Koh Samui travel guide and reviews of tourists about the rest

Koh Samui is an island in the Gulf of Thailand, which is part of the Surat Thani province, adjacent to the islands of Koh Phangan, Tao and the scattering of islets of the Angthong National Marine Park. The main value of Samui is considered to be a wide variety of beaches and a well-developed tourist infrastructure. The central part of the island is hills up to 600 meters high, and the area around the mountains is suitable for building. The island is becoming more expensive every year, confidently heading for the title of a boutique island, but at the same time it cannot defeat the problem of waste disposal.

The content of the article

Preparing for the trip

Description of the resort and why go to Koh Samui

Koh Samui and Koh Phangan are the only large islands in the southern Gulf of Thailand. All the rest are located far to the north and are radically different both in climate and in the composition of tourists who come to rest (Ko Chang, Ko Kood). Or they are located on the opposite side of the mainland, and also differ in climate and geographical features (Ko Lanta, Phi Phi, Phuket). With the availability of transport, you can always find a bathing beach on Koh Samui even at low tide, and the choice of beaches itself satisfies savages, swimming fans, and mothers with babies..

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There are about forty beaches on Koh Samui. The deepest are located in the north (Menam, Bo Phut) and east (Chaweng, Lamai), and smaller, but more beautiful - in the south (Bang Kao) and west (Taling Ngam, Lipa Noi). The southern part of Koh Samui is dominated by flat terrain with sparse tops of hills, while the northern and central parts of the island are hilly and flat along the beaches. Samui's infrastructure is concentrated in the northeast and east, and the southwest is still considered a stronghold for introverts and pleases with huge patches of palm groves, in which houses are sometimes found..

The beaches on Koh Samui are developed, with beach equipment rental and water attractions, bars, discos and shops. There are calm, family friendly, with lots of shade and moderate infrastructure. And there are absolutely wild, deserted and incredibly beautiful. Samui is good precisely because, with all the variety of preferences, every tourist finds here «the same» a place to which he will return again and again. Koh Samui is a very different island.

Koh Samui is a great holiday destination. If he gets bored, then from any pier in the north you can rush to Phangan - a wilder version of Koh Samui. Or go snorkeling on Koh Tao, a wilder version of Phangan. Or take a trip to the Angthong Islands Park - a wilder version of Koh Tao. That is, this resort is attractive because here you can always increase or decrease the degree of comfort. From deshman bungalows in the west of Koh Phangan to luxury hotels in the northwest of Koh Samui. From asphalt highways to furious potholes, from a reggae bar in the rocks, to a pretentious restaurant on the roof of the hotel, there is everything here..

Koh Samui is one of the best resorts in Thailand

Koh Samui is one of the best resorts in Thailand

Which beach to choose

Choosing your own beach on Koh Samui is a simple matter, but it requires clarification on several issues: are you going to rent a transport, is civilization nearby, and last but not least, how critical is the sea's bathing ability. All questions are relevant only for vacationers, because the approach for wintering is already different, with an emphasis on longstey and practicality. I say right away - if you are planning to rent a scooter or a car, then all the beaches of the island are open to you, and this is a huge plus, because the beaches of Samui can behave differently at the same time of the day..

If you plan to walk, infrastructure and daily bathing of the beaches are important to you, then first you need to take care of choosing the right month for the trip (see the section on climate), and only then choose from the five most popular beaches of Samui. Those where 90% of tourists go: Maenam, Bo Phut, Chong Mon, Chaweng and Lamai - all beaches are described in detail by me in separate articles.

Overview of all beaches on Koh Samui>

In short, Maenam is: deep sea, shady coast and medium infrastructure; considered a family beach. Bo Phut is Maenam, only with a more developed infrastructure and is considered a hotel beach. Chong Mon is located on the outskirts, there is a lot of shade, it is shallow and therefore is considered a children's beach.

Chaweng is a partying, youthful, very beautiful beach in the east, and Lamai is a smaller version of Chaweng with a deeper sea. On all five beaches, you can live for two weeks without getting out, without renting a vehicle, without a shortage of services and facilities. They are the closest to the rest of the Samui airport and shopping malls. All beaches are deep, except for the shallow Chong Mon, which is noticeably prone to low tides..

