaza (+66 (0) 7723 1631), which houses international boutiques such as Lacoste, Geox and Nautica, is your best bet.
42 islands make up the Ang Thong Marine National Park, located northwest of Samui. Rent a local boat and discover the archipelago with its hidden coves and dramatic limestone caves. Stop at Mae Ko Island; the 40-minute climb to Thale Noi, an inland saltwater lake on the mountainside, is more than worth the time.
A quaint air of bohemia still lingers at Fisherman's Village, once a favoured backpacker haunt and now one of the most perfectly preserved places on the island. Take a leisurely stroll down the street lined with old wooden Chinese shop-houses, where tiny stores sell quirky knick-knacks.
April Songkran, the Thai New Year sees revellers making merry by throwing water at each other. May-June The Koh Samui Regatta draws the world's top yachtsmen for a week of passionate sailing (www.samuiregatta.com). August The Fisherman's Village Festival is the focus of five days of festivity, with live musical performances in the spirit of Woodstock. September The Avis Samui Tennis Open brings keen racketsmiths to the courts.