Most of the vast Mae Nam Beach has a sleepy atmosphere that may even remind old-timers of what Samui was like decades ago and the location keeps busier parts of the island within relatively easy striking distance: families and backpackers have long appreciated this balance of serenity and convenience.
Gazing across the water to Ko Pha Ngan to the north, Mae Nam is the longest of the north-coast beaches on Ko Samui, with quieter Bang Po and Baan Tai stretching to the west and busier Bophut set in the east.
Sporting five kilometres of khaki sand that ranges from grainy to fine, the beach has a fairly sharp drop, both on and off shore, which makes it excellent for both lounging and swimming. Most of Mae Nam’s resorts boast spacious grounds with plenty of umbrella and coconut trees providing shade, and you’ll even find some undeveloped beachfront land. Finding a private slice of paradise is easy here.
The ring road cuts through Mae Nam about a half-kilometre south of the beach at its closest point, leaving a large buffer that keeps the entire beach undisturbed by traffic. Parts of the eastern and western reaches feel downright rural, with narrow lanes passing empty fields and private houses. Resorts like Paradise Beach and Moonhut take full advantage of the space and tranquility, though it can be a hike to a selection of restaurants and other conveniences.
Set back from the centre of the beach, Mae Nam village is smaller and less kitschy than Fisherman’s Village over in Bophut but has a similar spread of laundry shops, convenience stores and travel offices. A Thursday evening “walking street” market sets up near a Chinese temple, with musicians performing under a seaside pavilion.
On any night, the village hosts a good selection of restaurants, including several expat-owned options like the excellent La Bonne Franquette. While nights are mellow, you will find the odd British sports pub or German beer garden for some relaxation and conversation. To find the village, simply turn north off the ring road under a Chinese gate at Mae Nam’s only traffic light. The aptly named Mae Nam Village Bungalows is a good option if you want to stay here.
The west end of Mae Nam hosts Pra Larn Pier, one of two piers on Samui used by the Lomprayah ferry service – staying around here is convenient if you’re planning a trip to Ko Pha Ngan or Ko Tao. No other ferry companies use this pier, which looks almost quaint compared to the big car ferry piers found in Nathon and Bang Rak. There’s also the small Mae Nam Pier located near the village, where the less-known Thong Nai Pan Express boats run across to Haad Rin and several east-coast beaches on Ko Pha Ngan.
Just east of Pra Larn Pier stands Wat Na Phra Lan, a large Buddhist temple that contributes to Mae Nam’s not-so-touristy atmosphere. Featuring some lovely beach resorts like Saree Samui and Mae Nam Resort, the west end of the beach also hosts a bunch of long-stay options where you can score comfy rooms for cheap, often with kitchens and living areas. You’ll find several restaurants and travel offices in this area as well.
Turn inland off the ring road in Mae Nam village to access a shortcut that links the north coast to Lamai Beach over on the east coast, shooting through the interior of the island and avoiding much of the ring road. This route takes you past farmland, traditional houses, water buffalo and viewpoints, offering glimpses of a rural side of Samui that’s often overlooked.
The Mae Nam area is also home to the Santiburi Golf Course and Country Club, which claims to be one of Asia's finest.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 24th September, 2016.