If infrastructure is not important to you, and you went to Koh Samui for solitude and a beach holiday, then there are bathing beaches in the wilder parts of the island. Immediately, I note that all the beaches that are not included in the top five are not so deep and prone to low tides. In the west of Koh Samui, these are Tong Yang and Lipa Noi, uncrowded beaches with a clean bottom, without stones, with sunsets and rare villas on the shore. In the north - Bang Po and Ban Tai beaches. Bang Po is an introvert's paradise with a bunch of restaurants on the beach, and Ban Tai is a children's paradise and a beautiful sea with white coral sand on the beach. In the south - Bang Khao, however, is not suitable for swimming along its entire length, but where the bottom is more or less cleared of stones. A charming desert area with sparse buildings and large patches of jungle.

The best beach on Koh Samui - Lamai

The best beach on Koh Samui - Lamai

How to choose a hotel or house

Areas around the beaches Chaweng and Lamai - a huge selection of hotels of any level, as well as the best tourist infrastructure of the island. In addition to infrastructure, Chaweng and Lamai are an attraction of the island in themselves, and this makes them the most sought-after areas among tourists. After them there are tourist Chaweng Noi and Lam Nan along the edges of Chaweng. Bang Rak and Bo Phut are also popular - dense buildings, lots of entertainment and close to hypermarkets.

Condominiums on Koh Samui are not very dense yet and the main proposals await you in Maenam, Play Lamé and Chaweng. Large villas are rare on the coast. Townhouses can be found only in large settlements, while resorts and houses are the most common type of housing on Koh Samui..

All hotels on Koh Samui>

My selection of the best hotels on Koh Samui>

For family winterers (check-in period of 1 month or more), I would recommend Maenam, Bo Phut or Lamai. These beaches have excellent infrastructure, a large flat area with a huge selection of accommodation, and these beaches are among the five best on Koh Samui. Chaweng is not recommended due to its uncomfortable and anxious nature. Lots of noise, dust, dense urban development.

The outskirts of Chaweng, Lamai, Maenam and Chong Mon are suitable for winterers without children - this is if infrastructure and the beach are important. Villages Bang Kao, Tong Yang, Bang Po, Bang Tai - weak infrastructure, but beautiful beaches. I have a detailed analysis of renting a house on Koh Samui in my article Features of renting a house on Koh Samui, and a selection of houses for self-rental - in Directory of houses on Koh Samui.

There are several types of accommodation available to you on Koh Samui, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages: hotel, resort, apartment, private house, townhouse or villa. If you visit Koh Samui for no longer than two weeks, then the easiest way for you is to book a hotel (with houses it is more difficult), you just have to figure out which beach. But with a period of 30 days, it already makes sense to think and sort out options.

If you are traveling to Thailand for the first time, then I recommend booking a house or apartment in advance. This is done only through a realtor. Yes, they do not deal with the cheapest housing and take a commission, but this allows you to avoid unnecessary hassle in an unfamiliar country. Believe me, independent searches on the spot are difficult and not worth it. You are going to rest.

Send me a request to advise a trusted realtor, whom I myself trust. And then recently there have been a lot of scammers.

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How to get to Koh Samui

Samui is located about 700 km from Bangkok and 350 km from Phuket. And Bangkok and Phuket are the only two settlements in Thailand with direct flights from Russia. Koh Samui also has the airport, but it belongs to Bangkok Airways, which are, in fact, monopolies and few people are allowed there. Therefore, a flight to Koh Samui will always be with a stopover and will always be more expensive than flights to Bangkok or Phuket. It is better to search for such flights traditionally on Aviasales, see directly to Koh Samui with a single ticket.

You can get to Koh Samui in other more difficult ways. For example, fly to Thailand with one ticket (to Phuket or Bangkok), and then by land (bus / train + ferry) or again by air (direct flight or with a transfer). From Bangkok by land, the trip will leave about 1000 baht, by plane with a transfer from 1500 baht, and a direct flight directly to Koh Samui is 3500 baht. I have a detailed post on how to get there. from Bangkok to Koh Samui and from Phuket to Koh Samui.

