Koh Samui is the third largest island in Thailand. The story goes that a couple of curious tourists arrived by coconut boat in the early 1970s and immediately set about spreading the word about the mesmerizing paradise they found, with pearl white beaches fringed by palms whistling in the breeze.
The clear turquoise sea sparkling in the sunlight still retains the same radiance, more than forty years after the very first hut was set up on this island. The infrastructure here and on neighboring islands might have undergone some cultivation over the years but the location is still dominated by picturesque lush green hills and brown roads interspersed with rough wooden structures.
There are more than eighty islands surrounding Koh Samui, and collectively they make up one of the most gorgeous tourist destinations in Asia. As its popularity and reputation has grown, it has become progressively harder to come by the cheap fan bungalows, hotels and resorts beloved of the backpackers who created the buzz. Most accommodation now is either mid-range or top-end, with a number of international celebrities owning property in the islands. Most beachfront facilities boast of marvelously decorated rooms, crisp white sheets, thriving gardens and sumptuous pools.
The popularity of Koh Samui is only comparable to that of Phuket. If you love nightlife then the full moon parties held at Koh Phangan are a sight to behold. You will love Koh Tao if you are a snorkeler, diver or swimmer. There is however something for every visitor, with beaches that attract young people who peddle coconuts and mangoes, to more serious sun-creamed, bikini-clad tourists, while jet skis churn up whitewash on the sparkling waters. If you are looking for serenity, then you will definitely like some of the sports where you can have the whole world on your own.
The hot and dry season between the months of February and June are the best times to visit. If you love fine weather but dislike crowds, then consider visiting in September and October. However, expect prices to skyrocket between December and July, irrespective of the weather trends.
Thong Tanote Beach
Located south of Koh Samui, Thong Tanote beach is a secluded heaven that offers its visitors awe-inspiring views of the Gulf of Thailand. From here, ravishing views of Mutsum Island and Koh Tan are easy to find. This is also a wonderful place to enjoy watching the sunrise and sunset, or just relax and breathe in the aromas of the fresh onshore breezes.
Despite the far south coast being only about twenty minutes’ drive from Lamai or thirty minutes from Chaweng, Thong Tanote beach is very secluded and calming, free from the noisy shopping and nightlife that appear to characterize most of the beaches. Nevertheless, many guests at this beach don’t hesitate to take advantage of the diving and snorkeling-friendly offshore conditions that the beautiful waters appear to exist for. However, the water near the beach is on the shallow side, and not ideal for swimming.
The people in Thong Tanote beach are friendly and they run a number of small roadside shops and kiosks selling basic commodities that locals and visitors need. There are old Thai homes that have resisted modernization; in fact, some places in Thong Tanote beach remain untouched by recent decades and they are amazing to look at. There is a small fishing village in Thong Krut Bay where you can get a nice view of the islands to the south at the same time as sampling some traditional Thai foods.
After you have returned from taking a long walk on the beach, feeling tired and worn out, you can grab a refreshing and thirst-quenching drink from one of the wood-constructed restaurants built on stilts in Thong Tanote beach. From there you can see one of the beach’s most prominent features, the yellow-tiled pagoda strategically constructed at the seaside. You can also view the pagoda from the road to Bang Kao beach on a tiny road on the right leading to Laem Sor, about a kilometer away.
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Taling Ngam Beach
Located on Koh Samui’s west coast, south of Nathon town, you will find Taling Ngam beach – a magnificent and secluded beach destination. One superb feature of this beach is that it offers outstanding views of the surrounding rainforest as well as the Anthong Marine National Park and its many islands. The sunsets are the most amazing as the sun rays sneak through the jungle canopy, their pretty rays sparkling on the calm sea waters. There is no doubt that the beach stands out as the most dazzling part of Koh Samui.
Taling Ngam beach’s level of development is not comparable to other parts of the island, but many travelers prefer it so. Some believe that development would ruin its natural feel that apparently connects with its visitors and gives them a sense of privilege. The bungalows here are not as expensive as compared to other beaches on the island. Lovers of seafood will adore the few restaurants here as they serve some of the best prepared Thai seafood to be found anywhere.
Taling Ngam neighbors Lipa Noi beach, which that covers several kilometers of unexploited coastline with few people around. The nature of this beach normally appeals to the busy individual on the verge of collapsing under their usual schedules—those who are in dire need of a place to laze around while totally relaxing and holidaying in a unique way. The two most enjoyable activities on this beach are swimming and sunbathing.
