About Koh Samui
Koh Samui is one of Thailand‘s most famous islands, known for its stunning beaches and vibrant nightlife.
From relaxing on pristine sandy beaches to exploring waterfalls, indulging in delicious Thai cuisine, and temple hopping, Koh Samui offers something to do for everyone.
With its luxurious resorts and vibrant nightlife, Koh Samui has become a popular destination for both tourists seeking relaxation and those going out to party.
Koh Samui is the biggest island in the Gulf of Thailand and is considerably bigger than the other famous islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.
Koh Samui Travel Tips
Before we jump into the top things to do in Koh Samui, let’s cover the travel essentials and tips to help you have a more fun, enjoyable, and safer trip to Koh Samui and Thailand.
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We have compiled a Koh Samui Travel Map, which you can refer to when exploring.
Top things to do in Koh Samui
While it’s true that it’s not the most exciting or fascinating island in Thailand, Koh Samui is still worth visiting and offers many things to do.
1. Visit Ang Thong Marine Park
The best thing to do in Koh Samui is undoubtedly the trip to Ang Thong Marine Park, a stunning archipelago of 42 beautiful small islands covered with dense jungle and lined with stunning white sand beaches.
With activities like kayaking, hiking, swimming, and snorkeling, this picturesque marine park has no shortage of things to do.
But the highlight of Ang Thong Marine Park is, without question, the panoramic viewpoint, one of Thailand’s best viewpoints!
We made our trip even more special by booking an Ang Thong shared sailing boat trip. While getting to the marine park takes longer on a bigger boat, the trip is much more comfortable and relaxing than a speedboat.
The boat was spacious enough for everyone, even while fully booked, the food was absolutely delicious, the staff was lovely, and the day was planned really well.
⭐ ANG THONG DISCOVERY CRUISE
Best Ang Thong Marine Park trips from Koh Samui:
- Ang Thong National Marine Park Day Trip by Speedboat
- Ang Thong Full-day Kayaking and Snorkeling Tour
- Ang Thong Semi-private Sunset Cruise
- Ang Thong Private Yacht Full-Day
- Ang Thong Private Speedboat trip
2. Relax on the beach
One of the top things to do in Koh Samui is to relax on one of the many beaches the island has to offer.
While Koh Samui does indeed have a nightlife scene for which it’s known, it still is a very chilled island and perfect for lazy beach days. And it’s one of the main reasons most travelers visit Koh Samui.
Best beaches in Koh Samui:
Most of the beaches in Koh Samui are developed, with accommodations, restaurants/bars, and sunbeds on them. However, you can still find some quiet corners on almost all the beaches.
Best beachfront resorts in Koh Samui
If you prefer swimming and deeper water, you’ll love Lamai, Maenam, and Chaweng Noi beaches, which are generally the best choices on Koh Samui.
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3. Go snorkeling
While Koh Samui doesn’t have as fantastic snorkeling spots as Koh Tao or Koh Phangan, it still offers some nice snorkeling opportunities.
And even though the coral reef might not be as beautiful as elsewhere, there are quite a few fish that you can observe underwater. Just rent a snorkel and have fun!
Best snorkeling spots in Koh Samui:
- Silver beach
- Coral beach
These beaches are perfect as they’re shallow and located in small bays surrounded by many rocks.
But for the best snorkeling experience in the Gulf of Thailand, head to Koh Tao, where you snorkel off the beach around great corals and spot numerous fish and possibly even sharks and turtles.
4. Visit Big Buddha
The temple most worth visiting in Koh Samui is Wat Phra Yai, also known as Big Buddha, a 12 meters high golden Buddha situated on a small rocky island.
While it’s not as impressive as the Big Buddha in Phuket, it’s still worth checking out!
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And if you plan to visit the main Koh Samui attractions on tour, It’s also included in most tour itineraries.
OPENING HOURS AND TICKETS
Big Buddha in Koh Samui is open every day from 7 am until 6:30 pm, and entry is free of charge.
Big Buddha is also famous because the planes landing and taking off in Koh Samui fly directly above the temple!
