When you think of Thailand, you probably think of white sandy beaches, turquoise-colored water, palm trees, and delicious food. Koh Samui is one such island where you can find this.
Koh Samui is a large island where you can see and do a lot of things. Many think Koh Samui is touristy, this is true for a very small area on the island. If you look further, you can discover an island with untouched nature and beautiful beaches where you are all alone.
Koh Samui is perfect for all types of travelers as you can choose to do nothing or be active and choose from many activities. Because Koh Samui is so diverse, it should not be missing in your Thailand itinerary.
If you want to know more about things to do on Koh Samui, you are on the right page. In this article, you can read what the best 14 activities are, which hotels are recommended to stay, good places to eat and drink, and our Koh Samui tips.
Things to do in Koh Samui?
Koh Samui is located in the south of Thailand in the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Samui, along with Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, is one of the three islands that travelers like to visit. Koh Samui is the largest island, so you can do a lot of fun things in Koh Samui. if you want you can have a typical beach vacation in Koh Samui but you don’t have to. This is all up to you because you can make it as active as you want. Read our 14 recommended Koh Samui activities below.
Tip: use the map below to see where the best activities on Koh Samui are located. Click on the top right corner to enlarge the map. If you click on the star symbol next to the title, you can save this map to your Google Maps account. You can show or hide different categories on the map. You can use this map to navigate when you are in Koh Samui.
#1 Discover the island with the scooter
Thailand is one of the best countries in the world where you can safely discover places independently with a scooter. Renting a scooter is the best Koh Samui activity because it is an island. There is not a lot of traffic and with the scooter, you can visit places that most other travelers don’t go to. In addition, a scooter is also very convenient to use to do many activities on Koh Samui. We used the scooter for days and recommend at least the southern and northern routes (see map for the exact direction). For us, this is the best thing to do in Koh Samui for couples.
The southern route is great to do, as this area is unspoiled and often you only see local people. It is great to drive through this area for hours and to be surprised by the abandoned places you come across. During this route, you can visit a couple of beaches, restaurants, and various viewpoints. From Lamai Beach, you drive south along the coast to Le Motu beach. Our favorite place was Bang Kao Beach, where you can sit with the palm trees behind you, the sea in front, and no one around you. Such a great place!
The southern route is 36km and takes approximately between 5 and 6 hours, this includes relaxing on the beaches. During this route, you will come across several eateries along the road where only locals sit. Go eat at one of these places, you will be surprised how tasty and cheap it is.
The northern route is the longest route where you can see a lot of the island. It is a fun trip to do because you pass Lad Koh View Point, visit Fisherman’s Village, admire different types of beaches, and cross stretches of the pristine jungle with the sea at your side. The views and the different types of landscapes that you cross make this route great to do. From Lamai Beach, you drive north towards Bo Phut Beach and turn left to Laem Yai Beach. This will take you around the northern part of the island (see map for the exact direction).
The northern route is 56km and you should take into account that you will be driving the whole day. You will relax at different places, eat with the locals and of course the drive-through different landscapes. You will be on the road for about 8 hours. Also for this route, eat where the locals sit.
Where to rent a scooter at Koh Samui: If you can rent a scooter at the accommodation, we recommend this because then you are guaranteed that everything is done properly. If your accommodation does not have this service, it is best to rent a scooter from Thai Moto if you are staying near Chaweng Beach. If you are staying near Lamai Beach we recommend EasyBike – Scooter Rental. Costs are +/- 200 Baht ($6.20) per day.
#2 Enjoy the beaches of Koh Samui
If you are traveling to Koh Samui, one of the reasons is probably that you want to enjoy the beaches. Koh Samui is the perfect destination to enjoy the beaches of Thailand because they are simply beautiful. In addition, because it has many different beaches, each with its advantage, every type of traveler can visit his favorite beach. In the overview below you can see per category which beaches are recommended to visit.
Quiet beaches of Koh Samui
- Bang Kao Beach: A beach in the south of Koh Samui that is ideal if you want to be all alone. Here you can sit under the palm trees and enjoy a beautiful view.
- Bang Ka Beach: a magnificent beach in a bay. You can climb the hill to the left of the bay from where you have a view of the surroundings.
- Mae nam beach: the favorite beach of backpackers because it is very quiet and you have a view of the Koh Phangan.
