Koh Samui is Thailand’s second-largest island and the Gulf of Thailand’s largest island.
Over the years Koh Samui has built up a reputation for being expensive. But in recent years, cheaper accommodation alternatives have started to crop up.
As for the attractions, Koh Samui is replete with white sandy beaches and offers plenty of snorkeling & diving opportunities.
For a more relaxed experience, Koh Samui island hosts the famous secret Buddha garden (not so secret after all), some lovely waterfalls, a lot of temples, and amazing Thai food.
If you are planning your Koh Samui itinerary, this list of the top 10 very best things to do in Koh Samui will give you plenty of inspiration!
- Koh Samui Beaches
- Secret Buddha Garden
- Ang Thong National Marine Park
- Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai)
- Fisherman’s Village
- Wat Plai Laem
- Na Muang Waterfalls
- Khao Hua Jook Chedi
- Chaweng Night Market
- Elephant Rock
Picturesque beaches are undoubtedly the most famous Koh Samui attraction. Selecting from the array of options can be confusing. Here are the top beaches you should consider while visiting Koh Samui:
Koh Samui’s most famous beach is Chaweng Beach.
It’s not the most beautiful, but it is one of the most developed with a bustling nightlife and many beach bars.
Chaweng Beach is also home to some of Koh Samui’s more luxury resorts where you can experience world-class hospitality if you have deep pockets.
Koh Samui’s second-most popular beach, Lamai Beach is less crowded and offers a more relaxing experience.
Lamai Beach is where you’ll find Hin Ta and Hin Yai – two distinctive rock formations that look like male and female genitalia. (Many an Instagram moment). Hin Ta means Grandpa and Hin Yai means Grandma.
Image Credit: Coral Cove Beach
A secluded oasis with a backdrop of luscious green hills, Coral Cove Beach is hidden by the ring road around Chaweng Beach and Lamai Beach.
This red sand beach is littered with corals, smothered by boulders, and lapped by crystal-clear turquoise water, giving it a breathtakingly romantic vibe.
Image Credit: Silver Beach
Lined by palm trees, Silver Beach is a picturesque bay flanked by smooth granite boulders. Its calm waters make it a perfect destination for a great snorkeling experience.
Image Credit: Lipa Noi Beach
Lipa Noi Beach offers calm, clear, and shallow waters, making it one of the best beaches for children. There are barely any rocks or corals that can pose a threat.
Image Credit: Maenam Beach
Much quieter than Chaweng Beach, Maenam Beach offers a sweeping view of the blue sea. You can see Koh Phangan right from the beach. Here you can find cheap backpacker bungalows to lofty five-star resorts.
Image Credit: Secret Buddha Garden
The Secret Buddha Garden is one of Koh Samui’s top attractions. It sits atop Pom Mountain. A local farmer named Nim Thongsuk started the work in 1976 and continued for 14 years until his death.
You can find statues of Buddhas, various deities, random creatures, and animals. You will even come across little houses with vegetation-covered roofs that Nim Thongsuk made for traveling monks to rest and meditate.
The Secret Buddha Garden also houses the farmer’s tomb because he wanted the place to be his final resting place.
Pro tip: Prepare yourself for a long and difficult climb. Wear proper shoes.
Image Credit: © Vyacheslav Argenberg / http://www.vascoplanet.com/, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
An archipelago of 42 islands including Koh Samui and the nearby Koh Phangan, the Ang Thong National Marine Park is breathtaking.
You will need a boat tour that will take you from one island to another with stops for kayaking, snorkeling, and hiking to viewpoints where you can enjoy postcard-worthy photo ops.
The most popular attractions of the Ang Thong Marine Park include the famed Koh Mae Koh’s Emerald Lake surrounded by tropical forest-clad limestone cliffs and Koh Sam Sao island with amazing snorkeling sites.
Pro Tip: Ang Thong National Marine Park has limited accommodation. So, plan a day trip.
Officially known as Wat Phra Yai, the Temple is located in the northeast corner of Koh Samui, and is very close to both Bophut Beach and Maenam Beach.
This Buddhist temple houses a 12-meter-high Buddha statue that sits right on top of the temple stairs.
There are small markets on the temple grounds where you can buy religious ornaments, interesting clothes, and souvenirs.
If you reach there early in the morning, you can see local monks offering daily prayers.
Pro Tip: Dress decently and respect the locals.
