Nestled on the east coast of Thailand in the Gulf of Thailand, lies Koh Samui which has become known as a top Thai tourist destination, competing with the older and better-known spots in and near Bangkok and Phuket. The island of Koh Samui is one of a group of small islands, many seen in major motion pictures and photo galleries exemplifying the tropical paradise so many of us yearn to find.
The island is around 230 square kilometers, large enough to boast at least twelve beautiful beaches, an international airport, and several small towns bustling with activity. It is surrounded by at least 60 smaller islands, which comprise the vast Ang Thong National Marine Park, which is reputed globally as a true snorkelers’ and divers’ paradise.
Koh Samui is not only about beaches and beachfront activity; the island has a mountain at the center which rises over 2, 000 feet. This provides some fantastic views of the island, the sea, and the many surrounding islands of the archipelago, and some nice waterfalls are there for exploring.
Hotels, restaurants, bars, and nightlife vary from beach to beach. For those looking for the livelier spots, Chaweng Beach and Lamai Beach will fit the bill. For those looking for quieter, more romantic spots, Bhoput, Big Buddha Beach, and Na Thon are recommended. Hotels are widely advertised on the Internet, with detailed descriptions and rates, ranging from simple Inns to world-class luxury hotels who charge the rates to prove it.
The weather is tropical, meaning HOT. January through March tend to be around 30C, while later in the year it can be as high as 36! Pick your time carefully, and beware the rainy season – this peaks normally in November, but no two years are exactly the same.
As they say, getting there is half the fun… Flights to and from Bangkok are almost hourly, and quite expensive by local standards. Regular flights are also available from Hong Kong, Singapore, and other airports in Thailand, including Chang Mai and Phuket.
Many prefer the lower-cost and more scenic bus/ferry method of travel for the final leg of their trip. Busses leave Surat Thani airport continuously, taking you for a paid-combination to the ferry, most arriving in the port of Na Thon. If possible, it has been recommended to take the Seatran combination – the ferries are much larger and more comfortable. Be careful of the ferry you take; this part of the world is notorious for overcrowding ferries, especially at peak season and around holidays.
All in all, Koh Samui offers a tropical adventure for those who are looking for it.
The Beaches of Koh Samui
If you love beaches, if you crave the tropical breeze in the rustling palms, turquoise-blue waters, and powdery white sands, you’ll love Koh Samui, Thailand. Nestled on the Southeast coast of Thailand in an archipelago of around sixty islands of a variety of sizes, Koh Samui pretty much epitomizes the ideal sought by so many tourists. Whether you are a backpacker or a seeker of luxury, Koh Samui has what you’re looking for.
The beaches of Koh Samui offer a huge variety of styles of life, accommodations, nightlife (or not!), and recreational activities. Each beach has it’s own look and feel, and there are plenty of them!
Chaweng Beach was the earliest site developed in the early backpacker days of the 1970s and 80s. This long beautiful beach is the liveliest spot on the island, offering many water sports in the daytime, including simply hangin’ at the beach. This area is also home to the majority of nightlife on the island, with a restaurant and bar scene which includes basic pubs and nightclubs. Accommodations here vary from simple rooms to high-end resorts. However, if you are simply looking for relaxation and a good night’s sleep, the scene here might be a little too exuberant.
Lamai Beach, which is adjacent to Chaweng, is a little quieter, though it still offers some of the same sort of social scene. Because the water tends to be a little rougher at times, you’ll not find as many sports here as at Chaweng. There is a nice village behind the resorts, where Thais still live in a semblance of their traditional lifestyle. Developed around the same time as Chaweng, it can have a more laid back feel. Accommodations again span the spectrum, allowing you a choice of lifestyle. This beach and Chaweng are usually more popular among the younger tourists because of the nightlife scene.
Bhoput is the compromise between the lively scenes at Chaweng and Lamai and the serene, peaceful spots on other parts of the island. On a beautiful, calm bay, Bhoput has its share of small shops and restaurants, and offers some alternative water sports that may not be available everywhere, such as Jet skis and kayaks. Two kilometers of white sand, the proverbial swaying palm trees, and a good meal by the beach at dusk… You get the picture.
Choeng Mon Beach is situated on a small peninsula, separating it from much of the surrounding area and making it quieter. This is probably the most exclusive and expensive area on Koh Samui. There are many expensive homes in the area, and the highest concentration of luxury resorts. There are a few restaurants and shops, but most people eat where they stay, preferring not to delve to far into local culture. If you want nightlife, you simply go a few miles to one of the other beaches, but you’re not going to be awakened by disco music in the middle of the night!
Mae Nam Beach is probably the quietest beach on the island, and furthest removed from nightlife. There is an old Buddhist temple at one end which is said to be a beautiful spot at sunset. Generally thought of as the least expensive area on Koh Samui, Mae Nam still offers some upscale resorts and a few reliable places to eat and shop. If you want to get out of the area, bikes are offered for rent. Many believe this beach, in spite of not having sand as white as some of the others, to be the prettiest spot on Koh Samui.
Forget those other tropical destinations that promise so much. The beaches of Koh Samui don’t just promise, they deliver.