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.
Bang Rak is located on the northern coast of Ko Samui, with Bophut to its west and Plai Laem to its east. The beach area of Bang Rak is also referred to as Big Buddha beach, because of the huge golden statue at the eastern end of the beach, just before Plai Laem. The beach itself has several piers — Big Buddha, Petcherat and Bang Rak — taking passengers to the neighbouring island of Ko Phangan, either by ferry or private speedboat. Luxury vessels as well as local fishing boats moor in the bay and along the piers, making for an interesting view over the bay and toward Ko Phangan.
Best chill out bar
Right at the end of Bang Rak, just before BBC Restaurant, is a tiny wooden-shack, Fisherman Reggae Music Bar. I’m reluctant to share this little spot, as it is my solace after a busy day or when I just want to unwind, watch the fishing boats, listen to some good tunes and escape from reality. Only 100m from home, it is close enough to walk to, and if not for the fact that I live on a steep hill, close enough to roll home to. A vast menu of food is miraculously produced from a one square metre kitchen, and they make the meanest fruit shakes around. The owners’ son is apparently number two on the island for fire dancing, and Fisherman Reggae Bar puts on free fire shows every night at 20:00.
Best luxury hotel
The Scent Hotel is a boutique resort with 15 sea-view rooms, located on the beach. True to its name, one experiences an olfactory overload on entering the hotel. Their shop just off reception sells an assortment of aromatic products in beautiful bottles and packaging. The decor reflects back to Southeast Asian (not Thailand, remember!) colonial times. Intricate floor tiles, cottons and silks, antiques, elegant Chinese lacquered furniture and bleached wood pieces, spa-type bathrooms with copper taps and linen bathrobes all add up to an intimate, luxury feel. The fine-dining restaurant is located on the beachfront, as is the swimming pool. Special touches such as afternoon tea, classic movies screened in the tea foyer and a spa using their own products add to the specialness of The Scent.
Best mid-range hotel
Villa Tanamera, a small resort consisting of two-bedroom villas, is located on the beach. The villas are stylishly furnished in a contemporary style, with full kitchens as well as a living and dining area, and two bedrooms, making them ideal for families or friends travelling together. The sala villas have a rooftop deck with lovely views to Ko Phangan. Beachfront villas have a terrace leading straight down to the beach. A long, narrow swimming pool forms the focal point, with the villas on either side. The included breakfast is fairly basic, but with your own kitchen and restaurants nearby, this is not a big issue. Villa Tanamera is small, with the feel of a small housing development rather than a resort.
Best budget resort
Dae Tong De Samui takes one back 20 years to when Samui’s accommodation was only simple beach bungalows. For anyone wanting to just chill on the beach or swing in a hammock, this is the place to be. Its simple thatch-roofed beach bar, resembling an oversized umbrella, services guests and passersby alike. The bungalows are spacious, and have fridges and air-con. They are clean, yet simply furnished. The beachfront bungalows are well-priced, having ample space including a lounge and large deck area looking straight across the bay. The restaurant consists of a large thatched sala as well as tables dotted on the sand, and offers a well-priced menu selection. This is the place for a simple relaxed stay.
Best spots to eat
Bang Rak has an assortment of restaurants including streetfood stands as well as numerous Thai and Western sit-down establishments. For the best pizzas in Bang Rak, try Antica Loconda, with their flashing neon sign indicating ‘slow food’ out front.
Great places to watch the sunset while grabbing a bite include BBC Restaurant and Sunset Cafe, both at the eastern end of Bang Rak. BBC is more upmarket and does traditional Sunday roasts, while Sunset Café is more laid back and known for their great chicken sandwiches. Vegetarians bored with baked potatoes and longing for interesting meat-free options should try Amala, a fully vegetarian restaurant.
By Rosanne Turner
Last updated on 4th June, 2015.