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When Koh Samui had been discovered by the first backpackers in the 1970s, it was probably the ultimate tropical dream island. 25 km long white sandy beaches on all coasts, coconut palms trees growing all over the island and close to the sea, forested mountains and jungle waterfalls with crystal clear warm waters. In addition, Ko Samui´s microclimate guarantees mostly good weather conditions also during the rainy season in October and November. Then in late afternoon rain showers can be heavy, but after some hours the sun appears again. Koh Samui became a dream destination for many travelers and vacationers from around the world.
This was not without consequences, and so Ko Samui developed rapidly. A small (now enlarged) airport and an island surrounding concrete road, tourist centers with great nightlife and huge hotel facilities were built. Now, the most beautiful beaches of Lamai, Maenam, Bophut and Chaweng are crowded with hotel resorts and people on the beaches and in the sea. Unpleaseant smelling and garbage become a problem in high season.During low season, April to June, Chaweng is still a more quiet place and the wonderful evenings at the beach restaurants can be enjoyed without the hustle and bustle. The dinners with fresh fish and the bare feet in the sand, still belong to the specific and wonderful experiences on Koh Samui.
For several years, construction of new hotels is becoming another problem, especially around the growing airport in the northeast. Large hotel complexes, big apartment resort facilities and real estates for foreign owners are under construction or already completed. On Maenam Beach, on Choeng Mon Beach, north of Chaweng Beach, the noise and the filth of the sites are really annoying. Samui is preparing itself to the increasing influx of travelers from Russia and East Asia (Chinese). The old times of the romantic dream island are passed away finally.
Who wants to escape from noise and dirt, can find a nice and quiet place on the lesser-known beaches in the northwest and west, although here too, construction and renovation is going on. A still good impression makes Lamai Beach, which still offers a large number of very cheap small bungalow resort under palm trees.
In the muslimic south of the island there are beaches and bays with quite undeveloped infrastructure and not much to offer, but certainly worth a visit. Similarly, the smaller beaches on the west coast are nice and offer enough sea water also at low tide and beautiful sunsets. In the south you can make a daytrip to the island of Koh Tan for snorkeling and sunbathing. The boats leave from Ban Thong Krut. Especially nice is the approx. 5 hour trip starting from the restaurant "The Mudsum Companion". For about 25, - € per person the trip includes pick up service, boat trip with snorkeling and lunch on arrival back to the restaurant.
Other recommended trips for snorkeling and kayaking can be made to the Ang Thong group of islands west of Samui (day trips) or to the waterfalls in the island interior, combined with elephant trecking. But the waterfalls are often dry or nearly out of water during dry season. Trips around the island should always include the Great Rock (Grandma and Grandpa) south of Lamai and the large Buddha statue in the northeast. It is worthwhile to rent a jeep or a motorbike to do the discovery tour individually. However, cheap pickup taxis around the island connect all beaches, so it is not necessary to rent a car.
The development of the touristic infrastructure of the island lead to an easy and comfortable traveling around the island, and even hidden places are now very easily to reach. Moreover, there is hardly any shortage of supply, and comfortable accommodations in all price classes (also for 500, - € or more per night) are available in big numbers.
Koh Samui has about 40,000 inhabitants, mostly working in tourism or still in coconut farming. The more than 1 million coconut palm trees dominate the image of Samui and make island vacationers enjoy it right from the time of arrival.
The fastest way to get there is by plane. Bangkok Air and Thai Air fly from 2200 baht (per flight) several times daily from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi. Early booking is advisable. The pretty little airport (the new one is still small and quaint) gives already the first impression of the palm island. From there well organized minibuses do the transportation to the hotel targets for 150 to 250 baht. With the opening of the new airport building, the cramped chaos of the old arrival system has disappeared. Taxis may no longer simply pick up and charge guests by first come first serve. The assignment to mini-buses is organized directly in the arrival building.
Traveling by boat from Koh Phangan or Suratthani mainland, arrival on Samui is either at Maenam beach or Big Buddha or Lipa at the west coast. From Koh Phangan (Koh Tao) speedboats arrive several times a day at the piers of the northern beaches Bophut, Maenam and Big Buddha. From Suratthani car ferries go to Nathon and Lipa Noi (leaving from Don Sak, about 1 hour by bus from Suratthani town). Ferry tickets to Phangan, Tao or Suratthani can be bought in any ticket shop or hotel at any time, but you should ask about when and where exactly the ferry or boat will leave and how to get there before departure. We recommend to buy a ticket for the trip with the Lomprayah catamaran. Lomprayah also runs its own buses to / from Bangkok (Khaosan Road).
Bangkokair offers daily flights from Utapao (Pattaya) to Samui. This makes island hopping in the Gulf of Thailand easy.
Getting an overnight room on Koh Samui is not a problem. Even those who arrive individually and have not prebooked a room, will find an appropriate bed at all price ranges. Only very cheap resorts are going to disappear from the beaches. Most travellers usually arrive in expensive hotel complexes on the north or east coast, individual travellers can find beach huts or air-conditioned bungalows on all beaches and even cheap ones in the middle of Chaweng or Lamai. During the supposed low season from May to November (except July/August = high season), the resorts are not fully booked and prices are negotiable. A tip for Chaweng Beach: the southern part is more beautiful than the northern due to sand and water conditions. The best part is Chaweng Noi Beach, where the sea is deep enough for swimming and the beach is more beautiful.
Recommended beach resorts can be found and booked in the middle of Lamai beach, along Bophut beach and in the center of Maenam beach. But there are lots of options, the choice of accommodations is really big on Samui.
See detailed beach maps of Koh Samui with mouseover:Chaweng Beach | Lamai Beach | Bophut Beach | Maenam Beach