White palm-fringed beaches, luxury resorts, Big Buddha statue, waterfalls, culture, bustling nightlife, island hopping, great shopping, Muay Thai Boxing, yoga and spa, Michelin-starred restaurants, tasty Thai cuisine, Koh Samui has it all.
Whether you are staying for a few nights or a few weeks, Feet Do Travel share 7 reasons why you should visit Koh Samui, Thailand.
Koh Samui is an easy island to reach, especially if you fly into Bangkok. I visited as a backpacker so did the quintessential Thailand backpacker route of catching the overnight train from Bangkok to Surat Thani, then a ferry from Surat Thani over to Na Thon port on Koh Samui. The overnight train is comfortable and affordable, but the air conditioning is a too cold for me so I recommend taking a fleece and trousers. Alternative travel options are listed at the bottom of this post.
I spent three weeks on Koh Samui, but was only supposed to be here a few days. It has much to offer so time passed quickly, and I feel I did most of what there was to see and do on the island. A small island, it only takes about an hour to drive all the way around, so you can easily fit in a few activities in one day. Here are my top picks of things to do in Koh Samui.
Koh Samui has an abundance of beautiful palm-fringed beaches, all you have to do is decide which one is right for you.
Chaweng is the biggest and most popular. During the day you can soak up the sun on its 3km long sandy stretch, and order a fresh pineapple from one of the beach sellers. For shopaholics, you will find many souvenir shops lining the beachfront.
With the best variety of pubs and clubs, stay on Chaweng after sunset to enjoy the bustling nightlife. The Green Mango is a huge open air space with multiple bars and has a proper party atmosphere. For a more chilled vibe, the Reggae Bar has snooker tables, an open air dance floor, seating arrangement, snack bar and tables overlooking the water which provides a refreshing breeze.
I stayed in Lamai which is around 30 minutes away from Chaweng. Although Lamai Beach is the second most popular place on the island, it is quieter but still has plenty of shops, bars and restaurants.
At the end of Lamai beach are the “famous” naughty shaped rocks. Hin Ta (Grandfather) and Hin Yai (Grandmother) sort of resemble male and female genitalia, and are worth visiting for a giggle.
Next to the Grandfather and Grandmother rock is Lamai Viewpoint, one of the best viewpoints in the whole of Koh Samui. The views are stunning so if you are in this area, definitely take the time to check it out.
A paradise island isn’t paradise without a waterfall! Located in jungle surroundings are the waterfalls Na Muang 1 and Na Muang 2 which are both easy to reach. After a small trek, you will be rewarded with a refreshing dip in Na Muang 1, and 30 minutes further uphill is Na Muang 2.
Be a responsible tourist – DO NOT RIDE THE ELEPHANTS. There is an elephant park here and they are subjected to a life of torture just so you can ride them. Do not contribute to animal abuse for the sake of a selfie.
One of the top things to do in Koh Samui is visit Wat Prah Yai or “Big Buddha”.
Built in 1972, the island’s star attraction is located on Bang Rak beach. Big Buddha is a 12 metre (40ft) tall golden statue, which can be seen from all over the North of the island. It’s reached by climbing a set of steps flanked by mythical serpents. When you reach the top it provides stunning views of the turquoise ocean.
It is definitely worth taking a day trip out of your beach holiday to visit this area, and if seeing a mummified Buddhist monk is on your bucket list, Wat Khunaram is nearby.
NOTE: This is an active religious temple, so please dress respectfully by covering your knees and shoulders, even if it’s with a sarong.
Koh Samui is close to two other popular islands, so it’s easy to catch a ferry for a day trip, or to island hop and stay longer.
Koh Tao or “turtle island” is one of the world’s most famous and cheapest places to learn to scuba dive. This is the smallest of the three islands, and has many beautiful beaches. Mango Bay is the most popular for day trips from Koh Samui and is a good place for snorkelling if you didn’t want to learn to dive but still wish to see colourful reef fish.
Koh Phangan is most famous for its hedonistic Full Moon Party at Haad Rin's Sunrise Beach, where revellers can drink buckets of vodka redbull, and dance from sunset to sunrise. If you aren’t in Koh Samui for the full moon, look out for half moon and black moon parties – yes this island has it all!
Ang Thong Marine Park is a beautiful day trip from Koh Samui. An archipelago of 42 islands with towering limestone mountain, the main activities to be enjoyed are snorkelling, hiking, sea kayaking, sailing or you can relax on one of its beaches.
The Emerald Lake will be the highlight of your trip, but the whole area is lovely and peaceful. For lunch, I stopped at a white sand island where palm trees lined the beach, it was perfect.
If you want to experience Thai Culture, there are a couple of options.
Small amateur Muay Thai boxing fights are held in some bars with both male and female participants. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big or small fight, traditional rituals are followed before each match. I have been to a few Thai Boxing Matches in Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Koh Samui, and believe this is an excellent way of immersing yourself into the culture.
If Thai Boxing isn’t for you, how about watching traditional Thai Dancing? I watched a show on ladies’ night and enjoyed half price cocktails during the show. Traditional Thai dancing involves graceful girls and sometimes ladyboys wearing exquisitely embroidered costumes, dancing in a slow, precise and delicate manner.
Speaking of ladyboys, Cabaret shows are huge in Thailand and can be found everywhere. You haven’t been to Thailand if you haven’t been to a Cabaret, and who doesn’t want an evening’s entertainment of singing, dancing and laughter when you’re on holiday!
Please be a responsible and sustainable tourist and DO NOT VISIT Samui Snake Farm, the Crocodille show, Samui Aquarium & Tiger Zoo, and as mentioned do not do an elephant trek. I visited Koh Samui a few years ago and I cannot believe these places still exist after everything the world knows about the cruelty these animals suffer for the sake of tourists! Visiting one of these attractions is contributing to ANIMAL ABUSE.
How to get to Koh Samui
There are a number of ways you can reach Koh Samui depending on your time, budget or sense of adventure. For your convenience, I recommend you book in advance online with Bookaway
Fly: Koh Samui has a small airport so if you are short for time, catch a domestic flight from Bangkok, Phuket or Chiang Mai.
Train and ferry: An overnight train from Bangkok to Surat Thani then a ferry to Koh Samui is a popular and easy trip to make. Night trains in Thailand are comfortable and reliable, but be sure to wear a jumper because the air con gets pretty cold!
Bus and ferry: If you have time and are on a tight budget, this is the cheapest option.
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