Tropical Islands, Vibrant Nightlife, Amazing Culture Travel Thailand Welcome to the Land of Smiles

Koh Samui Beach Guide: Chaweng | Choengmon | Tongsai Bay | Bohput | Lamai | Big Buddha

► Overview

With over a dozen beaches and bays and a large variety of accommodation from 5-star hotels with spas, private luxury villas, hostels to cheap bungalows, Koh Samui has a wealth of options for the discerning travellers. But how to pick the right spot? As hotel propaganda does not provide phrases like "under the flight path", "bar next door", "no beach at low tide" and "30 minute walk to beach", you'll need to do a bit more research and the following pointers may be helpful.

► Beach Accommodation Rates

On Koh Samui you can spend anywhere from 500 THB to 15,000 THB + per night. One of the advantages is that most beaches provide a full range of accommodation from the basic hostels to deluxe hotels and resorts as well as private villas, so pick your beach before you pick the accommodation.

► The Beaches

Starting at Chaweng Beach, Chaweng has the whitest sand, the clearest water, the wildest nightlife and by far the biggest crowds. South of Chaweng is Chaweng Noi and then Thong Ta Kien, the latter is excellent. Next down at Lamai Beach the sand is grainer and yellow, but the beach is long and not crowded. At the southern end of the beach erosion is a problem, while the north-central area can be grotty due to lagoon overflow. Hua Thanon and Bang Kao on the south coast are sleepy but tend towards mudflats at low tide. Taling Ngam and Thong Yang are likewise very quiet, but the beaches are average. Ban Tai on the north coast is isolated and sleepy. At Mae Nam the beach improves dramatically, and while the sand is grainy and yellowish, the waters are very calm - this is a popular family destination. Going further east you'll reach Bophut, the western end of which is nice, while the eastern area near town is grotty. After Bophut comes Bang Rak and Big Buddha Beach, which due to the number of boats moored is not great swimming value. Last is the Choeng Mon area where a number of small bays have very clean beaches and water and some of the more expensive resorts on Samui.

► Beach Scenery and Environment

Chaweng heaves at night. If nightlife is your prime concern, then Chaweng is for you with loads of clubs, bars, restaurants and more - everything from tacky bar beers to classy wine-bars. Lamai Beach has a couple of clubs but is more down-market than Chaweng and is crowded with bar-beers where, while women are welcome, the primary custom are men. Bophut has a small strip of restaurants and bars and is popular with residents -- a good choice for those who'd like a few drinks and a fine meal, but don't want to share it with an under 20's football team out on a drink till you drop binge. After Bophut, the nightlife options drop off and revolve around individual resorts and bungalows. This can be a big issue, both due to nearby bars and clubs, and far less predictably to construction. Chaweng and Lamai are the noisiest though the further you are from town the quieter it gets. If you are making a reservation in advance, specifically ask if there is construction nextdoor or if they are under the flight path.

In a bright shining example of planning ineptitude, Bangkok Airway's airport has a flight-path that runs straight over the island's most popular beach, Chaweng. The first flight leaves Ko Samui at 06:00 and if it takes off over Chaweng, you will hear it. Badly affected beachfront hotels on Chaweng include the Chaweng Regent, the Island and Chaweng Villa. On Big Buddha Beach - the other take off route - the noise is bad but as the path doesn't fly directly over many resorts you're less likely to be affected.

Some of Samui's beaches are rocks or mudflats at low tide. Areas affected include the north-central section of Lamai, portions of the west coast beaches of Taling Ngam and Thong Yang and the central-eastern section of Mae Nam. Big Buddha Beach has a lot of boats moored just offshore as does north-central Lamai where a breakwater has been built to shelter small fishing boats. 
Watch out for rooms described as "lake view" and "garden view" - these are code for "you're stuck at the back of the resort". If you want a beachfront room, say so. Both Lamai and Chaweng have a road that runs off the beach and the accommodation on the far side of the road can be up to a 30 minute walk from the sand - if a hotel is a lot cheaper than others of a similar standard, chances are it is a long way from the beach.

If you like to party, Chaweng Beach is by far the best option. If you're part of a family group, both Thong Ta Kien and Mae Nam are excellent choices, with Lamai coming a distant third. If you're after solitary beach walks, then the South Coast of Ko Samui is for you.

Friday, April 23, 2021