Big Buddha Beach, officially Bangrak Beach, is so-named in English because of the 12-metre high Buddha statue that dominates the area. While the Buddha statue is perhaps the most well-known tourist attraction on the island, the beach resorts here are much calmer and quieter than in Chaweng and Lamai on Samui’s east coast. Big Buddha Beach is located on the northeast coast, about 15 minutes by road from Chaweng Beach, and is in a good spot for the airport.
It’s a lengthy, sweeping beach lined with resorts and restaurants, and although fairly laid-back, those looking for girls and nightlife will have plenty to choose from. In act, the area has developed a lot in the last few years and has become a bit of a ‘girlie-bar-central’, with an array of go-go bars and pool bars.
The remarkable Buddha statue is the main focal point of Big Buddha Beach. The statue took two years to build and is certainly an impressive sight; being visible from the air on arrival to Samui. The upper section is decorated with huge prayer bells, and from here the views out to sea are stunning; perfect for viewing sunsets. In addition, during important festivals, this is one of the liveliest spots on the island as big celebrations take place along with souvenir stalls and drink stands.
Big Buddha Beach is a long beach and there is a good range of cheap and medium priced accommodation here. In recent years, higher-end places have been developed and the beach has started to attract a more diverse group of tourists than the traditional budget traveller. Staying at Big Buddha Beach is particularly popular for those who want the proximity to the nightlife of Chaweng - a 15-minute motorbike ride away - but also want some peace and quiet.
There are several possibilities for people who want to do some more energetic activities, with water-skiing, snorkelling and scuba diving all available on Big Buddha Beach. There are a number of dive shops along the main road that can organise trips for you, too or, if you just want to relax, the swimming is good year-round and the water is generally calm and quiet. Unfortunately, the beach isn’t as nice as Chaweng and lacks crystal clear water.
As is the case all over Samui, it’s not hard to find a relaxing and good value massage on the beach, but for something a bit more indulgent, there is Ban Sabai; a five-star spa offering a range of treatments in traditional wooden style houses at the edge of the beach.
Big Buddha Beach does have some good nightlife of its own, with some good bars and generally at a fraction of the price of the busier areas on Samui. There are a number of British-style pubs, like the Elephant & Castle and The Lord Nelson.
Big Buddha Beach is also the most convenient place on this part of the island to take a boat across to Hat Rin (on Koh Pha Ngan) for the full moon party. As a result, the beach’s accommodation gets full around this time as many find it better to avoid the crowded Hat Rin area and arrive for party night only.