Samui's south coast, from Na Tien and Laem Set in the east through to Thong Krut in the west, is about as low-key as Ko Samui gets. Long sweeping white to grey sandy beaches with shallow waters – often mud flats at low tide – are interrupted by the occasional fishing port anchorage, midrange resorts and private residences.
A seafood restaurant here, a beach bar there. Off the main throughfare, winding, little trafficked roads with confusing signposting weave between coconut plantations. Every now and then you get emptied out onto an expansive stretch of beach good for a long slow stroll or a paddle in the shallow waters. Blisteringly hot in the midday heat but with a cooling sea breeze in the late afternoon; expect coconuts everywhere. This is Samui's south coast.
Very little developed, there are more private homes than hotels and the properties are very spread out. At the eastern end, where Hua Thanon bleeds into Natien, are a couple of beach clubish places, then you pass by the abandoned Laem Set Inn and the (still open!) Centara Villas, with its associated Butterfly Garden. From here the road turns west, passing by the salubrious and healthy Kamalaya, and a little further on Banburee, after which it cuts inland a little.
A little west of Banburee a river breaks the beach (by Samui Kayak) and then Bang Kao beach runs in pretty much one long span of sand right across to Laem Sor headland in the east. There are a few resorts along here, notably Easy Time Family Resort, and Bang Kao Seafood on the beach at Bang Kao village, by the fishing boat anchorage, is a good spot to eat. But by and large, this is a largely undeveloped stretch of sand.
From Bang Kao village, a road heads north to meet the outer ring road at Route 4170. It is at this junction with Route 4173 you'll find Sweet Sister's Cafe, recommended for its delicious fruit shakes and some good Thai food (try the wingbean salad). The menu has a strong vegetarian and vegan influence, but there’re plenty of seafood, chicken and meat options too. Noiy, who owns and cooks for Sweet Sisters Cafe, uses fresh, local produce, she doesn’t use farmed fish, shellfish or MSG, and she grows a lot of her own produce too.
About 100 metres or so east of here you'll find the Magic Alambic Rum Distillery, where you can pick up locally made run and rum syrups. The distillery has changed hands from the original owners and a visit here isn't what it once was, but the rum is still great.
Following on from Bang Kao is Thong Krut, which was once a fishing village, but today is more of a row of picturesque seafood restaurants with longtails for hire to Ko Taen and Ko Matlang. The beach is okay for a walk, not so much for a swim. Sunsets here though are quite good and there is at least half a dozen seafood restaurants to choose from, making this a good spot to come for a sunset dinner (as long as you have your own transport).
While every man but not his dog will rent you a longtail to Ko Taen, T.K Tour comes highly recommended. They started taking tourists to Ko Taen for snorkelling back in 1986 and still do so today using longtails. They also offer charters and snorkelling and fishing trips to Ko Tan, Ko Matsum, and other nearby islands including Ko Rarb, Ko See and Ko Haa, all off the south coast of Samui. If you are planning on staying on Ko Taen, you should contact Koh Tan Village Bungalows direct as they do the run for a little less.
By Stuart McDonald.
Last updated on 25th September, 2016.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.