There is a small fishing village nearby where the restaurants fetch their supply of fresh fish daily. Those with families might find it suitable in that nightlife is not as wild and obtrusive as experienced in other beach spots on Koh Samui. Taling Ngam beach is however rapidly transforming into a residential property hotspot with modern houses being constructed. The tranquility might be compromised a little, but its amazing nature is unlikely to be affected.
Plai Laem Beach
Plai Laem beach is located in the northwestern corner of Koh Samui Island. The beach is ideal for visitors looking for a place to do nothing but relax, away from the other crowded beaches. All the same, Plai Laem beach is just about ten minutes away from thriving Chaweng beach where holidaymakers can engage in a rather lively night life. On the other hand, the statue of Buddha at Big Buddha beach is also only a short walk away. This is generally a peaceful and quiet area that is characterized by numerous private villas and houses for rent.
Plai Laem beach is one of the more popular locations on Koh Samui Island because it provides some great-eye catching panoramas of the surrounding area and magnificent sunsets in the tropical horizon. Visitors at Plai Laem beach can enjoy a cheap and relaxing pampering experience in one of the massage parlors along the beach, or visit one of the other relatively high end spas and saunas.
The shorefront boasts a 2km long stretch of white and soft sandy white beach that is perfect for just relaxing on the sand and taking a nap—it is not generally crowded like other nearby beaches. The surrounding offshore coral reef makes the water cool and calm and hence perfect for swimming as well as snorkeling. Thai fishermen can occasionally been seen in the distance in their long boats going about their business. One adventurous option at the beach is to swim or kayak to Koh Som island, where there are picturesque views of the sea.
There are some small shops a few meters from the beach where visitors can do their souvenir hunting. Accommodation at the beach mainly comprises of private villas, with a few beach resorts and hotels.
Nathon beach is located on Koh Samui Island at the southern coast of Thailand. The beach is fairly close to the island’s main car ferry pier, making it one of the easiest destinations to visit for tourists arriving by car from the mainland. It is home to pleasant, shallow sea waters that make it a perfect spot for family visitors, either with kids or with seniors.
Nathon beach is generally a long stretch of sandy white beach dotted with a few palm trees along its length. It is perfect for sunbathing on the soft white sand under the gentle warm sand or for a variety of activities such as playing beach games. You can also take a relaxing nap under the shade of the palm trees away from the bright afternoon sun, while early morning jogs and barefoot evening strolls along the beach are also a common activity. As well as being shallow, the waters here are free of rocks and coral formations, making them a nice and perfectly safe place for little kids to swim and splash around.
Nathon beach is home to the popular Samui Dhama Healing Center, which is one of Samui island’s more intense health spas. This is a popular destination for many because of its highly developed spa facilities and successful diet regimes.
For other visitors, the various coconut plantations in the region give the beach the feel of being a tropical paradise and provide some breathtaking views. Nathon beach is however not noted for its entertainment or night life, and is best left for those with families and the seniors.
Accommodation at Nathon beach comprises of a few well spaced family run bungalows that have attached restaurants. There are also high end beach resorts that have recently been developed. Several private luxury villas are available for rent and are favored mostly by families on vacation. The cuisine at the beach is also highly recommended and mainly highlights local seafood recipes.
Mae Nam Beach
Mae Nam beach is one of the most under-rated beaches in Thailand. It is to be found on the north coast of Koh Samui Island, and, although it is largely undeveloped as compared to other beaches on the island, Mae Nam beach has a lot to offer with a long stretch of sandy beach that is ideal for a host of activities, backed by a choice of comfortable accommodation options. It suits all visitors who search for a sleepy style vacation area perfect for a peaceful undisturbed holiday. The beach is a personal favorite for many Thai families on vacation with their kids.
Mae Nam beach is comprised of a long stretch of yellow sandy beach, an area that takes approximately three hours to walk the whole length of. The waters are clear and calm all year round, and you have to go a long way offshore to reach the sea. Those vacationing with kids will find this a great attribute since they can splash around in the shallow waters or engage in a variety of different games on the long stretch of beach. The road is set far back, so that visitors are left undisturbed by the noise of passing traffic.
Mae Nam beach provides great views of Koh Phangan Island, as well as the magnificent sunsets seen from the eastern end of the beach. This locality has very low key entertainment options and is thus ideal for serenity seekers who enjoy their tranquility throughout both the day and the night.
