Koh Samui travel guide

Koh Samui Tourism | Koh Samui Guide

You're Going to Love Koh Samui

If somebody told you to imagine a tropical paradise filled with palm-fringed beaches, pristine dive sites, luxury resorts, and beautiful Buddhist temples, you would probably come up with somewhere like Ko Samui. This gorgeous Thai island seems to have been made for tourism, with sun, sand, and stunning views.

Ko Samui is heaven for beach lovers, with hundreds of places to relax, swim, snorkel, or indulge in water sports. It's the kind of place where everyone feels welcome, and everyone falls under its bewitching influence.

Whether you want to party all week or get away from it all under the tropical sun, Thailand's Ko Samui is one of the world's greatest vacation destinations.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Koh Samui

1. Incredibly Beautiful Beaches and Coastal Scenery

There's no question about Ko Samui's main attraction: the beach. The 247-square-mile island is ringed with beaches, including busy, more developed spots like Chaweng, and the less frequented beaches of the north, like Mae Nam and Bang Rak. Wherever you stay, you will be just a short motorbike or bike ride away from an inviting shoreline.

2. Dive and Snorkel to Your Heart's Content

Ko Samui is also a world-class destination for divers. You can see barracuda at the Samran Pinnacles, loggerhead turtles and manta rays at nearby Ko Kradan, or just snorkel over the dazzling corals at Ko Tan.

3. See Buddhist Temples and Sculptures

Ko Samui also has its share of religious attractions, most notably the impressive 49-foot-tall Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai), and the serene setting of the Secret Buddha Garden, with its collection of beautifully carved sculptures.

4. Enjoy Relaxing Spa Resorts

Some other spots in Thailand have succumbed to mass tourism and lost much of their charm - but that's definitely not the case with Ko Samui. In fact, as visitor numbers have risen, the island has moved into a different gear, offering incredible luxury vacation packages at 5-star resorts like Vana Belle or Banyan Tree.

5. Hunt for Souvenirs at Craft Markets

You'll have no trouble tracking down craft gifts when you visit Ko Samui, especially if you pay a visit to Bophut. Here, the locals have started a lively evening market (or "walking street"), which takes place every Friday and is crammed with carvings, artworks, clothes, and jewelry.

What to do in Koh Samui

1. Wat Phra Yai: Meet Koh Samui's Golden Icon

Sitting on the podium of this island temple located just off the coast of Koh Samui, the famous Big Buddha watches over the local community. Clad in gold and glimmering in the Thai sunshine, the 12 meter tall Big Buddha is definitely Koh Samui's star attraction. But he isn't the only sight to savor at the Wat Phra Yai complex. Mosaic sculptures, temple architecture and views of the city from the island make it an unmissable part of the Koh Samui experience, whether you're into Buddhism or just seeking an exotic diversion.

2. Ang Thong: Stunning Tropical Islands

Made up of 42 islands, the Ang Thong Marine Park is just a short boat ride away from Koh Samui, but it will feel like you are entering a tropical Eden. This stunning archipelago is fabled among backpackers for its secluded beaches and rich wildlife (locals include sea turtles, pythons, monitor lizards, and hairy-nosed otters). It's also a great place to engage in marine activities, with snorkeling, diving and kayaking all easy to arrange as soon as your speedboat arrives. With climbing and hiking on dry land, there's something for everyone to enjoy in this natural wonder.

3. Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks: Thailand's Sexiest Stones?

Back on the island proper, the Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks can be found at Hat Lamai beach on the southeastern coast. Translated into English as the "grandmother and grandfather rocks", the story goes that they represent an elderly couple who were stranded by the tide, then turned into rocks by divine intervention. However, for many people the first impression they make is more humorous, with the rocks bearing a marked resemblance to male and female private parts. And yes, t-shirts of the rocks are readily available, so don't forget to bring back some silly souvenirs.

4. Namuang Waterfall: Take a Dip Under a Gorgeous Cascade

Situated in the southern half of Koh Samui island, Namuang Safari Park is worth a visit for its elephant rides and off-road mountain tours, but the real star of the area is the Namuang Waterfall - so don't be sidetracked by animal attractions. Accessible via a path from the Safari Park, the two falls offer superb views and, just as importantly, swimming pools where visitors can escape the oppressive tropical heat. Remember to take sturdy shoes though, as the paths can get a little slippery.

5. Samui Aquarium & Tiger Zoo: Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Along with the elephant tours at Namuang, visitors to Koh Samui have plenty of other opportunities to enjoy animal encounters, and the Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo is chief among them. Located in the town of Surat Thani, the aquarium provides a magical showcase for the undersea riches of the nearby reefs, while the Tiger Zoo is even more compelling, offering shows that feature leopards and Royal Bengal tigers.

