Koh Samui is Thailand’s second biggest island. It has a population of about 55,000 and has a history dating back 15 centuries. Considering this long history it might come as a surprise that the island only became aholiday destination in the 1970s.
Since those first backpacker days, things have changed a lot on Koh Samui. It now has an airport, good infrastructure, excellent hospitals and dentists, a professional golf course and big supermarkets. For anyone who wants an Asian beach holiday, but doesn’t like to slum it Koh Samui is ideal. It has beautiful beaches at Chaweng, Lamai and Bophut that have plenty of mid-range and luxury resorts.
There are also a few wellness resorts in Koh Samui. The standout place in this category is the Kamalaya on Laem Set beach. It gives wellness consultations on arrival and departure and has lessons in everything from yoga to Pilates. It has also has private pool villas.
Brand name hotels are also present on Koh Samui. There’s the recently opened Conrad Koh Samui at Laem Set and the Renaissance Koh Samui in Lamai managed by Marriot.
At the same time there are plenty of smaller hotels and resorts owned locally that have communal pool and rooms with air-con, hot water, TV and fridge. Such places can be booked for about $50 a night.
Whereas Chaweng and Lamai are brash, loud and varied both during the day and night, the small area around Bophut called Fisherman’s Village has boutique cafes, restaurants and bars many of which are housed in traditional wooden houses. This is an area free of the so-called ‘beer bars’.
Other beaches in the south of Koh Samui are less developed. Many people prefer these beaches because they are free of the night scene and the young reveling the night away. Beaches such as Taling Ngam, Thong Tanote and Bang Kao are much more tranquil but unfortunately the beaches are not as good and the tidal difference can be extreme.
There are still many people who go back to Koh Samui every year. There is also a sizeable ex-pat community in Koh Samui. Many go to Koh Samui for the wellness programs, the annual Samui Jazz Festival and the nightlife. The backpackers have mostly moved on to other islands.