- Bo Phut Beach: Located in the north of the island. It is close to a fishing village which is very great to visit.
- The Beach Samui: this beach is recommended to visit if you want to eat something, there are several local restaurants along the beach. Sit on a plastic chair and enjoy the view.
Popular beaches of Koh Samui
- Chaweng Beach: This is the most beautiful beach on Koh Samui. The disadvantage of this is that because it is so beautiful it is also the busiest. Visit this beach at sunset, you will have an awesome view.
- Lamai Beach: a beautiful beach that resembles Chaweng Beach. It’s a bit quieter, but it’s still very busy compared to the beaches you see below. Perfect if you want to have all facilities close by.
Kid-friendly beaches of Koh Samui
- Lipa Noi Beach: If you’re looking for a beach that’s kid-friendly, head to Lipa Noi Beach. Children can play in the water for many meters without running the risk that it is too deep. It is also quiet here compared to other child-friendly beaches.
- Laem Yai Beach to Baan Tai Beach: Between the northwest and north of Koh Samui there are a couple of beaches (Laem Yai Beach to Baan Tai Beach) that are worth to visit. These beaches are quiet and you can enjoy driving around with your scooter. These beaches are also recommended if you are traveling as a family because the sea is calm at here.
How to get to the beaches of Koh Samui: the easiest way to do this is with a scooter. You are flexible and can quickly get to your desired destination. If you do not want to drive a scooter, you can use a taxi.
Tip: do not visit all the beaches in one day and divide this over the days.
#3 Visit the Modern Thai Art Gallery
Normally we don’t give tips about buying souvenirs, only, in this case, we would like to make an exception because you can buy special art at Modern Thai Art Gallery. Here you can see how local artists create paintings on the spot. Walkthrough the gallery and be surprised by the art.
We bought a painting of an elephant here and it hangs proudly in our living room. When you buy the painting, you can take the painting with you in a tube or have it shipped to your home address at an additional cost. You can take the painting with you on the plane without any problems. Prices for paintings are between 2000 and 5600 bath ($61 – $172), depending on the size.
Option 1: Recommendations for Mae Nam: backpacker vibe:
Adarin Beach Resort is a great place to stay because you can sleep in your own house on the beach. You have a direct view of the beach from your room. There is no better location than this. In addition, here are all the facilities you can expect from a resort. Check prices and availability for Adarin Beach Resort here.
Another recommended place at Mae Nam is Coco Palm Beach Resort. This place is also located on the beach. The nice thing about this resort is that it is very quiet so you can completely relax. The rooms are great with all facilities. Check prices and availability for Coco Palm Beach Resort here.
Option 2 Recommendations for Lamai: lively environment for a good price
Rocky’s Boutique Resort is a nice place to stay because you can enjoy all the facilities here and because of its location, it is also incredibly quiet. The complex is beautifully set up so that you will immediately feel at home. Check prices and availability for Rocky’s Boutique Resort here.
If you are on a tight budget but would like to stay on the beach during your trip, Lamai Inn 99 Bungalows is recommended. Here you can book a room near the beach for a competitive price. The facilities are more than fine and it is located near the shopping street. Check prices and availability for Lamai Inn 99 Bungalows here.
#4 Discover Ang Thong National Park
Near Koh Samui is Ang Thong National Marine Park. This natural park consists of 42 islands where you can discover the most beautiful flora and fauna. The area is magnificent because of the large mountains, a jungle, white beaches, ancient mangroves, waterfalls, and unique bays.
Ang Thong National Marine Park can only be visited with a tour because this is a protected nature reserve. With a tour, you visit the northern point where dolphins and whales can often be seen regularly. During the tour, you can go kayaking where you can see the wild nature up close in an active way. You can also go snorkeling where you get the chance to see the most beautiful fish.
The best part of the day is the hike through the jungle to the mountain at Emerald Lake. From this viewpoint, you can see the surrounding islands well.
This tour is recommended for travelers who want to see a unique piece of nature. The biodiversity and different landscapes that you can admire during the tour are great to see. Check actual prices and availability for the tour here.
#5 Relaxing during a massage
Thailand is a country where you can do many active things. Sometimes it is nice to relax and give the muscles some rest. In this case, a Thai massage is a good solution.
