The closest decent beach to Vathi is Gagou, 2km (1 mile) north of the pier. But the best beaches on Samos are found along the north coast, the most beautiful and rugged part of the island. The busy seaside resort of Kokkari, 10km (6 miles) west of Vathi, has several beaches in rock coves as well as the crowded stretch of sand running parallel to the town's main road. To find the smaller cove beaches, head seaward from the main square. Just west of Kokkari is Tsamadou, a short walk down from the coast road, which offers sufficient seclusion for nude sunbathing. Continue west past Karlovasi to find Potami, an excellent long pebble-and-sand beach with road access.
The two best beaches on the island, Micro Seitani and Megalo Seitani, are accessible only by boat or on foot. Boat excursions depart daily from the pier in Karlovasi. To get here on foot, continue past the parking lot, on a dirt road, for the beach at Potami; walking time to the first beach is 45 minutes. After about 5 minutes of uphill walking, the road splits -- turn right, continuing to follow the coast. After another 5 minutes of walking, three obvious paths turn off to the right in close succession. Take the third, marked by a cairn, and follow the well-worn path another half-hour to Micro Seitani, a glorious pebble-and-cobble beach in a rocky cove. On the beach's far side, a ladder scales the cliff to the trail, which will take you, after an additional 30 minutes of walking, to Megalo Seitani, as incredible a stretch of sea sand as any in the Aegean. At the far end of Megalo Seitani are a few houses and a taverna.
Bicycling -- Samos has many dirt roads and trails perfect for mountain biking. The only obstacles are the size of the island, which limits the number of routes available for day trips, and the fact that much of the backcountry is off limits due to Greek military operations. Bike rentals, information about trails, and guided mountain-bike tours are available in Vathi, at Bike (tel. 22730/24-404). The shop is open daily from 8:30am to 2pm and 5 to 9pm; it's behind the old church, opposite the port, on the market street. The bikes are high quality, and the rental includes helmet, pump, and repair kit; clipless pedals and shoes are also available for an extra charge. A basic aluminum-frame bike is 25€ per day; a full-suspension bike is 35€.
Walking -- Some of the best walking on the island is in and around the Platanakia region of Samos's north coast, where well-marked trails connect several lovely hilltop villages. Manolates and Vourliotes are among the villages on this network of trails. A trail goes from Manolates to the summit of Mount Ambelos, the second-highest peak on Samos at 1,153m (3,780 ft.); the demanding round-trip takes about 5 hours.