There are 2 main beaches that travelers stay at in Ko Samui: Chaweng and Lamai. Some other areas you’ll see are Mae Nam, Bophut and Bang Rak but I did not visit those areas. If you’re arriving by ferry, you’ll probably arrive in Nathon but you don’t want to stay there unless you have to catch an early ferry out. There is little for tourists to do there. From Nathon pier a songthaew to Chaweng or Lamai should costs about 100 Baht.
Chaweng is most developed beach on the island and has the nicest beach (in my opinion). Chaweng beach is a pretty long stretch of beach. The busiest part of the beach is near Ark Bar. The areas north and south of here are less crowded, with the south part a little more quiet. I walked up and down most of the beach and the resort with the best set up and most customers was Ark Bar.
I liked hanging out at Ark Bar because they have plenty of beach chairs and the waiters there don’t pressure you for drinks at all. In fact, I had to actually flag down waiters several times to put in my drink orders. If you don’t feel like ordering from the bar, you will see many vendors pass by offering food, drinks, beach toys, pictures with monkeys, etc. It was pretty funny because vendors would throw the monkeys on people and some people would freak out. Actually I would have freaked out too.
I really liked the set up at Ark Bar because there were plenty of seats in the sun and plenty of seats in the shade. You also had a good view of the airplanes flying into Ko Samui. The music was good and the bathroom was clean. The only bad thing is that during high tide, the water comes right up to the bar. The staff had to move rows of beach chairs back because the water was getting too high.
Lamai is more quiet Chaweng. I thought the beach was also not as big or nice. To be honest, I only went to the beach here one day and it was drizzling a little so the beach may be nicer if the weather was better. There was no main area where people congregated; the beach was pretty empty when I visited. There is a famous rock formation at the south end of the beach, grandfather and grandmother rock. It’s supposed to look like human private parts but the tide was high when I visited so I couldn’t really see it. There was a small hill that may have provided a better view but I could not find a way up from the beach. Looking at the map, I think I had to enter from the street.
There’s a girlie bar area in Lamai. In the middle of this area is a boxing ring and on Saturday nights there are Muay Thai boxing matches. It seems like if you want to grab a seat to watch the fight, you have to buy a drink from the girlie bar you’re sitting at. During fight night, the drink prices are double what you will see on the menu. I recommend showing up early because it was pretty full; almost every seat was taken. The fights were OK. The matches go on for a couple hours and you will see little kids, bar girls and grown men duke it out in the ring. If you get hungry, on one side of the bars there are street vendors serving up tasty eats.
On Sundays, Lamai holds a night market. The stalls either sold street food or clothes or souvenirs. The night market isn’t just for tourists, there were plenty of locals shopping there too. The market was OK; I wasn’t interested in anything but the snacks. There weren’t any seats set up so whatever you bought you had to eat standing up. The was a fire juggler at the main intersection performing. The little kids were mesmerized by the juggler but when he approached the kids, parents would run up and grab their kid so they weren’t too close to the fire.
I liked Chaweng beach better than Lamai beach. I thought the beach was nicer and there were more facilities for tourists. Chaweng is a more developed so if you’re looking for something a little more quiet and laid back, you will probably prefer Lamai. I do think the boxing and night market in Lamai were worth visiting.