The beautiful beaches and buzzing nightlife of Chaweng and lamai on Samui’s east coast draw tourists from all over the world. Many visitors never stray from these resorts, leaving the quieter beaches on the south and west coasts, the island’s wats, and Samui’s spectacular mountainous and forested interior relatively untouched.
Chaweng is the longest, busiest, and most beautiful beach on the island, stretching 3 miles (5 km) down the east coast. Its warm waters and white sands have attracted budget travelers for many years. Today, though, Chaweng is a mecca for package tourists and is lined with hotels and bars. The budget bungalows of yesteryear are long gone.
At the northern end of Chaweng is a tranquil 3-ft (1-m) deep lagoon, ideal for children and novice windsurfers. The long, inviting sweep of the middle and southern end of the beach is bordered by coconut palms. Chaweng is at its most scenic along its southern section where large boulders alternate with discreet sandy coves. The beach has a wide range of sports including windsurfing, canoeing, paragliding, scuba diving, tennis, and volleyball.
Chaweng has the most developed tourist infrastructure on Samui with travel agencies, banks, supermarkets, and car and bike rental among the facilities available. The main street in Chaweng is a hub for nightlife and shopping in Ko Samui. Bars, clubs, and restaurants rub shoulders with souvenir shop and upscale boutiques.
Samui’s second largest beach is also very developed, with big chain and luxury hotels along the waterfront. The main focus is at the center of the 2-mile (4-km) long beach. Behind the beach are riotous bars, nightclubs, and restaurants serving Western food. Lamai village is at the quieter, northern end of the beach, away from the crowds. It still has many old teak houses with thatched roofs. The village’s main sight is Wat Lamai Cultural Hall, built in 1826, which has a small folk museum dedicated to arts and crafts found on Samui. On the southern promontory of Lamai beach are the Hin Ta and Hin Yai rock formations that are famous for their similarity in shape to male and female sexual organs.
South and West Coasts
There are many quiet beaches with simple huts along the south and west coasts, such as around Thong Krut. Another is Thong Yang which – although only 1 mile (1.5 km) south of the pier where the vehicle ferries from Don Sak dock – which is perfect for those seeking peaceful seclusion.
For visitors tiring of the beach, the interior of Samui offers an adventurous alternative. The mix of dense tropical forest and large coconut plantations seems impenetrable, but there are rough trails – which can be negotiated by four-wheel-drive vehicle or by motorcycle – and two roads leading to Samui’s picturesque waterfalls. Namuang, an impressive 98-ft (30-m) high waterfall, is a popular destination for picnics and swimming. It is situated 6 miles (10 km) from Nathon and 3 miles (5 km) from the circular coast road. Hin Lat, 2 miles (3 km) from Nathon, is smaller than Namuang and less interesting. Both falls are at their most spectacular in December or January at the end of the rainy season, when they swell with rainwate Ko Pha Ngan is 9 miles (15 km) north of Ko Samui, and is twothirds its size. The island has the same tropical combination of powdery beaches, accessible coral reefs, and rugged, forested interior. Budget travelers come to en joy a bohemian life, staying in rattan huts beside idyllic bays. The island is much less developed for tourism than Samui, due mainly to its bad road system. Much of it is accessible only by sea or along rutted tracks by pickup truck.
This town is the entrance port to Ko Pha Ngan, and, like Nathon on Ko Samui, acts as a service town with many banks, a post restante, supermarkets, travel agents, restaurants, a food market, and weekly tourist market. Next to the pier, an armada of songthaews waits to take visitors around the island.
A strong smell of dried, salted fish emanates from Chaloklam’s storefronts. Asian visitors often stop here to buy fish after visiting the revered Chao Mae Koan Im shrine in the center of the island. In Chaloklam, fishing-related activities such as mending nets and gutting fish coexist with shop-houses selling pizza and other tourist snacks. The beaches near the town tend to be rather dirty but improve farther to the east, especially as far out of town as Khom beach.
Tong Nai Pan
Although the majority of the beaches are on the east side of the island, the roads accessing the beaches are fairly rugged and some can only be reached via rough track. The twin bays of Tong Nai Pan Noi and Tong Nai Pan Yai in the northeast offer arguably the most attractive scenery. They can be reached by pickup truck or taxi from Tong Sala or, between January and September, or by small ferry from Maenam on Ko Samui. Tansadet, 2 miles (3 km) to the south, is the island’s biggest stream and waterfall. It owes its name, “royal stream,” to the 10 visits King Chulalongkorn made between 1888 and 1909. Since then most Thai monarchs have left large stone inscriptions on rocks alongside the stream – finding the signatures requires scrambling among the rocks. The stream has two falls, Sampan and Daeng. Both are suitable for swimming, but heavy rainfall from September to December makes the stream bed too dangerous to walk alon