Ko Samui is so big, we've split it up into areas, select one of the below for detailed accommodation and food listings in that area. Sights and general overviews for Ko Samui as a whole can be found via the icons above. Don't know where to start? Read an overview of Ko Samui's different areas.
In our quest to find food and accommodation on Ko Samui at reasonable prices, here we bring you a selection of beach bungalows (yes, on the beach) for 500 baht per night. The area we’re covering is from Bang Po to Choeng Mon along the northern coast of Samui. You may not get air-con and turn down service for that price, but you will get views to write home about and the charm of Samui from a decade or two ago.
We start our trail of cheap beach shacks where Bang Po meets Mae Nam. Follow the dirt road immediately after Santiburi (from the Nathon side) until you are blinded by acid green and other hues inspired by the 1970s that make up the bungalows of By Beach Resort, a typical backpacker-type establishment. Although air-con options are available, the simply furnished but clean and spacious cluster villas go for a mere 400 to 500 baht per night. A little vegetable patch supplies their on-site restaurant, which offers cheap meals and drinks. Chill in the oversized swing hanging from a coconut palm on the beach or hang out with other travellers in the lounge that comes rigged with a computer terminal with WiFi access, a library and book exchange, bicycle hire, guitar and TV with pyramid cushions on the floor.
A little further east in Maenam follow the faded Silent Bungalows sign from the Ring Road, down a dirt road, past water buffalo, and arrive at a backpackers’ dream. The somewhat compact bungalows have little space for more than a bed, but come equipped with either a fan or air-con, have bathrooms with showers and balconies with pyramid cushions. Hammocks swing from every available branch and fish ponds and quirky garden features add to the laidback vibe.
The rooms may be small, but with views across the bay and a clean, white and jetski-free beach on your doorstep, you won’t be spending much time in your bungalow. A TV lounge and restaurant serves up well-priced Thai and Western food, and offers WiFi if you must catch up with the outside world. A fan room will relieve your wallet of 400 to 500 baht per night, year round.
Still moving east, where Mae Nam meets Bophut, a small resort shares a patch of beach and shady trees with local fishermen. Chalee Villas looks across the river to the five-star Zazen Resort. Villas is rather an overstatement to describe these rustic but clean wood and brick fan-cooled bungalows, but as with the others, balconies with seating and trees with hammocks are aplenty for weary travellers. Fishermen string nets under the trees to dry out, and longtail boats moor in the calm water.
A sala offers one of the cheapest massages to be found on Samui — 200 baht an hour — and the restaurant serves value for money Thai and Western food. This is a good example of how backpacker joints can amicably share a beach with five-star establishments and not affect the goings on of the locals. Buy this view for 500 baht per night and you get a rustic beach shack thrown in.
Thongson Bay Bungalows are located at the northeastern pinnacle of the island, and share a beach with five-star Melati Resort. Perched on the rocks overlooking the bay, these simple bungalows are more spacious than the average backpacker room. Although there are several room types, including two bedroom units, the standard rooms are 500 baht per night. The flashpacker priced seafront units have been built around the rocks, and in some rooms, large boulders protrude from the walls. These seafront bungalows offer privacy, and have to be accessed by steep stairs leading over the rocks. Balconies offer seating and hammocks and endless views over the bay.
The onsite restaurant is a local favourite, offering good value food. The beach is good for swimming, and good snorkelling spots lie between the boulders at either end of the beach. Note that this bay is off the songthaew routes, so those staying here will need to hire at least a scooter, as Samui’s taxis are pricey, which will increase the amount you’re spending daily.
Is Samui expensive? Compared to other Thailand locations — maybe. Is it possible to stay on Samui with a tight budget? Definitely, just know where to look.
By Rosanne Turner
Last updated on 24th March, 2015.