10 Best Things to Do in Koh Samui, Thailand

prerna gala
prerna galaNovember 20, 2022
Updated 2023/08/07 at 9:25 AM
koh samui
photo by nehal patel from unsplash

Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, two tiny “sisters” of Koh Samui, are the two largest islands in the Gulf of Thailand. Boat trips throughout the breathtaking Ang Thong National Marine Park’s coastline are popular activities here, as well as diving, snorkelling, swimming, and soaking up the sun on the lovely beaches surrounded by lush vegetation.

Since Only Koh Samui has an airport of the three “sisters,” most visitors from Bangkok and other countries arrive here. All three islands are connected by regular boats, although the voyage between Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, for instance, only takes 30 minutes, making it simple to jump islands and take in all the attractions.

See our list of things to do in Koh Samui for suggestions on how to spend your time and what to do while visiting the island.

1. Swim and Sunbathe on Koh Samui Beaches and Take a Boat to Koh Phangan

1.1. Koh Samui Beaches

The beaches on Koh Samui offer both variety and peace in equal measure. One of the busiest and most developed beaches on the island is Chaweng.

One of Thailand’s top beaches is Chaweng Noi, located in the south. Laem Set beach is located located in the less developed southeast. Off the shore, this tranquil, palm-lined island paradise boasts stunning coral gardens and interesting rock formations. Go to Phang Ka beach in the northwest to watch the sunset for a breathtaking view.

The odd rock formations, regarding the anatomical similarity of “Grandpa” (Hin Ta) and “Grandma” (Hin Yai), can be found close to Lamai Beach, Koh Samui’s second-largest tourist area.

A gorgeous cove with palm trees and smooth granite boulders is Silver Beach (Haad Thong Ta-khian) to the northeast of here.

The serene bay has fantastic snorkelling. Views of Koh Phangan can be seen from the serene Maenam Beach on the island’s north side.

1.2. Take a Boat to Koh Phangan

One of the most well-known day trips from Koh Samui is to Koh Phangan, the second-largest of the trio of islands, as it is close by (in fact, you can see one island from the shore of the other). Koh Phangan’s shoreline is rougher than Koh Samui’s, with massive granite cliffs, and the beaches are backed by mountains covered in vegetation. The majority of development is centred on the south and west coasts.

Koh Phangan
photo by Elizabeth Gottwald from unsplash

Unlike the several long, flat lengths of beach on Koh Samui, the coastline on Koh Phangan usually curls into secluded coves bordered by granite outcroppings and supported by verdant hills.

Two of the most popular beaches on the island’s relatively calm east coast are Thong Nai Pan Noi and Thong Nai Pan Yai; Noi, for instance, has a reputation for being cleaner and a lot of food vendors.

Excellent snorkelling opportunities may be found on the island’s northwest shore at Haad Son, sometimes referred to as “Secret Beach,” Hat Salad (Salad Beach), and Haad Yao.

A short drive to the south, at Haad Chao Phao, where there are several excellent eateries, as well as boutique beachfront hotels, you can find the ideal combination of comfort and peace. While it’s simple to go around the island, the area is peaceful enough to give you the impression that you virtually have Phangan all to yourself.

If you’re looking for a truly remote experience, Bottle Beach (Hat Khuat) on the island’s north shore is a terrific choice. However, unless you don’t mind travelling through the humid forest down a hard dirt road, it’s best to get there by longtail boat. There aren’t many lodging alternatives here, such as the bungalows at Bottle Beach 1 Resort that are directly on the beach.

2. Explore Ang Thong National Marine Park by Taking a Tour

Koh Samui and Koh Phangan are also a part of this magnificent 42-island archipelago. When visiting this region for vacation, if you just do one excursion, make it a scenic excursion of Ang Thong.

You can often book one-day packages through your hotel or guesthouse. Many tour operators offer them. Most include a boat tour of the islands, with pauses made for kayaking, snorkelling, and trekking to views where you may take in the breathtaking beauty of this remarkable chain of islands.

Since there isn’t much lodging in the park, you’ll need to schedule your time carefully if you want to spend the night on the main islands.

Keep your camera close by and choose a location above deck if you don’t want to miss the incredible shooting opportunities.

