There are many cool things to do in Koh Samui. This is easily one of the most popular destinations to visit when island hopping in Thailand, and easily one of the best islands in Thailand (not to mention one of the best places to travel alone). Not least because of its beautiful beaches, stunning waterfalls and epic nightlife!
What’s also great is that Koh Samui is super easy to visit thanks to the fact it has an airport. So it’s easy to reach from other popular destinations like Bangkok and Chiang Mai and it is the perfect addition to any truly unforgettable Thailand itinerary. This is the kind of place where you’ll want to stay longer than you had originally planned.
Keen to learn more? Great! Keep reading to discover the most epic things to do in Koh Samui.
The Best Things To Do In Koh Samui
Visit the Big Buddha of Wat Phra Yai Temple
One of the funny things about Buddhas in Thailand is that almost every city claims they have a “big Buddha.” This will leave you wondering if they are in competition with each other. But, the Big Buddha in Koh Samui is one of the focal points of the island and well worth a visit (and genuinely a VERY big Buddha).
It’s a touch of Thai culture on an otherwise westernized (but beautiful) island. What’s really cool about the Big Buddha on Koh Samui is how colorful the stairs and surroundings are with the backdrop of the pure gold Buddha. Built in 1972, this has been one of the star attractions in Koh Samui for a while now. It makes for a great photo opportunity.
Big Buddha is located at Wat Phra Yai Temple and is best visited either early in the morning when it opens, or just before closing to avoid mass crowds. Admission is free. Don’t forget you’ll need to cover your knees and shoulders when visiting this temple.
Check out Wat Khunaram temple
10 minutes by car from Lamai Beach, this temple is home to Luong Pordaeng mummy. He was a monk who died while meditating in 1973 – and his body was mummified in the exact seated position in which he was found; a reminder of the many teachings of Buddha.
You can visit the temple every day. If you want to see it at its most active, go early in the morning or right before sunset.
Rent a moped and drive around the island
Since Koh Samui is a relatively small island, it’s super easy to explore and that’s exactly what you should do! There are countless beautiful beaches and the best way to explore them all is by renting out a moped and driving.
There is a ring road around the island that’s easy to follow and you can do this route in a couple of hours. This includes stops at random viewpoints and beautiful beaches you may discover along the way. The ring road is 51 km (31.7 miles) long and goes though all the major towns on the island.
Moped rental is cheap in Koh Samui and costs around 150-200 Thai Baht (THB) per day (that’s $5 to $6 USD).
Hang out at the beach
Koh Samui is packed with places where you can spend the day basking in the sun and enjoying the clear waters. Among the best beaches it is worth mentioning Lamai, the second biggest beach on the island; Silver Beach; Maenam Beach and Samrong Beach. Chaweng is the closest beach to the airport and the most crowded, but it still remains very beautiful.
Relax at Grandfather’s & Grandmother Rocks
I know what you’re thinking … “rocks, really?!”
But as far as unique spots and rock formations go, this is a really beautiful spot (and a slightly funny genital shape). Hin Ta (Grandpa Rock) and Hin Yai (Grandma Rock) were eroded with time and truly look like male and female genitalia. It is a gorgeous place for a peaceful and beautiful lunch in the sunshine. It’s also possible to relax in the water here too. The rocks also offer amazing views!
It’s easy to reach this spot on a moped. This may be one of the more random things to do in Koh Samui, but you should definitely keep it on your itinerary.
Experience Koh Samui nightlife
When people think of nightlife in Thailand, they often think of Koh Phangan (for its famous Full Moon Party), Phuket or Pattaya. Don’t overlook the parties of Koh Samui! The island is home to some of the best nightlife in Thailand. Chaweng beach is the party central of Koh Samui and a great place to start your night.
If you’re traveling solo and want to meet some other travelers, go on a bar crawl: it’s a great way to meet others and have fun.
The island is also home to some really cool beach clubs as well if you prefer to start the fun earlier and enjoy an epic sunset. I suggest Nikki Beach Resort. You’ll see signs for it all over the island and it’s highly rated!
Visit a night market
Speaking of things to do in Koh Samui at night, make sure to visit at least one of the many night markets. These are quite popular across South East Asia. They are the kind of place where you can just as easily shop for a nice souvenir or get a meal.