On Koh Samui, there are several massage salons. Before you enter, it is recommended to check if the place looks clean. You can also request some information in advance. In addition, you can often ask for advice at the accommodation, they can give you good tips. We have been to Mai’s massage a few times and recommend it. Costs for a massage of 1 hour are between 200 and 750 bath ($6.20 and $23) depending on which massage you do.
#6 Visit Nam Tak Na Muang waterfall
On Koh Samui there are several waterfalls to visit, the highest waterfall on Koh Samui is the Nam Tak Na Muang waterfall. This waterfall can be found in the middle of the island. The waterfall is nice to visit, because the water comes down from a height of 30 meters, especially in the rainy season this is impressive to see. When you come in the dry season, the waterfall itself is not that bad.
The Nam Tak Na Muang waterfall is free to visit. If you drive on the main road, signs indicate the waterfall, once you have arrived at the parking lot you can park the scooter. From the parking lot, it is a few minutes walk to the waterfall. The waterfall is a 20-minute drive from the Lamai section (east part of Koh Samui).
#7 Visit the temples
In Thailand and also on Koh Samui you can visit temples. Visiting temples is a perfect way to see and understand more of Thai culture. During your visit you see how monks live, you can have a conversation with them and learn what their view of the world is. The 4 temples we have visited and recommend are:
- Wat Phra Yai (Big Buddha Temple). this is a temple where you can see the largest Buddha on Koh Samui, it is 15 meters high.
- Wat Plai Laem: for us this is the most beautiful temple to see because the Buddha is located next to the water with many arms symbolizing different things.
- Wat Ratchathammaram: this is the red temple of Koh Samui and is a lot quieter compared to the other complexes. This makes the atmosphere in this complex spiritual.
- Khao Hua Jook Chedi (Golden Temple): the location of this temple is unique because it stands on a mountain from which you have a beautiful view of the surroundings.
All temples are free to visit and open from sunrise to sunset. You must wear appropriate clothing. Shoulders and knees must be covered. For example, if you come in your shorts and slippers, you will be refused entry. It is best to bring a thin scarf that you can wrap around your middle. This means you don’t have to wear warm clothes all day at high temperatures.
If you rent a scooter you can easily visit the different temples. There are parking spaces at the temples where you can park the scooter for free.
#8 Safari tour on Koh Samui
We recommend this activity for travelers who do not want to rent a scooter or who want to visit the various sights on Koh Samui independently.
You can do a safari tour with a guide where you will visit different places on the island in a 4×4. You start the tour with a visit to the main temples of Koh Samui. These are the same temples we recommend in activity 7. You also drive up the mountain from where you have a panoramic view of the island.
You will visit a garden with many tropical plants from Southeast Asia and two local plantations (coconut plantation and rubber plantation). It is interesting to see how the process is carried out to finally arrive at the final product. Besides these places, you visit more sights. Check the program and prices here.
#9 Admire the sunset
If you want to enjoy your holiday in Koh Samui, then admiring the sunrise and sunset is something for you. Because Koh Samui is an island and the horizon is not blocked, you can enjoy beautiful sunsets here. In principle, you can see this everywhere on the island.
For us, the best place to watch the sunrise was at Taling Ngam Beach and Bang Ka Beach. Both viewpoints are perfect, as there are few other people here. This allows you to intimately enjoy the moment.
The sunset is best seen from the Hin Ta and Hin Yai viewpoints. Both places are very popular, so make sure you get there on time to find a good spot.
It is recommended to buy some food and drinks in advance at the supermarket and enjoy it during the sunset, it couldn’t be more fun.
Are you looking for a Thailand itinerary? Then you can read our itinerary here.
#10 Discover surrounding islands
Close to Koh Samui are two very small islands called Koh Madsum and Koh Tean. Koh Madsum is an island also known as the Pig Island. On this island, several pigs live on a tropical island which is funny to see. The pigs may have the best life you can imagine.
You can also visit Koh Tean. This island is great for snorkeling and kayaking through the mangroves. On this island, you will find pristine beaches and beautiful natural landscapes.
The easiest way to visit both islands in the afternoon is through a tour. Check prices and availability of the tour here.
#11 Take a Thai cooking class
If you want to learn more about Thai cuisine, taking a cooking class is a must. This is a fun activity because you are working in the kitchen with other travelers.
