Located just 200 kilometres from Bangkok and a three-hour walk from top to bottom, the T-shaped island of Ko Samet is known for its exotic coral, crystal-clear waters and many little beaches covered in sugary white sand. The sand on the island, which has an alternative Thai name that means 'Island with Sand like Crushed Crystal', is so fine that it is prized by glass-makers which, in a country with so many gorgeous beaches as Thailand, is a compliment indeed.
Forest blankets 70% of an unspoiled island which, whilst lacking the dramatic topography of other Thai islands, is lucky in that it has so far escaped overdevelopment. There is a low-key party scene on Hat Sai Kaew which, with its offshore winds, is also an excellent location for those wishing to do a bit of windsurfing. Windsurfers can be rented out, so you don't have to lug your own all the way here.
The half-moon bay Ao Vong Duan, in the middle of the eastern side of the island, is particularly beautiful but is rather crowded and is unfortunately afflicted with the jet-skis that are supposed to be illegal in this marine park, so visitors looking for tranquility are advised to stay on one of the two closely-flanking beaches, Ao Chan and Ao Thian, or further afield. The deeply-pocketed should book in at Ao Kiu beach's gorgeous Paradee resort, which discourages guests from bringing small children.
The pristine reefs and beaches of the four nearby uninhabited islets Ko Kudi, Ko Kruai, Ko Kham, and Ko Pla Tin make them lovely scuba and snorkelling day-trips, on which visitors are advised to bring their own food and water (always a good sign on an island-hopping daytrip). Ko Thalu, slightly further afield, is lushly forested and inhabited by seagulls, flying foxes, and turtles. Whilst high cliffs occupy the west, often-deserted white sandy beaches are to be found on the east and southern sides of the island. Happy days.