There’s quite a bit more to Samui than sun, sea and sand. Admittedly the beach life is the best part of Samui and the focus of any Samui guide. Each beach area of the island has their own character and attractions; however, there is also the lush, hilly inland and several fantastic islands nearby. Samui also has an excellent selection of entertainment options to keep you amused.
Chaweng and Lamai are the two main beaches of the island, but several quieter beaches line the northern coast, while the south remains undeveloped and more pristine. Sign up for one of the tours of Samui and they’ll take you to a giant Buddha, a bizarre Hindu temple, an even more bizarre mummified monk, waterfalls, Muslim fishing villages and some non-touristy backwoods. In this section we reveal what there is to see on Samui.
Get off the beaches and explore the island for a day where there’s a hilly interior with viewpoints and waterfalls, or discover a hidden beach in the South…more
From bustling Chaweng and Lamai to exclusive Choeng Mon, endless Bophut and deserted Taling Ngam, the beaches here are superb; here’s our sand and surf guide…more
Samui’s top beach and party central is where you can swim in perfect waters, go shopping in the afternoon and dine alfresco on the beach itself at night…more
Samui’s second most popular beach and a great nightlife spot, Lamai beach has something for everyone, with plenty of space to relax and a chilled atmosphere…more
What to see on Samui tours
As a guide, Samui is essentially a leisure island and, apart from the southern part of the island which has retained its original character, most of the island’s coastal areas have now been developed for commercial tourism. Some are packed with hotels and resorts, while other pockets are quieter and reserved for boutique resorts, but the beaches are all public and open to anyone wishing to stroll along the peaceful white sands. You can hire a bike yourself (being careful of the reckless driving) and circumnavigate the island, exploring and discovering pristine beaches or relaxing beachfront restaurants. Alternatively, you can hire a local Samui guide to show you around.
The Big Buddha, in the north of the island, is in all the guide books of Samui, but there are several other temples and chedis worth seeking out. Most of the free maps that are widely distributed can indicate where the best lookouts are and which waterfalls are notable. Then there are the famous, erotically-shaped Hin Ta and Hin Ya rocks at the southern end of Lamai.
As a guide to beaches on Samui, Chaweng is the busiest and most developed. The shops on the main street are also handy for stocking up, while Lamai, further south, is a bit more down to earth and has a lively night scene. The beaches of the north – Big Buddha, Bophut and Mae Nam – are more relaxed and quieter, though not as nice for swimming. Nathon, in the west of the island, is the commercial centre. It is Thai in character and hardly a tropical vacation paradise, but if you’re more interested in the original atmosphere of Samui then head to the coconut plantations of the south.
There are three main islands near Samui which are popular and worth visiting. Koh Phan Ngan is the main one; a backpacker haven – down to earth, under-developed, bohemian and famous for its monthly full moon parties. The lush, natural interior and pristine beaches are a perfect escape. Diving enthusiasts head to Koh Tao, further north, with its excellent dive infrastructure, fantastic reefs and clear water. For real paradise, though, take a day trip to the gorgeous Ang Thong National Park; the least spoilt of all and accessible from Samui with a guide. And there are also Koh Phangan sightseeing daytrips which can be arranged from Samui as well.