Koh Samui, Thailand’s third largest island, was discovered for tourism in the late 1970’s by backpackers. Back then, its population mainly made a living from fishing and coconut farming. Since then a lot has changed and now tourism is the main source of income for the island.
Koh Samui is best known for its many beautiful beaches and excellent dive sites. The island is located in the Gulf of Thailand some 600 kilometers south of Bangkok and is surrounded by a large number of smaller islands, like Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan, well known from its postcard pictures.
Although the island has become very popular with tourists from all over the world, it’s still a relaxed and easy going place with a completely different atmosphere than places like Bangkok and Pattaya. Besides the beaches, warm waters and ocean breezes, Koh Samui has something to offer for everybody’s taste.
Koh Samui’s beaches
Koh Samui has almost 20 beaches, some of them are white sandy palm tree fringed, some others are more rocky and quiet. Some of the best and certainly most busy and developed beaches are on the east side of the island.
Chaweng is Koh Samui’s most popular beach. It has upgraded a lot since the early days of the backpackers and today anything from a cheap bungalow to 5 star resort can be found here. Fine dining is abundant in every flavor both Thai and Western.
The 6 kilometer long sandy beach is one of the best on Samui and offers a lot of waters sports options. If you are hungry or thirsty, there is no need to leave your beach spot; there are vendors all around selling fresh fruits, drinks, ice cream, Thai salads and much more.
At night there is something for everybody on Chaweng beach. There are numerous bars, pubs, discotheques as well as shopping areas and great spa facilities.
A little south of Chaweng is Samui’s second most popular beach Lamai. Lamai beach is a little quieter and more laid back than Chaweng, but still offers plenty of accommodation, dining, spas and shopping.
If you are looking for some real relaxation, try a massage on the beach. If you feel the need for some action on the water, this beach offers kayaking, parasailing, wake boarding and windsurfing.
Lamai is a powdery sandy beach lined with coconut trees; at the northern side the water is shallower and rocky.
Mae Nam beach
At the northern end of Koh Samui is Mae Nam beach. A quieter beach than Chaweng or Lamai, Mae Nam has a kilometers long golden sandy beach and is perfectly suited for those looking for a relaxing beach holiday on this more family oriented beach. For those seeking abundant nightlife, Chaweng is not far away.
From this beach you will have great views of Koh Phangan, the island North of Samui. In the evening the spectacular sunset creates the perfect setting for a dinner on the beach.
At Mae Nam pier you can catch a ferry to Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. Mae Nam beach is close to the famous Big Buddha statue and Samui airport.
Besides Chaweng, Lamai and Mae Nam, Koh Samui has a large number of beaches, some of which are pretty quiet.
Big Buddha beach, also called Bang Rak beach is named after the Big Buddha statue at the North Eastern tip of the island, that can be seen from the plane approaching Koh Samui’s airport, to which it is very close.
Other beaches are Choeng Mon, Bo Phut and Bang Po all on the northern side of the island. On the west side are Taling Ngam, Tong Yang and the village of Nathon, where you can take a ferry to the mainland.
To do & see in Koh Samui
Koh Samui is obviously best known for its beaches, water sports and diving. This island has a lot more to offer though, there are plenty of things to do and see like watching Muay Thai boxing games, Go Kart racing, bungy jump, watching a lady boys cabaret show, visiting a water park with the kids, elephant trekking, sailing to name just a few.
If you enjoy pampering, massages and rejuvenating, you have come to the right place; Koh Samui has some of the best spas in the country.
How to get to Koh Samui
The easiest and quickest way to reach Koh Samui is by air. There are many daily flights from Bangkok by Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways.
A cheaper yet much slower alternative is to take a bus from Bangkok’s southern bus terminal to either Chumphon or Surat Thani, from where you can catch a ferry. Since Chumphon is a considerably shorter ride than Surat Thani, that might be your best choice. Your boat trip will be a little longer, because the ferry from Chumphon stops at Koh Tao and Koh Phangan first.
If you prefer the train, you can catch one from Bangkok’s Hualamphong station to either Chumphon or Surat Thani, from where you can take a ferry. There are many trains from Bangkok to the South every day, the views are great along the way, however the trip lasts a little longer than the bus.
If you don’t travel by airplane, the last stretch of your journey will be by boat. There are several ferries daily from Chumphon by Lomprayah and from Surat Thani by Seatran or Raja Ferry.