Even though the island of Koh Samui is no longer a secret escape known to few and privileged backpackers, it still resonates with travellers from all walks of life as a place of paradise and solitude. That’s because its beaches, some developed for tourism more than others, are largely perfectly white, with crystalline and turquoise swimming holes and calm, coral protected waters.
The largest developed beach, and most popular with tourists, is Chaweng Beach. Dozens of four and five-star hotels, Irish pubs, and nightly parties are what this beach zone is about. Similarly, Lamai Beach, once a layover spot for hippies and lost backpackers, is now a rollicking center of clubs, restaurants and shopping.
A departure from non-stop commercialism and festivities is Maenam Beach, located in the north of the island. The waters are shallow, and the beaches are not overrun with behemoth hotels and pizza joints. It’s a great area for swimming and popular with families and couples. Many diving tours leave from Bophut Beach, also in the north, and so diving enthusiasts often make it their base while in Koh Samui.
Beautiful sea views and relaxing beach bungalows can be found throughout much of Choengmon Beach north east of Samui, while Big Buddha Beach, though more developed, has a good balance of commercial and off the grid activities. Koh Samui is also a loved destination for its wellness centers and yoga schools. The island has more than 20 spas, some large and luxurious, others simple and rustic.
Ban Sabai Spa is a favorite for its unspoilt beach-front location and tropical gardens and lily ponds. Yoga retreats and holiday detox centers have been the fashion here for the last decade, with Absolute Yoga Samui at the forefront of quality yoga dissemination with superb daily classes and teacher train sessions. Massage schools and retreats, reiki lessons, ayurvedic medicine seminars and reflexology classes and lessons are widely offered throughout the island, making it a premier destination for holistic and wellness therapies and practices.
Like most islands developed for tourism in the region, Koh Samui is not lacking in eco tours, boat trips and water sports. Most hotels have good standing relationships with tour operators on and between the islands. Some of the most popular half and full day excursions are jeep-led jungle safaris and elephant trekking through verdant sweeps of the island.
Sea kayaking around Angthong NationalPark and Coral Island is the best way to see these beautiful protected areas first hand. Boats from Bophut Pier drop you in Koh Nang Yuan in 90-minutes. The three bosky peaks and nearly untouched beaches and sandbars here are gorgeous, as are the coves and shallow swimming areas are perfect for long afternoons of tanning and snorkeling.