If we talk about comfortable ways, especially when traveling with children, I recommend buying a ticket from Russia directly to Samui, or taking a ticket to Bangkok or Phuket, and then another flight from Bangkok Airways, which will take you directly to Samui airport. All other ways hemorrhoids.

Climate and weather on Koh Samui

It seems to uninformed people that due to the small size of the Kingdom of Thailand, there is no special need to study the weather features for each resort separately - and in vain. The weather on Koh Samui differs from the general weather reports, so for many tourists it comes as a surprise to the excessive rainfall in November and December - and after all, many come here to wait out the winter or spend the New Year holidays at the sea..

In cold months, the air temperature drops to 23-26 degrees, and in hot months it reaches 30-32. Such changes bring a smile to people who have just arrived from -20 with knee-deep snow drifts, but the long-livers of the island suffer from the cold. If you come for the winter in September - October, you will have time to more or less acclimatize and experience all the horror of the Thai winter, when it is cold to walk on tiles in the house, you have to put on socks and sleep under a blanket.

The hottest months on Koh Samui are from late February to April. The rainiest are from November to mid-January. Summer is considered a period of monsoon rains in Thailand, but on Koh Samui this is expressed in clear, cloudless days and short daily rains in the late afternoon, or during the day. More clouds and rain begins at the end of September, October is no longer particularly happy with good weather, November - peak precipitation values, December - precipitation begins to decrease.

During the winter months, almost all the beaches of the island «please» high wave, and do not listen to local realtors who write about November showers «rains a little more often than usual» and «nice to jump on the waves» - no, it's unpleasant. A dirty, turbulent sea with foam and some kind of trash that has been washed off the island by the recent rain is unpleasant. Of course, there is always a chance for changes in the weather, which are happening more and more often due to global warming. November can be almost dry, and March can be frustrating with cloudy weather, but according to observations of past years, I would advise focusing on the climate that I described above.

Another little life hack from me: pay your attention to Koh Samui in the summer months. This period is not very fond of our travel agencies, which urgently need to sell Turkey and other seasonal resorts, which fly like hot cakes in the summer. But Samui in the summer months is one of the most beautiful places in Thailand: a large number of sunny days, rare rains, amazing colors of nature, a seasonal decline in tourists and, as a result, a decrease in prices for everything..

Upon arrival at the resort

How to get to your hotel

Samui Airport is located in the northeastern part of the island. And although it would seem that Chaweng, Lamai and Bo Phut are right next to him, but you will either have to take a taxi / transfer, or get into a minibus, which is usually adjusted for flights. And if there is a task to get from the pier (when you are on a ferry), then the distance is already pretty decent and you can go to the same Chaweng for an hour.

So, there are several ways to get to the hotel across the island. The cheapest is a minibus at the airport, it will cost 150-200 baht per person. Taxis at the airport will cost from 500 to 1200 baht, depending on the mileage. Transfer from the hotel, which is ordered at the time of hotel booking, is the most expensive way, closer to 1500 baht, and it does not depend much on the distance. All methods are described in detail in the post. how to get from the airport to the hotel.

There is another option, a transfer from the famous Kiwitaxi transfer service. A convenient way, you will be met with a sign with your name, your luggage will be taken to the car and taken to the hotel. A minimum of troubles in place, even knowledge of English is not needed, the driver is aware of your route. I have already used them more than once, here my review.

Transfer to the hotel on Koh Samui>

What to see from the sights

If you are an inexperienced person, then there will be enough attractions on Koh Samui for the whole vacation and even the winter. But if you have already visited the north of Thailand or managed to ride around the world and see large-scale sights, then you will have to get used to the fact that everything on the island is reduced in size. Waterfalls, lakes, caves, temples, mountains - all this is local, seasonal and not impressive. Probably half of the sights on Koh Samui are man-made objects, and they are not always in an interesting design..

The very best places on Koh Samui are included in sightseeing tours of any travel agency, which are not very expensive. If you are new to the island, then it is better to take a tour once and see everything at once. It includes a transfer and you do not have to bother with moving, since everything is bad with public transport. Big Buddha, Namuang waterfalls, temple complex Plai Lam, Hin Ta and Hin Yai rocks, one of the safari parks with elephants, mummified monk at Wat Khunaram, khao hua chok pagoda, Magic Buddha Garden - here is an incomplete list of the main and most visited attractions on Koh Samui.

