Nathon, Koh Samui’s capital town, will be your first introduction to the island if you’re coming by ferry – otherwise, if flying in and out, you might never see it at all. Should you visit? Absolutely! Here’s why I think you should give Nathon a few hours of your time.
Nathon, Koh Samui
Why visit Nathon while on Koh Samui?
Whether by hire car, scooter, songthaew or ‘other’, Nathon’s a slight trek – it’s halfway down Samui’s west coast (the opposite side of the island from the main concentration of hotels, resorts and tourist amenities). For many, it’s a half hour’s drive or more. Though ramshackle charming, it’s real Thai life – as such, it might not immediately catch your eye on a quick drive through. Is Nathon worth a visit? Combined with other worthy island stop-offs, yes! Do stop in Nathon, it will win you over as you explore on foot.
How to navigate Nathon town?
Nathon’s main road is just 1 block over from the sea-front road, with lots of quiet off-shoots for looking around and taking photos. Though a proper town, you can’t get lost here.
Nathon food and drink?
There’s lots of waterfront eating – Thai choices, pizza, seafood, etc. Closer to the ferry terminal, you’ve got great coffee options.
When to visit Nathon?
Ideally on Saturday evening for Nathon Market/Walking Street. On Saturday evenings, Nathon’s seafront plaza transforms into a sprawling walking street. With street food choices from A to Z, it’s a multi-block buffet interspersed with market stalls of local goods, clothes and some souvenirs.
As Nathon is Koh Samui’s industrial centre and largest ferry terminal, walking street attendees are mainly locals with a steady supply of backpackers on a budget. If you enjoy absorbing your culture in the midst of things, perhaps on a plastic stool with some noodles and a Singha – this is a great spot to come for an afternoon snack, dinner or dessert for the simple joys of people-watching. Never pushy, the vendors are happy to tell you about their products – Nathon has some great shops not found elsewhere on Samui (see below).
Shopping in Nathon
Do your souvenir and thank-you-present shopping in Nathon. If you’re looking for “Thailand” presents (or have a dog-sitter you hope to hire again?) – Nathon is a great place to browse for a Thai treasure. Options are increasingly inventive and eco-minded, often at more competitive prices than in Koh Samui’s main tourist centres. I particularly like these three Nathon shops and return to them often.
Little Buddha Aromatherapy Products: A fantastic shop packed with local bath products and natural cosmetics. It’s coconut oil heaven (made from Koh Samui’s coconuts; the best in Thailand!). Also browse an incredible selection of essential oils, some particular to Thailand (‘Dork pud’ is a memorable inclusion). Find it to the left of 7/11 on Nathon’s “main road” – one block in from the sea.
Thai Winery House and Souvenirs: The delightful proprietor, Khun Nush, has local dessert wine from Thai fruits (mangosteen lychee, etc) and is an excellent source of info for all things Thai. Learn all about the mangosteen’s many uses, and browse organic soaps & more. Or – sample some wine!
Khunchan Furniture and Home Décor: A packed shop of Thai furniture, décor items, spirit houses, buddha figures, carvings, baskets and more. Fall in love with something not-quite-suitcase-sized? They ship internationally – no problem!
Nathon with children?
Everyone has their window-shopping threshold, and children might tire of Nathon’s ‘gentle look-around’ charm quite quickly. If Parent A or B wants to divert to the sea-front, there are boats galore to watch from lots of benches – we’ve even seen jellyfish! With ferries and lots of busy fishermen, it’s a great spot for ‘I Spy’. Note that the pavement in town is very uneven and likely tricky for strollers. Its two main roads have high traffic.
How to have more fun on Koh Samui?
Use my 15 years’ Samui experience to guarantee your best vacation ever. Head in all the right directions with The Koh Samui Guide – whether you want to rent a car and tour the island’s very best, or walk off the ferry in Nathon like a total pro. What will feature on your perfect island itinerary?
Where to stay in Nathon?
If you’re arriving on Koh Samui by ferry and want to crash as soon as possible or have an early morning ferry departure from Nathon, these 3 options are just a few minutes (walk or drive) from the ferry terminal and all have very positive guest reviews: