A beach for every taste on Thailand’s original island paradise

It’s hard to believe an island the size of Koh Samui can pack in so many of Thailand’s best beaches. Even harder to believe is the sheer variety of those beaches: from broad strands of powdery white sand lined with hotels, to secluded coves overhung by tropical palms. With so many different flavors of paradise to choose from, the question isn’t “what’s the best beach on Koh Samui?” It’s “what’s the best beach on Koh Samui for you?” From family fun to hot nightlife, from five-star comfort to rugged adventure, here are our favorite Koh Samui beaches for every kind of traveller.

Best Beach for Nightlife: Chaweng Beach

Koh Samui’s biggest, busiest beach stays just as busy after the sun goes down. Bars, clubs, and only-in-Thailand attractions offer something for every taste. Craft cocktails with the beautiful people? A cheap cold one in a hole-in-the-wall dive? An outrageous “ladyboy” drag show? A ringside seat for a Thai boxing blow-by-blow? Chaweng Beach has it all and more.

Best Beach for Elegance: Bophut Beach

For many years a French trading outpost, Bophut Beach hangs on to that Mediterranean feel with outdoor cafes, fashionable boutiques, and restaurants offering a unique Thai twist on French cuisine. Well-preserved Chinese shop houses complete the effect, giving Bophut Beach a relaxed sense of cosmopolitan charm.

Best Beach for Water Sports: Silver Beach

The small beach with the big name (Thongtakian in Thai) isn’t easy to find, tucked off the road behind a few smallish hotels. But it’s open to the public, so weave your way through the resorts and discover a 700-meter slice of heaven. The sand is soft and white, the waters are clear and shallow, the rocks attract a lively congregation of marine life. Swim, snorkel, or kayak in peace now, before the secret gets out.

Best Beach for Traditional Culture: Thong Krut Beach

Along the southern coast of Koh Samui, this beach lies near a still-active fisherman’s village. You can lounge under towering palms, watch the fishing boats go out to the spectacular bay and its islands, then eat the catch at one of the beachside restaurants. Hmm… maybe we should have called Thong Krut the best beach for seafood.

Best Beach for Backpackers: Maenam Beach

Backpackers were the first Western travellers to discover the charms of Koh Samui, and there are still plenty of budget accommodations at Maenam Beach to choose from. There’s also ample room on the beach to enjoy the gentle waves and swaying palms, and the agreeably sleepy and authentic town of Maenam for dinner and drinks options. You could pay more for worse. Hmm, maybe those backpackers are ahead of the crowd again…

Best Beach for Tranquillity: Ban Tai Beach

If Maenam’s drowsy pace is still too hectic for you, search out this hidden gem. Ban Tai isn’t always even a name on the map: it’s often incorrectly labelled an extension of the more developed (but still very relaxed) Bang Po Beach just to its west. A smattering of resorts offer a decent range of accommodation, but the real attraction at Ban Tai is the peaceful vibe of Ko Samui’s quietest beach.

Best Beach for the Whole Family: Lamai Beach

Kids will love splashing in the shallow, gentle waters of this crescent-shaped jewel of a beach – and at the water park on the town’s outskirts. Parents will love the range of reasonably priced restaurants and shops. Everyone will marvel at the bizarre rock formations, the stunning sunsets, and the buzz of the nightly Lamai Night Plaza. There’s a reason Koh Samui’s “second city” remains a major draw for all kinds of travellers.

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