What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
Updated on 25th January, 2013. First published 28th May, 2005
With over a dozen beaches and bays and hundreds of accommodation choices from deluxe hotels and luxury spas to thatch huts and cheap bungalows, Ko Samui has a wealth of options for the discerning traveller. But how to pick the right spot? As hotel propaganda neglects phrases like "under the flight path", "disco next door", "no beach at low tide" and "30 minute walk to beach", you'll need a bit more research -- the following pointers may help.
We've got an updated version of this best beach on Ko Samui story which gives some suggestions on what beach will appeal to different people, so when you've finished with this story, be sure to give that one a read too!
What's this going to cost?
On Ko Samui you can spend from 150B to 15,000B+ a night. One of the advantages is that most beaches have a full range of accommodation from the basic cheapies through to five-star luxury, so pick your beach before you pick a place.
What are the beaches like?
Starting at Chaweng Beach, Chaweng has the whitest sand, the clearest water, the wildest nightlife and by far the biggest crowds. South of Chaweng is Chaweng Noi and then Thong Ta Kien, the latter is excellent.
Next down at Lamai Beach the sand is grainer and yellow, but the beach is long and not crowded. At the southern end of the beach erosion is a problem, while the north-central area can be grotty due to lagoon overflow.
Hua Thanon and Bang Kao on the south coast are sleepy but tend towards mudflats at low tide. Taling Ngam and Thong Yang are likewise very quiet, but the beaches are average.
Ban Tai on the north coast is isolated and sleepy. At Mae Nam the beach improves dramatically, and while the sand is grainy and yellowish, the waters are very calm -- this is a popular family destination.
Going further east you'll reach Bophut, the western end of which is ok, while the eastern area near town is grotty.
After Bophut comes Bang Rak/Big Buddha Beach, which due to the number of boats moored is not great swimming value.
Where's the party?
Chaweng heaves at night. If nightlife is your prime concern, then Chaweng is for you with loads of clubs, bars, restaurants and more -- everything from tacky bar beers to classy wine-bars. Lamai Beach has a couple of clubs but is more down-market than Chaweng and is crowded with bar-beers where, while women are welcome, the primary custom are men. Bophut has a small strip of restaurants and bars and is popular with residents -- a good choice for those who'd like a few drinks and a fine meal, but don't want to share it with an under 20's football team out on a drink till you drop binge. After Bophut, the nightlife options drop off and revolve around individual resorts and bungalows.
How about some peace and quiet?
This can be a big issue, both due to nearby bars and clubs, and far less predictably to construction. Chaweng and Lamai are the noisiest though the further you are from town the quieter it gets. If you are making a reservation in advance, specifically ask "Is there construction nextdoor?"
Under the flight path
In a bright shining example of planning ineptitude, Bangkok Airway's airport has a flight-path that runs straight over the island's most popular beach, Chaweng. The first flight leaves Ko Samui at 06:00 and if it takes off over Chaweng, you will hear it. Badly affected beachfront hotels on Chaweng include the Chaweng Regent, the Island and Chaweng Villa. On Big Buddha Beach (the other take off route) the noise is bad but as the path doesn't fly directly over many resorts you're less likely to be affected.
That's not a beach!
Some of Samui's beaches are rocks or mudflats at low tide. Areas affected include the north-central section of Lamai, portions of the west coast beaches of Taling Ngam and Thong Yang and the central-eastern section of Mae Nam. Big Buddha Beach has a lot of boats moored just offshore as does north-central Lamai where a breakwater has been built to shelter small fishing boats.
Where is the beach?
Watch out for rooms described as "lake view" and "garden view" -- these are code for "you're stuck at the back of the resort". If you want a beachfront room, say so. Both Lamai and Chaweng have a road that runs off the beach and the accommodation on the far side of the road can be up to a 30 minute walk from the sand -- if a hotel is a lot cheaper than others of a similar standard, chances are it is a long way from the beach.
So where should I stay?
If you like to party, Chaweng Beach is by far the best option. If you're part of a family group, both Thong Ta Kien and Mae Nam are excellent choices, with Lamai coming a distant third. If you're after solitary beach walks, then the South Coast of Ko Samui is for you. On each of those we'd suggest the following places:
If someone else is paying, consider Six Senses Samui -- one of the flashest and romantic spots on Ko Samui.
Related readingWhat's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
What is the best island in Thailand?
Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
Ko Tao for non-divers guide
Ko Yao: the islands you're looking for
Ko Phi Phi on a budget
The best beach on Ko Samui
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