Small but perfectly formed, Koh Samui is a place of tall palms, dreamy sunsets and impossibly blue bays. And while spectacular white-sand beaches are an important part of any trip to Koh Samui, there’s a lot more to this classic Thai island than sizzling in the sun.
In the space of a few short decades, Koh Samui has grown from a little-known backpackers’ paradise to one of the most exclusive destinations in Thailand, offering lavish spas, first-rate restaurants and spellbinding luxury villas. Some of the country’s finest resorts are here, as is the scenic Santiburi Country Club, whose famed 18-hole golf course has breathtaking views across to neighbouring Koh Phangan.
Despite lightning quick development in recent years, parts of Koh Samui remain beautifully undisturbed. Head to the hills for a taste of traditional village life, spend the day temple hopping, or seek out one of the isolated beaches along the east coast. It’s as easy as ever to find your own slice of paradise.
Chaweng and Lamai
Koh Samui’s most popular destination is Chaweng, a lively, ever-changing resort town set along a 5km-long stretch of golden sand. When it comes to eating, shopping, socialising and outdoor activities like parasailing and windsurfing, Chaweng is hard to beat. For a slight change of pace, head south to Lamai, where the nightlife is more subdued but still packs a decent punch.
You don’t have to travel far from Chaweng and Lamai to find complete serenity. The series of bays that make up Choeng Mon are home to some of the island’s best luxury villas, including options that spill onto the waterfront. Sheltered and shallow, the beaches here offer crowd-free swimming and snorkeling.
Tongson Bay and Plai Laem
Follow Koh Samui’s rocky coastline north and you’ll arrive in Tongson Bay, a quiet hideaway with thickly forested trails tumbling down towards a pristine beach.
From here it’s a quick hop to Plai Laem, where some of the luxury villas offer shimmering blue infinity pools. Just offshore is the miniscule island of Koh Som, which is skirted by flawless beaches.
At nearby Bangrak, the closest beach area to Koh Samui’s airport, tourists gather to see the Big Buddha statue that juts out into the sea on an artificial island. Close by is Koh Samui’s most atmospheric temple, Wat Plai Laem, where bridges lead to brightly painted sculptures and richly decorated pagodas.
Freshly grilled fish and spicy street food bring the crowds to Bophut, on the island’s north coast. Among the converted Chinese shophouses of the Fisherman’s Village you’ll find exotic spas, upscale boutiques and breezy, European-style bars serving fruity cocktails.
The next beach to the west is Maenam, a low-key, family friendly hangout with casual waterfront restaurants and a handful of rickety beach bars. It’s a convenient place to stop and recharge on the way to tiny Koh Tao, one of Thailand’s best diving destinations.
If you’re looking for a quirky alternative, try the fishing village of Bang Por – its luxury seaview villas provide all the space you need to relax and unwind.
Most of the villas in sparsely populated Lipa Noi face west, providing epic views of the Gulf of Thailand from their pools and open-air terraces. Lapped by warm water, the beaches here are ideal for romantic strolls and sunset beers.
While you’re on the west coast, make time for a visit to sleepy Nathon, where you can join tours to the unspoilt islands of the Ang Thong National Marine Park.
Tucked away on the south coast, Taling Ngam is about as far away from the airport as you can get. Make the journey here and you’ll be rewarded with tranquil days and starry night skies. Some of the slick, modern villas in Taling Ngam peek out from behind the trees, offering views of the soft sands and shallow water.
A golden pagoda welcomes locals and tourists to the pristine beach at Laem Sor, which makes a great base for hiking. A short drive east along the coast is Laem Set, a popular spot among kite surfers. During the summer the tide recedes, exposing the reef and giving the beach a real edge-of-the-world vibe.
Need help deciding where to stay? Just browse the destinations on this page. Whatever you’re looking for on a luxurious trip to Thailand, you’ll find it in Koh Samui. You can browse all of our luxury villas in Koh Samui here.