If you are with a motorbike «no misters» and you hate to hustle with twenty tourists in one minibus, then all these places are easy to visit on your own, and besides them, I would recommend other sights that are simpler, but no less interesting: Khin Lad waterfall, Cultural Center on Taling Ngam, Red and White temples, Lam So and Little Buddha pagoda, Khun Si waterfall, a mangrove forest, a second mummified mummy at Wat Kiriwongkaram, an embankment at Nathon, and a lot of viewpoints - all of this is marked on my map of Samui. If you are friends with google maps and navigator, then you will have something to do on the island.

What to see on Koh Samui>

And when you get tired of Samui itself, then you have his beautiful brother Phangan by your side, which is not so aggressively built up with houses and bars. Phangan has about 30 beaches and here almost two-thirds of the island is covered with jungle; a wild place, you will definitely love it. And besides Phangan, there is Tao Island, even more remote from Koh Samui, a mecca for local divers and snorkelers. And if you want at all «head off» and complete uninhabitedness, then around Koh Samui there are several small satellite islands and the Angthong National Marine Park - there is generally wilderness and pristine beauty.

Where to eat, in which cafes

Recommending cafes and restaurants is a thankless and risky business. Today I will love their cooking and sincere service, but tomorrow the same staff will have a different mood or there is no one to look after them from the bosses, or the owner will change altogether - and now there are disagreeable responses to my recommendations. So, keep in mind the fact that the listed establishments worked and were perfect at the time of your visit, and if you were not lucky with them, then the will of the Buddha.

On Lamai, the best food eaters are:
- Russian cuisine in the Cucumbers cafe. Tasty, a lot, inexpensive.
- Burmese cafe San, Thai cuisine. The husband of a Burmese woman cooks - Alexander, he cooks very tasty, it is better to come in the afternoon - there are more places and they do not prepare in a hurry.
- Thai cuisine, sushi and seafood - Sala Thai Had Lamai
- pizza, seafood, Italian cuisine - Antica Locanda
- Thai food - Imchai Thai Food
- Thai cuisine in an unpopular place, so there is always a table - New Hut restaurant, inexpensive.
- Thai cuisine The Bamboo’s Restaurant
- Sabienglae ​​Restaurant, Thai food and seafood.
- Swedish Roestiland cuisine, excellent European confection.
- Ageha Sushi bar, Thai food and seafood.

On Chaweng:
- Thai cuisine, very popular with Ranong 2 locals, with an open room and no air conditioning. Seafood, authentic cuisine, inexpensive.
- MK restaurant inside Tesco Lotus hypermarket
- Black Canyon restaurant in the same Tesco - excellent coffee and selected dishes of Isan cuisine.

On Bo Phut:
- Bistro Journal in Bo Phut, European food and coffee
- a small cafe with Thai cuisine The Hut Cafe, difficult to find, leave too.
- Gekko Bar - great shakes, cocktails and thai food. Amazing view during the day, there is a swimming pool.

On Maenam, the best food eaters are:
- cafe of Thai cuisine Spice - cozy, only five tables, but very tasty and not cheap.
- the restaurant of the Maenam Resort hotel - you can go from the side of the alley that leads to the sea. A large restaurant, a long wait for an order, restaurant prices, but they cook Thai cuisine very decently.
- Indian restaurant Babu’s Indian Hot - expensive, tasty, authentic.
- Uncle Noi tai-cafe is a terribly popular place, not crowded in the evenings. Cooks Thai, smoker and motherfucker, but cooks delicious.
- breakfasts at Angela’s Diner - very popular with farangs. European breakfasts and sandwiches, pastries and coffee. Expensive.
- Thai food - Apple’s Kitchen. Delicious, fast, average price tag.
- the best BBQ Buffet in Koh Samui, located next to the night market. Most delicious selection of ingredients, reasonable price, authentic, little space in the evening.
- amazing Thai cuisine - La Boudoir

On Ban Tai:
- Thai and European cuisine at Kodrayak Cafe. Indoor only tables, European style, lots of glass furniture, great burgers, pizza and Thai food. UPD from August 2018: already closed.

