Koh Samet

It’s three hours by car from Bangkok, then 45 minutes by ferry from Ban Phe Pier – but once you’ve arrived, you’ll discover it was worth it, and you really won’t want to leave. 

Out in Thailand’s Eastern Gulf, little Samet island ticks all the boxes winter-escaping travellers require: crumbly white beaches, transparent warm waters and a laid-back vibe that sets it apart from bigger spots such as Phuket. Sure, busy resorts do exist – Hat Sai Kaew (Crystal Sand Beach) is a buzz of banana boats and lively resorts. But head for the likes of Ao Nuan, Ao Wai and Ao Pakarang (Coral Bay in Thai) and you’ll find life has all the urgency of a swaying hammock. Crack open a chilled bottle of Singha beer and do nothing until the scattered seafood restaurants beckon for sizzling prawn lunches that can last hours.