Chaweng is Samui’s most popular resort area and not only boasts the longest beach, but also the biggest shopping and entertainment zone on the island. In many ways it is just like any other major tourist hot spot, with hundreds of hotels, restaurants and bars scattered along and behind its fine white sand.
You can choose to stay in five-star luxury or search out one of the few remaining budget bungalows, and when it comes to food there’s everything from top-end Mediterranean fare to burgers and pizza. Also thrown in for good measure is a good few, tasty Thai options.
Despite a serious upgrade that has created a more family-oriented feel, Chaweng still remains party central and has the highest density and widest selection of clubs, bars and restaurants on the island. If you’re looking to get away from it all, this is perhaps not the beach for you, but if you want a fun-packed beach holiday with options to suit all tastes and temptations, Chaweng is certainly an experience not to be missed.
Over the last few years, Chaweng Beach has developed into three distinct sections. North Chaweng is the quietest part and also the chosen location for several luxury boutique resorts, spas and upmarket dining options. The water is very shallow at this end of the beach and many places have their own pool as a result.
Despite the upmarket development, though, it’s still a picturesque spot with a beautiful sandy headland at the northern end and a shallow channel separating the main beach from the small, attractive island of Koh Matlang. Places worth treating yourself to here include: Olivio’s Italian restaurant on the waterfront at the Baan Haad Ngam Beach Resort and the indulgent spa at Chaba Cabana resort.
The central part of Chaweng Beach is the most densely populated in terms of sunbathers, accommodation and nightlife. The sands here are packed with sun loungers during the day and beach sellers meander through the crowds selling fruit and soft drinks. There are also jet-skis for rent and all kinds of other beach antics to join in with.
At night, some of the bars put cushions out for revellers to enjoy the beach between drinks and dancing, while many of the larger resorts offer live, but gentle, music and Thai dance performances during dinner. The Ark Bar is a perennial favourite for the beach party crowd, while resorts like the Blue Lagoon offer a more tranquil, family setting. By night, this area is a popular place for eating and drinking in beachside restaurants set out with cushions on the sand, which provide for a fun, lively atmosphere.
South Chaweng Beach, like the north, is becoming more high-end and exclusive. The beach is wide at this end, but during the winter months (November-March) the waves see can be choppy and people have drowned as a result. Samui’s largest hotel, the Central Samui Beach Resort, dominates the southern scene and is also the venue for some of the island’s larger events, such as the annual Samui Regatta. Other beachside venues include Poppies, which is famed for its fine food, while even farther south are resorts that vie for beachfront space in a labyrinth of accommodation, food and services that stretch back to the road.
In some ways, Chaweng’s central strip feels like a different part of the island from the beach it serves; almost even a different island altogether. The five-kilometre road is lined with shops and stalls selling every known holiday accessory, interspersed with bars, supermarkets, tailors’ shops, pharmacies, opticians and, of course, fast food restaurants.
Like the beach, each section is quite distinctive from the next, with the smart Iyara Shopping plaza dominating the north end, along with popular venues like Prego; Samui’s coolest Italian restaurant and bar. Clusters of smaller, family-run shops around the centre and more upmarket, boutique-style outlets are farther south. Major landmarks for taxis and meeting points include Starbucks, Tropical Murphy’s Irish pub, and The Islander.
Chaweng is many different things to many different visitors. If it’s top end cuisine in a sophisticated Western style eatery you are after, there are plenty to choose from. But if you prefer a Thai street snack, there are stalls to suit you, too. The Green Mango Club packs them in every night and down the same street, which is lined with bars and clubs, while international DJs rub shoulders with bar girls and football fans in a cacophony of entertainment that only Thailand seems able to conjure successfully. It’s manic, it’s chaotic but it can be fun, too.