Should you visit Koh Samui?
Koh Samui is Thailand’s second largest island (Phuket takes the crown) and is situated in the Gulf of Thailand alongside Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.
Just like it’s neighbours, Koh Samui is surrounded by stunning, white-sand beaches and endless activities. This makes the island an extremely popular destination, attracting a wide audience, from budget backpackers to wealthy holidaymakers.
Unsurprisingly, Koh Samui is also one of the more developed islands in Thailand and even has its own airport, Samui Airport (USM).
Don’t be deterred by the development and higher prices though, the island still has much to offer with its amazing sights and beaches!
Where to stay in Koh Samui
The island is a bit like a genie, it can grant whatever you desire, whether it be a luxury resort or a budget bungalow.
With a mixture of accommodation in most locations the choice of where to stay really is yours.
Location #1: Chaweng – the place with great shopping, restaurants and nightlife
First up is Chaweng beach. Situated in the north east corner of the island, it’s close to the airport, making it super accessible.
Once you’ve reached Chaweng you don’t really ever have to leave!
Being the most developed area on the island, it has everything you’ll need, from a huge shopping complex, lively bars to restaurants catering to every taste.
We also couldn’t go without mentioning the 7km long fine white sand beach which despite being popular still manages to preserve a tranquil and relaxing feel.
Location #2: Lamai Beach – it has pretty much everything you need
If hordes of humans in one place isn’t your thing, then Lamai could be a good substitute for you.
It still captures the upbeat vibe of its northerly neighbour, Chaweng, but on a smaller scale. The area still offers plenty of entertainment, with all your necessary conveniences nearby.
You’ll easily find ways to occupy your nights in one of the many beachside bars or restaurants offering great dining.
Location #3: Bophut – the best of the new and the old
Bophut, on the north coast, is a brilliant blend of the old and the new, giving you a glimpse into the history of the island.
This fisherman’s village has taken on a cosmopolitan feel due to the boutique shops and chic restaurants. The 2km beach is split with the east side hosting a scattering of cheaper hotels whilst the west features those 5 star luxury resorts most of us can only dream of.
How to get around Koh Samui
Due to how developed the island is, it’s probably one of the easiest islands to travel around. You will find taxis, songthaews, motorbikes, and even ride sharing apps such as Grab or Navigo.
We highly recommend using a ride sharing app first before a conventional taxi as prices can sometimes be up to 30% cheaper!
You can also rent a car or a motorbike and drive yourself around the island but be sure to have your international driver’s license with you and be aware of the local road laws.
A motorbike at 250-300 THB/day is significantly cheaper than a care at around 800 THB/day depending on the car, but you certainly compromise on comfort.
Best beaches on Koh Samui
It’s no surprise that Koh Samui is so popular when it has a 50km of coastline that’s dotted with over 40 picturesque and powdery white-sand beaches.
Most beaches offer a range of accommodation, from resorts oozing with luxury to cheap and cheerful bungalows, no matter which one you pick.
Top pick #1: Chaweng Beach (north east)
It’s not a coincidence that the most popular resort area on Koh Samui also has one of the most idyllic beaches on the island.
The delicate white sands making up Chaweng beach are encased by rocky headlines and bordered by picture-perfect palm trees.
Exploring the offshore reef gives you the perfect opportunity to work up an appetite which you can then satisfy at one of the many restaurants and beach bars lining the beach.
Top pick #2: Taling Ngam (west coast)
If you’re looking for tranquility and seclusion from your trip to Koh Samui, then you’ve pretty much found it in Taling Ngam beach.
The beach offers a front row, intimate showing of the glorious sunset each night as the sun retires for the day. Even better, the backdrop to this stunning spectacle is Ang Thong Marine Park. Now that’s got to take some beating!
With the nearest sizable town, Nathon, a 20-30 minute drive away you’ll get to experience peace and seclusion which is fast becoming scarce in this world.
Top pick #3: Bang Por (south west)
Bang Por holds the crown for the longest stretch of sand on the island, reaching an impressive 11km of uninterrupted pristine sand.
This beach adds a tropical touch to your visit, creating an off the beaten track vibe whilst still providing a reasonable selection of restaurants and bars. The seafood is a real winner here!
Only 5-10 minutes away from the less sleepy village of Maenam and capital town of Nathon, Bang Por is a great beach to add into your day trip plans.
Top 9 recommendations of amazing things to do in Koh Samui:
Koh Samui is a popular island for good reason, there’s just so much to do here! You can spend your days living it up as a beach bum, exploring the jungle and underwater worlds or immersing yourself in the Thai culture.
Here are a few of the best ways to spend your time on the island:
#1 Diving, snorkelling, kayaking…the list of watersport activities goes on
You can’t stop dreaming of exploring that warm, tropical sea? Neither can we, and Koh Samui definitely doesn’t disappoint when it comes to it’s sea-based activities.
Kayaking, diving, and snorkeling are among the most popular activities, with SUP, jet skiing and sailing close on their heels.
If you want to take your adventures to new depths, you will find countless diving companies on the island where you can embark on a PADI course. The water around Koh Samui is teeming with vibrant marine life and evolving underwater landscapes. With visibility between 3 and 30 metres, it’s a great diving and snorkelling spot.
PRO-TIP: While Koh Samui offers amazing diving sites, it can’t beat the neighbouring island of Koh Tao. Check out our island guide of Koh Tao to see why it is often called Thailand’s mecca for diving.
#2 Take a walk back in time at the Fisherman’s Village
Sometimes there’s nothing better strolling through foreign streets, absorbing the sights and sounds of a new and exciting place. Fisherman’s village is definitely a place you can stroll for hours without even realising!
While you can visit any day of the week, Friday night is a must. The street is closed to all vehicles and becomes a bustling Walking Street lined with shops, restaurants, bars and all things Samui.
While many of the fisherman no longer live in the village, they bring their daily catch to the restaurants here, making it the perfect place to sample the freshest seafood.
#3 Head to Wat Phra Yai to see Koh Samui’s Big Buddha
Situated just off the north east coast, on a little island connected to Koh Samui is the famous Big Buddha.
The sight is much more than just a photo opportunity, take the time to admire the hours of work now reflected in the delicate and intricate detail of the statue. Standing at 12 metres tall it’s difficult to not be awestruck by this spectacular Buddha made from gold.
Reminder: Do keep in mind that this is a religious site, so act and dress respectfully. A great rule of thumb for most temples in Thailand is for both sexes to have their shoulders and knees covered.
#4 Immerse yourself in the history and culture of Koh Samui
Wat Plai Laem is a modern working Buddhist temple that cleverly replicates centuries old art techniques. It features a 18-arm statue of the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion alongside a large white Chinese Buddha. The extravagant and vibrant details create a sight you can’t miss.
Both are surrounded by a lake teeming with fish thoughtlessly going about their days. If you like, in return for making a small donation to the temple, you are given a bag of food to feed the fish.
#5 Visit some questionably shaped rocks – Hin Ta and Hin Yai
Also known as Grandpa and Grandma rock, it’s not the name that has made these rocks famous.
You can’t help but notice that these strangely shaped rocks closely resemble male and female genitalia. It’s hard to not let out that childish giggle when admiring these natural phenomena.
We shouldn’t be surprised, it is Thailand afterall.
However, there’s more! According to folklore, the rocks were formed after a couple’s boat was flipped during a storm. Unable to swim, they both sadly died and were transformed into the rocks.
#6 Wander through the world of waterfalls at Nu Muang
There’s definitely something magical about waterfalls, and Koh Samui is one place that’s not short on one of Mother Nature’s best creations.
Taking the top spot for most picturesque has to be the Na Muang falls. Even better, you get double the fun as there’s not one, but two waterfalls to explore here.
The first wall of water cascading from the jungle is no more than 100 metres from the car park – Na Muang Waterfall 1. The first one can get a little busy, so it’s definitely worth the extra 20-30 minute walk to reach Na Maung 2.
Something we all love to hear is that the park featuring the waterfalls is free. There’s also a selection of small vendors selling food and drink for when you fancy a break from your exploration.
#7 Sneak off to the Secret Buddha Garden
Cocooned by the lush tropical jungle, at the centre of Koh Samui you’ll find the Secret Buddha Garden.
This peaceful oasis began in 1976 when an old Samui fruit farmer began filling his land with various statues and temples depicting animals, humans and deities. A huge accomplishment and wonderful creation, Khun Nim continued his work until the respectable age of 91!
Accessibility to the location isn’t great. The steep and bumpy road makes for a difficult journey for most vehicles unless you’re in a 4 wheeled drive. However, once you reach the top, the panoramic views reward any traveller determined enough to make the drive.
#8 Join in the festivities and annual traditions of Koh Samui
The island hosts plenty of annual festivals including the Samui Regatta, Songkran (water festival) and a Full Moon Party.
The Samui Regatta usually occurs in May and is the biggest regatta of its kind in all of Asia and attracts visitors from all over the world. During this event, yachts race across the turquoise sea, utilising the power of the wind.