Each town on the island has a night market – typically held on a different night of the week. Mae Nam takes place on Thursdays, Bophut is on on Fridays, and Lamai opens on Sundays. Night markets usually start at 5:00 pm and there will be action going until about 11:00 pm.
Practice all sorts of water sports
If you are into water sports, you will be happy to know you literally can spend your time in Koh Samui scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, kiteboarding, SUP and more.
Diving is excellent in Koh Samui, with warm water and visibility that can reach up to 30 meters. You can even get scuba-certified. If you aren’t into that, a simple snorkeling expedition will allow you to spot all sorts of marine life. Make sure to enquire with your hotel for the best tours.
Go on a hike
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of islands in Thailand is the amazing beaches, but hiking is actually one of the most fun things to do in Koh Samui and there are several good trails that you can walk – some easy, that go to beautiful waterfalls, and others more challenging leading to viewpoints where you can enjoy breathtaking views.
The only issue with hiking in Koh Samui is that it is hot and humid, so if you intend to hike make it a point to set out nice and early. I also don’t recommend hiking alone – there are plenty of organized hikes you can join. Enquire with your accommodation.
Discover the beautiful Namuang Waterfall (1 & 2)
Like many of the best spots in Thailand, Koh Samui has some pretty cool waterfalls on offer, with the most famous being Namuang Waterfall. When you go to visit, you’ll discover there are two levels. The first is super easy to access from the car park and you’ll be there within a couple of minutes. You can swim and chill here for hours under the intense Thai sunshine, or you can take the challenge of reaching falls number 2.
This requires a bit of a hike which typically takes around 30 minutes to the top. It’s quite steep and you just need to follow the steps and ropes that lead to the top. You’ll see others on your route, so you can ask them to point you in the right direction if you feel lost.
When you reach the top you’ll be rewarded with two beautiful pools which overlook the jungle. Now it’s time to relax and enjoy the amazing views.
Remember that the heat can be intense, so you’ll need to bring plenty of water (but there is a small shop at the base of Namuang waterfall 2). I suggest you start this hike earlier in the day, so you don’t get caught in the intense heat and you’re also more likely to have the spot all to yourself (at least for a bit!)
Entrance to the waterfalls is free, but you do pay for parking. This ranges from 20 THB to 60 THB ($0.60 to $1.80 USD) depending on whether you have a moped or a car.
If you don’t feel confident visiting Namuang waterfall on your own, then you can opt for a tour. You’ll see them advertised throughout the island. Alternatively, you can book a guided tour online.
Other waterfalls on the island you can visit include Hin Lat Waterfall and Tarnim & Magic Garden.
Check out the Secret Buddha Garden
Right at the heart of the island and beautifully surrounded by jungle, this garden was first opened by Nim Tongsuk – a fruit farmer – in 1976. He started by literally placing Buddha statues in his garden and continued doing that until he died when he was 91.
The Secret Buddha Garden is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is 80 THB (about $2.50 USD). Getting there can be a bit of a challenge, so you may want to join a guided tour. You can book it here.
Get off the beaten path at Bophut
A small fishing village where you can shop and eat excellent quality, very fresh seafood and fish, Bophut is a nice place to check out if you want to get away from the main tourist areas in Koh Samui. Make sure to spot the nice wooden homes that Chinese immigrants built in the 19th century. Visit on a Friday to check out the night market.
Spend a day in Ang Thong Marine Park
One of the best day trips from Koh Samui is to Ang Thong Marine Park – it’s the kind of place where you can relax at gorgeous, pristine beaches; snorkel in crystal clear waters, and simply just relax on the boat. The islands of the marine park are the perfect backdrop for stunning photos. Tours usually go to Emerald Lagoon too.
Take a day trip to Koh Tao
There are plenty of things to do in Koh Samui, but in case you want to explore one of the nearby islands, you may want to go on an easy day trip to Koh Tao, a fantastic place for snorkeling, diving and other water sports.
Should you want to book a guided trip to Koh Tao, you can do so here.
Learn how to cook Thai food
Mastering the art of Thai food may take a long time, but a cooking class is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Koh Samui and you will surely find several ones to suit your needs. Cooking classes usually begin with a trip to a local market to get fresh ingredients, and at the end you will be eating what you prepared. It’s a fun way to get to know a bit more of the local way of life and culture through food.
This cooking class comes highly recommended – it runs in the morning, in time for lunch time, and in the evening, for dinner.