Therefore, it’s also strictly forbidden to drone in that area.
5. Visit Wat Plai Laem
Wat Plai Laem is a unique Buddhist temple that combines elements of Chinese and Thai traditions, and its main attraction is the statue of Guanyin with eighteen arms.
Wat Plai Laem is close to the Big Buddha temple, so we recommend visiting these two together.
Besides Guanyin, there’s also a white Buddha statue, the main temple Wat Plai Laem and a few smaller shrines in the complex.
OPENING HOURS AND TICKETS
Visit to Wat Plai Laem in Koh Samui is free of charge, and the temple is open from 6 am to 6 pm.
6. Cruise to Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan
Another great trip from Koh Samui is the cruise to Koh Tao and the neighboring Koh Nang Yuan, offering excellent snorkeling spots and beaches.
And there’s even a specialized snorkeling tour that takes you around some of Koh Tao’s best snorkeling spots from Koh Samui.
Best cruises to Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan from Koh Samui:
⭐ KOH TAO AND KOH NANG YUAN
7. Cruise around Koh Phangan
Another great way to spend a day is to go on a cruise to nearby Koh Phangan island and enjoy a delicious lunch, relax on beautiful beaches, and snorkel around pristine waters.
Best cruises to Koh Phangan from Koh Samui:
⭐ KOH PHANGAN CRUISE
8. Go diving
Koh Samui is an excellent starting point for diving adventures due to its convenient location close to stunning dive sites.
Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a beginner looking to explore the underwater world, Koh Samui offers an array of dive sites that will leave you in awe.
Best diving trips in Koh Samui:
- 2-Dive trip to world-class Sail Rock
- 2-Dive trip to Koh Tao
- 2-Dive trip to Chumphon Pinnacle
- 2 Days Diving Trip to Koh Tao Including 4 Dives and Accommodation
⭐ TOP DIVING TRIPS
Best diving courses in Koh Samui:
Best diving trips for non-certified divers in Koh Samui:
DISCOVER SCUBA DIVING
9. Admire Koh Samui from the many viewpoints
Koh Samui has many excellent viewpoints where you can enjoy fantastic island views.
Best Koh Samui viewpoints:
Lad Koh is a roadside viewpoint you’ll most likely pass by while exploring Koh Samui and traveling between Chaweng and Lamai. It’s a free viewpoint, and you can even walk down to the water.
As we drove around Koh Samui, we stopped at the Laem Yai Viewpoint on a hill close to the Four Seasons Resort.
If you plan to visit Maenam Beach, driving to the Maenam viewpoint is worth it as you can see the whole beach from a bit higher ground. It’s only a short walk up some stairs, so it won’t take long.
The best viewpoint in Koh Samui was, without a doubt, the Overlap Stone. However, they made changes to the area in early 2023, and now it’s not as photogenic as before. So don’t expect it to look like those photos you might have seen on Instagram.
Also, the entrance fee for the Overlap Stone in Koh Samui in 2023 is 200 THB per person, about 6 USD, as much as for some national parks.
We drove up to the entrance but decided not to visit. If you’re looking for alternatives, a few viewpoints in the area are cheaper and less visited, like the so-called Overlap Stone 2.
10. Dip in the waterfalls
Another great thing to do in Koh Samui during the rainy season is visiting and dipping in the many waterfalls.
And waterfalls on Koh Samui usually require at least a short hike through the jungle, which is what we love.
Best waterfalls in Koh Samui:
However, the waterfalls on Koh Samui are only worth visiting during the rainy season, from September to November, or if it recently rained a lot. In the dry season, visiting the waterfalls in Koh Samui is not recommended, as there will hardly be any water.
As we visited Koh Samui in April and May, when it hadn’t rained for weeks, we decided to skip them.
Ask locals or check recent Google reviews to see if visiting the waterfalls during your stay in Koh Samui is worth it.
At some of the waterfalls in Koh Samui, you may find people offering unethical animal entertainment, especially involving elephants.
Please remember: It’s never okay to ride or bathe the elephants or touch any other wild animal. Especially not in tourist places like this!