The cooking class starts with a visit to a local market. The guide shows you how the Thai people do their shopping and what you should pay attention to when you cook Thai food. With the ingredients you buy on the marked you will make your Thai dishes.
You can choose 4 dishes to prepare. You will learn how to cook Thai under the supervision of a local chef. You often also receive a small cookbook as a reminder, which is very useful if you want to make the dishes again at home.
This activity is highly recommended for travelers who enjoy spending an afternoon cooking and getting to know Thai food better. Buy your ticket for a cooking class here.
#12 Visit a Muay Thai match
In Koh Samui, you will see many training centers where people practice Muay Thai. If you are in Thailand and want to know more about this national sport, then a visit to a match is recommended. You can do this at the Samui International Muay Thai Stadium. Matches can be seen here every Thursday and Sunday at 9.30 pm.
#13 Elephant Rescue Center
We recommend this activity if you are not traveling to Chiang Mai. If you travel to Chiang Mai, it is better to visit an elephant sanctuary there.
Visiting at least one elephant sanctuary in Thailand is highly recommended. With your visit, you contribute to the care and preservation of the elephants in the natural habitat in Thailand. With the earnings, they can offer elephants a better life.
With the visit to the elephant sanctuary in Koh Samui, you get the chance to see the center. In this center, you will help with harvesting and feeding the elephants. This is fun because you are face to face with a beautiful animal. You can also clean them and see how they live in their environment.
It’s a unique opportunity to contribute, if you like this you can buy a ticket for the elephant sanctuary here.
#14 Visit Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan
From Koh Samui, you can visit the two islands that are located north of Koh Samui, namely Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan. Both islands attract many travelers every year. Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan are the best islands in Thailand for diving and snorkeling.
During your day trip, you will have the chance to discover the underworld here, you will be amazed at how beautiful it is. There are beaches on Koh Nang Yuan where you can also go into the water to snorkel. You can climb the mountain of Koh Nang Yuan, this is worth it because from the top you have a view of the entire area.
This day trip is recommended for travelers who would like to see other islands of Thailand and enjoy snorkeling. Check prices and availability for the tour here.
How many days stay in Koh Samui?
Koh Samui is a large island where you can do many fun things. We recommend staying 5 days (4 nights) in Koh Samui.
In 5 days you have plenty of time to do the best activities from this list. You also have enough time to relax. If you travel to Koh Samui to mainly relax and also want to do something active, it is recommended to stay 6 nights in Koh Samui.
Where to stay in Koh Samui?
When you are going to choose a hotel in Koh Samui, you must first determine in which area of Koh Samui you want to stay. Each part has its advantages. We recommend staying in the Lamai or Mae Nam area:
- Lamai: this is a cozy part of Koh Samui where you have many facilities but where it is not as busy as, for example, the popular part of Bo Phut. Ideal for travelers who love cosiness, restaurants and where you can see and do plenty in the evening. The advantage is that this part is close to the remote southern beaches.
- Mae nam: this is a beautiful part of the island that is quiet and where you still get a real backpacking feeling. Here you see few other travelers, it is even less developed and is a lot quieter in the evening. This section is recommended for backpackers.
Below you can read two accommodations per area that we recommend because of an excellent price-quality ratio. Tip: due to the popularity of these accommodations, rooms can be fully booked quickly. If you want to be sure of a place, you can book a room via the links below.
Recommendations for Mae Nam
Adarin Beach Resort is a great place to stay because you can sleep in your own house on the beach. You have a direct view of the beach from your room. There is no better location than this. In addition, here are all the facilities you can expect from a resort.
Another recommended place at Mae Nam is Coco Palm Beach Resort. This place is also located on the beach. The nice thing about this resort is that it is very quiet so you can completely relax. The rooms are great with all facilities.
Recommendations for Lamai
Rocky’s Boutique Resort is a nice place to stay because you can enjoy all the facilities here and because of its location, it is also incredibly quiet. The complex is beautifully set up so that you will immediately feel at home.
If you are on a tight budget but would like to stay on the beach during your trip, Lamai Inn 99 Bungalows is recommended. Here you can book a room near the beach for a competitive price. The facilities are more than fine and it is located near the shopping street.
Where to eat in Koh Samui?
There are many good restaurants on Koh Samui, but there are also a few that are not so good. In our experience, the simpler the restaurant looks from the outside, the better the food is. This may sound crazy, but it is.
