Koh Samui first emerged as a major travel destination in the 1980s and the island gained popularity from the 1990s onwards. Over the years the clientele has changed considerably, having matured from the backpackers that made up the majority of visitors in the early years. Nowadays the majority of visitors to Koh Samui visit not on a budget – instead, they are discerning travellers with sophisticated expectations for accommodation, dining options and entertainment. As result, Koh Samui has become one of Asia's most sought after tropical lifestyle destinations offering everything from fine dining to world-class resorts.
Until about five years ago, it was mainly the hotels and resorts that offered accommodation on Koh Samui and while they still offer the largest capacity in number of rooms, a different segment has emerged as the top choice for more selective travellers; the private villa. Staying in a holiday villa offers more privacy than staying in many of the five star resorts that, even though luxurious, tend to crowded during high season. And travellers need not miss out on the facilities and services of the high end resorts and hotels, the largest villas are equally fitted to the highest standard.
Facilities and services vary greatly in Koh Samui's many private villas. Some are relatively modest and comprise only one or two bedrooms, but the majority are designed for larger groups and sport everything from pool, gym and spa to private movie screening rooms and gaming rooms. Travellers also often have the choice of hiring additional staff to help arrange special events such as birthday celebrations or prepare dinner feasts in the comfort of your own villa. Hiring a housekeeper and chauffeur is also common so as to be able to kick back and relax while having the opportunity to explore the destination's many tropical nooks and crannies.
Attractions on Koh Samui are varied and there is something for everyone. For those loving the ocean, the island's many dive centres offer scuba diving courses or excursions for those who already have a license. For those more interested in snorkelling there are several tour operators offering day trips to the best spots around the island. There is also something for those interested in culture and religion, including the Big Buddha statue overlooking Bangrak Beach, and Uncle Nim's Magic Garden up in the hills above Lipa Noi.