11. Go on a day trip to Pig Island
Koh Mat Sum, better known as Pig Island, is a small island just off the coast of Koh Samui, famous for the pigs that live on the island.
The pigs on Koh Mat Sum are not wild and live in the island restaurant area. And the island’s biggest attraction is to buy pig food and feed them.
The beach at Pig Island isn’t that bad, but you might occasionally see the pigs go into the sea. We just saw one run in the water to poop and pee. 🙈
You can easily visit Koh Mat Sum by booking a long-tail boat at Thong Krut Pier, or you can book the Pig Island and Coral Island Small-Group Tour online.
We were on the Pig Island and Coral Island Tour, which also included some snorkeling and kayaking.
While it wasn’t the most exciting tour we did, it’s worth it if you have extra time and don’t know what more to do on the island.
The Pig Island didn’t really impress us, but many people seem to love it, so we decided to include it in this list.
⭐ PIG ISLAND TOUR
12. Check out other Koh Samui temples
Besides the main temples, Koh Samui has a few smaller temples worth checking out, especially as they’re not big and don’t require much time to visit.
You’ll most likely pass some of these temples while driving around Koh Samui, so it’s worth making a short stop if you have the time.
Other temples in Koh Samui:
Some temples like Guan-Yu Shrine and Wat Khunaram are also part of the Samui highlights tour.
While you’re in Chaweng or if you fly into Samui Airport, you’ll notice the golden chedi of the Hua Jook Pagoda located on a small hill right beside the airport. You have a nice view of the airport runway from the top of the pagoda.
And the weirdest temple in Koh Samui is definitely Wat Khunaram, which displays a mummified monk, Luang Pho Daeng, who died in 1973. He wished to have his body displayed as a reminder of the transience of human existence.
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13. Watch the sunset
One of the best things to do on tropical islands like Koh Samui is, of course, to watch the amazing sunsets.
Below are our recommendations for watching the sunset on Koh Samui.
Sunset at Cape Away Beach Bar
Cape Away Beach Bar, located on Bang Por Beach, is an excellent spot for watching the sunset in Koh Samui. It’s on the north side and easily reachable from Chaweng.
The bar has a small entrance/parking fee, but if you plan to stay for drinks or a meal, the fee gets discounted from the final price. The bar is located at the far end of Bang Por Beach and has a lovely small bay just to itself.
The beach and the bar look stunning, and there are chairs inside the bar and nice loungers on the beach.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t enjoy it ourselves as one afternoon we were only passing by, and the next day when we went for the sunset, it was very cloudy, so we don’t have any photos. If you do go, feel free to send us some photos! 😁
Don’t miss this spot on your visit to Koh Samui! Just check the photos on Google Maps, gorgeous spot!
Sunset at Lipa Noi Beach
One of the best beaches to watch the sunset in Koh Samui is Lipa Noi Beach, which is much less developed than other beaches.
Sunset at Nathon Beach
Nathon Beach can also be an excellent choice for a sunset, but depending on the time of the year, the water level can drop very low or literally disappear from the beach.
During our time in Koh Samui, Nathon Beach had almost no water in sight in the afternoons.
14. Eat and drink at the night markets
Koh Samui has quite a few night markets in almost every main touristic area that you can visit to enjoy street food or buy souvenirs, clothes, and similar.
Koh Samui’s best night markets:
- Fisherman´s Village Night Market in Bophut
- Lamai Night Market
- Chaweng Night Market
- Si Khao Night Market (smaller, cheaper, more locals)
15. Join a cooking class
If you’re looking to learn more about Thai cuisine, then a cooking class in Koh Samui is the perfect way to do it!
Learn how to cook delicious and authentic Thai food so that you can cook these delicious dishes at home.
Not only will you learn about the essential ingredients and techniques used in traditional Thai cooking, but you’ll also get to taste some of Thailand’s most delicious dishes.