Accommodation at Mae Nam beach is largely comprised of low cost guest houses and resorts that are budget-oriented to suit most of the visitors. There are also a number of high end hotels and resorts for those looking for a touch of class and luxury. The different restaurants at the beach provide a variety of different local as well as foreign mouth watering cuisines.
Lipa Noi Beach
The Lipa Noi beach is located at the western coast of Koh Samui Island in the Thai gulf. The beach is relatively close to the island’s main car ferry pier, making it a convenient destination for visitors driving from the mainland. There are some coconut plantations in the region that give a tropical feel of this part of the island. It is nevertheless rather remote and is therefore an especially favored spot for families and seniors on vacation.
Lipa Noi beach is fringed by crystal clear waters that are relatively shallow to about 100 meters offshore, making it just the thing for both swimming and snorkeling. The beach itself is made of a very soft white stretch of sand with no rocks or corals in the water, making it ideal for kids who want to go swimming and splashing around in the water.
Lipa Noi beach is also one of the island’s best spots for encountering the magical tropical sunsets on the western horizon. Paradise Farm, close to the beach, is a heaven for kids. It is located in the low hills behind the beach and is fun packed with different activities for young folk vacationing here with their families.
There are only a few beach resorts in the area. Their owners have built with the intention of trying to conserve the natural environment and traditional architecture as much as possible. Entertainment at the beach is limited to traditional Thai dancers and acrobats who put up shows in the evenings. Holidaymakers at Lipa Noi beach can also enjoy relaxing massages at the beach in one of the numerous sheltered Salas.
Lamai beach is located on the southern coast of Koh Samui island, a couple of bays to the south of the popular Chaweng beach. Lamai beach is often considered to be a poorly developed version of Chaweng , but accommodation at the beach is cheaper and the crowds are smaller, making it a perfect spot for vacationers searching for an economical and quiet beach escape where they can just kick back and relax.
The northern part of Lamai beach is mostly isolated and quiet, because there are mudflats offshore that become exposed during low tides, which tend to turn the nearby sea water murky. The central part of the beach, on the other hand, is more developed, the waters are cleaner, and there are numerous jet skis available for hire.
The southern part is best for swimming as there are fewer jet skis, leaving the water clean, calm and blue. Lamai beach has a short stretch of rough white sand beach area that is ideal for sunbathing by day, or for lighting a bonfire at night and relaxing around it. This beach is not very crowded, so it is perfect for family picnics.
The area around the beach has a relatively small number of entertainment spots and restaurants when compared to Bophut and Chaweng beaches. The night life at this beach comprises of some hostess bars and pubs filled with a couple dozen patrons enjoying the soft music tunes as they sip on their favorite brands.
Holidaymakers can also escape back to the beach that is often dotted with beach seafood stands and open bars. Accommodation at the Lamai beach is relatively cheap; mostly comprising of family run bungalows and cheap hotels. For a livelier and thriving night life, the Chaweng beach is only a short trip northwards.
Laem Set Beach
The Laem Set beach is located at the southern part of the Koh Samui coast where the sea is relatively shallow. The beach is not intensively developed like Chaweng beach further to the north, and it is therefore not frequently visited by many tourists. All the same, it has a variety of different attractions that make it a personal favorite for many visitors who look forward to a quiet and peaceful vacation. The beach is free of night life and shopping spots, for which visitors can travel to some of the other nearby beaches when they require these facilities or services.
The shallow sea waters at the Laem Set beach are not necessarily ideal for swimming all year round, but they become relatively deep at high tide, especially from October to April. There are pedal boats and inflatable tubes that one can hire and use to float around in the calm waters. Just a hundred meters offshore there is a perfectly formed coral reef that is perfect for diving and snorkeling.
The, the beautifully curved coconut trees lining the beach, coupled with big boulders and rocks along the seafront, combine to provide a breathtaking scene. Visitors can either be found relaxing under the shades of the palm trees or even on top of some of the smaller boulders. There is a butterfly garden located up on the hill behind the beach containing well controlled tropical greenery that is a habitat to a variety of colorful butterflies, moths and other insects.
The Samui Aquarium and Tiger zoo are also quite near the beach. Here, the visitors get to see and occasionally feed turtles, cat fishes and sharks among a host of other deep sea creatures. The tigers are extremely calm and well trained, always ready for the camera flashes they are now accustomed to. The inn at the western end of the Laem Set beach is perfect for a family picnic on the warm sand.
Continue reading at Koh Samui Beaches – Part 2