Let’s head to the Gulf of Thailand to explore the beautiful island of Koh Samui! I’d been hearing about it for quite some time but I didn’t really know what to expect when I went there. The great thing about Koh Samui is that the island is quite big (the second biggest in Thailand after Phuket actually) so I figured. I’d certainly find enjoyable activities to do there.
And indeed I was glad to find out that Koh Samui offered a wide range of activities. You can relax on its beautiful beaches, party until the crack of dawn, hike, discover the local culture, try great local dishes, and so on.
This blog post is my take on the things (14 of them) not to miss out on in Koh Samui. First, let me give you some advice on how to get to Koh Samui and where to book your hotel.
Let’s get right into this! 🙂
How To Get To Koh Samui
There are two major means of transportation to get to Koh Samui. The fastest and most convenient is to fly from Bangkok, Chiang Mai or another major city in Thailand. I took a domestic flight from Bangkok that took a little less than an hour.
Although it takes more time, the other cheaper option is to go first to Surat Thani (by plane or train) and then take a ferry to Koh Samui. FYI, the ferry trip takes a little less than 2 hours.
As far as transportation in Koh Samui is concerned, you can take taxis which aren’t that cheap but still cost cheaper than in Europe. To give you an example, a transfer from the airport to Chaweng costs about 400 baths or about $13. Alternatively, you can also rent a scooter for the negotiated price of 200 baths a day or about $7.
Where To Stay In Koh Samui
The island is quite large so it is important to choose the location of your hotel according to your plans and convenience. If you want to stay in a central area with a festive atmosphere, you will have to opt for Chaweng Beach. If you’re traveling with a partner or with family and are looking for a quieter place to stay, then Lamai Beach will be a better choice. If, like me, you’re into “chill” and hippie atmospheres, then get closer to Bophut Beach.
Once you decide where you want to stay, check out these hotel recommendations for each mentioned area.
Chaweng Beach – Banana Fan Sea
The Banana Fan Sea hotel is located in the southern region of Chaweng so you’ll be staying in a quiet area while still being close to the main attractions of the region. The Banana Fan Sea is a seaside hotel so you’ll be able to swim in the sea as well as in the superb swimming pool of the hotel.
Lamai Beach – Beluga Boutique Hotel
The Beluga is a charming boutique hotel located south of Lamai Beach. There you will find everything you need for a relaxing stay. It is also right next to the Hin Ta and Hin Yai rocks which I’ll talk about below.
Bophut – Peace Resort
In the Bophut region, you can stay at the superb Peace Resort. The beach is great and the resort offers really beautiful bungalows. I find it not that expensive considering the luxurious accommodation it offers.
What To Do In Koh Samui – 14 Must-Try Activities!
Travel tips and good addresses aside, here are the 14 places I liked best on Koh Samui! Below is the complete list with a map to locate all the places I’ll be talking about. We’ll go over each of them next.
- Chaweng beach
- The Big Buddha
- Wat Plai Laem
- Bangrak Market
- Samrong Beach
- The fishing village of Bophut
- Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park
- Silver Beach, Crystal Bay
- Lamai Beach
- Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks
- The Chinese shrine of Guan Yu
- Namuang Waterfalls
- The Secret Buddha Garden (Tarnim & Magic Garden)
- Nikki Beach
1. Chaweng Beach
Chaweng Beach is central to Koh Samui, so to speak, certainly not geographically but rather in terms of population density. Chaweng is the largest city on the island and also has the largest beach I think. So tourism in Samui started on Chaweng Beach which gradually became the most crowded beach on the island.
Chaweng Beach has many shops, hotels, and restaurants. It is also the liveliest area of Koh Samui. If you are going to Thailand to party, you should love it. FYI, one of the most popular bars in Chaweng is the beachfront Ark Bar. It gets crazy until 2 AM but the party goes on at the Green Mango if you’re up for it. 🙂
Even though Chaweng is a popular beach, it is still a beautiful spot with fine sand and crystal clear water. A must when visiting Koh Samui Island.
