Laid-back Bang Po Beach stretches for some five kilometres along the northwest coast and is a favourite of expats and retirees. While many travellers miss this part of the island altogether, those looking for something different will find low-key places to stay along with some of the best seafood on Samui.
Starting at Laem Yai in the west and continuing all the way to Mae Nam in the east, Bang Po (also spelt “Por”) is the name used for the entire bay, while the name Baan Tai is also used for the eastern stretch. In many places, the typically calm water retreats at low tide to reveal mud flats that draw local shellfish harvesters. The off-white sand becomes a narrow stripe at high tide.
Though Bang Po is not Samui’s most spectacular beach overall, it does offer some pretty patches particularly towards the Baan Tai end. Follow signs off the ring road for Mimosa Resort to find an undeveloped lane ending at a picturesque beach where you’re as likely to encounter fishermen as other travellers. Look no further if you seek a long, quiet stroll on the sand with only a few beach dogs and a splendid view of Ko Pha Ngan to keep you company.
Further west, the ring road cuts very close to the beach alongside a host of restaurants. Thai food enthusiasts should make a trip up here to hit Bang Po Seafood Takho and Khanom Jeen Pla Khiao before kicking back at one of several laid-back beach bars set in thatch-roof shacks.
Continue west and the ring road turns south, running up and over the hills of Laem Yai Cape and passing the entrances to some swanky resorts. A couple of hidden beaches rim the north coast of Laem Yai, though you might need to hire a boat or sneak through some upscale villa communities to reach them.
Accommodation in the Bang Po area is limited, but Captain Busch Reggae Beach and By Beach Resort are both good options for backpackers. Many of the older resorts have been converted into affordable long-term rentals and plenty of luxurious villas are also available, with several furniture and art stores set up along the ring road to help residents furnish their new digs.
From here you can follow the ring road south over Laem Yai to Nathon and Lipa Noi on the west coast, or cruise east to Mae Nam and Bophut. Expect a half-hour to 45-minute ride to Chaweng or Lamai. If you like the sound of Bang Po, you also might dig Taling Ngam and other remote south-coast beaches.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 24th September, 2016.