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Koh Samui Travel Guide - Your destination overview of Koh Samui, Thailand

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Development officially began on Koh Samui in the 1950s, but it wasn't until the early 70s that it emerged onto the radar of international tourism. In the three decades since, Koh Samui has become Thailand's preeminent resort destination, poised to overtake Phuket in volume and luxury if not in size.

Samui conjures up scenes of island paradise, and for good reason. This is the very island where much of the movie The Beach was filmed. And while the seclusion of past decades has been replaced by broad resort development, there are still a few secluded beaches, hidden lagoons and idyllic thatched bungalows to be found, especially on the west coast.

In a strange twist of tragic events, the tsunami of 2005 devastated Phuket, Thailand's leading island destination. In the aftermath, vacationers tentatively tweaked their travel plans to favor the sheltered gulf waters of Koh Samui. With its well established infrastructure, Samui rose to the challenge and has grown more in the past five years than in two previous decades.

Today, most of the attractions, from odd-shaped outcroppings of rock to sophisticated restaurants, are on the east coast in communities like Chaweng, Lamai and Bophut. Myriad daytime attractions include animal shows, landscaped gardens and theme parks. By night, Samui's east coast becomes one of Thailand's hottest party destinations.

Chaweng

On the southeastern coast of the island, Chaweng is the most developed of all Koh Samui's resorts. Main Street follows the beach and is lined with restaurants, hotels and a lively night district. This is also where shoppers will find the island's best selection of goods.

Lamai

Second to Chaweng, Lamai is another of the island's busiest districts. It's a little further south down the beach (but still in the Maret sub-district). It's best known for its twin-rock attraction, but there are also plenty of facilities for tourists to enjoy. It appeals to some visitors because it's a bit quieter than Chaweng without being far removed from the scene.

Nathon

Koh Samui's port community is on the northwest coast and receives ferries from the mainland on a regular basis. The port is backed by a shopping and dining district, and the sunsets make it worth lingering on the day you arrive.

Mae Nam

Mae Nam on the north coast boasts a long, white-sand beach with calm waters. A minor hotel district is onsite offering bungalows and guesthouses that enjoy a clear view of the sunset. Facilities here are minimal.

Bophut

This beach community on the northern coast of the island retains a bit of the island's original character when it comes to Chinese-Thai architecture. Fisherman's Village is the main commercial area, with plenty of restaurants and shops to choose from. Bophut is gaining a reputation as a luxury hotel destination. 

Tongson Bay

This scenic destination resides on the northeastern end of the island within easy reach of the ferry pier. Quiet and laid-back, this bay is home to a few luxury hotels and resorts that offer an all-inclusive escape from the crowds of Chaweng and Lamai.

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