2. The Big Buddha
If you want to know more about Koh Samui’s culture, the Big Buddha should be on top of your list. The official name of this temple is Wat Phra Yai and it is situated northeast of the island. Access is free so you can admire the magnificent 12-meter high golden Buddha statue free of charge.
Behind the Buddha’s head, you will notice a sort of halo which is, in fact, a wheel. It is the Wheel of Karma and is one of the most important symbols in Buddhism. It symbolizes the idea that all our actions have consequences and therefore karmic justice should be expected.
3. Wat Plai Laem
If you want to explore another Buddhist temple in Koh Samui, go to Wat Plai Laem! It is a 15-minute walk from the Great Buddha statue. As you can see, there is a lot of Chinese influence in the structure of this temple. The statue in the picture above is not Buddha but Budai who is a highly revered Chinese monk.
And as for the statue that has 18 arms, it is Guanyin, the goddess of compassion and mercy in the pantheon of Chinese Buddhism.
4. Bangrak Market
We’re still in the same region of Koh Samui where you can visit the Bangrak market. Freshly caught fish, as well as many fruits and vegetables, are sold there.
If you go there in the evening, and for only a few bucks, you can get a taste of the local dishes in the small bar in front of the market.
5. Samrong Beach
If you want to relax on a beautiful uncrowded beach, head to Samrong, towards the northeast of the island. If you’re planning to go there in the afternoon, I recommend going to another nearby beach to enjoy the most memorable of sunsets! This beach is located here and is a bit difficult to access but as you can see in the picture below, it’s worth it. 🙂
By the way, for more beach recommendations in Koh Samui, feel free to check out this blog post: Best Beaches in Koh Samui.
6. The Bophut Fisherman’s Village
The village of Bophut was definitely one of my favorite places in Koh Samui. I spent a couple of weeks there while I was in Koh Samui. As a fisherman’s village, I expected to come across many fishermen during my stay.
But the name comes from the fact that several Chinese fishermen immigrated to this village during the 19th century. Several families in Bophut are direct descendants of those fishermen and that’s how the village’s name came about.
What’s so special about the village of Bophut? Mainly the very relaxed atmosphere but also its beautiful beach. It reminded me a bit of Canggu in Bali.
If you’re looking for nice beach bars and restaurants, get down to Coco Tam’s, this blog post was born there! You can try their great fusion cuisine and enjoy the beachfront setting. There’s a great atmosphere both day and night at Coco Tam’s.
I highly recommend La Cantina if you’re looking for a good restaurant. This one serves delicious Mexican food. A wonderful sea view will accompany you while you enjoy your meal.
A friend of mine and I had chicken fajitas, roasted camembert and some more roasted chicken with a Martini and a Mojito to wash it all down with. A treat!
By the way, La Cantina is run by a very nice Frenchman who goes by the name Tato (meaning big eyes in Thai). If you go there, say hi to Tato for me, please! 🙂
7. Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park
In the mood for a mindblowing boat tour? This is a tour that will take you to the magnificent Mu Ko Ang Thong Marine Park, more commonly known as Ang Thong. This is actually a group of really beautiful small islands that are located west of Koh Samui.
A car will first pick you up from your hotel and drive you to the harbor.
You will then make several stops on some of Ang Thong’s islands and you will be given enough time to visit the surrounding area. However, make sure to stick to the scheduled departure times so as not to keep your group waiting.
I don’t think you need a detailed description of the tour, so I’ll leave it to you to discover the rest of it. In any case, keep in mind the tour includes a kayak tour, lunch, and a great snorkeling session.
To book this tour, you can buy your tickets online ahead of time (recommended option) or at a travel agency in Koh Samui.
