Tourism, koh samui
Koh Samui : The most famous beaches
Discover the 5 most famous beaches of Koh Samui that make Koh Samui a favourite destination for many travellers.
Chaweng Beach • Lamai beach
Bophut beach • Meanam beach
Koh Samui: its beaches are by far its most important asset. They are the main reason why so many tourists visit the island every year. In particular, during the tourist periods (December to March and July to September), which give rise to the same ritual: the disembarkation of countless travellers, who have come to take advantage of its fantastic climate and landscapes. Between its dreamy coastline, its jagged coasts lined with lush jungle, and its protected coves, this paradise island, called the Pearl of the Gulf of Thailand, is a haven of peace and relaxation. Whatever time of day (or night), you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to swimming and splashing around in the crystal clear waters. Samui’s most popular beaches, Chaweng, Lamai, Bophut and Maenam, offer a wide range of water sports activities (jet skiing, kayaking, parasailing, snorkelling, diving, sailing, paddle boarding, canoeing, flyboarding, windsurfing, kite surfing, boat and junk trips, etc.) that make for an unforgettable holiday.
These renowned seaside resorts, which are very popular with travellers, in addition to the white sand and jade-coloured sea (and not turquoise, as some people claim), have undergone a phenomenal development in the last 10 years: numerous hotels and resorts of various standards and for all types of budgets, countless restaurants, bars, pubs and ice-cream parlours, offering cuisines, desserts, drinks and cocktails from all over the world, beach clubs and discotheques, bringing together DJs, live bands, party people and young people of all origins, to the sound of techno music and wild rhythms, massage parlours and spas, aimed at a very wide range of customers (singles, couples, families, children, groups of friends, gays), fashion and accessory shops (souvenirs, jewellery, tableware, watches, handbags, sports equipment, etc.), department stores (“Central Festival”, “Tesco Lotus”, “Makro”, “Big C”), attracting thousands of holidaymakers every month, expatriates and locals, but also franchises and large American fast-food groups (“Mc Donalds”, “Burger King”, “Dunkin Donuts”, “KFC”…) which very quickly understood the importance of Koh Samui, as a flagship tourist destination of Thailand. Over time, these beaches have become the nerve centres of the island’s economy and local life.
Chaweng beach the most popular
Located on the east coast of the island, and 7 kilometres long, “Chaweng Beach” is the largest beach of Koh Samui, but also, certainly, the most famous and the most animated. It is divided into 3 areas: North, Central and Chaweng Noi (“Little Chaweng”). Its white sandy beach and clear waters give it a little air of paradise that lives up to its reputation (especially the southern part, because in the north the bathing is sometimes rocky), with waters varying between 25° and 28°. The central part of “Chaweng Beach” is the most popular with tourists, especially in high season. It is also where there is the greatest concentration of hotels, from simple bungalows to 5 star resorts, catering for all budgets. Along the “Beach Road”, you will find many restaurants offering a wide range of cuisines from all over the world.
One of the major interests of Chaweng is obviously its nightlife. In the evening, you will be spoilt for choice: romantic dinners on the beach, massage parlours, discos.
In Chaweng, you will find a lot of souvenir shops (like everywhere else in Koh Samui). It is not uncommon for shopkeepers to ask passing tourists 5 times the normal price. Negotiation is highly recommended, especially when it comes to this type of product. Often a price is quoted at a large discount, so be aware that you can still get it down by about 50%. In any case, you will usually find the same products in the surrounding markets and at much lower prices. A word of advice: take your time…
Once you arrive at Chaweng beach, you can choose between private places or public beaches, and there are many street vendors selling all sorts of items at good prices (glasses, clothes, hats, costume jewellery, handicrafts, pareos…). Once again, don’t be afraid to discuss the price with them, it’s part of the folklore. Others sell delicious Thai take-away food, such as Sataï (chicken or pork skewers with peanut sauce), green papaya salad, curies, and other large pork sausages and grilled corn, not to mention mangoes, coconuts and fresh pineapples… (count between 50 and 100 THB per dish).
You can also enjoy the famous traditional Thai massages under the palm roofs of the “Salas” (small wooden huts), available all along the beach (from 200 THB). It is well known that the best masseuses are usually the older ones. In high season, Chaweng can seem noisy, crowded, smelly and dirty in some places, but that’s the price of success. Some love it, others hate it. Whatever the case, it leaves no one indifferent. For some time now, many large real estate projects have been under construction, which should offer a new image of this place and bring in a clientele with high purchasing power.