The best restaurants can be found in the middle of the island, where few tourists come. It’s very simple, drive around and stop at a local restaurant. Order some food here and you will be amazed how tasty and cheap it is. In Thailand, you can eat street food without any problems.
The breakfast is good at Four Seasons Resort, you can order homemade yogurt with granola. For lunch we recommend Had Bang Po seafood, here you can enjoy your lunch on the beach. Another recommendation is The Jungle Club, here you have the best view. For dinner, you have the choice between Thai and non-Thai food. If you want to eat non-Thai we recommend Stacked, here you can order delicious burgers. However, if you want to eat Thai, just go to the local restaurants and enjoy your meal with the locals.
How to get to Koh Samui?
Koh Samui can be reached by plane or boat. The best way is to use the boat. The plane is very expensive. For the boat, you have to travel to Surat Thani. From Surat Thani, you can take the boat to Koh Samui.
How to get from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui: book a flight to Surat Thani (advice use Skyscanner) and take the ferry from Surat Thani to Koh Samui. It is possible to do this by train or bus, but we do not recommend this because of the long travel time. Buy the boat ticket from Surat Thani to Koh Samui here.
How to get from Bangkok to Koh Samui: you can choose to fly from Bangkok to Surat Thani or use a (night) bus. We recommend using the night bus because then you don’t have to book an accommodation and you travel while sleeping, so you have more time during the day to do things. Buy tickets for Bangkok to Chiang Mai here.
How to get from places in the south to Koh Samui: If you are in Krabi, Phuket, or Khao Sok you can travel by bus to Surat Thani and take the bus here. Tickets can be purchased here.
Tip: depending on what time you arrive in Surat Thani, you can travel directly to Koh Samui. If you arrive in Surat Thani around midnight, we recommend that you stay in Surat Thani. The next morning you can take the first ferry to Koh Samui. In this case, you have to stay in Surat Thani, we recommend staying at B Boutique Residence.
Best time to travel to Koh Samui?
The best time to visit Koh Samui is during the dry season, which is the months of December, January, and February. The advantage of this period is that the weather is stable, the only disadvantage is that it is busier, causing prices of accommodations to rise.
During the rainy season from June to October there is more rain, but our experience is that this is often at the end of the afternoon and this is very short. It is more than fine to travel during this period.
Look at your schedule to see what suits you best because Koh Samui can be visited all year round.
Koh Samui what to do FAQ
1. Is Koh Samui worth visiting?
Koh Samui is the largest island in the Gulf of Thailand, ideal for all types of travelers. This is the biggest advantage of Koh Samui. Nowadays you see a lot of travelers visiting Koh Samui who are not typical backpackers, which is not a problem. This doesn’t mean it isn’t fun for other types of travelers though, it’s even a great backpacker destination, you just need to know where and what to do in Koh Samui. That’s why we wrote this Koh Samui travel guide.
2. Which is more fun Koh Samui vs. Koh Tao
Where Koh Samui is the largest island that always has something to offer for every type of traveler, Koh Tao is the smallest island that mainly attracts travelers who want to dive. If you want to dive you should go to Koh Tao and not to Koh Samui or Koh Phangan. However, if you want to visit a diverse island with beautiful beaches where you can do many things, Koh Samui is recommended. You will certainly not be bored on Koh Samui.
3. Which is more fun Koh Samui vs Koh Phangan
Koh Samui vs Koh Phangan is more similar. However, the difference is simple: Koh Phangan is more for party travelers and Koh Samui for all kinds of travelers. So if you want crazy parties, you have to travel to Koh Phangan. If you want to visit an island that has more different things to offer, we recommend Koh Samui.
Want to see more of Thailand?
We hope that through our tips you will have a nice vacation on Koh Samui. As you have read, Koh Samui is an incredible destination to visit.
After you visit Koh Samui you can travel to different destinations. If you like our Thailand itinerary Khao Sok National Park is your next destination. In our travel guide, we share all the tips you need to know before traveling to Khao Sok National Park.
If you do not follow our itinerary, you can also travel from Koh Samui to the other two islands Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. Or you can see more of the south by traveling to Phuket and Krabi, for example. You can also choose to go to Bangkok to travel. There are plenty of choices.
What do you think of Koh Samui? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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