On Bang Po:
- Italian restaurant and the best pizza of the island Celli’s. Tables only indoors, classic restaurant with glasses, napkins and excellent wine. Kept by an Italian family for many years.
- Thai cuisine, amazing seafood at Krua Bang Por, people come from different parts of the island to try their particular cooking.
- Siripoca in Bang Po, Thai cuisine, floor - sand, walls - no, works from 7 am to 5 pm.
- a new cafe Racha Samui restaurant - opened in September 2017, they prepare good dishes with curries, but how they will behave next - you need to look.

In the Nathon area:
- a cafe on the seaside of Kalasea, with an original design, excellent necks and good salads. UPD from August 2018: Closed after a strong storm - everything broke. In its place is a similar institution with a different name..

On Lipa Noah:
- THINK! Retro cafe - the design of the room is made of shipping containers. Sunset place, though from around the corner - a cape with a military base interferes. Great drinks.

At Taling Ngam:
- Air bar continental - the rooftop restaurant of the Inter Continental hotel. Expensive, beautiful, tasty, sunsets.

On Bang Kao:
- Sweet Sisters cafe - vegetarian cafe. Sudden flavor combinations in salads with different herbs, but regular food is also present.

It makes little sense to list all decent restaurants and place on the page, so choose the closest one on my map and go inspect. On Koh Samui, you can surprisingly give a lot of money for that pit in half a pineapple, sitting at a table of one of the most rated restaurants, and not get any pleasure. But in a discreet cafe on the sidelines, without advertising and a name on the facade, you can find a crowd of Thais who are devouring the cooking of some Thai grandmother by both cheeks.

If suddenly you are a fan of fast food chains, then on Koh Samui there are McDonald's (Chaweng and Lamai), Burger King (Chaweng) and Starbucks coffee shop near Big Sea. But I'll put in my five satang right away: the coffee in Starbucks is disgusting, and the food in McDuck is very strange and does not at all resemble the Moscow McDuck that I am used to. They cook more or less tasty in Burger King, where I did not notice much difference with the usual snacks in the Russian Federation.

Transport on site

Of course, as elsewhere, the most popular means of transport is a rented bike. It is always easier with motorbikes than with the same cars: there is no large deposit, low rental and repair prices. In principle, there are no problems with divorce on Koh Samui, so scooters can be rented almost everywhere, for example, at the reception of the hotel in which you settled, or through the owner of the resort / house / villa. The main thing is to avoid rentals where your passport is required as a deposit. The price is about 200-300 baht / day.

Rent a bike on Koh Samui>

Renting a car is more expensive, but the comfort is completely different - an air conditioner, a trunk, a lot of space, etc. It is especially convenient if you have a child, or you are going to a long distance (to the mainland). To be honest, many people travel with a child and on a bike on Koh Samui, but I would not risk it, and you yourself see. It is best to rent a car from international companies with a worldwide reputation, so as not to have problems with contracts, insurances, etc. Offices are located at the airport. In addition, you don't have to look for anything and read the reviews. The cost is about 800-1200 baht / day, the more days, the cheaper. In the same way, private owners have cars, but the risk is higher.

All About Renting a Car in Thailand>

Renting for a long period of 1-2 months or more is already more interesting (that is, cheaper) from small local companies or private owners, but it is very desirable to choose candidates among them based on reviews. There are rentals that rent their own cars, and there are those who work for a percentage of the change, and when a client contacts, they simply contact those rentals who have something suitable. It also happens that the car is rented, as it were, on a sublease, despite the fact that this cannot be done. How it is then settled in case of problems, no idea.

There is no public transport on Koh Samui as a class. More or less songteos (pickup-minibuses) work in that steppe, but they do not go around the entire island. Routes are divided into two main sections: Nathon - Chaweng and Chaweng - Lamai, They pass along the northern part of the ring road. There are no tuk-tuk (three-wheeled scooters) on the island in principle. There are motorbike taxis and minibus shuttles, otherwise, people move on their own or rented vehicles. That is why I am always surprised if a person intends to see the surroundings, but does not want to rent equipment.

Koh Samui Map

Koh Samui Map

Koh Samui Map:

P.S. Ask questions, I will add if something is missing. And leave your feedback about the rest on Koh Samui, how you liked it there or not 🙂