The view is miles of blue ocean, the sunlight playing across its gentle ripples. Below me is a verdant valley that stretches all the way to the crescent of sand marking one of the island’s most popular beaches, Chaweng.
It’s calm and tranquil here and the penthouse I’m standing in definitely has the “wow factor.” It has an L-shaped lounge and coastal colours of blue, white and gold.
It’s one the best-value rentals I’ve seen on my scouting trip on Koh Samui, costing just $1,040 a month for long-term rental. It comes fully furnished and it’s 130 square metres, with two bedrooms and one bathroom. You have a shared swimming pool and there’s a restaurant in the complex, too. Plus, you’re just a 10-minute drive from Chaweng town.
Thailand’s largest island after Phuket, Koh Samui offers you white-sand beaches, a happening international dining scene and excellent healthcare. Yet despite getting around 1 million visitors a year, the island’s size means it’s relatively easy to escape.
You can be in the hustle and bustle of Chaweng and in a short drive be in a quiet, peaceful spot overlooking the neighbouring islands of Ko Phangan or Ko Phaluai. Year-round temperatures average between 25
C and 30 C and a large and active expat community means making friends is easy.
But the cost of living means you’ll get great value. You can have a comfortable lifestyle involving daily trips to the beach and plenty of inexpensive dining out for around $2,800 a month including rent.
Whether or not you want to buy, renting is a sensible first step to try Samui out, and the good news is youâ€™ll find places for $670 a month or even less…
The northeastern tip of Samui is popular with expats because it’s nestled away, but still only 10 or so minutes’ drive to supermarkets, restaurants and airport. Samui’s airport is a lushly landscaped wonderland with direct flights to three countries and daily hops to Bangkok, Phuket or Chiang Mai that take just over an hour.
Part of the beauty and appeal of Koh Samui is the lack of high-rise buildings blotting the landscape. Some say buildings are not allowed to exceed the height of a coconut palm. The building regulations are a little more technical than that. However, it certainly helps paint a picture. As you look around, you see low-rise developments and more villas, townhouses and houses rather than towers of apartments.
Situated in Bangrak in the top northeast corner of the island, the Palm View Apartments complex consists of 17 units, all set amongst well-manicured gardens positioned around a fifteen-metre communal swimming pool. Each fully furnished apartment comprises a large dining and living area and European kitchen on the ground floor while the two bedrooms, both with en-suite bathrooms, are on the upper level. Rental for a minimum 12-month contract is $1,040. I really like the resort feel of this complex.
Heading west across the top of the island from Bangrak is one of my favourite places on Koh Samui—Bophut. With a picturesque three-kilometre beach, old teak shophouse-lined streets add traditional Thai character.
The Fisherman’s Wharf complex offers boutique shops, a broad choice of cafés, bars and casual restaurants. It’s also a ‘must do’ Friday night walking street market.
And don’t forget Coco Tam’s beachside bar with a multitude of bean bags and low tables lined across the sand directly in front. Fantastic cocktails are served right on the beach and the evening fire show is great entertainment. The whole feel of this place appeals to me—its laidback character, beautiful uncrowded beach, excellent eating and drinking options and lack of throbbing tourist crowd makes it a favourite.
I discovered a fully furnished two-bedroom, two-bathroom villa here just a 10-minute walk from the beach, shops and restaurants. It has a Western-style kitchen and a small terrace and gated garden. It’s available for rent at $965 a month. The complex is about 10 years old and has two swimming pools, steam and sauna room, parking and 24-hour security. The property is also listed for sale at $150,000 and with some new furnishings and minor renovation would make a very comfortable, no-fuss home for a couple.
About 20 minutes’ drive west of the airport brings you to peaceful Mae Nam. Expats are attracted by a quieter, more laidback environment and it’s also lower cost to rent around here.
For $670 a month you can rent a brand new two-bedroom, one-bathroom furnished villa, in landscaped gardens.
It’s just a five-minute drive to the world-class Santiburi Golf Course, local markets, restaurants and Mae Nam beach. Though not overly large at 69 square metres I see these modern villas as an ideal entry-point rental in a preferred area of the island.
Heading down the east coast of the island just past Chaweng is Lamai—another area popular with expats and a great beach to enjoy. I found a garden-view villa, excellent for a more substantial family or when lots of friends visit. With a monthly rental of $1,300 for a 12-month contract, it’s 160 square metres, fully furnished with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a spacious living room, fully equipped kitchen and a large terrace. The rental fee includes WiFi and weekly cleaning service but not utilities. Lamai offers a diverse array of dining and shopping options including a Tesco supermarket and the Lamai night market.
Bargain Buys from $105,800
Buying property in Thailand comes with certain restrictions (see sidebar) but many expats have happily bought homes around Samui. You’ll find a vast range and a lot of good value, too.
I came across a one-bedroom studio apartment in Bangrak that would be a great entry level property for a single expat or couple. It’s just a minute’s walk to Bangrak beach and a two-minute drive to Big Buddha tourist attraction and neighbouring inter-island ferry terminal.
The airport is also only a few minutes’ drive. It’s 34 square metres, furnished in modern functional décor, with built-in wardrobes and a terrace with views over the large resort-style communal pool. Priced at $105,800 I see it as excellent value. Onsite facilities additional to the large swimming pool include pool bar area, restaurant, tennis court, sauna, fitness centre and basketball court.
About five minutes farther northeast of Bangrak in Plai Laem, one of my favourite sale properties here is a two-storey renovated villa with private pool and outdoor living area. It offers three bedrooms with built-in wardrobes, two bathrooms, open plan living and each room is bright and airy. The covered outdoor living area is an ideal place to entertain or enjoy a barbecue thanks to its own outdoor kitchen. The complex has 24-hour security and access to the five-star hotel next door and its huge pool and bar area. To top it off, it’s a short walk to the beach. Asking price is $350,000. For what it offers in size, quality living options, including pool and garden, I think this property is a terrific deal.
In a safe and secluded part of Chaweng Noi, is an exclusive project of nine sea-view villas. It is a unique setting, with a giant white Buddha statue sitting at the top of the hillside, providing a peaceful tropical ambience—perfect for couples and with plenty of surrounding green space. I checked out a two-bedroom, two-bathroom pool villa with partial sea-views and a large open-plan living and dining space. With a fully-fitted white melamine kitchen and floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, it has a light and fresh feeling. A landscaped garden, private infinity pool and relaxing sun-terrace compliment this attractive villa. The developer wants to sell the last few units and has now set a lower sales price of $233,000.
Excellent value in my mind and a very convenient location immediately south of all of Chaweng’s tourist, shopping and dining facilities.