Like lots of other places in Thailand, Koh Samui also takes part in Songkran which celebrates the new year by throwing water on each other. This symbolises the ridding of any bad luck as the new year begins. It’s virtually impossible to avoid getting wet, so as they say – if you can’t beat them, join them
Not what you would expect 9,000km away from Germany, but Koh Samui has been celebrating Oktoberfest since 2004. Now hosted at Nikki Beach Resort, the festival delights visitors with lederhosens, bratwursts and a flood load of beer!
Potentially helping to make you feel better about drinking your bodyweight in beer, the festival is used to raise money to buy equipment for local schools and other good causes.
#9 Take a boat trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park
Just a 45 minute boat ride away from Koh Samui, you’ll find the Ang Thong Archapello.
This park is a protected archipelago of 42 islands featuring limestone mountains, lush jungles, white-sand beaches, waterfalls, and hidden lakes. It’s almost too much to fit in a sentence, let alone a day.
One of the highlights of this 100 square meters marine park is Ko Mae Ko Island, where you’ll find the Emerald Lake. An enchanting mint blue lagoon that looks just unreal and is also strictly off limits for anyone wanting to take a swim in the lake. We promise just admiring this natural beauty is enough!
We recommend booking online with Klook. You can book the Ang thong National Park Day Tour from Koh Samui for only 945 THB ($29.55) and 475 THB ($14.85) for children.
You can feel confident that you’re booking with a secure, reputable company. The reviews speak for themselves! On top of that, if you find the price cheaper elsewhere, they’ll give you back double the price difference.
Camping at Ang Thong National Park Day
If you feel like just spending the day at Ang Thong Marine Park isn’t enough, you can also book a boat trip that includes overnight camping in one of the few basic bungalows or tents at Ko Wua Talap. Just be aware that you’ll need to book this in advance as the number of bungalows and tents are very limited!
There’s nothing better than waking up to the sound of the birds chirping and the waves crashing rhythmically on the beach.
Whichever tour company you book with, bear in mind that the park entrance fee of 300 THB (150 THB for children) isn’t included in the initial price.
How To Get To Koh Samui?
|Leaving from||Duration||Prices from||See details|
|Bangkok||1hr 15mins-18.5 hours||760 THB-2,650 THB ($25-$87)||Bangkok to Koh Samui|
|Koh Phangan||30mins||220 THB ($7.50)||Koh Phangan to Koh Samui|
|Koh Samui Airport||15mins-1hr||100 THB-1,000 THB ($3.30-$33)||Koh Samui Airport to Koh Samui|
|Koh Tao||2hrs||550 THB ($18)||Koh Tao to Koh Samui|
My favourite places to stay in Koh Samui
If you’re looking for a fun and social atmosphere, this is the perfect hostel! On-site swimming pool, bar and lounge area for socializing with other travelers. Extremely close to the beach, restaurants, bars and all amenities. The hostel offers very comfortable beds and is extremely clean. The hostel staff is very friendly and will assist with arranging tours and forward travel plans.
- Swimming pool
- Social atmosphere
- Comfortable beds
Single bunk starts at $9 per night
If you’re traveling alone but prefer a little more luxury and a quiet place then The Rock Hostel is a perfect choice. This hostel offers private beach access with lounge chairs, a swimming pool, and stunning sea views. The location is perfect, the hostel is quiet and relaxing and the staff is amazing. Treat yourself to a few days of luxury and relaxation here.
- Private beach
- Swimming pool
- Excellent location
- Extremely clean and comfortable
Single bunk starts at $15
This adults-only beach house located in Taling Ngam Beach comes with countless recommendations. The beds are extremely comfortable, the hostel is very clean and a small breakfast of fruit with bread and jam is provided daily. There is an on-site bar, lounge and bbq area and the beach is right next door. The host is known to be exceptionally friendly, even taking guests on tours or dropping them off at the pier on departure day.
- Extremely helpful staff
- Breakfast included
- Very comfortable beds
- Beach nearby
Single room starts at $20 per night
Located on a hill, this hotel offers amazing sea views from your private balcony and room. The outdoor pool is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a drink from the on-site bar. The restaurant offers a variety of western and Thai food to choose from. This hotel is the perfect getaway for rest, relaxation and rejuvenation.
- Swimming pool
- Stunning sea views
- On-site restaurant & bar
- Extremely clean, luxury hotel
Private rooms start at $33
These beautiful beachfront bungalows, located at the Bophut area of Koh Samui, are an absolute luxury! Relish in the privacy these bungalows offer while still being just steps from the beach. There is an on-site swimming pool, bar, beachfront restaurant and a lovely terrace for guests to enjoy. Soak up the luxury, stunning views and comforts this resort has to offer.
- Swimming pool
- On-site bar and restaurant
- Private bungalow
Private bungalows start at $46
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