For Koh Samui residents, Chaweng Beach is the heart of the island! The backpacker bungalows and youth hostels that once abounded on this side of the island have disappeared and have been gradually replaced by luxurious hotels, with modern and somewhat cold architecture, but with all modern comforts. Of course, this comes at a price. So, if you decide to stay near the seaside, always insist on seeing the room before you book, especially if you choose one of the more affordable hotels. Be aware that the disco area (“Soi Green Mango”) is not far away and the noise can be deafening at night. Most of the best resorts are on the north and south sides of Chaweng. But again, it’s all about budget and the type of holiday you’re looking for. Some will love being in the middle of the nightlife, others will prefer a quieter, more romantic location.
Lamai beach, the most family friendly
This is the second most famous beach on Koh Samui. Located south of Chaweng, and stretching for more than 4 km, it is a quieter and wilder place. It is a favourite with swimmers thanks to its fine sandy beach, lined with coconut trees, but also with seabed lovers, attracted by the multitude of rocks and corals not far from the shore.
This shoreline is also popular with local fishermen as it is renowned for its abundance of fish. In the northern part of Lamai Beach, the water is shallow and you have to walk a long way before you can swim. If you continue in this direction, the beach becomes more and more deserted, narrow and rocky until you reach the headland. The southern third has a wide strip of sand, perfect for all swimming lovers.
Lamai has an excellent hotel infrastructure with a wide range of prices, both on the beach and inland. From luxury resorts to boutique hotels and simple bungalows, you will be spoilt for choice. In the evening, along the main street, you’ll find shops, grocery shops and restaurants galore: Thai, French, Italian, pizzerias, Swiss, fusion cuisine… “Lamai Beach” is also renowned for its bars with live bands, as well as its often crowded Pubs, broadcasting the latest live sports events on a big screen, and with an overexcited atmosphere.
On Saturday evenings, Thai boxing fights take place in the centre of the village (and they are free!) at the “Boxing Stadium”, an outdoor ring near the bars and the “Food Court”, while a night market (Lamai’s famous and very popular “Walking Street”) is held every Sunday evening from 4pm to midnight, where you can taste Thai specialities at low prices (from 50 baht), some of which are never served in the surrounding restaurants.
“Lamai Beach Road becomes pedestrianised and closed to traffic, while many stalls sell all sorts of handicrafts (food, jewellery, decorative items, clothes, pareos, souvenirs, telephony…). Here, most of the locals enjoy haggling with tourists, often accepting a lower price than their first offer. This market, particularly frequented by Koh Samui residents, remains one of the cheapest places in Lamai.
If you have the opportunity, take the time to rent a motorbike or a car, as there are many sites to discover around Lamai, among the most popular of the island. Especially in the south, where you will find one of the most famous tourist attractions of Koh Samui: “Hin Ta Hin Yai”, a sacred place in the rocks (a big surprise awaits you…). For all lovers of local atmosphere, they can walk through the stalls of the main day market (between the entrance of the village and the Lamai temple), open all week until about 5pm, and enjoy the fresh products of the day (fruits, vegetables, meats and fresh fish) and the multiple culinary specialties offered by the locals (curries, soups, fried chicken, grilled fish, banana fritters, typical desserts…)
The centre of Lamai is relatively quiet during the day, but from 6pm onwards, the atmosphere becomes more electric. Passers-by start arriving in numbers, the restaurants fill up little by little, while the night market opens its doors right in the centre, near the Thai boxing ring (and the girl bars, quite numerous in the southern part of Lamai beach). You can eat Thai food for about 60 baht in a popular canteen atmosphere until midnight.
As with the rest of the North/North East Koh Samui area, Lamai beach has seen a lot of development, causing some price inflation in most hotels. However, you can find many reasonable places off the main road. Web cafes offer all kinds of services (international calls, fax services, flight confirmations). The connection is generally good and fast. Over the years, Lamai Beach has become very family-oriented, thanks to the establishment of several schools (“Jungle Samui”, the French school of Koh Samui, but also international). Big stores have also settled in the area (“Tesco Lotus”, “Makro”), draining in their wake, there too, the settlement of many expatriates.
Bophut beach, the most classy
Located north of Chaweng, just 15 minutes from Koh Samui airport, this typical beach resort remains very popular with travellers. Both a large administrative and postal centre, Bophut is best known for its beach and sunsets. The beach is about 3 kilometres long and is lined with coconut palms leaning over the water, with a magnificent view of Koh Phangam Island. The white sandy strip is narrower here, and the water gets deeper quickly than at Chaweng, similar to Lamai. At the western end of Bophut, in the heart of the bay, is probably one of the oldest and most beautiful places on Koh Samui: “The Fisherman’s Village”.