Image Credit: Fisherman’s Village
On the northeast coast of Koh Samui is the Bophut area which is known for its fisherman’s village. The village wears a rustic charm because of its old buildings and local Thai culture.
The main attraction is Bophut Beach Road which turns into a walking street market every Friday at 5 PM and stays open till 11 PM.
The walking street night markets offer live music, street food stalls (where you can find delicious Pad Thai), artwork, and souvenirs.
While shopping for merchandise from local shops and street vendors, you can enjoy a variety of street performers.
The Wat Plai Laem is dedicated to Guanyin – the Chinese goddess of mercy and compassion. The temple has a massive statue of Guanyin depicted in her ancient form with 18 arms.
The gold and white statue of Guanyin sits on a platform pavilion with a massive dragon decoration.
There is a fish pond surrounding the temple from all sides. For a small fee (donation), you can grab a bag of fish food and feed the fish.
Koh Samui’s most popular natural tourist attractions are the two waterfalls. Na Muang Waterfall One is very easy to access and you can drive right up to its entrance. There is a lovely pool at its bottom where you can indulge in a refreshing swim.
You need to do a bit of climbing to reach Waterfall Two, which is only a 5-minute drive from Waterfall One. Wonderful views and gorgeous natural scenery await once you reach the top.
Pro Tip: Make sure to carry waterproof and sturdy shoes to climb up to Waterfall Two.
Image Credit: Khao Hua Jook Chedi
The Chom Daow Mountain of Koh Samui houses the Khao Hua Jook Chedi – a hilltop mountain. It is a laborious hike to the top, but when you reach there, the breathtaking panoramic views will make you forget your pain.
Up top, you will find a shimmering gold pagoda, and the temple complex is replete with Buddhist artwork and statues.
Pro Tip: There is no direct public transport. You need to drive or hire a taxi.
Image Credit: Chaweng Night Market
Another great attraction of Koh Samui is the Chaweng Night Market. This is where you can enjoy delectable Thai food including the popular Pad Thai.
While the market is mostly filled with food stalls offering insanely cheap yet tasty food, you can find a few shops selling classic souvenirs, jewelry, and clothes.
On the east coast is the Lamai where you will find the Sunday Night Market. There are two intersecting streets here where one serves European-style food and the other serves Asian food.
Image Credit: Elephant Rock
Sitting close to both Chaweng and Lamai, the Elephant Rock derives its name from its size, and not its shape.
Once you hike all the way up, you will be greeted with sweeping views of the surrounding sea and beautiful beaches. Make sure that you carry your camera.
Koh Samui’s Chaweng Boxing Stadium is where you can witness a Muay Thai boxing match. Muay Thai is Thailand’s national sport and it evolved from ancient fighting methods of the erstwhile Siamese empire.
There are several places on Koh Samui where you can take a Thai cooking class. Of course, you won’t become a celebrated Thai cuisine chef, but you can learn the basics of classic Thai food. I recommend dedicating an entire day, as there will likely be a market visit as part of the experience.
Image Credit: Mummified Monk
Wat Khunaram temple in Koh Samui has a special attraction – a mummified monk displayed in a glass case. The Buddhist monk died in his meditative sitting position in 1973, and surprisingly, the 40-year-old corpse is still in great shape.
Visit for your sense of morbid curiosity but never disrespect the mummified monk who is sacred to the locals.
Image Credit: Guan Yu Shrine
Dedicated to the Chinese God of War – Guan Yu, this shrine is a popular landmark in Koh Samui. The Guan Yu Shrine is more popular among Chinese tourists, and you won’t find too many visitors here. The shrine has a 16-meter-high statue of Guan Yu.
Image Credit: Samui Football Golf
Another great family-friendly attraction of Koh Samui is the Koh Samui Footgolf & Botanical Gardens. Stroll around the gardens and engage in a fun football golf game in which you need to steer a football into 18 holes in as few kicks as possible.
The Samui Football Golf is located on the beach road between the Big Buddha and Chaweng.
Though Koh Samui has a few great snorkeling spots, the best sealife can be found close to the nearby islands like Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.
Book boat tours from Koh Samui for island hopping and reaching the best scuba diving and snorkeling spots.
Snorkeling or scuba diving near the surface will give you the opportunity to spot exotic sea creatures and marine life.
The dry season that starts in November and lasts till March and sometimes till May is ideal for visiting this country in Southeast Asia.
November through February is the High season or Peak season with cool weather and lush green scenery. This is the most amazing time to explore Koh Samui.
