After 3 and a half months of staying in the north of Thailand, we went to the south of the country, where we spent another three weeks. During this short period of time we managed to visit Koh Samui, Phuket, Krabi and 4 small islands, which are located off the coast of Krabi town.
The nature in Samui is very beautiful, the air is clean and there are many long sandy beaches are not crowded at all. It’s a place which has something for everyone. For the party seekers, there’s a lively night life, bars, restaurants, clubs, etc. For those who prefer a more peaceful stay, they can take a break from the bustle of the city and retire anywhere in the bungalow amidst palm trees on the beach. Family vacationers with children won’t remain indifferent as well as travel lovers like us.
Prices here compared to Phuket are cheaper, but much more expensive when compared to the north of Thailand. Local food here is more limited than Chiang Mai. While in Chiang Mai you’ll find lots of vegetarian and organic restaurants, here it was restricted to very local dishes plus a good number of European/American eateries. Actually local food at reasonable prices was hard to come by on this island, mostly because many places charged a premium for the lovely views they offered to their patrons. However, it should be noted that the Sunday night market in Lamai surprised us with regards to cleanliness of food and good taste. The prices were reasonable, but compared to Chiang Mai, a little on the high side.
The locals here are not as friendly and smiling as they are in the north of the country, the service ain’t that good either. However, we were very lucky with the staff of our hotel, they were super friendly and always willing to help.
Wherever you are staying on the island, you will need a vehicle, as there isn’t much of a public transport system, only taxis. In our opinion the most convenient means of transportation in Thailand is a scooter. It is very easy to find a newish motobike in Koh Samui for 200-400 baht (for 2013, currently the price can differ!), depending on the model. We rented a brand new Honda PCX 150 for 350 baht a day.
Before we chose our hotel on this beautiful island, I researched a lot and that paid off as we were very pleased with our hotel and chosen location.
I advise you to carefully consider the information about the beaches and villages of the island before you book a hotel.
For those who are planning to go to Koh Samui, I have prepared a brief description of the beaches / villages of the island, to make it easier to choose the hotel.
The North coast of Koh Samui. This beach didn’t particularly impress us. The water was very cloudy, making snorkelling impossible. We also felt a curious stinging sensation while in the water, might be some very small fish or jellyfish larvae but we didn’t see any. We did not understand what it was, but we felt it in the sea around almost the entire north-west coast of the island. Maybe it was just salt water that irritated our skin?
So, back to the beach. The beach is long with yellow sand, not crowded, there were a very few people (we loved Koh Samui for this reason. It is so easy to find a beach where you will be alone!). There is a sharp descent into the sea, you don’t need to walk 100 meters off the shore to swim as it happens in some places.
Of course the coast is beautiful, as elsewhere in Thailand, but I wouldn’t stay at this place.
Bophut Beach, the Fishing village
We didn’t like the beach that much. When I say we didn’t like I compare with the most beautiful beach we have seen in Koh Samui, but it does not mean that the place is bad.
The beach is long with yellow sand, the sea water seemed more or less transparent. Generally the place is picturesque and interesting. The fishing village is quite small. It is filled with an abundance of restaurants (mostly Italian) at medium and high prices. It is located not far from the main attraction of the island – Big Buddha.
Would I stay here for a holiday? – probably not.
Big Buddha Beach
This long beach is very similar to Bophut, they are located next to each other. Pros: it is close to the airport, close to one of the most important attractions of Koh Samui – Big Buddha (definitely worth a visit!). It is also sufficiently close to Chaweng Beach if you are searching for an active nightlife. I think that the Big Buddha beach is decent enough, like Bophut, but I wouldn’t book the hotel in this area if I had a choice.
Choeng Mon Beach
A very beautiful beach which is located in the north-west of the island. Its sand is slightly yellowish, but mostly white, the sea water is opaque and «biting» as well. This beach does not have a village, although of course, you can find restaurants and shops, but there is not much of them. There are a lot of very beautiful and expensive villas in this area. We liked this place, but it’s definitely not the very best place on the island, though one of the best.
The most popular beach. This is a place for lovers of nightlife and filled daily life. Here you will find an abundance of restaurants, shops, a night market and lots of people.
The beach is crowded, you won’t succeed in lying down in silence on the white sand. As I already said the sand on this beautiful beach is whitish, and the sea water is clear.
Chaweng is very noisy at night. Lots of cars, drunken tourists on motorbikes, a bunch of transsexuals on the streets – chaos in one word. I would suggest this place for only those who like a very lively nightlife.
Crystal Bay / Tongtakian
The most beautiful beach on the island! A small beach between Chaweng and Lamai, surrounded by large rocks on both sides and palm trees from the road. The water is blue and crystal clear. The sand is white, and there were very few people at the beach.
If you like snorkeling, you should definitely come here. Of course, you won’t see much, as Koh Samui is not very good for snorkeling, but I am sure you will manage to see a dozen different beautiful fish, including barracuda if you’re lucky.
A few meters from Crystal Bay towards Chaweng, you will find Coral Cove, it is small, but the water there is clear blue. There are lots of crabs and fish, which can be observed while snorkelling. The approach to the sea is easy, despite the stones. It’s a very beautiful place!
Our hotel The Palm CoCo Mantra was located just a five minutes drive away from these beaches. We were very lucky, because the beach at the hotel was not the best (maybe this fact makes the hotel cheaper compared to others), but the hotel itself was very good, the staff was super friendly, we liked the service and amenities, and the price of course. We really enjoyed our room with the sea view and of course breakfast served right on the beach!
If you’re staying at any other place of the island, be sure to come to Crystal Bay and Coral Cove at least for half a day. Highly recommended!
The second most popular beach in Samui after Chaweng Beach, but more laid back. Every Sunday in the local village you can enjoy the night market with street food and a variety of Thai trinkets and clothing. There are also plenty of restaurants.
Not far from Lamai you will find waterfalls, a variety of activities, for instance riding the elephants, while in the southern part of the beach you can snap a picture of the famous Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks.
As for the beach, we liked its southern part, the sea was clear and blue, the beach itself with yellow sand was quite beautiful. The northern part of the beach seemed neglected. If I came again to Koh Samui, I would have stopped at the Crystal Bay or near it again, or in the southern part of Lamai. Recommended!
Taling Ngam Bay / Virgin Bay
Beautiful beaches with a slightly yellowish white sand and clear blue water, with amazing views of the nearby small islands. The roads leading to these places are surrounded by palm forests.
The nearest landmark is a temple hosting a mummified monk inside. These places are very beautiful, but they are a bit far from ‘civilization’. We haven’t seen any infrastructure as such, there were no restaurants or shops nearby.
This place is ideal for those who wish to retire from the city and all the crowds in a beautiful villa overlooking an equally beautiful sea and islands.
If you are interested where the two photos below were taking, beneath in the comments I pasted an image of the map with the exact location.
The business and administrative center of Koh Samui, as well as the main port of the island. Ferries depart from here to various destinations, including Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and mainland to Surat Thani.
In this small town you will find souvenir shops and seafood, which are sold at the street by weight at very attractive prices. Restaurants in this part of the island offer local traditional spicy food and seafood.
The beaches of the town are deserted, they are long with white sand and feature clear waters.
I hope my post was helpful. Have a great journey!
P.S. Guys! The post was written in 2013 and updated in 2017. Many of you ask similar questions again and again. Please go through the comments! There is a lot of useful information in the comments as well! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂
Are you planning to visit Phuket island after Samui? Read my post on how to get from Koh Samui to Phuket by bus.