Best cooking classes in Koh Samui:
- Thai Cooking Class & Organic Micro Farm Experience
- Koh Samui Jungle Kitchen Cooking Class
- Thai Cooking Class with Local Market Tour
- Small Group Cooking Class with Local Market Tour
⭐ TOP COOKING CLASSES
16. Learn Muay Thai
Muay Thai is one of the most effective martial arts practiced in Thailand for centuries. And while its home is in Thailand, it has become one of the most popular fighting styles in the world.
You can find Muay Thai gyms in every city and town in Thailand, and Koh Samui is no exception.
It offers various gyms, classes, and workshops for all experience levels – from beginners to advanced fighters.
Whether you are looking for an introduction to the sport, self-defense training, or just want to get fitter, Koh Samui has got you covered!
Options for learning about Muay Thai in Koh Samui:
- Muay Thai Beginner Class
- Muay Thai Advanced Class
- Muay Thai Private Lesson
- Muay Thai Private Group Lesson
- Watch a Muay Thai match at Phetchbuncha Boxing Stadium
LEARN MUAY THAI
17. Charter a yacht
Enjoy the waters around Koh Samui and nearby islands on a private yacht with your very own skipper and hostess, ensuring a luxurious and personalized experience throughout your journey.
Koh Samui Private yacht charter trip options:
- Ang Thong Marine Park
- Sunset trip
- Day trip around Koh Samui and Koh Phangan
- Half-day trip to Koh Phangan
Extra Koh Samui Tours and Activities
- Koh Samui ATV Quad Tour
- 4WD Wild Jungle Safari Tour with Lunch
- Private Beach Picnic
- Sunrise & Sunset Stand-Up Paddleboarding
- Herbal Spa Experience
- Koh Samui Footgolf & Botanical Gardens
- Full Moon Party Return Transport Tickets
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Best time to visit Koh Samui
The best time to visit Koh Samui is between December and April, when the weather is the most stable.
Koh Samui generally has three main seasons; dry, hot, and rainy (monsoon). The dry season lasts from December until March, and the hot season between March and August, with June being the hottest month.
The rainy (monsoon) season in Koh Samui lasts from September until November, with November being the wettest month.
When the rainy season starts in September, the weather gets more mixed, and the sea can get a bit more wavy, but it’s still a good time to visit.
We visited Koh Samui in April and May, and we mainly had lovely weather with almost no rain.
However, in mid-April, Koh Samui, like many other parts of Thailand, can be affected by the burning in the north when the visibility on the island becomes terrible, and it is constantly hazy. And this haze can stick around for a good week or two. Though it depends on the year.
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Where to stay in Koh Samui
From luxurious beachfront resorts to cozy guesthouses, Koh Samui offers various choices to suit every traveler’s preferences and budget.
Best beachfront resorts on Koh Samui
- Centara Reserve Samui
- Vana Belle Resort
- SALA Samui Beach Resort
- Four Seasons Resort
- Banana Fan Sea Resort
Top-rated hotels on Koh Samui
Top-rated hostels on Koh Samui
Where to eat in Koh Samui
Koh Samui is known for being quite westernized, making it slightly more challenging to find authentic local cuisine than in other famous tourist destinations across Thailand.
Still, the island offers many food options, from western restaurants to various other Asian restaurants.
Our restaurant recommendations for Chaweng, Koh Samui:
- The Hungry Wolf (amazing burgers, burritos, pasta, pizza)
- Tandoori Palace (Indian)
- Pena Vegetarian & Vegan (Thai and Western)
- Tam Zab Saeb Daak (local Thai)
- Isaan Restaurant (local Thai and Western)
We were also very lucky that a local Thai snack and dessert stall was located just a few minutes away from our Samui City Hotel.
They are usually open towards the evening and offer a variety of delicious Thai desserts, as well as some dishes like spring rolls and salad combos.
You can find them next to The red shoes shoe repair shop in Chaweng.
How to get to Koh Samui
Flying into Koh Samui airport
The only airline operating flights arriving at Koh Samui Airport is Bangkok Airways, mostly connecting Samui to Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai, as well as Singapore, Hong Kong, and some mainland Chinese cities.
