Samui has a vast range of accommodation options ranging from some of Thailand’s most luxurious resorts to its most basic beach huts. There is some excellent cuisine here, and at Chaweng in particular you can find an array of different restaurants.
Samui nightlife is well known throughout the world, with Chaweng and Lamai the main party areas where revelling continues on the beach long after the bars have closed. Samui is also noted for its specific ‘boutique’ character which it likes to mention liberally on its tourist brochures, and indeed there are plenty of places boasting this trendy new character for small, intimate and zen-like resorts.
Where to stay in Samui
Samui has some of the best beach accommodation in Thailand, and the range of choice is enormous. Whether you want a five star luxury resort or a cheap hut on the beach, you are certain to find something to suit here. Most of the beaches ohave a good range of Koh Samui lodging options to suit all budgets, so the main decision to make is which beach you want to be close to. In general, the east coast is the busiest, the north coast quieter and the other two sides of the island virtually undeveloped due to inferior beaches. More on Samui beaches.
Chaweng: is the most popular and developed of the two east coast beaches, with a lovely long bay with nice sand and water perfect for swimming. As with most of Samui, resorts line the beachfront and blend in well with coconut palms and vegetation. Restaurants on the beach (with seating on mats on the sand) are found at the north end of the main drag. Around the headland is Chaweng North, which is a bit more exclusive with a few high-rise hotels. The main road through Chaweng, set back a few hundred meters from the beach, is a heavily developed area of shopping arcades. McDonalds, coffee shops, ice cream parlours, tour services and a collection of rustic bars are located beside the inland lake beyond these. There are plenty of other bars and eateries on the main street.
Lamai: is the second busiest resort,and similar to Chaweng with its lovely lengthy beach, but less crowded. Again, the resorts here front sea, so that access is via a few lanes between them if you’re staying elsewhere. This beach doesn’t have the evening social atmosphere of Chaweng, but is more natural. At the southern end are boulders and the two famous Hin Ya and Hin Ta rocks. Lamai’s long main street is characterised by a ‘villagy feel’ at the southern end, and lively bars (with the island’s biggest girlie bar area) in the central stretch plus tourist services towards the north. There are a few secluded private bays with one or two resorts sandwiched between Lamai and Chaweng on the hilly headland.
Choeng Mon: is a small, delightful, crescent-shaped bay tucked away in the northeast of the island with about half a dozen options to stay in. It’s a lovely relaxed beach with an exclusive character but not far from Chaweng or Big Buddha beach.
Big Buddha: is a sweeping beach with the best parts at the western end where a number of modest resorts and guesthouses have their own patch of beachfront. You can wander for miles on this beach but have fewer options for eating and drinking, and the main street isn’t developed like elsewhere. It’s conveniently closest to the airport and Chaweng, but the noise doesn’t bother. More on Samui hospitality.
Bo Phut: stretches along the central part of the north side and is similar to Big Buddha, with perhaps more up scale, as well as affordable, resort options. There is a fishermen’s village at the eastern end with a pier and nice atmosphere. A lane runs along the beach giving public access to parts which are not full of some resort’s private loungers. Also good for long strolls, but without the action of Chaweng or Lamai, this beach is rather stretched out and has nice views of Koh Pha Ngan.
Mae Nam: is farther still from the action and suitable for those wanting to avoid all but those in their resort and sit quietly on the beach all day. You’ll need a rental bike here and it’s probably closer to the Thai island town of Na Thon than the sophistication of Chaweng, but you get much better value here. Like all the north beaches, they aren’t as perfect as the east coast but still pretty good and with a more down-to-earth feel.
Thaling Nam: is very exclusive in the extreme south, at least 20 minutes drive from Lamai, and has only a couple of upscale resorts with their own private beaches. It’s completely unspoilt and undeveloped.
Koh Samui, like most of Thailand, is gay and lesbian friendly with a number of guesthouses catering for gay travellers around the island. These include the peaceful Kaewjun Resort in a scenic location at Ban Taling Ngam. In Chaweng, Little Palace Residence and Mana’s Home are both popular. See our comprehensive Samui gay guide.