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Things to do in Koh Samui

Things to do in  Koh Samui

Welcome to Koh Samui

With its white-sand beaches hemmed in by coconut palms, private beach resorts reachable only by boat, and swathes of lush rainforest; Koh Samui comes as close to paradise as anywhere in Thailand. Marooned off the Gulf of Thailand coast and reachable by ferry from Chumphon and Surat Thani, Samui island is the largest of the Chumphon archipelago, and ranks second only to Phuket for the title of Thailand’s most visited island. On the east coast, Chaweng beach is the island’s party hub, lined with beach bars, nightclubs, and 5-star resorts, while Lamai Beach, Choeng Mon Beach, and Bophut offer more laid-back alternatives. Away from the beach, dramatic viewpoints abound, with highlights including Na Muang Waterfall, the Hin Ta and Hin Yai rocks, and the dazzling gold façade of Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai). The island also makes a popular basecamp for exploring the surrounding islands and speedboats plow the route between Koh Phangan, host of Thailand’s notorious Full Moon parties, and Koh Tao, a popular scuba diving and snorkeling spot. Off the west coast, a sea kayaking or snorkeling tour of Ang Thong National Marine Park—a cluster of jungle-clad islands, ringed by jagged rocks, sandy coves, and a rainbow of coral—is perhaps the most enchanting option for a day trip.

Top 13 attractions in Koh Samui

Ang Thong National Marine Park

The 42 karst islets of Ang Thong National Marine Park (Mu Koh Ang Thong) in southern Thailand comprise a picturesque seascape spanning more than 95 square miles (246 square kilometers). These limestone pinnacles harbor secluded powdery beaches, sheer cliffs, and caves, and are home to myriad birds, monkeys, dolphins, and other wildlife.More

Koh Tan (Koh Taen)

In stark contrast to its famed northerly neighbor, tiny and sleepy Koh Tan tempts visitors with empty beaches and vehicle-less roads just three miles and a 15-minute boat ride south of Koh Samui’s southern tip. Koh Tan (also spelled Koh Taen, Ko Taen, and Ko Tan) is sometimes also called Coral Island for its diversity of colorful hard and soft corals, and it often serves as a popular day-long escape for snorkel or kayak excursions through its clear inshore waters. Though the island doesn’t have quite the aquatic diversity of other more remote locations, it still affords excellent snorkeling, relatively empty beaches and navigable mangrove swamps all very close to a major tourist hub. Longboats make the crossing daily and usually stop at several unique coral spots around the island.On land, Koh Tan spans only three square miles, and its population barely tops 30 people; their rustic lifestyle with limited electricity affords a glimpse of what much of Thai Island-living was like decades ago. Koh Tan also has a thriving population of monitor lizards, a boardwalk through a mangrove forest, a quaint local temple, a handful of local restaurants and a cluster of bungalow-style accommodations.More

Wat Khunaram (Mummified Monk)

Koh Samui is known for its incredible beaches, turquoise waters and sandy shores. But hidden away from the coastal wonder lies one of the most unique temples in the nation—Wat Khunaram.While this gilded red and white temple may look typical to travelers who climb the dozen or so stairs that lead to its entryway, once inside, visitors will find a site unlike anywhere else. That’s because a vertical glass casket holds the mummified body of Loung Pordaeng—a famous monk—in his most meditative state. Locals say his meditation techniques, which required less oxygen than his peers—are responsible for his still well-preserved state. Visitors can come tour the site, learn about the life of this religious icon, and bear witness to local Buddhists praying at wat shrines.More

Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks (Hin Yai/Hin Ta)

Koh Samui’s Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks (also known as Hin Yai and Hin Ta are rocky outcrops located on Lamai Beach. The often-photographed, commented-upon, and giggled-about rock formations bear an uncanny resemblance to male and female genitalia, making them a must-see attraction for many tourists. Plus the rocks are set on a lovely stretch of beach and create tranquil tide pools.More

Na Muang Waterfall

Nestled among Koh Samui’s central mountains, the Na Muang Waterfall has two tiers: a lower stretch that’s easily reachable and falls into a lovely natural pool, and a higher tier that requires a 30-minute hike. The falls are set among lush jungle surroundings, and access to the site is free.More

Secret Buddha Garden (Magic Garden)

Deep in Koh Samui’s jungle-clad hills is the Secret Buddha Garden (Magic Garden), where a waterfall tumbles past stone sculptures of the Buddha. The oasis was created by local durian farmer Nim Thongsuk, whose tomb sits among the carvings of Buddhist spirits, musicians, and animals.More

Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai)

Apart from the beaches, Koh Samui’s most distinctive attraction is the golden Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai) visible above the red-tiled rooftops on the island’s north coast. The 40-foot (12-meter) Buddha statue can be seen from several miles away—even from a plane—and the site is an active place of worship.More

Butterfly Hill Samui

The tropical landscaped hillside grounds at Butterfly Hill in Koh Samui are home to hundreds of colorful butterflies, as well as insects, moths, and bees. Tropical flowers add to the exotic Garden of Eden-like setting, and picturesque views from its hilltop position showcase the island and the sea. Plus you can take a walk to a nearby waterfall to cool off.More