March and April get a little hotter, but this is when the crowd gradually thins out and prices drop. Unless you can handle heat well, avoid this time. Avoid the rainy season between May and October.
There is no shortage of hotels, hostels, or Airbnb in Koh Samui, so it completely depends on your requirements and budget.
I use booking.com as my preferred hotel booking app. I have tried many over the years and booking.com consistently offers me the best deals.
If however, you’re looking for super budget accommodation try hostelworld.com.
Here are the best budget and mid-range accommodation options in Koh Samui, Thailand include:
Baan Boom Boxes Eco Friendly Resort: Starting at $34/night [For budget accommodation]
Approximately 2.7 kilometers from Maenam Beach, this budget-friendly hotel offers a swimming pool, free Wi-Fi, gorgeous mountain views, air-conditioned rooms, and private parking.
Samui Jasmine Resort: Starting at $93/night [For mid-range accommodation]
With a beachfront pool and a sweeping view of the Gulf of Thailand, this resort on Lamai Beach offers air-conditioned rooms with private bathrooms, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV, and more.
Banana Fan Sea Resort: Starting at $144/night [For luxury accommodation]
Located on the southern tip of Chaweng Beach, this resort offers free Wi-Fi, air-conditioned rooms, satellite TV, a swimming pool, and a private beach area.
There is no shortage of trips and tours to make the best use of your time in this beautiful country. However, here are some suggested trips I recommend you explore further.
- The best way to get around Koh Samui is by renting a scooter. However, if you don’t know how to drive, you can always use a songthaew – a public transport vehicle that is essentially a pickup truck with a converted bed. You can also hire a taxi or rent a car. Also, depending on where you are staying, you can navigate a few places on foot.
- Wi-Fi connection was pretty good almost everywhere in Koh Samui, but remember that when you go to certain isolated locations like Emerald Lake or the waterfalls, you may have connection issues. But most residential areas have high-speed internet available.
- Thailand’s currency is the Thai Baht and for the best exchange rates its best to pay in their local currency. Always carry some cash, as street vendors, markets, hawkers (and long boats) will expect cash (although many now accept payment via QR code if you have a local bank account or apple pay etc.) Technologically, Thailand is pretty savvy.
- Depending on how long you’re staying and the kind of phone contract you’re on, it might be worth getting a local SIM when you get there. Most times when I travel, a local sim is the cheapest option. A travel SIM from TrueMove will cost 599 Baht with 8GB of internet and approximately 50 minutes of talk time. You will have to top up in 15 days. It’s worth checking roaming fees with your phone company before traveling.
- If taking money out of an ATM, always choose the ‘convert from your own bank’ option, rather than the convert from the ATM option. This is a golden rule worldwide. I have tried multiple ATM’s in multiple countries and the bank conversion is always without fail cheaper than a local ATM conversion.
- Also when paying with your travel credit or debit card, always choose local currency. If you choose your own currency, the conversion will be done then and there by their bank. When choosing local currency, the conversion is done by your bank and will be cheaper. Not by much, but every little helps!
It’s tough when organizing your travels to know which companies offer the best deals and can be trusted with your credit card details!
The following resources are companies I have consistently used over my 11 years of travels and who I believe are the best in the business. I’m constantly updating this list as I find new and improved services.
Rome2Rio – a fantastic app which will show you the best routes to get from city to city or country to country. Simply enter where you’re traveling from and too, and they’ll show you how to get there via planes, trains and automobiles!
Skyscanner.net – always my first port of call when looking for the best flights. Easy to use and consistently highlights flights I can’t find anywhere else, they’re the best flight resource there is. Plus an easy to use app.
Flight Aware – a free, handy app showing flights around the world. I use this to track family or friends when they’re flying, to check whether my flight has left on time on previous days so I can be prepared for delays etc, and just to double check my own flight details as and when I’m traveling.
Trainline (for Europe) – I used to use this just for UK trains, but nowadays you can book trains all over Europe using their services. Cheap, reliable and with a great refund policy for canceled or delayed trains, they’re highly recommended.
Booking.com – I have tried all the other hotel booking sites and without doubt booking.com has consistently offered the best deals. One caveat to this, is always to just check the hotel website directly before finalizing your booking as sometimes they’ll have specialized deals.
Getyourguide.com – the easiest and most reliable activity booking agent. I haven’t had a bad trip to date with them. Plus an easy to use app which tracks all your bookings and includes the meeting point, trip details and everything else you need to ensure your activity goes smoothly.
