A quick guide to Koh Samui’s beaches
Samui has at least fifty beaches, so many that few islanders can say that they have swum at all of them. But no worries, there are just a handful of main beaches that will fulfill most wants and needs. Our quick guide gives you the lowdown.
The bay of Chaweng is decidedly beautiful and with its 5 kilometers of deliciousness charms even the most jaded of sunseekers. With incandescent white sands backed by cooling trees that provide plenty of shade and to-die-for turquoise waters, it comes as no surprise that this is the island’s most popular beach. However, its sheer length means it never gets to the packed towel-to-towel stage suffered by Mediterranean beaches. It can however get crowded in its central parts. But no matter the season, you can always find a relatively secluded spot. Lined by restaurants, cafés and resorts, it’s a cinch to get food and drink of just about every kind.
Look north and you’ll see the enigmatic island of Koh Matlang (you can wade out at low tide) and south, a rocky headland. Most of the beach is just a huge, delectable swathe of sand. The sea in Chaweng is shallow but beware of rip currents at times. Despite the shallowness of the water, many people have needed to be rescued.
Chaweng beach is one of those places that people just love to come back to. Bring your camera and try to do justice to the superb blues of sea and sky.
With deeper waters than in Chaweng and coarser sand, Lamai is also highly popular. Between June and August, when tides are very low, many people head for Lamai. At the northern end there’s a headland that’s worth exploring. At the southern end, you’ll come across the boulder-strewn beach at Hinta-Hinyai. It’s not a good idea to swim here but you can see the well-known phallic rocks and try some amazingly good coconut ice-cream. As with Chaweng, cafés and restaurants line the main beach, selling all manner of food and drink.
Fisherman’s Village, Bophut
Swim off this long stretch of sand that shelves after a little distance and treat yourself to lunch or dinner at one of the restaurants that line the bay here. This beach is a favorite for many locals and at the end of the day you can see whole families here. A narrow road runs parallel to the beach and is pleasant to walk down in the evening; many people come here to choose which restaurant they will eat at. Parking is incredibly easy – park for free at The Wharf at the western end of town.
Many people miss out on the beach here as there’s not so much of a glimpse of it from the ring road. That’s a pity as it’s one of the best beaches on Koh Samui. Turn off the road at Wat Napalarn and drive down to the temple and park up and you’ll have instant access. Other roads also lead down to the bay. Enjoy the sweep of the long bay, backed by palms and look out over the water to nearby Koh Pha-ngan. Far less commercialized than either Chaweng or Lamai, the bay has a few small restaurants, mostly attached to resorts, which provide food and drink. The entire beach exudes a laid-back holiday atmosphere but never gets crowded. Check out the Chinese temple half-way along the bay; to reach it turn where you see the main ornate Chinese gateway (ensure you are at the right one, as it’s a one-way street).
The West Coast
Justly famed for its sunsets, the beaches of the west coast tend to be shallow, with coarse yellow sand, and are relatively unpopulated. You may need to look for a place to eat and drink, but they are still plentiful. For some real atmosphere, park up at Lipanoi’s Wat Samut Tararam, and head for the beach which is sheltered from the sun by casuarina trees. The spires of the temple make for a great backdrop.
If you head still further south you’ll come to Ban Taling Ngam which has a very beautiful beach, wilder still if you continue walking and go round the tiny headland. A couple of very small coves await.
The South Coast
If you take the road from Ban Taling Ngam down to Phang-ka, you’ll pass some inaccessible beaches and then at Thong Krut come across a small village and port with a quiet beach where small boats tend to dock. The sea is very shallow here, not so good for swimming in, but the area is filled with atmosphere. Stop for a drink at Thong Krut before heading to the fishing village of Ban Hua Thanon. Check out its fishing boats, some of which have intricately painted prows.
The waters around Samui are mostly safe. But don’t let your guard down, especially if you are looking after children. There are occasional rip tides and there may be jellyfish in places and at times. Avoid jet skis, which may be being driven by complete novices. Always remember to take plenty of sunscreen and water with you. On a windy and/or cloudy day, you feel totally sure you’re not getting that much sun – absolutely not true, as this is the tropics and a few hours later your skin will be bright pink or even red.
Such is the pull of Koh Samui that some people have chosen to live here even if they’re indifferent to the sea. But almost everyone loves the sea and spends time here. Maybe not whole days as they might in cooler climates, but living here means that you’ll never run out of time to spend on your favorite beach.