Average December temperature: 27°C
Long the Shangri-La of feverish backpacker dreams, Koh Samui has grown up. Yes, its raison d’être remains pure pleasure – in the shade of three million coconut palms, and on its bone-white beaches – but the packaging is more Four Seasons, less ratty bungalow. Wellness has well and truly arrived here, with yoga studios, health retreats and even monk-led mentoring for those looking to make a real change. If, however, you just want a proper, idyllic tropical break, Panacea takes the cake. The former home of one of the world’s top hedge-fund managers, this sprawling hilltop estate features five enormous residences, 82ft swimming pools, a cinema, a nightclub – and even a Muay Thai boxing ring (tattooed instructor included).
Where to stay: Set high on a hill, Panacea has a mix of four-, five- or six-bedroom villas filled with tropical hardwoods, silk fabrics and petrified wood that’s over a million years old, plus there’s a kids’ room, a private cinema, gambling den and nightclub. At COMO Point Yamu a 100-metre long white-tiled swimming pool shoots out towards the Andaman Sea. Tip-top service, zingy cuisine and a wondrous spa has made this Thai hotel a favourite with LGBTQ+ Thais and travellers.