3. Explore the Hidden Buddha Garden

The Secret Buddha Garden (also known as Tarnim Magic Garden), located at the summit of Pom Mountain, one of Koh Samui’s tallest hills, is a sculpture park worth visiting. Be prepared for a lengthy and generally strenuous hike to get here.

Khun Nim, a retired farmer who worked on the entire garden for 14 years until his passing at 91, cherished the project.

His original plans for the location included a final resting place for himself and a tranquil haven where he could contemplate and unwind. The travelling monks could use these modest buildings as a place to rest or think, but he also expanded them over time. They had roofs covered in flora.

The result is a wonderful location with enclaves, fountains, sculptures, statues of Buddha in various stances, and other creatures, angels, and musicians. Even a few sculptures of even himself as a child, his parents, and his grandparents’ little child are there. Nim’s burial, which is only a short distance away and is accessible through a stairway path encircled by a beautiful flower garden, provides the closure he so desperately sought.

4. Shop and Eat at Fisherman’s Village Bophut

Bophut beach is close to the historic Fisherman’s Village on the island’s north coast, which features Chinese shophouses, hip stores, and a well-liked night market. Every Friday at 5 o’clock, the Fisherman’s Village Walking Street comes to life with its sidewalks crowded with shops, food carts, and street entertainers.

photo by Jure Tufekcic from unsplash

Bophut offers a distinctive selection of handicrafts, handcrafted jewelry, high-quality textiles, indigenous spices, and snacks, in contrast to many night markets in Thailand that are mostly focused on inexpensive souvenirs and street food.

In addition to shopping, this area is wonderful for eating at local establishments, including restaurants and cafés that offer table service and food stands where you can grab a quick bowl of som tam or pad Thai to enjoy. At the same time, you continue to wander and explore. Once you get to the intersection close to the pier, keep an eye out for performances. Here, Muay Thai fighters and traditional Thai dancers frequently put on quick, colourful, and charming displays.

5. Explore Maenam’s Chinatown

Maenam Beach is one of Koh Samui’s top beaches. On the island’s northern shore, about 15 minutes from Choeng Mon, is Maenam, a seven-kilometre stretch of soft, golden sand with views of Koh Phangan. The atmosphere is noticeably more relaxed, and there are more reasonably priced bungalow-style hotels, a few upscale resorts, and quiet beach restaurants ideal for unwinding.

Koh Samui’s Chinatown is located in Maenam. When you cross the street at the Walking Street’s golden arch, you’ll notice this right away. The small town also boasts a temple of its that is open to visitors. Maenam hosts its own Walking Street market every Thursday night.

Despite being much smaller than other Koh Samui neighbourhoods, Walking Street is bustling with people buying and selling anything from fruits and flowers to leather, trinkets, and street food.

6. Explore Wat Phra Chedi Laem and Phra Yai Temple Complex

6.1. Wat Phra Chedi Laem

A stunning golden pagoda is located on a calm section of the beach in Koh Samui’s southwest corner. The tumultuous anarchy of the east coast seems like a world apart from Wat Phra Chedi Laem. The structure, defended by two sculptures, exudes a subtle force. It is a beautiful location where locals gather to worship and take in the tranquil beauty of their surroundings.

6.2. Phra Yai Temple Complex

by Dol Studio/Shutterstock

A partially majestic, slightly overwhelming combination of reds and golds make up this Buddhist temple, located at Ko Phan, less than three kilometres offshore from Koh Samui. One of Koh Samui’s most popular temples and a year-round magnet for tourists is Phra Yai, also known as the Big Buddha Temple. It is home to a giant 12-meter-high gold Buddha statue at the top of a staircase.

On the temple’s grounds, in addition to the large Buddha statue, there are several lesser statues and several bells.

Early-morning visitors will be able to observe neighbourhood monks as they perform their daily prayers. After exploring the grounds, you can purchase meals, Buddhist statues, and tools for meditation. You should also visit the adjacent Wat Plai Lem and Ang Thong National Marine Park while you’re here.

