Island lovers, Koh Samui is the place to be for an island experience of a lifetime. Live your best island life on Thailand’s most popular island with plenty of unique things to do, try, and explore. From sandy white beaches to well-kept temples rich with religious artifacts, you will get the authentic Thailand cultural experience through Koh Samui without breaking the bank. Find everything you need to know in this ultimate Koh Samui travel guide.
Best of Koh Samui
As Thailand’s third largest island of 88.3 sq mi, Koh Samui is considered one of the most developed islands attracting millions of tourists annually. Known as a world-class island, it houses many luxury resorts perfect for a honeymoon getaway.
Koh Samui is relatively expensive compared to the other islands like Koh Phangan and Koh Tao but is also more accessible with a direct flight from Bangkok. For travelers on a budget, there are still many affordable activities to do and accommodations that will give you your needed rest.
Visit The Beautiful Thai Temples
No Thailand trip is complete without visiting the Thai temples rich with traditional architecture and design.
One of them is The Big Buddha Temple, located within Wat Phra Yai, which is an iconic landmark of Koh Samui. Walk up the temple steps and be in awe of the magnificent 12-meter-high golden Buddha statue. This is also a great viewpoint to see Koh Phangan from a distance.
Other unique temples worth a visit include Wat Khunam which is home to the famous Koh Samui’s Mummified Monk, the Red Temple (Wat Ratchathammaram), and the Lady Monk Temple. Read more about visiting the temples here.
Explore The Enchanted Secret Buddha Garden
The Secret Buddha Garden is also known as Tarnim Magic Garden. It is located on the highest peak of the island, so it requires a hike up or a 4×4 vehicle to take you there. Take a stroll around the garden and feel the energy of a magical forest.
Numerous carved statues of gods and goddesses are scattered around the area with a seemingly unique story to tell. The entrance fee is 80 Baht ($ 2).
Soak In The Waterfalls
One of the best attractions in Koh Samui is Na Muang Waterfall. This 80-meter waterfall is majestic on its own, with glistening and clear waters.
There are two waterfalls, the first waterfall is more accessible and more crowded. The second waterfall requires a short hike with slippery rocks but there is a nice photo spot with the rock pool for some peace of mind. The best time to visit is in December when the weather is sunny with minimal rainfall.
If you prefer a less crowded waterfall attraction, you can also visit Hin Lat Waterfall which has beautiful rock pools. It will take around 30 to 40 minutes to hike to this location but it is worth the trip to witness this natural beauty.
Explore Marine Life
Explore the underwater world at Mu Ko Ang Thong Marine Park. This national park consists of 42 limestone islands with gorgeous sceneries both above and under the water. Great for beginner and seasoned divers, you will find nudibranchs, snappers, sting rays, sea snakes, and yellowtail barracuda.
Koh Samui has multiple well-established dive centers that can connect you to the best dive sites rich with marine life. The waters are at a perfect temperature for snorkeling and scuba diving all year round.
Go For A Shopping Spree
Thailand is a shopaholic’s heaven, even for those who do not consider themselves one. The amount of affordable and high-quality items you can find in night markets, shopping malls, and shop lots will keep you on your toes for hours!
Most of the shopping experience takes place in Chaweng town. For a modernized, open-air shopping complex, head to Central Festival Samui. Not too far from the mall is Chaweng Beach Road where you can search for all your Koh Samui vacation beach gear. Lamai and Bophut town have some rare finds as well.
Find out more about the Koh Samui shopping experience here.
Interact With Koh Samui’s Elephants
If you are looking for exotic things to do, Koh Samui’s Elephant Jungle Sanctuary will offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience interacting with their elephant community. This ethical shelter takes in rescued elephants and you can tell these elephants are well-loved.
Riding the elephants is not allowed here. You can take a mud bath with them, shower, and touch these friendly elephants. The sanctuary has a scrumptious buffet so your heart and stomach will be full after the visit!
Hike For The Most Breathtaking Views
There are many steep routes in Koh Samui but only a few will reward you with breathtaking panoramic sceneries. Overlap Stone is a lesser-known attraction located that is at the pinnacle of a hill west of Lamai Beach.
You will need to pay an entrance fee of 50 baht ($ 1) as the location is on private property but the view is definitely worth the price. You may need to ask for directions as this route is difficult to access with a steep dirt track.
Not too far from Overlap Stone is another popular viewpoint called Lamai Viewpoint and Valentine Stone. This place is more accessible with a cable car (100 baht ($ 3) ) and zipline (800 baht ($ 22)) to take you both ways. You can also hike to the top. The entrance fee costs 100 baht ($ 3) with a small cafe and fish spa for you to relax at the top of the hill.
Look Out For Unique Rock Formations
Checking what rocks rock may not be everyone’s idea of fun but it is one activity that you need to tick off your bucket list.
There are a couple of rock formations worth snapping a picture of. The Grandfather And Grandmother Rock (Hin Ta Hin Yai) mainly because it has a phallic rock formation. These rocks are by the sea, which does make a picturesque view, especially during the sunset.
There are restaurants nearby in Lamai town and if you have a sweet tooth, try their coconut sweets and ice cream in the area.
Relax At Koh Samui’s Finest Beaches
What is a Koh Samui vacation without relaxing on the pristine beaches? If you want a pretty beach view with access to some restaurants, head to Lamai beach for a quiet stroll.
Bo Phut Beach is another up-and-coming area with a historical Fisherman’s Village town and quaint houses. There are plenty of hipster boutiques and is considered an instagrammable place in Koh Samui.
Looking for a place to stay at one of these beaches? Find out more here.
Go All Out At Koh Samui’s Nightlife
Every night in Koh Samui, a town will transform its streets into a night market filled with souvenirs, local delicacies, and affordable apparel. Night markets like Fisherman’s Village (held on Friday) and Lamai Walking Street (held on Sunday) are where the best Thai street foods are at.
Many tourists are familiar with Chaweng Beach, where all the parties happen. The Green Mango Club is the most popular nightclub with great live music and a crowd of all ages. If you enjoy dancing the night away, check out Hush Bar for the best vibes.
If you want to witness a fire performance similar to the Full Moon Party, ARKbar Beach Club has performances every night with great music and cheap beer.
Satisfy Your Thai Food Cravings
Aside from the night markets to satisfy your food cravings, Koh Samui has excellent restaurants that are worth a try for both the flavor and their ambiance.
The Jungle Club restaurant faces the gorgeous Chaweng beach, with an assortment of Asian and European cuisine. Check out the Jungle Club Samui menu here.
Do not be fooled by the shabby hut, Haad Bang Po raves as the world’s best beach restaurant. Established as a family-owned restaurant, you will get the freshest seafood served with the most authentic taste. Meals are affordable as well, costing 100 – 200 baht ($2 – 4) per person.