8. Silver Beach In Crystal Bay
If you ask me, the most beautiful beach in Koh Samui would probably Silver Beach. It is located just north of Lamai, in Crystal Bay (about the bay’s clear water). I remember it was the first beach I visited in Koh Samui and when I got in the water and saw the beautiful mountains surrounding the bay, I remember thinking, how beautiful is all of this! 😀
By the way, if you want to have lunch with a breathtaking view of Crystal Bay, you can go to the restaurant called The Cliff which, as its name suggests, is located on a cliff overlooking the bay. It serves excellent Mediterranean cuisine!
9. Lamai Beach
Lamai Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Koh Samui. The atmosphere is calm and relaxing and the beach is mostly visited by couples and families with children. It has lots of shops and is a convenient starting point to visit the attractions in the south of the island. As far as nightlife is concerned, there are of course a few bars and good restaurants, but it is still a bit less popular, especially compared to Chaweng.
And if you really want to relax in Lamai Beach, you can also book this amazing Yoga Retreat.
10. The Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks
Going down south from Chaweng Beach, you will come to a rocky point where the famous Hin Ta and Hin Yai rocks are found. Hin Ta and Hin Yai literally mean granny and grandpa’s rocks. It’s actually about two rocks that have quite suggestive shapes. This is Grandma’s rock:
And this is Grandpa’s rock, still very much in shape as you can see! 😀
This place is fun and the view is great so I really recommend you visit it. And don’t hesitate to have some coconut ice cream at the entrance, just thinking about it is mouth-watering!
11. The Guan Yu Chinese Shrine
On my way back to Lamai one evening, I came across this huge statue representing Guan Yu, a Chinese warlord. The statue is made of bronze and is 16 meters tall. There’s also a small (although slowly expanding) Chinatown in front of the temple.
12. Namuang Waterfalls
In the mountains of the south of the island, you can visit the beautiful waterfalls of Namuang. They are accessible quite easily by motorbike or car. You will have to walk for about 10 more minutes and you’ve reached the waterfalls. Many people swim at the foot of these waterfalls so don’t hesitate to jump in if you like.
13. The Secret Buddha Garden (Tarnim & Magic Garden)
This garden is one of the most beautiful places I have visited in Koh Samui! Nestled in the heights of the south of the island, it has a really pleasant atmosphere and good vibes. I understand why it is called the Magic Garden.
The garden is not part of a temple but is private property. It belongs to a farmer who made a fortune selling durian (the famous stinky fruit). The entrance costs 80 baths (~ $2) I think.
14. Nikki Beach
Let’s end our tour of the island of Koh Samui with even more relaxation in one of the trendiest beach clubs of the island. Nikki Beach is on the west coast of the island and I spent a really nice afternoon there. The setting is really great and since it is facing west, it has the dreamiest of sunsets!
Don’t I look tough? :p
Prices are of course a bit more expensive than in other bars. Food is still affordable but the wine is the most expensive (~$80 per bottle).
Don’t Miss The Night Markets
There are night markets four days a week in Koh Samui. They take place in different spots depending on the day of the week:
- Wednesday at Choeng Mon Beach
- Thursday at Maenam Beach
- Friday in the village of Bophut
- Sunday at Lamai beach
Night markets in Thailand have a really special atmosphere and Koh Samui is just as special. You can find a little bit of everything there, from clothes to souvenirs and local specialties. The atmosphere is always festive, so make sure to visit at least once during your stay. 🙂
Visit Koh Tao
That’s it for Koh Samui, people! But you should also visit its beautiful neighboring island, Koh Tao. People have been recommending it to me for quite some time now and when I got there, I immediately understood why. I tell you more about it in this dedicated blog post: Koh Tao Thailand.
I hope you liked this post about the island of Koh Samui. I spent a whole month there and I’ll surely go back regularly because I loved it.
If you have a question or a comment, leave it in the comments below. And even if you don’t, let me know if this blog post was helpful to you in any way, I’d really love to know! 😀
You can find also check out my best shots on Instagram.
See you soon for more adventures in Asia! 😉
PS: For more tips on Thailand, this is where it’s at: The Best Places To Visit In Thailand.