PROS of Samui, the boutique beach destination
Koh Samui was named in our Global Beachfront Awards as the top 'beachfront' destination on the planet, meaning its 240 plus true beachfront accommodation establishments is more than in any other beach destination. But does having more hotels on the beach make it perfect for everyone?
With more beaches than one can count here, the many different atmospheres found on this diverse island gives it a long list of advantages. Yet those do not make it perfect for everyone. Here we give a look at what we think are the major positives for a beach holiday on this island.
big mountain in the middle keeps green views and backdrop
Samui is a big mountain rising out of the sea, with little flat land around the three sides where most beach accommodations are found. The only area big enough for extensive rice fields hangs off the south. The huge central mountain provides a rugged, green backdrop to virtually every beach on the island. It also prohibits the over-development of the island's interior, Phuket-style. Development height limits apply on the mountain, too. Samui is thus guaranteed a permanent green heart, and, if the development limits hold, green backdrops forever. It will prove a powerful long-term marketing advantage for the island – when most other beach resorts in Thailand will have only concrete buildings behind their beaches.
many small unseen beaches make great escapes
Samui's huge central mountain runs right to the coast in many places, and as its ridges and rocky lines tumble into the sea they form many little coves and bays. Many of these have quaint little beaches, and some are so difficult to access they remain largely unseen. But they make sensational locations for romantic, boutique resorts. These hidden beaches, and the beautiful beachfront resorts they host, are among the most beautiful places on Samui- yet most visitors see few or none of them. For a peek at some of the more beautiful hidden beaches, look here; Silavadee Pool Spa Resort, Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui, Kamalaya Koh Samui and Banyan Tree Samui.
excellent boutique resorts, and more coming
Samui is rapidly emerging as Thailand's 'boutique island'. It's an interesting transformation, for in the 1980s Samui was the country's 'backpacker island'. Today most of the old rustic beachfront bungalows have gone, redeveloped into up-market resorts. While there are a number of large, mass market establishments here, but the number of small, well-designed resorts following the 'boutique' theme with unique design and architecture is surprisingly high. Samui definitely has more boutique beachfront resorts than any other place in Thailand. Among them are some especially interesting and creative beach hotels. To see a few of them check out The Library, Poppies, Zazen Boutique and Sala Samui.
Samui can be a fun, fun place
The northeast corner of Samui is generally considered the 'fun' zone, where the greatest concentration of hotels, restaurants, beach bars, discos and various other entertainment establishments are found. Chaweng is the main focus, and is thus the busiest and most active area on the island. Lamai has a fun nightlife scene behind the south sector of beach, while there are many restaurants and a few bars and entertainment places in Bophut's famous Fisherman's Village. The younger set looking for fun and nightlife invariably head to this corner of the island, while those seeking a quieter stretch of beach can look to any number of other beaches. And many of those staying on quiet beaches also venture into Chaweng for an evening on the town.
easy, quick to get to from Bangkok
Samui has the contradictory advantages of being an island quite far from anywhere, yet just an hour away from Bangkok. Those flying into Thailand's Souvannaphum airport can take one of the hourly air connections directly from Bangkok to Samui. In peak season there may be two flights an hour. It's somewhat more expensive than other flights within Thailand, though, prompting many younger travellers to use the bus and boat connection. But the regular flights do make Samui very accessible, and those who need a quick beach escape can certainly get in and out of Samui quickly.
accommodations range from cheap to 5-star
Samui might be speeding up the boutique and high-class resort scale, leaving behind its backpacker roots, but there are still many good value, budget beachfront accommodations on nice beaches. Virtually all of the major beaches still have cheaper rooms. Even places like Chaweng and Lamai, where we see 3- and 4-star resorts lines up wall-to-wall, still have cheaper beds. Also, there are quieter corners like Lipa Noi Beach, Maenam Beach West and Lamai Beach North where budget is the norm.
Thus, with top-notch 5-star resorts like Four Seasons and W Retreat, Samui can boasts an amazing variety of beaches, resort styles and prices – from really cheap and basic, to luxury 5-star with world-winning style.
most resorts are true beachfront
With over 250 true beachfront accommodation establishments, Koh Samui took the Global Beachfront Destination Award 2013 – the destination with more true beachfront hotels than any other on the planet. The island is lucky in that the great majority of beach hotels here have been able to build right on the beach. The reason is simple; the ring road that runs right around the island rarely encroaches on the beach, leaving space for accommodations on virtually every patch of sand here.
However, Koh Samui has seen most beachfront land on the popular beaches already covered with accommodation, and new hotels are forced into locations well back from the beach. At Chaweng and Lamai, in particular, many new hotels and guest houses open each season – all in the backstreets. Neither beach has an empty plot.
The Beachfront Club estimated that of all accommodations on Koh Samui in 2013, approximately 70% were then beachfront, though that percentage is constantly falling as new hotels can't find beach land at any price.