1. Wat Phra Yai: Meet Koh Samui's Golden Icon

Sitting on the podium of this island temple located just off the coast of Koh Samui, the famous Big Buddha watches over the local community. Clad in gold and glimmering in the Thai sunshine, the 12 meter tall Big Buddha is definitely Koh Samui's star attraction. But he isn't the only sight to savor at the Wat Phra Yai complex. Mosaic sculptures, temple architecture and views of the city from the island make it an unmissable part of the Koh Samui experience, whether you're into Buddhism or just seeking an exotic diversion.

2. Ang Thong: Stunning Tropical Islands

Made up of 42 islands, the Ang Thong Marine Park is just a short boat ride away from Koh Samui, but it will feel like you are entering a tropical Eden. This stunning archipelago is fabled among backpackers for its secluded beaches and rich wildlife (locals include sea turtles, pythons, monitor lizards, and hairy-nosed otters). It's also a great place to engage in marine activities, with snorkeling, diving and kayaking all easy to arrange as soon as your speedboat arrives. With climbing and hiking on dry land, there's something for everyone to enjoy in this natural wonder.

3. Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks: Thailand's Sexiest Stones?

Back on the island proper, the Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks can be found at Hat Lamai beach on the southeastern coast. Translated into English as the "grandmother and grandfather rocks", the story goes that they represent an elderly couple who were stranded by the tide, then turned into rocks by divine intervention. However, for many people the first impression they make is more humorous, with the rocks bearing a marked resemblance to male and female private parts. And yes, t-shirts of the rocks are readily available, so don't forget to bring back some silly souvenirs.

4. Namuang Waterfall: Take a Dip Under a Gorgeous Cascade

Situated in the southern half of Koh Samui island, Namuang Safari Park is worth a visit for its elephant rides and off-road mountain tours, but the real star of the area is the Namuang Waterfall - so don't be sidetracked by animal attractions. Accessible via a path from the Safari Park, the two falls offer superb views and, just as importantly, swimming pools where visitors can escape the oppressive tropical heat. Remember to take sturdy shoes though, as the paths can get a little slippery.

5. Samui Aquarium & Tiger Zoo: Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Along with the elephant tours at Namuang, visitors to Koh Samui have plenty of other opportunities to enjoy animal encounters, and the Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo is chief among them. Located in the town of Surat Thani, the aquarium provides a magical showcase for the undersea riches of the nearby reefs, while the Tiger Zoo is even more compelling, offering shows that feature leopards and Royal Bengal tigers.

Where to Eat in Koh Samui

There aren't many better places to sample the range of spicy, creamy, fruity, and just plain delicious tastes that characterize Thai food. If you adore seafood, Bang Po Seafood is the place to head, where the gourmet food is matched by a picturesque seafront location. Dining on the Rocks at the Six Senses Resort offers panoramic views from its terraces, while every table enjoys its own treehouse dining area at Tree Tops. Meals should be fairly reasonably priced, at between ฿100 and ฿300 depending on the eatery you choose.

When to visit Koh Samui

Koh Samui in January
Estimated hotel price
$73
1 night at 3-star hotel
Koh Samui in January
Estimated hotel price
$73
1 night at 3-star hotel

Ko Samui is warm and usually sunny, pretty much all year round. However, if all you want is a tan, schedule a trip between December and April. After that, although the weather remains hot, rain is much more common. Then again, between May and September, room rates drop and there's still plenty to do. May is a great month to visit if you intend to do some wildlife spotting at Ko Tao.

Data provided by weatherbase
Temperatures
Temperatures
Average
Celcius (°C)
Data provided by weatherbase

How to Get to Koh Samui

Plane

Samui International Airport (USM) enjoys a daily connection with the capital, Bangkok, which is operated by Bangkok Airways, while SilkAir run flights from Singapore, and there are also flights from Penang, Phuket, and some Chinese destinations as well. The best route into town is to take a minibus (฿120), or you can pick up a car rental from branches of Sixt and Budget.

Train

Although you can't take the train to the island of Ko Samui itself, you can catch a train from Bangkok to Surat Thani, and take the ferry from there. Expect the boat to cost ฿300, while the train from Bangkok will cost around ฿850, and you can buy tickets for both legs as part of train and boat packages.

Car

If you are driving to the ferry ports at Surat Thani or Chumphon from Bangkok, the journey will take at least eight hours. The route is fairly simple. Just follow Route 4 southwards along the coast. This stops at Chumphon, which is one of the departure points for Ko Samui, while Surat Thani is about an hour further along Route 41.

