Koh Samui’s beaches are rightly famous for their white sand, clear water and picturesque views, many featuring huge granite boulders. Most of the island’s popular beaches – Chaweng, Lamai, Bophut and Maenam – are on the north and east coasts. Chaweng is the most active of these. This six-kilometer-long strand hosts countless restaurants, bars and a lively nightlife scene. South of Chaweng is the attractive Lamai, quieter and more relaxed. Bophut, near the top of the island, is the departure point for tours and ferries to neighboring islands. While its beach is less desirable, its village retains other-worldly charm with a “high street” featuring wooden shop houses, colorful boutiques, quaint restaurants and bars and even a couple of high-end, fine-dining establishments. Beaches on the east coast are safe year round and the west coast boasts shallow waters.
The island is blessed with many gourmet restaurants, as well as several five-star hotel restaurants. Long-standing favorites include the red-themed Red Snapper, which has live music nightly, on Chaweng’s main street; Mediterranean-influenced The Cliff, located on the ring road above Lamai, and Dr. Frogs in Bophut. The impressive Tree Tops Sky Dining & Bar located in the Anantara Lawana Resort includes canopy tables with lux jungle feel, amazing ocean views, a romantic atmosphere, including hanging lanterns, and even a “salt guru” who provides bespoke service.
Also in Bophut, H Bistro in Hansar Resort has excellent cuisine served alfresco or in air-conditioned luxury in a lovely beachside location. Additionally, Six Senses, in north Koh Samui, hosts Dining on the Rocks — a fabulous no-holds-barred five-star “slow-cooking” cuisine extravaganza for foodies. Fabulous 270-degree views of the sea and neighboring islands are reason enough for a visit.
Chaweng is the epicenter of nightlife in Koh Samui. If you like to dine and party on the beach, you’ll easily find the action in the evening. Beach bars often put on impromptu parties. Inland, Soi Green Mango hosts bars and clubs for all tastes such as Solo Club, Sweet Soul Café, Mint Bar, Ark Bar and Sound Pub. Reggae Bar is a two-story behemoth of classic rock music and reggae. Up in the hills of Chaweng you can dance to the latest grooves in style at Q Bar, which overlooks the ocean and villages below. A few kilometers further down the coast, laidback Lamai caters to expats, as well as long-term visitors. It’s generally more of a family destination, but Lamai Central Plaza — a warren of bars and watering holes — can get quite lively. Bophut Beach warrants special mention for its tasteful “boho chic” vibe, friendly bars and its delightful “back-in-time” character.
The Santiburi Samui Country Club, called “The Beast of Samui” amongst insiders, is located on the northeast coast of Samui in Maenam. The course has small fairways winding uphill and down, but offers sizeable greens. The only 18-hole course on Samui, the views of the island, the Gulf of Thailand and Koh Phangan are spectacular. The smaller (nine-hole) Royal Samui Gold & Country Club also is quite hilly. Here, while catching your breath, enjoy views over Lamai Beach.
An absolute must-do in Koh Samui: Sail to Ang Thong (Golden Bowl) National Park, an archipelago of 42 islands only a few hours from Samui by boat. The most stunning, Koh Ang Thong, is a majestic limestone island with a collapsed center, which is filled with an emerald-green lake; it could well be the setting of a sci-fi movie. Take the yacht and evade the standard routes of the tourist speedboats. This allows you to stick to your own schedule and discover some of the deserted, quiet islands of the park.
Looking for high-end spa and massage treatments? You’re in the right place as Koh Samui is chockablock of lavish spas. A longtime favorite is Tamarind Springs at Thong Takian, which opened in 1998. Set in a stunningly verdant jungle, the spa’s shady gardens are dotted with huge granite boulders. A steam room has been incorporated into the side of one of the biggest rocks. Wholesome steam therapies and Eastern and Western massages are popular here. Six Senses Spa offers top-of-the-range facilities and amenities, as well as 270-degree views of the Gulf of Thailand and nearby Koh Phangan. Yoga, Reiki, hypnotherapy, tai chi and Pilates also are available. The idyllic Rainforest Spa at Banyan Tree just outside Lamai Beach delivers unique water-treatments at differing temperatures and intensity, notably effective to relax after a long flight or busy life style.
Sail around the coast to explore the numerous pretty coves and bays. The south coast is particularly rich in quiet, deserted beaches — you’ll have them to yourselves most days. Also on offer is the lush interior of Samui Island. Hire your own vehicle to visit the waterfalls or go on a trek in the early morning or late afternoon. Around Thong Krut and Bang Kao you’ll come across delightful beach restaurants and simple Thai food stalls; these might not look like much, but they offer deliciously authentic “unplugged” Thai food.
Thailand is a year-round charter destination. For more information on chartering in Koh Samui, the Gulf of Thailand or anywhere else in the world, contact your preferred Northrop & Johnson charter broker.