- Richard: a british traveller, who comes to Bangkok and gets a map to a secret hidden beach. He has seen every movie about Vietnam, and he sometimes believes being there. He also is addicted to video games.
- Daffy Duck: the man who gives Rich the map; he had been on the beach before and had left it for some reason. After his death, he often appears in Richs daydreams. He always speaks about Vietnam, and he knows everything before it happens.
- Etienne and Françoise: a french couple that Rich meets in Bangkok. He shows them the map, and together they go to the beach.
- Zeph and Sammy: two Americans who are given a map of the beach by Rich.
- Sal and Bugs: Sal's the leader of the community, Bugs is her boyfriend. They were the first people on the Beach, together with Daffy.
- Jed and Keaty: two friends of Richard on the beach. Keaty has a gameboy, on which he and Rich often play; Jed is always on a mission spying out if there are people coming to the island.
The story starts in Bangkok, where Richard is led into a guesthouse by a man sitting beside the road. There, he gets into an argument with the man in the room next to him. The man, who calls himself Daffy Duck, is talking about some hidden beach, and he tells Richard that he won't let him alone anymore. The next day, Richard finds a map taped on his door which describes the way to the beach. As he looks into mr Duck's room, he is lying there with his wrists slit. From now on, he will never let Richard be alone, he will follow him in his daydreams and make him go mad.
At the police station, Rich meets Etienne and Francoise, who are staying in the same guesthouse, and tells them about the map. They persuade him to try to reach this mysterious beach, and so the next day they start their trip.
On Ko Samui, a station on their way, Richard meets Zeph and Sammy, and before leaving, he draws a map and slips it under the door of their hut.
R,E&F hire a fisherboat to bring them to the island next to the beach, and from there they swim.
They manage to reach the island, even though its a long swim, and after having passed an obstacle course including some grass fields and a waterfall which they have to jump down, they finally reach the camp.
Once arrived, they assimilate very quickly to the beach live. They help to catch fish for eating, and Richard becomes friends with Keaty.
When there is no more rice to eat, Richard and Jed have to go to the continent to get some more. There, Jed buys the rice while Rich is hanging around. When they meet again to take the rice back to the beach, Jed tells Rich that he heard two Americans talking to some german people about a map to the beach, and that they were using Richs name. Rich is alarmed: this must be Zeph and Sammy!
Some days later, Sal asks Rich to join Jed on his journeys on the island, because there are some other people on the next island. Luckily, she...