Getting to Koh Samui from Koh Tao and Koh Phangan
There are frequent daily trips between Koh Samui and Koh Tao and Koh Phangan, from speedboats to ferries, that provide a fast and efficient way to travel between them.
Getting to Koh Samui from Bangkok by bus
You can also get to Koh Samui from Bangkok with a combined transfer of a bus and then a ferry.
This is how we got to Koh Samui on our first visit, and the bus ride was actually pretty decent.
Getting to Koh Samui from Bangkok by train
To get to Koh Samui by train, you must disembark at the Surat Thani train station and then catch a transfer to the island.
You can book a combo train + van transfer from Bangkok or organize it by booking a train to Surat Thani and a van transfer from Surat Thani train station.
Getting to Koh Samui from Phuket, Krabi, Phi Phi, and Koh Lanta
It’s easy to get to Koh Samui from south destinations like Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Lanta with a combined transfer of a van/bus and then the ferry across.
Coming to Koh Samui by car
Car ferries are running between the mainland in Surat Thani and Koh Samui, so it’s very convenient to also come to Koh Samui with your car.
How to get around Koh Samui
The best way to get around Koh Samui is by renting a motorbike or a car. Otherwise, you can use the local taxis or Songthaews (shared pick-up trucks) to go around the island.
For those staying in Chaweng or nearby, we highly recommend renting a bike from Hakuna Matata or Samui One. We rented bikes from both and were satisfied with the quality of the bikes and customer service. They can likely also deliver the bike to other places around the island (check beforehand).
Otherwise, most towns have at least one motorbike rental shop, and if not, simply ask around at your hotel/resort reception.
Koh Samui is big enough that it makes sense to rent a car on your visit.
Another convenient option for getting around Koh Samui is with a Private Car/Minibus Rental with Driver.
Taxi and ride-hailing
Grab (Uber) is available in Koh Samui, but there are few drivers most of the time, and the prices are pretty high. Grab is likely the same price as regular taxis, as the prices are set like that.
Regular taxis are available throughout Koh Samui but are more expensive than in other Thai destinations, and they won’t use a meter but rather a fixed, agreed-upon price.
For checking out the main attractions in Koh Samui, you can join a daily Koh Samui tour.
Best Koh Samui sightseeing tours:
- Top Sights of Samui City Tour
- Koh Samui Sightseeing Tour by Minivan
- Private Customized Tour with Driver in Koh Samui
- Koh Samui Custom Sightseeing Tour with Private Guide
How many days to spend in Koh Samui?
You should spend at least 3 days in Koh Samui to see the island’s main highlights, and do at least one day trip and relax on the beaches.
Anything over three days will give you more time to have a more relaxed schedule or do extra activities.
However, if you’re not coming on a long vacation to Koh Samui but are only passing by, don’t spend too much time on the island, as the neighboring Koh Phangan and Koh Tao offer so much more to do.
Is Koh Samui a safe destination?
Like all of Thailand, Koh Samui is a safe destination for all travelers, including women and solo travelers.
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Is Koh Samui worth visiting?
Koh Samui is worth visiting if you’re looking for a relaxing vacation and are ready to splurge on a nice accommodation close to one of the beaches.
While it’s very popular with families and vacationers, don’t expect Koh Samui to be super quiet, as it’s quite touristic.
People often have a love-hate relationship with Koh Samui; some love it, while others don’t. It’s also not the most exciting place for backpackers and those traveling through Thailand, visiting the most famous spots.
However, we think Koh Samui can be great for digital nomads as it’s a very comfortable island with everything you might need.
And if you’re looking for an extended stay on a tropical island in more comfortable accommodation, Koh Samui is the better choice out of the nearby islands.
We actually stayed in Koh Samui for about 3 weeks, and we loved our stay at Samui City Hotel, which was conveniently located, with a great pool and even a gym. Definitely worth checking out for digital nomads.
But to be completely honest, it’s our least favorite island of the three (Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui), and we would much rather spend time on the others.
However, it’s still one of Thailand’s most famous islands, and it does offer a bunch of cool things to do. And if you love lazing on the beach, snorkeling, and diving, you can have an amazing time there!
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