Once a coconut-harvesting, sleepy backpacker haven, Koh Samui off Thailand's east coast has become one of the top island destinations in the world. It has some of the country’s best—from luxury resorts and spa treatments (think full-body Thai massage in an ancient monk’s cave) to nightlife and cultural attractions. But with over 30 miles of pristine coastline, the most must-see on Koh Samui is still its beaches.
It only takes an hour to drive around the island's “ring road,” so no matter where you stay you’re within an afternoon’s drive of any beach. And getting around is easy, too, from hiring a taxi or renting a car, to more adventurous options like renting your own motorbike or catching a ride on a songthaew, the island's unofficial public transportation. With 40 lush, foliage-fringed beaches, it can be difficult to decide where to go, so we’ve shortlisted our five top picks for the best of the beaches in Koh Samui. All you have to do is bring the caftan.
Bungalows and massage huts dot Choeng Mon’s still-secluded, powder-white shores, making it feel like a best-kept secret. Watch fishermen make their catch of the day from crayon-hued long boats, and enjoy just-caught seafood with your feet in the sand. Even though it’s east-facing, the island’s curves make Choeng Mon a great sunset spot. The best view? Watching the crystal-blue waters glow sunset-hued coral and pink from a daybed cabana, with mango mojito in hand.
With dozens of walkable shops, dining, and art galleries at Fisherman’s Village on its east end, Bophut Beach’s scene is as fashionable as the beachfront is stunning. Its peaceful waters are great for paddleboarding, and after a day on the sand head to sample street food (bugs! octopus!), SangSomcraft cocktails, or the island’s best coffee at Casa Lapin x Samui(with cool seasonal specials like the Blue Lagoon Latte) at the Village. After-dark is always vibrant in this collection of boutiques and stalls—from traditional to the trendy—but on Friday nights the market truly come to life with live Thai bands, fire shows and plenty of the “Land of Smiles” Thai spirit.
Big Buddha Beach
Another must-visit nearby is Big Buddha Beach (a.k.a. Bang Rak Beach), known for its calm waters and the island’s most popular tourist attraction, Wat Phra Yai. This 40-foot, gold-Buddha statue is at the top of a wide, dragon-lined staircase, with views of the waters off the tiny islet of Koh Faan from the top. Back at the beach, try sunset paddleboarding, or spend the evening wandering through the market stalls of Bang Rak. For a little more adventure, catch the ferry from here (with hotel-transfer options available) to nearby island Koh Phangan, home of the ultra-hip Full Moon Party.
You’ll feel like you’re in your own private paradise at this hidden gem. Bounded by granite headlands on either side, this east-side haven is home to stunning, cotton-candy skies at dusk. There are only two hotels on the bay, keeping it ultra-secluded, and this resort has its own regenerating coral reef just offshore, making a perfect snorkeling destination. Kayaking is great, too, or just lounge on beachfront sunbeds and enjoy 'beach pampering service'—fresh towels, sunglass cleaning, cold drinks and more.
Known as much for its nightlife as its emerald-green waters and powdery sands, Chaweng beach has become the island’s busiest destination. Its peaceful waters make Chaweng one of the best beaches in Koh Samui for snorkeling, and sea kayaking here is another must-try. After the sun goes down, head to the dozens of bars and restaurants line the famous Green Mango strip. Chaweng has been called the Vegas of Thailand—hello, sophisticated cocktail bars and dance-till-dawn DJ sets—but despite the crowds and (sometimes) over-the-top party scene, it’s still a must-visit for those who want a beautiful beach and a taste of the Thai nightlife.
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