I’ve been asked a number of times what is the best place to stay on Ko Samui. As always, the answer depends on what you are looking for because the ideal location for a honeymooning couple probably won’t be right for a single backpacker. Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in a number of different places on Ko Samui and I’ve detailed below what you can expect from different locations on the island. For the record, my personal favourite places to stay on Ko Samui are Choeng Mon, Bophut and Chaweng Noi.
Bangrak Beach (Big Buddha Beach)
Also known as Big Buddha Beach for its proximity to one of Ko Samui’s most prominent landmarks, Bangrak is the next beach on from Bophut and has a similar relaxed atmosphere. The beach is pretty without being stunning and if the sight and sound of the occasional aircraft taking off or landing at nearby Samui airport isn’t a turn-off, then you can expect an otherwise quiet time if you choose to stay here. The location is good with easy access to the airport as well as the shops and restaurants of Fisherman’s Village on the adjacent beach at Bophut. If you want more lively night-life, it is just a short taxi ride to Chaweng.
Full Moon Villa Bangrak Beach
Bophut Beach tends to attract an eclectic mix of backpackers, mid-range tourists, families and Samui regulars. The beach is average by Ko Samui’s high standards, but is still pleasant enough with views out to the neighbouring islands. Accommodation on Bophut ranges from basic beachside bungalows to apartments to boutique hotels so there should be something to suit all tastes and budgets. At the east end of Bophut is the area known as Ban Bophut which is commonly referred to as Fisherman’s Village. There is a very good collection of restaurants and shops here and although some of these are clearly aimed at the tourist trade, Fisherman’s Village mainly manages to keep its laid-back charm.
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The most popular beach on Ko Samui is Chaweng, a long curving beach of soft sand fringed with palm trees. It’s not difficult to see why this particular beach became a tourist favourite and consequently Chaweng has become an international resort attracting visitors from all around the world. The price of popularity means that the commercial area of Chaweng isn’t the most attractive as businesses compete for the precious retail space and the tourist Baht on offer. Fortunately, the development hasn’t encroached on the beach area which has retained its good looks and remains screened from the main commercial area. The popularity of Chaweng does mean that there is plenty of choice when it comes to accommodation and dining. This variety and choice makes Chaweng a decent option for a family holiday on Ko Samui. The sea is good for swimming and there are plenty of water sports on offer to keep visitors occupied.
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Choeng Mon Beach
Nestling in the north-east tip of Ko Samui is the beautiful little bay of Choeng Mon. The bay has stretches of sandy beach intermingled with rocky coves and a backdrop of causarina and palm trees. For a laid-back holiday or vacation, Choeng Mon is a good option. The hotels in Choeng Mon tend to be in the higher price bracket and the area has more of an exclusive feel than other parts of Ko Samui. Choeng Mon has always been a personal favourite of mine, but might be too quiet for some people’s preferences. If you want night-life and activity head for Chaweng or Lamai, but if you want a bit more solitude and a picturesque setting then consider Choeng Mon.
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With a long and inviting beach it’s not surprising that Lamai continues to appeal to sun-seekers from all around the globe. Stretching for approximately 4kms, Lamai Beach is picture post-card pretty with its white sand and palm trees and ranks just behind Chaweng in the popularity stakes. As with Chaweng, the popularity of Lamai as a tourist resort has resulted in lots of development and some of the night-life on offer here will either be great or horrible depending on your point of view. That doesn’t mean that Lamai isn’t suitable as a family destination because lots of families do come here and do enjoy what the resort has to offer. Just like Chaweng, there is plenty to keep youngsters occupied during the day on the beach and in the evening there is a good choice of restaurants and quieter bars as well as the more obvious loud bars of central Lamai.
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The long beach at Maenam has traditionally been a favourite for budget travellers heading to Ko Samui, but you don’t have to be a backpacker to enjoy the charms of Maenam. The beach at Maenam might not be as pretty as Chaweng, Lamai or Choeng Mon, but it provides lovely views out to the islands and is a good spot for a chilled-out holiday or vacation. The area is excellent for swimming and much of the accommodation here represents decent value-for-money compared to other parts of Ko Samui.
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