Practical Information To Plan Your Trip To Koh Samui
Where to stay in Koh Samui
Koh Samui has no shortage of places to stay for all budgets and tastes. This is a brief selection:
- Tropical Season Villa Resort gives you the comforts of a villa and the service of a hotel. Villas are beautifully decorated and they all have a private pool. Click here for the latest rates.
- Samui Family has very large rooms and even apartments and it is run by a local host. There is a swimming pool, a family room and a bar. Click here for the latest rates.
- Ubox hostel is by far the best hostel in Koh Samui, and it is perfect for backpackers and travelers on a budget. Click here for the latest rates.
Getting to Koh Samui
As said at the beginning of this post, Koh Samui has its own airport with easy connections to Bangkok, so it is very easy to reach. You can also get there from the nearby islands and even from Bangkok by boat. Your point of entry if you arrive by boat will typically be Nathon Town (ferries from Surat Thani dock there).
Getting around Koh Samui
To get to all the amazing attractions of Koh Samui, you have four main options, highlighted below.
The best way to get around the island is a moped. You can rent one for around 150-200 THB daily (but if you’re renting for a longer period of time you can usually negotiate a great deal!). Don’t drive without a helmet and do not drink and drive either. If you’re not confident on a moped, then don’t worry, there are other ways to get around the island.
Ride the Songthaew
This is basically like an open air minibus form of transportation. It’s a pick-up truck that has two back benches that typically fit around 8-10 adults (prepared to be squeezed when it’s busy). They usually have luggage racks on the top too so they’re a good budget option for transport to the airport or ferry terminal.
Songthaews are available all around the ring route of the island, so you can hop on and off as you wish. To indicate you want to get off, just ring the bell! It’s best to negotiate a price before you go on, but it’s always very cheap.
Rent a car
If you don’t feel confident on a moped, but like to drive, then you can rent a car typically for a great price on the island. Again, since the roads are pretty self explanatory, driving shouldn’t be any more or less complicated than a moped.
Taxis are also available in Koh Samui. These are a good option in the evenings if you plan on catching the sunset with a few cocktails. You can negotiate a deal with the taxi driver, but being foreign, you’re going to be charged a little bit extra.
When to visit Koh Samui
Koh Samui is best visited between December and April – that’s when you will get the best weather, with sunny days that will mostly be dry. It’s definitely cheaper to visit in the shoulder season, in September and October. May and June are sunny with occasional showers.
How long do I need in Koh Samui?
I spent 3 nights on Koh Samui and felt this was a perfect amount of time to really get a taste of what the island has to offer. If you are looking for a holiday style visit, then you could easily spend a week or more relaxing on the various beaches whilst sipping on cocktails, but if you’re just island hopping, then 3 nights is a great amount.
For 3 nights, I would suggest an itinerary like this:
- Day 1: Visit Big Buddha then stop at some of the beautiful beaches for sunset (perhaps Samrong Beach)
- Day 2: Chase the beautiful waterfalls of Koh Samui
- Day 3: Check out the beach clubs then sample the epic nightlife
- Final day: Relax your sore head on some more of the beautiful beaches before your departure
After your visit to Koh Samui, you’re in a great position to visit the nearby islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. The former is famous for its parties, but is actually quite beautiful and quiet outside of the party scene, and Koh Tao is famous for its snorkeling opportunities.
Other useful information
Planning a trip to Thailand and South East Asia? Make sure to read these other posts:
- 20 Amazing Things To Do In Bangkok
- The Best Places To Visit In Thailand
- 19 Things To Do In Chiang Mai Plus 3 To Avoid
- 15 Useful Things To Know About Koh Chang
- How To Lose Yourself In Koh Wai, Thailand
- Visiting Angkor Wat And Other Amazing Things To Do In Siem Reap
- 33 Things To Do In Vietnam
- 17 Unmissable Things To Do In Hanoi
- 15 Cool Things To Do In Saigon
- How To Get The Vietnam Visa Online And The Vietnam Visa On Arrival
- The Best Singapore Hawkers Center
This was post written by Cazzy Magennis, one half of Dream Big, Travel Far, the couples travel blog for adventurous couples and for type 1 diabetics (like herself!) With their blog, Cazzy and Bradley aim to inspire you to travel the world without limitations. They have travelled to over 60 countries so far and are on a mission to see the entire world.