The island’s main town, Chaweng, is way more than just a wonderful beach. It’s a focal point for a humongous range of places to stay, every kind of cuisine and enough nightlife to suit all tastes. Some of the first vacationers came to this beach in the late 1970s and the town’s popularity has steadily increased since then.
Expect scenes worthy of holiday postcards with incandescent and powdery sand and a gently shelving beach leading to a sea that ranges in color from cobalt blue to turquoise. As it’s well over 3 km long, it won’t ever see the crowds that Australian and European beaches have to endure: you’re guaranteed space here though very occasionally and only in high season you might have to walk a little to find a spot. Trees line the beach so you can get some shade and there are hotels, restaurants and cafés where you can find all manner of refreshment. Head south from the beach and you come to Chaweng Noi, which is basically an extension of the beach.
If there’s a flag system – red for don’t swim – then it pays to respect it. Some resorts have flags, some don’t. Usually you’re in sight of one, however. If the flag is yellow, also avoid the sea. Don’t swim where there are jet-skis – after all, they’re being driven by holidaymakers who are usually beginners. Rip currents and jelly fish are problems at certain times of the year. Unfortunately, there have been many drownings in Chaweng, so it pays to be careful. That means even when it looks safe.
Chaweng tends to sleep late and things only start getting hectic towards the end of the afternoon. The beach may seem very quiet but once you get to the coast road, everyone who has been at the beach or round the swimming pool all day will tend to head here. There are lots of shops and plenty to see and do when it comes to the evening.
The coast road is completely separate from the beach and at no point can it be even glimpsed. Nights, it’s awash with lights and, in the heat, you may want to take an occasional taxi if you want to experience all of it.
Hundreds of restaurants line the coast road and there are plenty more in other parts of Chaweng. What this means is that you’re spoiled for choice. Standards are high due to the intense competition and you’ll find pretty much anything that any major cuisine has to offer. A lot of restaurants specialize in both Thai and Italian fare, but you’ll also find Japanese restaurants, Indian and places serving up a range of broadly international dishes.
Staying at a resort in Chaweng? Despite the hustle and bustle of the coast road, the resorts are oases of tranquility. Many have beautiful gardens, some almost big enough that you can imagine yourself a long way from any town. Even if you don’t particularly enjoy being on the coast road, you’ll easily escape it by simply walking through the atrium of wherever you’re
Shopping in Chaweng
The coast road is awash with shops, mostly catering for holidaymakers; you can find anything for the beach including clothes, beachwear and of course sunscreen. Convenience stores abound – there seems to be one every two hundred meters or so – and there are plenty of choices when it comes for a break from shopping.
Central Festival: Handily located in the middle of town and close to the beach you’ll find Samui’s largest shopping mall. It’s mostly open-air with a department store, Tops supermarket (Thai, international and delicatessen goods), food court, electronics store and more than a dozen cafés and restaurants. There’s also a cineplex specializing in original version films. It’s a convenient place for banking; banks remain open both at the weekends and in the evenings. Central Festival has plenty of free parking.
Tesco-Lotus: On the ring road, about 3 km from the beach, you’ll find Tesco-Lotus, which has a food court, offering cut-price dishes, and a few restaurants. There are also services such as opticians and mobile phone stores. There’s also a cineplex with movies dubbed into Thai. The supermarket boasts a large variety of Thai and international foods.
Big C: On the ring road, heading towards Bophut, Big C is similar to Tesco-Lotus, though smaller. Big C supermarket has a spectrum of Thai and international foods as well as food from France and Spain, especially cheeses and cold cuts.
You’ll find every sort of cuisine: Japanese at Central Festival, Italian at Prego, American at Stacked Burger, Indian at Noori and so on. The best thing to do is to get a map from your hotel and simply browse. Chaweng boasts many western-style bars with big screen TVs and generous portions. Some of the well-known bars are The Islander and Tropical Murphy’s. For some of the island’s best cocktails and smoothies, try Drink Gallery.
Chaweng is famed for its partying and even the staunchest of revelers can find themselves exhausted by all the fun. The bulk of Koh Samui’s nightclubs are to be found in or near Chaweng’s coast road. Up at the northern part of town, you’ll find Soi Green Mango, which is filled with bars and nightclubs. Q Bar has amazing views out over Chaweng thanks to being perched on a hill and the ever-popular Bar Reggae is just the other side of Chaweng Lake.
No worries if partying isn’t your thing. Lots of families choose to come to Chaweng every year and there are plenty of quiet places to go; you’ll soon find your own places that you’ll want to return to over and over again.
Where to stay
Chaweng and its environs are packed with hotels and resorts. Every budget is catered for and you can always find good deals at places such as MM Hill Hotel and Queen Boutique Hotel. Couples and families will enjoy resorts such as Buri Rasa Village and Centara Grand Beach Resort. A little out of town you’ll find Impiana Resort Chaweng Noi in the south and in the north Anantara Lawana. For lovers of minimalist architecture, head over to The Library, renowned for its enigmatic white-cube architecture and red-tiled swimming pool.