The core of the islands developed beaches cater more for families and package deal holiday makers. Maenam Beach manages to retain a backpacker feel, Bophut Beach, Bang Rak and Choeng Mon Beach and more suited to families and those that like plenty of amenities. Maenam Beach - TOP PICK * Perfect for backpackers and families, with its rustic budget bungalows, glorious beaches, shallow waters and peaceful, idyllic atmosphere. * This peaceful beach located on the north coast is one of Koh Samui's few remaining backpacker beaches, and also an ideal place for families - with its vast expanse of sand for sunbathing and shallow waters for safe swimming. The superb 7km beach faces out towards Koh Phangan and has stunning sunsets. Water sports and other activities such as disc golf (frisbee golf), real golf, tree canopy adventures and kitesurfing are on offer. There's a good mix of primarily budget bungalows in resorts dotted along the beach, accessed at the end of long rambling pathways. Plus a few new deluxe resorts, such as the five-star Santiburi which serves Royal Thai cuisine in its Sala Thai restaurant. The relative privacy of Maenam Beach, with its scattered bungalow resorts, somehow manages to retain the old Samui atmosphere. The beach undoubtedly suits backpackers seeking a degree of isolation and seclusion, as well as for others looking for a budget holiday away from the bright lights. To get here, drive along the 4169 ring road from west to east along the northern coast, and it is just after Bang Po Beach and before Bo Phut Beach. Bophut Beach * Good for families, shopping and would-be divers, this beach has a low-key nightlife and boasts an enchanting ancient village right at its centre. * Located along the northern coast, this beach of 2km stretches from Big Buddha in the east to Maenam Beach in the west, and right at its centre is the famous and delightful little village known as Fisherman's Village. Fisherman's village is one of the oldest and most well-preserved places on the island, with its old Chinese-style shophouses interspersed with more recent buildings that have been carefully designed to match in with the original structures. The village has a distinctly Mediterranean feel to it, which it probably owes to a preponderance of French settlers here in the 19th Century. There are a number boutique, jewellery and other shops in the village as well as dive shops. In the evenings it is a great place to wander, browse and shop. A pier in the centre of the village is a popular pickup point for divers going out on boat trips to offshore dive sites. Speedboats and larger sailboats can also be chartered from here. The beautiful white sand beach area is much less developed than Chaweng and Lamai, but there are still plenty of restaurants, shops and bars around. The nightlife here is quite laid back and on weekends they have live reggae bands and other chilled entertainment. To get here, drive along the 4169 ring road from west to east along the northern coast and it is the first main beach you reach after Laem Yai beach in the north-west corner. Bang Rak (Big Buddha Beach) * Near to the airport, this beach has become popular with expats and families and has a bustling 'town centre' with shopping, eateries and low-key nightlife. Bang Rak is on the north coast, in between Bophut beach and Plai Laem/Choen Mon beach on the other side of the headland. The beach is famous for the enormous, golden Big Buddha Image, (Wat Phra Yai), that sits just off the northeast corner of the beach on a rocky promontory, and is one of Koh Samui's major tourist attractions. The beach itself has become more popular in recent years, and a significant number of expats live around here, with a few luxury private homes dotted along the beach as well as further inland. There is a broad range of accommodation, from 5-star luxury resorts to low budget bungalows. Most of the resorts are located on the beachside of the main road that runs next to the beach, with all manner of shops, restaurants, bars and a range of businesses on the other side of the road. There are several popular sports bars, as well as a few hostess bars, but they are more low-key than in the Chaweng and Lamai tourist areas on the east coast. Ko Samui International Airport is located just a little way inland from the beach, and the aircraft noise between 6:00am and 10:00am, while not overly loud, can irritate some visitors. At certain times of year, the beach on the western side can reveal extensive mud flats at low tide which creates a great place for the locals to go shell fishing. There are three piers on this beach which provide ferry services to Koh Pha Ngan, as well as fishing boats and luxury speedboats. The beach is on Route 4171, which is a large loop that joins the main ring road 4169 on the western side at the Bophut traffic lights. Choeng Mon Beach (including Plai Laem, Thongson and Thongsai) * A quite area, mainly dominated by long-established resorts, it is popular with families for sunbathing and swimming. * Located in the northeast corner of the island, and with Chaweng only a 10-minute drive away, Choeng Mon starts in the north with Plai Laem beach followed by a series of three bays - Choeng Mon, Thongson and Thongsai. These three bays are the home of several 3 to 5-star resorts and are definitely more upmarket than its two neighbouring beaches - Big Buddha Beach to the north, and Chaweng on the southern side. These up-market resorts tend to dominate the local scene, which means that most of the activities and outlets are "in-house" to the hotels. The guests' resorts are largely package tourists, mainly from France and Germany, who are happy to use the in-house entertainment and restaurant facilities and in return, they enjoy pretty much private beaches. There are some budget bungalows available for rent on a short or longer term basis, and on Plai Laem beach there is a broad range of restaurants and eateries. Plai Laem beach is quite peaceful, with no noisy jet skiers or bothersome beach vendors, and there is a new pier where you can watch the fisherman come and go along with the occasional luxury yacht. It is also a popular area for expats to live, with its good infrastructure and a more laid-back assortment of visitors - yet it is only a short drive along the coast to find the nightlife. The main beach at Choeng Mon is popular with families, as it has good swimming conditions and a small island just offshore which can be explored by children at low tide. To get here, take the 4171 ring road in the northeast corner and take one of the roads branching off north towards Laem Samrong and then turn off in the direction of your chosen bay.