Discovercars.com – Easy to use website to find rental cars in over 145 countries around the world. Pick up from one location, drop off in another. Find the best deals with the best reviews.
Safetywing – quite simply the best insurance for digital nomads and long term travelers. See my Safetywing insurance review for more details, but with cheap monthly plans and an easy to use claims process, you won’t find better on the market.
Light Packing Guide
I’m generally a very light packer so for a summer trip here is what I would usually pack, with a maximum weight of 7 KG;
Swimming costume or bikini
Light Beach dress
2 x pairs of shorts
2 x summer skirts
3 x t-shirts
1 x ‘going out’ dress
2 x night shorts & tee
14 x underwear (I always take a lot as I hate washing underwear in hotel sinks)
1 skin color plunge bra (can wear under black or white, and with posh dress or t-shirts)
1 x flip flops or thongs or sandals (depending where you’re from in the world)
1 x trainers/sneakers (which I generally wear when traveling from place to place or hang off the back of my bag
3 x trainer socks
1 x leggings
1 x light cardigan
Travel size all in one Shampoo/Conditioner (sacrilege to some women, but hey I want to travel light)
Travel size shower gel
Small battery powered toothbrush (with cap)
Travel size sun lotion
50SPF lip balm
Travel size body moisturiser
Ziplock bags – for anything and everything!
Travel Bags – for separating tops/shorts/underwear etc, and also great for laundry
My husbands bag usually weighs less than mine and he takes;
2 x shorts (Both double as swim shorts)
2 x tees
7 x socks
7 x boxers
1 x ‘going out’ shorts & tee
1 x croc flip flops
1 x trainers/sneakers
Travel size shampoo
1 x razor
Koh Samui or Ko Samui is in the Gulf of Thailand and is located approximately 22 miles Northeast of Surat Thani town. Koh Samui is the second-largest Thai island after Phuket.
Koh Samui is very safe even for solo female travelers.
As with all popular tourist destinations you’ll need to watch out for pickpockets and keep your valuables hidden, plus for females, use your common sense and don’t go wandering on your own in the middle of the night plus be careful when drinking in bars/clubs. (Sad but true across the globe).
But on a general scale compared to the rest of the world, for tourists visiting Thailand it would be considered a very safe city, for solos, couples & families alike.
Nevertheless, always ensure you have travel insurance wherever you go as it will protect you against theft, injury, illness, or cancelations. Use the form below to get your personalized quote.
The official currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB) and you must pay in their local currency. Though you can use international travel credit and debit cards that will allow paying in Thai Baht, I recommend carrying some local currency, because certain remote places and local shops do not accept cards.
The Thai language is the official language, however, many people speak English, especially in major tourist destinations.
Throughout the year Koh Samui follows Indochina Time (ICT), which is seven hours ahead of the UTC or the Coordinated Universal Time. Daylight Saving Time clock changes are not followed in Thailand.
Koh Samui is filled with palm-fringed white sandy beaches, lofty limestone cliffs, and lush tropical forests – all surrounded by the beautiful blue ocean.
There are plenty of spots for water activities like scuba diving & snorkeling with the best ones located close to nearby islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.
Amid all that natural beauty, the island is dotted with awe-inspiring temples, thriving markets, and bustling commercial hubs that reflect Thai culture.
Koh Samui has much to offer.
Brimming with picturesque palm-fringed beaches oozing romantic vibes, Koh Samui, just like Phuket, is a dream tropical beach vacation destination. You can rightly call it a slice of paradise in the Gulf of Thailand.
Some of the most famous Koh Samui attractions include their famous beaches like Chaweng Beach, Lamai Beach, Silver Beach, etc, the Hin Ta and Hin Yai rocks of Lamai Beach and the many temples, exotic Thai cuisines, lovely waterfalls, and lively night markets.
Koh Samui has everything you need to spend a lifetime!
But if you’re Thailand bound, there are plenty of other places to see and explore while here, so make sure to check out the following posts also;
Top 10 Very Best Things to do in Thailand
Top 10 Thailand Islands to Visit
Top 10 Things to do in Bangkok
35 Epic Things to do in Phuket
Top 10 Very Best Things to Do on Phi Phi Island, Thailand
Top 10 Things to Do in Pai, Thailand
I hope you’ve found this list of the 10 very best things to do in Koh Samui useful for your travels. Let me know how you go!