Koh Samui is the island paradise you see in movies. Pristine white beaches, clear blue water, and incredible nightlife abound.
This small island off Thailand’s east coast is a land of mixed tastes. Young people come here to party the night away, others come for the relaxed culture, and still others come for the pristine beauty of both sand and sea. You’ll find the coasts of the island differ in their focus. The south and west coasts are more quiet and casual and give you the chance to either relax on the beach or experience the local culture. The north and east coasts are more popular, with the most famous beaches and nightlife on the island.
On the west coast you’ll find Lipa Noi, an isolated beach perfect for a romantic getaway. Further south Phang Ka offers some of the island’s finest resorts and is one of the best locations for watching the sun set over the ocean. Make your way to the bay of Thong Krut in the south and check out the fishing village or take a chartered boat to nearby Koh Mudsum and Koh Tan and try your hand at deep-sea fishing.
Dance all night at Chaweng, then recover on the incredible Chaweng Noi Beach. This little beach to the south of the village is a perfect spot to escape the crowds. In the northeast, Choeng Mon is the most exclusive part of the island, with resorts set on private beaches and an older, more family-friendly atmosphere.
Make your way to the Big Buddha, just north of the airport. This 40-foot (12-meter) high bronze statue sits atop its own little island just off the beach. Wander through Bang Rak and Bo Phut and experience the more traditional side of the island. On Friday nights Bo Phut’s main street is turned into a night market and is a great place to shop for souvenirs and enjoy the local street food.
The beaches are easily accessible by the ring road that hugs the shore in a 31-mile (53-kilometer) circuit. When one beach gets crowded, simply pack up and move a few miles down the road. If you’re keen to explore the surrounding islands, Koh Phangan and the spectacular Ang Thong National Marine Park are only a short boat ride away.