Ko Samui What it's known for

Fly Thai Airways from NYC's JFK airport non-stop to Bangkok. From there, it's quick and easy to escape that very busy Thai city by taking the hour flight to Samui. thaiair.com

Stay at the Six Senses Hideaway, a beautiful beachfront resort in the eco-luxe style. The buildings are gorgeous inside, but the exteriors remain purposely unfinished to better complement the natural surroundings. The walk down to the beach is worth it for the super-soft sand and the expansive view. The restaurants here are open air for dining under the stars. sixsenses.com

See the local culture literally shining in the 15-meter-tall Big Buddha statue, which can be seen from spots throughout the island. Offerings of candles and incense circle the base of the statue at the top of a massive staircase. That climb leads to a scenic overlook behind the statue for a beautiful view of the gulf and the rest of Samui.

Snorkel at the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park, which is about a one-hour boat ride northwest from Samui. Here you can hire a boat for a day of snorkeling and exploring this undeveloped outpost in the Gulf of Thailand. The park includes Mae Ko island, which holds the secret of Thale Nai, the Lake in the Mountain. dnp.go.th

Visit the Samui Monkey Theater, where local trainers show off just what these animals can accomplish. The monkeys pick -- and twirl and bounce -- coconuts, as well as strum the ukulele and play basketball. Definitely unique.