Situated thirty-five kilometers off the coast in the Gulf of Thailand is the countries third largest island. The name originally comes from the word ‘Saboey’, which means ‘safe heaven’. Approximately fifteen kilometers across, Koh Samui has been attracting international tourists since the 1960’s and 70’s. The central part of the island is dominated by Khao Pom peak (635m). Its slopes give way to tropical jungle and beaches on the coast. Samui is part of a larger archipelago of islands that includes Koh Tao (world class dive site), Koh Phangan (home to the famous ‘Full Moon Parties’), and the beautiful Angthong Marine Park. While there is a boat option to get to the island, arriving at the airport really sets the mood of the island itself. Open air beach style huts surrounded by tropical gardens make up the international terminal.
Before the development of luxury hotels and resorts, Koh Samui was once a major destination for backpackers and hippies. But, finding a secluded bungalow on the beach is still possible. With a wide range of activities, Koh Samui maintains a broad appeal to everyone.
The capital city of Nathon located on the southwest coast, serves as the islands main port and business district. This quaint little town gives way to some of the most popular beach destinations in Thailand. While the beaches here lack the beauty and deep water found on other parts of Samui, the town offers superior shopping unmatched by anywhere else on the island. The open air market and excellent local restaurants make Nathon a great place to wander around on a lazy afternoon.
Chaweng Beach dominates the northeastern coast, and is easily the most popular destination on the island. The beach itself is seven kilometers of white powdery sand bordered by the emerald blue waters of the Gulf of Thailand. As there is no beach road to disturb the tranquility of Chaweng, passages to the beach are normally found through hotels. Just off the coast are two small islands. One of which can be accessed easily by walking through the shallow waters. The second island is further out and offers the perfect opportunity for swimming and snorkeling. The central part of Chaweng Beach is more crowded and generally busier than the other parts. Vendors stroll up and down the beach selling everything from food and beverages to trinkets and local crafts. Running parallel and just inland of the beach lays the area’s largest convergence of restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops. This bustling international tourist town is packed with every sort of bar and eatery one could possibly desire. Ranging from music venues to relaxing lounges, there are many nighttime options. Green Mango Square, in the center of town, is ground zero for frenzied alcohol induced merrymaking.
Just 10 kilometers south of Chaweng, along the east coast is the Lamai valley and beach. Although not as large as its bigger brother to the north, the waters off the coast of Lamai are deeper and more suited for swimming. The sand on Lamai Beach is not as powdery as Chaweng’s, but the coconut trees leaning out over the water and interesting rock formations give the area a more tranquil and natural feel. Lamai town is not as crowded as Chaweng’s, but still serves up some excellent restaurants and lively bars. Lamai is also the island’s hub for health and meditation centers.
Situated in the center of the north coast of Samui is Maenam. Maenam offers spectacular views of Koh Phangan to the north and a far less crowded beach than that of Chaweng or Lamai. Less popular party due to the golden sand of the beach as opposed to the white powdery sand found elsewhere on the island. The captivating scenery of the Ao Thong National Marine Park is just off the coast to the east of Maenam. Because of the protection from north easterly currents by Koh Phangan, the waters of the coast of Maenam are calm and clean. Maenam is quiet and more relaxed with a more prominent Thai community making it less expensive and more traditional. Maenam boasts the only 18 hole golf course on the island as well as the Santiburi Resort which is considered by many to be the premier resort hotel on Koh Samui.
Other areas such as Bophut, Bang Ruk, Choeng Mon, and Ao Tong Takian are smaller and less developed. These are great places to get away for a day while visiting Koh Samui, but offer little in the way of accommodations, restaurants, and tourist attractions.
Koh Samui’s stunning natural beauty makes it the principle destination on Thailand’s east coast. Samui’s ease of accessibility and carefree atmosphere further its popularity among both Thais and foreigners alike. Koh Samui welcomes you with Thai hospitality and amazing vistas that you remember long after you leave the island.