Bus

Buses from Bangkok to Chumphon or Surat Thani are the cheapest way to make the journey (at around ฿450 for the trip). Buses are operated by the Thai government, have air conditioning, and take around nine hours. The bus station is located in Nathon, on the west coast of the island.

Airports near Koh Samui

Airlines serving Koh Samui

KLM
Good (293 reviews)
Air France
Good (289 reviews)
Turkish Airlines
Good (1,061 reviews)
British Airways
Good (919 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (915 reviews)
Emirates
Excellent (647 reviews)
Austrian Airlines
Good (195 reviews)
Etihad Airways
Good (196 reviews)
Finnair
Good (428 reviews)
Malaysia Airlines
Good (24 reviews)
Thai Airways
Excellent (37 reviews)
Japan Airlines
Good (296 reviews)
Oman Air
Good (2 reviews)
Gulf Air
Good (38 reviews)
Qantas Airways
Good (96 reviews)
Cathay Pacific
Excellent (20 reviews)
Philippine Airlines
Good (101 reviews)
China Airlines
Excellent (9 reviews)
EVA Air
Good (37 reviews)
Vietnam Airlines
Good (10 reviews)
Show more

Where to stay in Koh Samui

The island is full of luxury resorts, family-friendly beach hotels, and backpacker hostels, so every visitor will find something to suit them. Some of the best high-end options include the Four Seasons Resort (which is situated in exquisite surroundings), the traditional-style Centara Grand Beach Resort Samui (which was once the summer palace of Thailand's king), and Chiva-Som International Health Resort, which is comfortably the island's finest spa hotel.

Popular neighbourhoods in Koh Samui

Chaweng - Ko Samui's beating heart, Chaweng is the most developed resort on the island, with a wide range of beachfront hotels, great nightlife, and plenty of restaurants. It's a little bit more action-packed than other neighborhoods, but if you love to dine, dance, and socialize, it's the place to stay.

Bang Rak - much more laid-back than Chaweng, Bang Rak is in the north of the island and is home to the massive Big Buddha statue. But there's more than hulking stone icons to enjoy. Bang Rak has fabulous beaches like Bophut and is conveniently sited for the airport and ferry port.

Mae Nam - if you want to get away from it all in a tropical haven, Mae Nam is the neighborhood to visit. Blessed with 5 miles of perfect beach, Mae Nam has calm waters, a relaxed vibe, and enjoys some of the most beautiful sunsets you are likely to ever see.

Most popular hotel in Koh Samui by neighbourhood

Where to stay in popular areas of Koh Samui

Most booked hotels in Koh Samui

The Tongsai Bay
Excellent (9.4, Excellent reviews)
$185+
Silavadee Pool Spa Resort
Excellent (9.3, Excellent reviews)
$199+
Nora Buri Resort & Spa
Excellent (9.1, Excellent reviews)
$97+
Anantara Bophut Koh Samui Resort
Excellent (9.1, Excellent reviews)
$234+
Sheraton Samui Resort
Excellent (8.6, Excellent reviews)
$250+
The COAST Adults Only Resort and Spa Koh Samui
Excellent (10, Excellent reviews)
$128+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Koh Samui

Public Transportation

The main public transportation option on Ko Samui are songthaews (scheduled minibuses). They aren't exactly buses, but they aren't quite taxis either. Passengers just enter, ask the driver if they are going their way, and pay there and then. Fares are low, at around ฿50 for most short hops.

Taxi

Taxis in Ko Samui are supposed to use a standard meter, with a meter drop of ฿50, then a charge of around ฿18 per mile after that. However, make sure that your driver has applied the meter before you depart, as not all will do so. If not, try to negotiate a price based roughly on the metered rate.

Car

You can bypass having to get around via taxi altogether by renting your own vehicle. There are plenty of rental outlets on the island, including international companies like Sixt, Budget, and Hertz. Rates should be affordable, at approximately ฿250 per day.

The Cost of Living in Koh Samui

Shopping Streets

The best place to shop on Ko Samui is the walking street in Bophut (every Friday between 5 pm and 11 pm), where you'll find an array of local craft stalls and great street food. There's a similar market every Monday next to the Centara Grand Beach Resort in Chaweng and one at Mae Nam beach every Thursday. If you want to visit a glitzy modern mall, head to Central Festival Samui in Chaweng, which hosts international brands like Uniqlo, Esprit, and Rip Curl.

Groceries and Other

Most of the beaches and resorts on Ko Samui will have a small grocery store, with companies including Big C, Tesco Lotus, and Makro all represented. Groceries won't be overly expensive, with a gallon of milk costing ฿180 and 12 eggs around ฿50.

Cheap meal
$1.00
A pair of jeans
$3.16
Single public transport ticket
$0.60
Cappuccino
$0.13