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.
Glistening Mae Nam is located on Ko Samui's north shore, with Bang Po and Ban Tai to the west and Bophut to the east. The town is on the main Ring Road and boasts a long stretch of impressive beach, with mostly calm waters.
The beach is set back quite far from the main road, meaning that there is less traffic noise and you can truly find your slice of paradise as you read your book under a coconut palm. The water is clear and ideal for swimming most of the time, making it a great family beach pick. When the wind picks up, kite-surfers can be seen catching the breeze.
While resorts line Mae Nam's shore, this is a far quieter area of Ko Samui than bustling Chaweng Beach and is a good option if you want to be away from the heart of the busy tourist areas but you don't want to be totally isolated from the activity and nightlife.
Once known for its backpacker accommodation, today Mae Nam offers options ranging from budget beach bungalows through to five-star boutique hotels and villa rentals, with sweeping vistas across the bay to Ko Pha Ngan, home of the infamous Full Moon Party.
On Thursday evenings, locals, expats and tourists alike gather in the street near the Chinese temple for the weekly walking-street market. Here you can enjoy cocktails for 50 baht, sample deep-fried crickets, listen to local bands and enjoy street food. Turn towards the sea at the Mae Nam traffic lights, and follow the loop road around towards a small pier and community stage. If you're after yet more eating options, Bophut and Fisherman's Village are only five minutes' away, and a 15-minute drive will take you to Chaweng by car or scooter – it's about 25 minutes by songthaew.
Mae Nam has several well-priced spas, including Mae Nam Home Spa (near the Chinese temple and walking street market) and Mae Nam Sauna and Bamboo Forest (turn at their sign from the Ring Road, at the bridge). These spas offer massages at beach sala prices, but if you are after a five-star experience, resorts such as Santiburi and Belmond Napasai offer luxurious (and pricey) options.
Mae Nam Hills is home to the Santiburi Golf Course and Country Club, which claims to be one of Asia's finest golf courses. Well maintained fairways and greens are set in acres of typical tropical surroundings, with views over the bay and to the neighbouring islands, making it hard to keep your focus on the game. Follow the directional signboard from the Ring Road to Mae Nam Hills, on the western side of Mae Nam, close to Ban Tai.
Towards the western end of Mae Nam, before you reach Ban Tai, you'll see a set of temple gates visible from the Ring Road. Go through these gates, and follow the signage to reach Wat Na Phra Lan, and beyond it, the Lomprayah ferry terminal. The pier serves the high-speed catamaran Lomprayah ferry with daily departures to Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Tao and on to the mainland town of Chumphon (from where you can continue on by bus to Bangkok).
Mae Nam's proximity to the fast ferry makes it an ideal stopover for those in transit to the Full Moon Party. The less-known Thong Nai Pan Express ferry, smaller than the others, goes daily between Mae Nam pier 'walking street' and the east coast of Ko Pha Ngan stopping only on Haad Rin, Haad Tien, Than Sadet and Thong Nai Pan. Departing Thong Nai Pan at 09:00 and Mae Nam at midday. It costs between 250-350 baht depending where you are going. It does not run during the monsoon from around the end of October to the beginning of December.
Near Lomprayah pier is a small bridge crossing a river. Meet Mae Nam Soi 1, and the start of a road that joins Mae Nam to Lamai beach on Ko Samui's east coast, cutting through the interior of the island and avoiding much of the ring road. Taking this alternative route will allow you to experience another side of Samui, as you'll see farmland, tiny traditional houses, buffalo and scenes from typical rural life. The road climbs in altitude, and as you round bends, you'll enjoy Samui from a new perspective.
By Romi Grossberg.