Once a small Sino-Thai fishing village, recognisable by its traditional wooden houses on the sea front, Bophut has kept only its name. Little by little, tourism has replaced fishing and most of these old wooden houses are now converted into small shops or restaurants or by brick factories (much to the bitterness of the few village elders who have lived and still live here in an artisanal way).
For several years now, the French-speaking colony has made its home here and has a wide range of activities (restaurants, lounge bars, hotels, insurance, clothing, accessories and souvenir shops, diving clubs, spas, etc.). It has discouraged any night-time businesses from setting up shop in the area (notably, girlie bars), favouring the establishment of young couples or families. Thanks to her dynamism and foresight, Bophut has gradually become one of the island’s most popular tourist spots, as well as one of the most sought-after real estate spots (notably, land that sells for a high price, as well as accommodation for holiday rentals or for buying or selling).
In the centre of Fisherman’s Village, a main road of about one kilometre runs along the beach and offers a wide variety of small, beautifully decorated shops of all kinds and very elegant restaurants with a variety of cuisines (Thai, French, Indian, Italian…) served directly on the beach.
Bophut has recently experienced an incredible boom in real estate construction, becoming “the Place to be”! Close to the beach, to the infrastructure and to the big stores, calm and reassuring, the place has everything to please. Numerous hotels and guesthouses have sprung up at a rapid pace, at prices that are still acceptable, although rising. Around this area, you will find many activities and leisure activities to do and beautiful religious and historical monuments to visit.
Maenam beach, the most unusual
Located in the middle of the north coast of Koh Samui, Maenam (or Mae Nam) beach has a beautiful expanse. There is no road running directly along Maenam beach. The road (which is also the main entrance to Koh Samui) is about 300/400 metres from the beach. From there, you will find here and there small roads and dirt tracks that allow you to escape to the seaside. Once there, one is charmed by the beauty and calm of the site. Hotels are scattered all along the shoreline, some of them quite prestigious.
There are also a lot of local restaurants at reduced prices (and often cheaper than those of its “sisters” Chaweng or Bophut). The beach is beautiful, but not too crowded with tourists. This is one of the main qualities of this place which attracts more and more visitors and expatriates, seduced by its authentic and exotic side. You can also indulge in water sports (jet skiing, snorkelling, parasailing, etc.), while there is almost always enough water to swim in throughout the year.
The first advantage, for sure, is that you will be at home, which is not negligible. You will also be able to receive friends from France, family, etc… Then, you can show them your region, the good restaurants of the island and spend excellent moments together.
The pier of “Lompraya”, one of Koh Samui’s best known shipping companies, is just a short distance away, allowing you to sail to the islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. The Maenam area has developed enormously in recent years, attracting a large number of businesses run by “Farang” (“foreigners”): bakery/pastry shop, furniture shops, travel agencies, very good restaurants…
Not far from there, on the jungle side, Maenam has become a particularly sought-after area for real estate, with land that is still reasonable and villas that combine charm and modern comfort. One of the most famous places in Maenam is the Chinese temple, 50 metres from the jetty, with its beautiful multi-coloured ornaments and dragons at the entrance of the building that adorn and protect the temple from evil spirits. During the Chinese New Year, it is the place of all festivities.
On Thursday evenings, between 4 and 11 p.m., Maenam’s Walking Street takes place, a popular event for locals and tourists. The atmosphere is both cosmopolitan and friendly. The pedestrian street is only a few hundred metres long, but there are plenty of well-stocked stalls and shops, always with the recognisable scents and flavours. Clothes, handicrafts, toys, accessories of all kinds, improvised cocktail bars for 50 baht, musical instruments… Towards the end of the market, you will come across the famous Chinese temple which is definitely worth a visit.
Other beaches to discover
Obviously, the list of Koh Samui beaches is far from being exhaustive! We could have added Choeng Mon, Bang Rak, Plai Laem, Thong Krut, Hua Thanong, Bang Po or Nathon. Not to mention some of the lesser known but equally beautiful coves. Beaches that hardly anyone outside the island has heard of, but which are starting to create a buzz among insiders and social networks. These beaches are home to beautiful landscapes and crystal clear waters, attracting more and more people each year in search of authenticity and exoticism… “Samrong Beach”, “Thongson Bay”, “Silver Beach“, “Bang Kao”, “Laem Yai”, “Ban Tai Beach”, names that make you dream and that shouldn’t remain in the shadows for long. All these places make Koh Samui a destination dear to the hearts of many travellers.