Once upon a time, Koh Samui (also known as Ko Samui or Samui only) was known for its coconut exports. At the same time, the island was the backpackers favorite. Today, it is the international tourism industry that is responsible for the influx of people, and with this, the tourism industry is Koh Samui’s largest and most important source of income.
But that doesn’t mean Koh Samui is a bad holiday choice if you are going to Thailand. If you ask us, the island is a significantly better choice than its competitor Phuket. Koh Samui is large enough to offer both charming and chaotic city life with shops, bars, restaurants, Thai boxing arenas, and at the same time having secluded beaches.
It is nice to visit the island several times and constantly experience new sides. In terms of accommodation, Koh Samui offers amenities that attract both budget travelers and those looking for luxury.
There is a lot to do for the active tourist on Koh Samui. You can dive and snorkel, or go on exciting excursions in national parks and coconut farms. You can take ferries to surrounding islands or you can simply rent a jeep or motorbike and explore the island to discover various attractions and sights. And the price level of Koh Samui is still comfortably low for us coming from Europe.
Get to know Koh Samui
Koh Samui has a wonderful climate and many beautiful beaches. However, note the following:
From May to October, Koh Samui is affected by a southeastern monsoon. It blows on Koh Samui’s western and northern coast.
From October to January, the island has its northeast monsoon period. It can affect bathing water on the island’s eastern side and November is the month with the biggest rains.
Chaweng and Lamai
The two most famous tourist beaches on Koh Samui are Chaweng and Lamai. Chaweng is a very fine-grained golden brown sand, 6 kilometers long, which is ranked as one of the clearest beaches in all of Thailand. And it is true that the beach here is absolutely lovely, but the water is very shallow. At the beach it is impossible to bathe, at least for adults. And the further north on the beach you live, the more shallow it becomes.
Chaweng is the tourists’ favorite, and at this beach you will surely meet many tourists from Norway, Sweden and Denmark. On the beach there are a variety of amenities, ranging from equipment for water activities to bars and restaurants. Everywhere you can get Thai massage. This is offered in principle on all beaches, no matter how small they are, and often at a much lower price than you pay at the hotel.
Lamai is located slightly south of Chaweng. The sand on the Lamai is slightly less fine than the Chaweng and slightly darker. That doesn’t mean it’s uncomfortable to walk on. The water is less shallow and personally we think it outweighs the sand quality, but each tastes different. The beach is surrounded by more affordable accommodations and hotels than in Chaweng. Lamai City is almost a replica of Chaweng City, only on a slightly smaller scale.
Ban Bangkao and Ban Hua Thanon
South of Lamai there are several smaller beaches, for example. Ban Bangkao and Ban Hua Thanon. These beaches are perfectly fine, but nothing extraordinary that indicates that this is where you must stay for the holidays.
North of Chaweng, but still on the east side of Koh Samui, you will find Choeng Mon beach [see photo first in article]. It has fine quality sand and usable bathing conditions in the sea. On the beach there are beach bars, massage services and rental of various water sports equipment. In the evening, there are cozy restaurants that take over parts of the beach. Choeng Mon is the favorite beach for many tourists.
Bo Phut, Big Buddha Beach and Maenam
To the north of Koh Samui are several beaches, partly centered around the airport and the Big Buddha attraction. Bo Phut and Bangrak (or Big Buddha Beach) are perfectly fine beaches, but you will be constantly reminded of the proximity to the airport. Then choose Maenam. Nice beaches, lovely bathing water and fewer people than east of the island. The beach is 4 kilometers long. It is still an area of development, so you don’t have to wade into tourists.
Na Muang is a seaside resort in the middle of Koh Samui. This is especially because it is inland and thus offers its bathers fresh water. In addition, there are two waterfalls that contribute to an exotic and partly romantic setting throughout.
Cities on Koh Samui!
The largest city on Koh Samui is Na Thon. The city is not a “must” to visit, if you do not want a ferry trip to eg. Ko Pha Ngan or Ang Thong National Park, which we definitely recommend. The latter offers a number of small islands and coral reefs, and you can stay on one of the islands and experience nature up close. Na Thon is also easy to visit for shopping. The range of typical “tourist products” is admittedly smaller than in e.g. Chaweng city [see image above], but prices are lower.