7. Marvel at Khao Hua Jook Chedi

You could catch a glimpse of a shimmering golden pavilion high in the hills beyond Chaweng. One of the numerous temples on Koh Samui is called Khao Hua Cook Chedi. From its summit vantage point, the shimmering gold pagoda looks out over the island’s stunning beaches. Views of almost the entire island are available to visitors who come to the Chedi. It is simple to take a taxi or a motorcycle to the Chedi. Steps take visitors up the slope to the chedi from the parking area. It’s a serene vista and a great spot for meditation or taking panoramic photos of Koh Samui in all directions.

8. Walk to a Few Waterfalls

Koh Samui offers much more than just white sand beaches; if you travel inland and away from the turquoise waters, you’ll find a tropical paradise that is just as alluring. Go in search of Koh Samui’s three main waterfalls if you don’t mind a slightly humid but intriguing hike through a tropical forest.

The “Purple Waterfalls” (also known as Na Muang 1 and Na Muang 2) are situated inside the same-named park and are reachable by automobile. Na Muang 1 can be reached on foot from the park’s parking lot; Na Muang 2 needs a steep but brief ascent from the first waterfall. The first waterfall, which is the largest, has a small pool that’s great for swimming or cooling off in.

Khun Si Waterfall is another waterfall well worth a visit. Because it’s smaller and more difficult to see, this waterfall receives fewer people. If you arrive early in the day, you have a good chance of having the waterfall to yourself. It is only a short distance from the Khun Si viewpoint over Chaweng Beach. This waterfall, surrounded by a dense, lush jungle, is a cool place to stop before moving on to other sights.

9. Kayak in Koh Taen

Only five kilometres separate Koh Taen, sometimes known as Coral Island, from Ko Samui. Despite being technically a part of the main archipelago and having gorgeous coral reefs, excellent mountain biking paths, and a distinctive mangrove forest teeming with native wildlife, Koh Taen is only reachable by boat and rarely frequented by visitors.

photo by Valeriy Ryasnyanskiy from unsplash

Many monitor lizards, which may grow to be 2.5 meters long, and a handful of basic bungalows that can be hired for overnight stays, can also be found on the island.

Despite having fewer than 50 year-round residents, many businesses offer day trips to Koh Taen so visitors can kayak and dive there.

The waters of Koh Taen are gentle and peaceful due to their placement among several small archipelagos, making it ideal for kayaking around the coastline.

10. Stop by Wat Plai Laem and Explore Nathon Town

10.1. Wat Plai Laem

The Chinese goddess of mercy and compassion, Guanyin (also known as Kuan Yin), is the focus of the Buddhist temple Wat Plai Laem, which is not devoted to Buddha. The temple was embellished using old methods and murals, despite its recent construction.

photo by Jure Tufekcic from unsplash

Guanyin is shown as a large, white, and gold statue with 18 arms in her prehistoric form. She is seated on a platform pavilion that is adorned with a sizable dragon, who is rumoured to be able to carry the goddess to help sailors who have been shipwrecked. She keeps watch over the fish pond and temple from here; in exchange for a payment to the temple, guests can take a small bag of fish food.

The ordination hall is presided over by a huge laughing Buddha holding prayer beads on the other side of the temple complex.

10.2. Nathon Town

You will arrive in Nathon, Koh Samui’s capital if you are travelling to the island by boat. The capital is a place worth a visit, but most tourists exit the ferry and arrange their transportation to their accommodations.

Nathon is not precisely a popular tourist destination because it is located halfway down the western side of the island. In contrast, all the hotels and restaurants are located on the other side. But precisely because of this absence of tourism infrastructure, it is worthwhile to come. Here, away from the infinity pool, pizza joints, and Jet Skis, you may observe how Koh Samui genuinely lives.

Explore the stores by taking a stroll along one of the many side streets that branch off the main route. There are many restaurants along the waterfront. However, those closest to the ferry dock cater mainly to tourists.

The coastal section of Nathon comes alive with vendors selling street food, clothing, and trinkets on Saturday evenings when the city has a walking street market.

We sincerely hope you enjoyed reading it and were inspired to travel to this vast island nation of Thailand. As we’ve already mentioned, Koh Samui is enormous! The second-largest island in Thailand is home to numerous beach towns, eateries, and shopping outlets. This may be advantageous if you enjoy travelling and exploring new areas.

Therefore, if you haven’t already, plan your trip to Koh Samui; it will be an incredible experience.

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