Aow Leuk Beach

Seclusion and solitude might be hard to find on Koh Tao, one of Thailand’s most popular islands, but on its southeastern side, between Sai Daeng Beach to the north and Tanote Beach to the south, lies the 65-foot-long (20-meter Aow Leuk Beach. This stretch of sand is slightly more remote so the large crowds stay away.More

Chaweng Beach

Chaweng Beach (Hat Chaweng is Koh Samui’s longest, and perhaps loveliest, beach. A clear blue-green sea, palm trees, coral reefs, and a lively nightlife scene come together to create a laid-back party vibe at Chaweng, the second-biggest resort hub on the island. Ideal for swimming and water sports, the 3-mile (5-kilometer crescent of white sand is bookended by rocky headlands.More

Lamai Beach

Lamai Beach vies with Chaweng Beach for the title of Koh Samui’s prettiest beach, especially along its less coral-strewn southern stretches. Less developed than Chaweng, and therefore more relaxed, Lamai offers year-round swimming, and boasts the granite rock formations known as Grandmother and Grandfather. As Lamai has grown in popularity, the backpacking crowd has been replaced with resort seekers.More

High Park Samui

Set on a hill in Chaweng, High Park Samui is a small water park with an adventure zone that also hosts regular pool parties and foam parties. Besides several pools, two large slides, two climbing walls, a zipline, a freefall vertical drop, and bumper-car drift racing, enjoy massages, sunset views, DJs, and food and drink.More
Samui Water Park Pink Elephant

Samui Water Park Pink Elephant

Samui Water Park Pink Elephant boasts an impressive 15 slides, including the Twister and Superbowl high slides. With a wave pool, lazy river, food and drink outlets, and Jacuzzis, it’s the island’s dominant water park. This family-friendly venue has plenty to offer younger children in particular.More
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Top activities in Koh Samui

2-Hour Koh Samui ATV Quad Tour

2-Hour Koh Samui ATV Quad Tour

Snorkeling & Island Hopping

Snorkeling & Island Hopping

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Private Half-Day Blue Dragon Yacht for Snorkeling Koh Tan & Visit Pig Island
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All about Koh Samui

When to visit

If you come to Koh Samui in the dry season (December through February), don’t expect to have the popular island’s sunny shores to yourself. While temperatures can climb beyond 85°F (19°C) in March through August’s hot season, it’s also the best time to snorkel, scuba dive, and do other water sports, with the highest visibility. The annual Songkran (Thai New Year) festivities in April will cool you down—it’s impossible to not get wet at the world-famous "water festival."

Getting around

At just 15 miles (25 kilometers) in length, Koh Samui is fairly compact, but heavy traffic and steep roads can make it tricky to travel far on foot. Songthaews (converted pickup trucks that act like shared taxis) ply the main roads and take you to all corners of the island. The quickest and cheapest option—especially if you can haggle—is to hop on the back of a motorbike taxi. Or, get your own wheels and rent a moped.

Traveler tips

Beachfront restaurant Krua Chao Baan is popular with locals as well as in-the-know travelers. Pair your brunch with fresh-from-the-tree coconut juice, and then take to the water for a paddle—kayaks are provided free of charge for diners. Or, if you need a change from all those 200-baht cocktails and Singha beers, head to Bee’s Knees, the only brewpub on the island, which serves European-style craft beers.

People Also Ask

Which side of Koh Samui is best?

Some of the most popular places to stay in Koh Samui include Chaweng Beach, Lamai Beach, and Chaoeng Mon along the east coast of the island, as well as Maenam Beach on the north shore. These towns boast some of the island’s best beaches, as well as being close to the airport.

What airport do you fly into for Koh Samui?

Samui International Airport (USM) is Koh Samui’s airport, located just north of Chaweng village on the island’s northeast coast. Flying is the quickest and easiest way to get to Koh Samui, with direct flights to Bangkok taking around 90 minutes. You can also fly direct from Chiang Mai, Krabi, Phuket, and Pattaya.

What is there to do in Koh Samui at night?

Chaweng is the buzzing epicenter of Koh Samui’s nightlife, filled with beach bars and nightclubs. Other fun things to do at night include attending a Muay Thai boxing match or a Thai cabaret, visiting Chaweng or Lamai night markets, or hopping over to Koh Phangan for the legendary Full Moon parties.

Can you island hop from Koh Samui?

Yes. Island-hopping tours are a popular choice for a day trip, exploring the many islands of the Ang Thong Marine Park or the small islands of Koh Mudsum and Koh Taen off the south coast of Koh Samui. Regular ferries also run to Koh Phangan (45 minutes) and Koh Tao (2 hours).

How many nights do you need in Koh Samui?

A minimum of three nights on Koh Samui are recommended to take in the highlights of the island, soak up the nightlife, and enjoy the beaches. However, many visitors opt to stay a week or more at one of the island’s beach resorts or use the island as a base for island-hopping tours.

What is the most beautiful beach in Koh Samui?

Silver Beach (Thongtakian) is one of Koh Samui’s most beautiful beaches, with pristine white sands and swaying palms. While Chaweng Beach and Lamai Beach are deserving of their popularity, some of the island’s most photogenic beaches include Bophut Beach, Maenam Beach, Thongson Bay, and Taling Ngam.


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