From dramatic fiery scarlet performances to dusky peach and pink displays punctuated by fluffy clouds, the beauty of watching the sun complete its arc is that you’ll never get the same experience twice. Here’s some of the best places in Koh Samui and Phuket to enjoy one of nature’s finest shows
"Positioned in the north-west corner of Koh Samui, Bang Po beach provides an idyllic spot for Samui sunset seekers"
For most travellers, experiencing the perfect tropical sunset is close to the top of the holiday to-do list and in Thailand those simply keen to sit and soak up the blissfully serene atmosphere have destinations aplenty top choose from. Likewise, intrepid travellers who want to put their photography skills to the test have a plethora of location to choose from if they want to capture that iconic sun sinking moment.
To watch the sun’s golden orb dip beneath the distant waves on a tropical island, you can either make your way or stay on the west coast of Koh Samui or Phuket – but that doesn’t mean you should rule out the islands’ east coast locations altogether. There’s an array of spots where the peachy pink hues thrown across the sky are just as beautiful as the sight of the falling golden globe itself.
Koh Samui’s sunset hotspots
Most of Koh Samui’s most visited viewpoints – such as the famous Big Buddha statue – are either located on the north eastern side of the island not far from the airport, or on the central eastern coast between Lamai and Chaweng. The east also happens to be the more developed side of Samui in terms of towns and resorts, which means you’re never far from a restaurant or bar to indulge in a seafood feast after your sunset photography session. However, it’s worth considering the less-developed western coast of Samui too, especially if you prefer a more of a laid back beach experience.
"Golden hues engulf the sky when the sunset show begins at Koh Samui’s Lipa Noi beach"
Lipa Noi Beach – Nestled on the west coast is a spectacular stretch of sand and the perfect spot for a sunset chillout session. The blissfully calm waters mean you can enjoy swimming at dusk, dipping in and out of the sea as the sun falls slowly beneath the waves. This beach’s secluded location is the jewel in its crown, and you’ll be able to enjoy the sunset vistas far away from the hustle and bustle of the busier resorts and popular viewing spots.
"Koh Samui’s Lamai viewpoint provides a lofty platform for those that want to pose with the sunset"
Lamai view point – For those on the hunt for the full view point package, sunset vistas from the Lamai view point are not to be missed. Situated on the eastern coast of the island, the view stretches along the Samui coast and out across stunning miles of blue vastness. It’s a fairly physical climb up to the view point itself – but you’ll be rewarded with terrific views from the platform. Lamai view point is a three-in-one event, as you can also double up your visit by checking out the Siva Tara waterfall and snapping some photographs from the platform there.
"If you want to experience the best of tropical Thai sunsets, head to Koh Samui’s Taling Ngam beach"
Taling Ngam – This west-facing beach in Samui’s south-west coast is situated a 30-minute drive from the east side of the island. Views from the sand take in several craggy limestone carsts rising out of the water – perfect for framing your sunset silhouette-style photographs. Like Lipa Noi, Taling Ngam is another of Koh Samui’s under-the-radar beaches, so it offers the ideal destination for a laid back sunset far away from the crowds.
Phuket’s sunset gems
Thailand’s largest island gem, Phuket, is situated on the western side of the Thai mainland – the opposite side to Koh Samui. However, what the islands do have in common is their spectacular sunsets. As with Koh Samui, there are plenty of places on the east and west sides of the island that offer magnificent sunset views.
"This luxurious part of Phuket is popular with those keen to enjoy one of Thailand’s blissful sunsets"
Cape Panwa – Watch the sun blaze down into the ocean at Phuket’s Cape Panwa, a pristine peninsular projecting from the south-eastern corner of Phuket island. For sunset strolls, the Cape Panwa promenade provides the ideal setting, although those in search of a more relaxed experience might prefer to head down to Khao Kad beach and observe sunset’s dazzling colours from a local Beach Bar.
"Promthep Cape offers some of Phuket’s most iconic sunset vistas"
Promthep Cape – Right on the apex of Phuket’s southern tip, you’ll find Promthep Cape. Known for its spectacular sunset vistas, plenty of people flock to this part of the island every evening to enjoy the natural spectacle. It can be worth getting there early to settle into a good spot with your camera. If you’re feeling adventurous and are keen to find a spot that’s removed from all of the other sunset enthusiasts, make your way down the edge of the cape for some stunning photo opportunities.
"Experience the golden hour and sublime views at Phuket’s Windmill viewpoint"
Windmill viewpoint – Positioned just above Ya Nui beach, the Windmill Viewpoint is the perfect sunset destination for those who want to jump on a motorcycle and explore off Phuket’s beaten track. To reach the viewpoint, head up past Nai Harn beach towards the white windmill in the distance. There’s not much here apart from a space to park your vehicle, which is why this spot has earned a reputation as one of Phuket’s premier sunset viewing points.
If you’re in the area, why not check out the following?
- For sunset seekers enjoying the views from Koh Samui’s Lipa Noi beach, Nikki Beach Club is the perfect spot to grab a sundowner cocktail.
- Tie in your trip to Koh Samui’s Lamai viewpoint with a ride on the new cable car, which skims through the emerald jungle canopy before dropping you back at the main viewpoint.
- If you’re planning to take in the sunset at Koh Samui’s Taling Ngam beach, cocktails at the Intercontinental’s Air Bar are a pleasant addition to the experience. The panoramic views of the ocean from here are second to none.
- For those spending the afternoon in Cape Panwa, tie in your sunset watch with a trip to Phuket’s only aquarium. Displays full of tropical fish and sea creatures will entertain little ones before you head out on your sunset expedition.
- Cape Promthep’s iconic lighthouse is well worth a climb. The museum within the lighthouse is home to a selection of intriguing historical artefacts.
- For those in need of their cultural fix, Phuket’s Windmill viewpoint isn’t too far away from the Nai Harn Buddhist Monastery. A spiritual centre for the local community, it’s worth a visit if you’re keen to learn more about the strong connection between the local Thai community and the monastery’s monks.
Top Tips if you want to make the most of your sunset photography session:
- Try shooting at a variety of focal lengths. A wide lens will be fantastic for capturing sweeping views, but for some shots you may want to zoom right in on the golden orb itself.
- Use striking silhouettes within the landscape as focal points for your photograph. Rocky limestone peaks riding up from the ocean or an iconic tropical palm tree are both ideal.
- Don’t forget the rule of thirds when it comes to capturing images that look out towards the horizon. Silhouetted shapes will work better off centre.