Koh Samui, Thailand
Koh Samui is Thailand’s answer to the Caribbean, with sun, sand, good eats, and a dash of culture. The beaches are exceptional, and the best is in Chaweng, which is also the biggest and busiest town on this small island off the eastern coast of Thailand. Large ships anchor near the town of Nathon. Passengers are tendered to the port, which is also the island's main ferry terminal.
What We Love
Eating: No need to change out of your swimsuit. Throw on a sarong and have lunch at a casual beachfront restaurant serving authentic pad thai,green curry chicken, and spicy papaya salad. Wash it all down with a local beer — try Chang Beer and Thai Singha — or fresh sugar cane juice.
Best Known For
Beaches: Chaweng Beach on the east coast is the top spot, with a wide band of golden sand framed by palm trees that provide shade from the scorching sun. Restaurants, bars, and massage huts line the beachfront, and water sports include parasailing, kite surfing, and kayaking.
Big Buddha: Known locally as Wat Phra Yai, the 40-foot-tall golden seated Buddha is set on a pedestal at the top of a long flight of stairs flanked by a pair of colorful dragons. Every day, devotees go there to light incense at the foot of the statue and bring offerings of fruit and flowers.
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Who It's Best For
Families: Koh Samui by day is great for all ages. The beaches, restaurants, and gilded Buddhas are not far from the pier, and the surf is relatively calm for swimming.
Party People: If your ship is staying in port late, the nightlife in Chaweng is hopping.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Look Out for Kamikaze Watercrafters: They’re loud and they recklessly careen very close to the swimming areas in Chaweng. Pay attention.
Roaming Vendors: They relentlessly trudge up and down the beaches all day long with arm fulls of T-shirts, sarongs, cheap jewelry, and other souvenirs.
Heidi Sarna is a Singapore-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Condé Nast Traveler and USA Today.