Here’s a list of the 15 best things to do in Koh Samui (Thailand), along with famous landmarks, museums, and other points of interest.
Koh Samui is one of the most famous islands in Thailand, located east off the mainland in the Gulf of Thailand. It was probably settled first by local fishermen from the Malay Peninsula, and since 1687, Koh Samui has appeared on Chinese maps.
Koh Samui is a wonderful island with beautiful beaches and lush nature combined with a wide range of accommodations with various standards. Most of the local tourism is based on tourism, but there is also an export industry of rubber and coconut.
In this article, I’m sharing some of the best places to visit in Koh Samui as well as attractions and beaches that shouldn’t be missed while visiting.
Koh Samui’s Big Buddha is one of the most scenic spots on the island. It is located in the northeast of the island and can easily be reached on a rented motorbike.
The statue of the Buddha measures twelve meters and is considered one of the most beautiful on the island shining in a golden hue. Apart from the main statue, there are also many pavilions found here.
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park is a tropical paradise consisting of 42 islands and around 100 km² of almost completely untouched nature. The national park is one of Koh Samui’s most popular day-trip destinations as a large number of travel agencies organize boat tours of the national park.
Most of these tours combine either kayaking or snorkeling and trekking to some of the island’s most scenic spots. There are tours available that suit every budget, and you can also hire a private boat with a driver to get around.
Hin Ta and Hin Yai
The southern end of Lamai beach offers an interesting rock formation that is often called Grandmother and Grandfather rock (Hin Ta and Hin Yai in Thai).
The reason for these names is that there are rocks found here that resemble the male and female genitalia which makes them a funny spot for taking pictures, especially popular amongst local tourists.
The real attraction of the area is of course the scenery and beautiful waters of the Gulf of Thailand and the view towards the hilly interior of Koh Samui.
Koh Tao is a tropical paradise located north of Koh Samui. It is much less developed than Koh Samui and much smaller and offers fantastic beaches and, perhaps the island’s biggest attraction, fantastic diving sites.
A trip to Koh Tao takes around 1.5 hours to 1 hour 45 minutes with the high-speed catamaran. On your way, you can enjoy nice views of Koh Phangan and many smaller islands located on the way towards Koh Tao.
Wat Plai Laem
The peaceful Wat Plai Laem temple complex is situated on a beautiful, manmade lake and offers some of the most beautiful temples on the island. The highlight of the complex is the 18-armed statue of the goddess Guanyin.
The lake is filled with huge catfish that can be fed for a small fee. There is also a big Chinese-style sitting Buddha found here.
The Namuang Waterfalls consists of two cascades of waterfalls and are located in tropical vegetation in the center of the island. Both of the waterfalls are very secluded and can only be reached on foot.
They also both offer basins where you can bathe and swim around. There are also several hiking trails found here with lush nature and scenic views.
Secret Buddha Garden
The Secret Buddha Garden is located in the hills of Koh Samui’s backcountry and offers not just fantastic views over the coastline but also an amazing collection of statues as well as a real jungle environment.
There are numerous statues found here that depict humans, animals, and even deities. This garden was created by a local fruit farmer who worked tirelessly on it until his death.
The road leading to the gardens is very tricky and should only be used with a suitable AWD vehicle. Samui’s main road is only around 400 m away from these magical gardens so walking here is also a good option.
Mummy Monk at Wat Khunaram
One of Koh Samui’s most interesting attractions is that of the mummified monk situated at Wat Khunaram. The monk died in 1973 and has since then been seated in a meditative position at the temple.
The tradition of mummified monks is common all over Thailand and is part of Buddhist culture, which is much more accepting and open in its views on death compared to Christianity.
Photo: Iren Key / Shutterstock.com
Chaweng Beach is the busiest area of Koh Samui and offers the largest number of hotels, restaurants, bars, and other tourist-related businesses. Despite being the commercial center of the island the beach found here is very beautiful and wide and offers enough space for everyone.
Chaweng Beach is a place where many people come to party at night, and the area is known for its lively nightlife. There are also plenty of watersports available as well as sunbeds and umbrellas available for rent.
Lamai Beach is located south of Chaweng and is the island’s second busiest beach. Lamai is great for families as it offers a very relaxed, yet friendly atmosphere and isn’t as busy as Chaweng beach.
The beach here is wide and very spacious, the waters are calm and there is all the infrastructure you would expect from an international beach resort. Many of the bungalow resorts have been replaced with more upmarket hotels but there are still accommodation options for all budgets found here.
Lamai Beach is also a great place to spend a few months learning the Thai language or participating in Thai cooking courses as there are many schools situated here that are specialized in teaching foreigners.
Lipa Noi Beach
Lipa Noi Beach is located on Samui’s quiet western coast and is the site of Samui’s most important pier that connects it with Surat Thani and the mainland of Thailand.
Despite its key location the beach and its surroundings are very serene and much quieter than both Chaweng and Lamai. Here is where you should come if you are searching for total relaxation and serenity.
There is only a limited number of accommodation options available here but there is something in every price range. I consider Lipa Noi beach as one of the best beaches in Koh Samui.
Nathon is the administrative capital of Koh Samui and is perhaps the most authentic place in Koh Samui as there are very few tourists coming here.
The town features many smaller markets that are worth checking out for bargain deals, a large supermarket that offers all the western groceries you might crave as well as many great restaurants that offer authentic Thai food at cheaper prices.
Bophut fishing village
Bophut used to be a traditional Thai fishing village but has slowly become a tourist destination as Koh Samui has established itself as an international beach destination.
Despite the changes, there are still many fishermen living in the village. They can be seen along with their small fishing boats as they use the beach as a stepping stone into the waters of the Gulf of Thailand.
The restaurants of the village are known for their great fresh seafood and many of the venues place their tables on the soft sands of the beach turning it into a fantastic dining venue.
Bophut also offers a picturesque beach with an interesting combination of a typical Thai fishing village and an international beach resort.
Photo: Chantal de Bruijne / Shutterstock.com
Laem Sor Pagoda
Laem Sor Pagoda is located right on the ocean in the southernmost part of the island. It is known for its golden hue and ornate detailing. It’s one of the most recognized landmarks in Koh Samui.
The combination of turquoise waters, white sand, green hills with lush tropical vegetation, and the gold of the pagoda make this area breathtakingly beautiful and absolutely marvelous.
The pagoda can easily be reached with a rented scooter as there is a road reaching all the way to the site.
Wat Jee Kong
Wat Jee Kong is a Chinese temple located in Chaweng Beach. It was built by the Chinese immigrants who moved here during the 19th and 20th centuries and is today considered one of the main historic landmarks of the island.
This temple is surrounded by many historic buildings as well as a lively market, known for its traditional handicraft, souvenirs, and fabrics.
Interesting facts about Koh Samui
- There is a direct flight connecting Bangkok with Samui Airport by Bangkok Airways.
- The island of Koh Samui has a total area of 228.7 km2 (88.3 sq mi).
- Koh Samui is part of the province Surat Thani.
- It’s the second-largest island in Thailand after Phuket.
- Koh Samui is called เกาะสมุย in Thai language, but can also be spelled as Ko Samui in English.
Want more recommendations on things to do in Koh Samui, Thailand? Leave a comment below!
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