Chaweng is the beach on the east coast of Ko Samui and has a reputation for a pristine white beach and an excellent nightlife infrastructure especially on the northern end of the beach.
Chaweng is the largest and most popular of Samui's beaches, and is usually divided into four sections: North Chaweng, Central Chaweng, South Chaweng and Chaweng Noi (Little Chaweng) which is around a headland and at the southern most tip of Chaweng. Chaweng Beach is approximately 7 km long, making it the longest beach on the east coast. It is lined with coconut trees and boasts year long, warm (temperatures range between 25-28°C.). The ocean brings a lot of debris on the Chaweng Beach and while most of it is natural, it still makes the beach look dirty. The beach tends to have bigger waves and stronger currents than most of the other beaches of Thailand. Visibility in the water is very poor.
Chaweng offers an incredibly broad range of accommodation, ranging in price from as little as 400 baht per night for basic fan rooms and shared facilities, premium resorts charging up to 20,000 baht per night and 5 star villas at 70,000 per night. Eating in Koh Samui is equally diverse, starting from the street food costing 40 baht per meal to some world class restaurants with International chefs and standards where a 3 course meal will cost and taste the same as in the best restaurants in any leading capital city in the world.
This diverse offering obviously attracts a diverse range of travellers, from your young "hippie" backpackers, international school and university students, sporting teams, singles, couples, honeymooners, wedding party's and families. However at any given time there are very few Thai tourists in Chaweng.The views from Chaweng Beach include two small islands, near the natural reef, that you can walk to and explore at low tide.
The central part of Chaweng is far more crowded than the quieter south and attracts the younger "up for it" party travellers. If music and activity is not your scene, this area can be avoided.
While on the beach, many vendors will stop and offer beverages, fruit, ice cream and local Thai food cooked on small portable BBQ's. These vendors are polite, if you do not want anything, a simple "no thank you" will see them on their way. A variety of local crafts and Thai souvenirs are also available.
The beach itself is usually accessed through the hotels, as there only a few public roads or paths that lead to the beach. Chaweng Beach, as all of Chaweng, is diverse and can be relaxing or active depending on where you are and what season it is.
The main road, runs parallel to the beach and from south to north is occupied by the ubiquitous convenience stores and restaurants, bars, resorts, hotels, tailors, clothing, accessory, pharmacies, massage, spa, souvenir and fast-food shops. The side-walks are very narrow and full of signs that you can easily bump your head on. Similar to the lowest quality side-walks that you can find in Bangkok. Trash can be seen and smelled everywhere. Unlike elsewhere in Thailand, be prepared to be offered a lot of flyers, hear a lot of advertisements through speakers of pickup trucks that pass by constantly and for every tailor shop's and restaurant's immigrant worker to ask you to come inside.
Chaweng is a few minutes' ride south from the airport. If you book a taxi at the airport transport desk, it will cost 400 Baht. A shared van (usually requiring 5 passengers before it will depart) will cost 120 Baht per person. Taxi drivers rarely use taxi meters here. If you decide not to use the booking desk, negotiate the fare in advance with the taxi driver. It should cost from 200-400 Baht. Or you may book a transfer with your hotel. This service usually costs 300 Baht, though some of the higher-end hotels have quoted rates of 400 Baht per person.
You may opt to take other, more adventurous forms of transportation like the following:
Motorcycle taxis are ordinary motorbikes and you sit behind the driver during the ride. Depending on the distance, the price ranges from 30-150 Baht. If you want to go some serious distance eg to Chaweng, they will want B400. If you are persistent, you can get it down to B250.
Motorbike Rentals are available if riding solo is what you prefer. Most motorbike rentals in Chaweng offer 100-125 cc bikes such as Honda Wave, Honda Click, Suzuki Step, etc. Rentals cost 100-200 Baht per day depending on the length of the rental.
Bigger motorbikes like Harley Davidson and sport bikes like Kawasaki Ninja and Honda CBR are also offered. Be warned that bike accidents tend to be a regular occurrence in Ko Samui, so drive carefully.
If you are travelling in a large group, you may opt to rent a jeep. The rental usually costs at least 800 Baht per day. A private car will set you back 1500 Baht or more every 24 hrs. There are many models to choose from: Honda Jazz, Isuzu Hi-Lander, Toyota Camry, Toyota Fortuner, etc. Established rental companies such as Avis and Hertz also offer insurance. It might be a good idea to get the insurance along with the rental as having no insurance during an accident could be expensive.
From Nathon Pier, there is a minibus which costs B100.
Motorbike Rental and Local Driving Travel Agents and Bike Rental shops are never far away and can rent you a motorbike from 150 - 300 baht per day depending on the age of the bike and the insurance offered. Take note; vehicles in Thailand are driven on the left side of the road, and the road laws in your country may not be the same as in Thailand. Accidents are prolific and the Samui roads are NOT the place to learn how to drive a motorbike. It is compulsory for the driver and passenger to wear a safety helmet while you are on the motorbike.
Some beaches outside of Chaweng worth visiting are:
Bus and Ferry Tickets Travel Agencies can sell you bus tickets with pick-up from your hotel and including the ferry to many destinations in Thailand such as Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi. Booking the same tickets in Nathon or for trains at the Surat Thani station can save you 100 or 200 baht. This procedure is not simple and should only be done if you can read or speak Thai. Book through your preferred licensed Travel Agency or in person at the ferry pier or train station.
Full Moon Party Tickets You will be offered a "cheap" full moon party ticket by everybody and his dog prior to actually getting to the party. Sometimes these offers are cheaper, sometimes not. They are guaranteed to have no service, no contact number, no night staff and so on, and so on. Do yourself a favour, spend 100 baht ($3) extra and buy your ticket from a registered travel agency that offers you real service and accurate information. There are many such travel agents, some on the street and some in hotels. Book through your preferred licensed Travel Agency.
Island Tours There are many Island tours available such as elephant trekking, waterfall adventures, tree-top cable rides, Samui football golf and much more. Book through your preferred licensed Travel Agency.
Almost all activities are on the beach (even parts of the nightlife) and most Samui dive shops are based in Chaweng. It's also the base to arrange trips to nearby Ko Tao and the Angthong National Marine Park.
There are lots of souvenir shops around town. It is not uncommon for the shopkeepers to ask 5 times the normal tourist price particularly in the central areas. Bargaining is always possible when it comes to souvenir and souvenir-like products. Even when a price is indicated a discount up to 50% might be available. As many shops and the often cheaper market stalls sell mostly the similar products ask at several places to get an idea of what is a reasonable price before starting haggling for the product you really want. The clothes sold here can often be found at Khao San Road in Bangkok for a lower price.
On the beach, vendors will sell beach clothes, jewelry, beach toys and games, and food (coconuts, sliced fruit, satay, roasted corn, ice cream, water, etc.). Be prepared to bargain. Most food items are generally 50 baht/piece. They vendors will not bother you if you ignore them or say no.
In the evening several restaurants offer seafood on the beach. Almost all hotels offer dining at the beach so compare prices.
Chaweng is the heart of Koh Samui. The once abundant backpacker bungalows and hostels are virtually non-existent and have been replaced with newer, more modern and obviously more expensive tourist orientated hotels. Always insist to see the room before you book in any hotel. Be aware that the nightclub district is not far from many of the good beach hotels. This is fantastic if that is what you want on your holiday but not suitable for the quieter more romantic holiday.