Samui is an island off the east coast of the Kra Isthmus in Thailand, close to the mainland Surat Thani town. It is Thailand's second largest island, with an area of 228.7 km² and a population of 47,874.
Samui is mostly visited by holidaymakers wanting to "get away from it all", so its main appeal is its white beaches and warm sea, and it has plenty to choose from.
Lamai beach High streetChaweng covers most of the island's east coast, forming the most crowded and tourist saturated destination on the island. The beach itself, while generally clean suffers from overcrowding since there are vast numbers of visitors year-round. The nearby ring-road, has built up a huge Western-style tourist town, packed full of restaurants and bars (ranging from traditional family-run Thai at Ninja, through Thai-Californian fusion food at Betelnut to McDonald's and Starbucks), souvenir shops, markets and nightclubs. It can get very busy on the road at night, both with truck-taxis carrying people up and down the coast and with people exploring the shopping (which stays open late) and nightlife. The waters in Chaweng occasionally have strong under-currents so swimmers should stay close to shore.
Also on the East coast is Lamai, smaller than Chaweng, but its beaches are cleaner and less crowded than Chaweng.
On the North coast of the island, Maenam offers spectacular views of Koh Phangan to the North, and the Ang Thong National Marine Park to the East. The waters are calm and clean, being protected from the North Easterly currents by Koh Phangan. Much less crowded than Lamai and Chaweng, Maenam's restaurants and bars still retain much of the local Thai flavor as well as more reasonably priced, even inexpensive, food. Overall Maenam is quieter, more relxaed, with local flavor of Thai culture still intact.
Bophut is the next beach along from Maenam. Its lifestyle is relaxed and more traditional than the larger beaches, referring to itself as Fisherman's Village. It is very popular with French tourists, and has a number of pricey, but good French-owned restaurants.
Bangrak is often known by the name Big Buddha Beach, after the 19-metre statue of that spiritual leader which overlooks the area (Big Buddha). Bangrak is very close to the airport, and is one of the calmest beaches, though often dirty. Open Gates, the island's international school, is also located in Ban Rak.
Choeng Mon is one of the smallest of Samui's tourist beaches, but lies in a secluded bay on the northeastern tip of the island, making it perfect for those who want peace and quiet, and warm sea all day. It does not have a town, but there are a number of small restaurants and a couple of shops, in addition to the luxurious (and expensive) hotels that surround the bay, and it is only five minutes from the bright lights of Chaweng.
Ao Tong Takian is also a small beach North of Lamai beach. It has been popular among tourists as it has white inviting sand and is also known as Silver Beach. Here you will find five resorts: La Mer Samui Resort, Samui Yacht Club, Tong Ta Kian Villa, Silver beach and Crystal Bay. Be a little careful if you are walking in the water, as Tong Takian has a lot of corals.
Nathon on the Western coast is the island's largest port and thus lacks much of the beauty found in the rest of the island. The city of Nathon does offer many local Thai shops, with some of the best prices to be found on Samui as well as a few good restaurants and an open-air evening-time food market with very inexpensive but tasty local food.
Tong Krut on the South West corner of the island is currently one of the quieter areas of Koh Samui and is being proposed as the site for the islands future mega-yacht harbor.