If you had to imagine a tropical paradise full of palm-fringed beaches, pristine dive sites, luxury resorts and beautiful Buddhist temples, the image you would form would be that of Ko Samui. This beautiful Thai island seems to have been designed for tourism, with temples such as Wat Phra Yai, which contains a 12-meter high golden Buddha, and Wat Khunaram.
The town of Ko Samui is perfect for beach lovers, as it has hundreds of beautiful swimming spots, such as Bophut, Mae Nam, Chaweng, Lamai and Coral Cove Beach. For diving, the striking Sail Rock rock formation, Koh Yippon and Koh Wao, a dragon-shaped islet, are among the best settings on the planet.
Whether you want to party every night or unwind under a tropical sun, Ko Samui is one of the best holiday destinations.
- Top 5 reasons to visit Ko Samui
- What to do in Ko Samui
- When to visit Ko Samui
- Getting to Koh Samui
- Where to stay in Ko Samui
- Interesting neighborhoods in Ko Samui
- How to get around Ko Samui
- Cost of living in Ko Samui
- Where to eat in Ko Samui
Top 5 reasons to visit Ko Samui
The beach is Ko Samui’s main attraction. This island of 640 square kilometers is surrounded by beaches, among which are distributed busy and more developed places like Chaweng, and others less frequented in the north, like Mae Nam and Bang Rak.
Ko Samui is a world-class destination for divers. You can see barracudas at Samran Pinnacle, loggerhead turtles and manta rays at nearby Ko Kradan, or dive among the corals at Ko Tan.
See Buddhist temples and sculptures
Ko Samui also has religious attractions, such as the impressive Temple of the Great Buddha. Another great example is the Secret Buddha Garden, with its collection of beautifully carved sculptures.
Some places in Thailand have succumbed to mass tourism and have lost their charm, but this is not the case with Ko Samui. As its visitors increase, this destination has become more exclusive, offering incredible luxury vacation packages at 5-star resorts, such as Vana Belle or Banyan Tree Samui.
Original traditional souvenirs
In Ko Samui it is easy to find handmade gifts, especially in Bophut. The locals have promoted a lively Friday night market that is packed with sculptures, artwork, clothing and jewellery.
What to do in Ko Samui
Admire the Great Golden Buddha
Sitting on the podium of this island temple, located off the coast of Ko Samui, the famous Great Buddha watches over the local community. The golden robes of this 15-metre tall Buddha glow in the Thai sun. In addition, the Wat Phra Yai complex where it is situated has mosaic sculptures, beautiful architecture and wonderful views. Whether you like Buddhism or are looking for exotic entertainment, this is your place.
Have fun on the tropical beaches of Ang Thong
Ang Thong Marine Park, which consists of 42 islands, looks like a true tropical Eden. It is legendary among backpackers for its secluded beaches, sporting activities and rich wildlife, including sea turtles, pythons, monitor lizards and furry-nosed otters.
Hin Ta & Hin Yai
Do you want to admire the Hin Ta & Hin Yai rocks, considered the sexiest in Thailand? They are located on Lamai beach and, according to legend, represent an old couple who, after being stranded by the tide, were turned into rocks by divine intervention. If you have a mischievous look, you will see in them a great resemblance to the male and female sexual organs. You will laugh a lot!
Namuang Safari Park offers elephant rides and mountain hikes. But the real star of the area is the Namuang waterfall. Accessible by walking from the safari park, it provides magnificent views and, even better, pools to cool off in. Remember to wear appropriate shoes!
Exploring Thailand’s wildest side
Visitors to Ko Samui can see animals at Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo. Both offer attractive experiences, and the zoo also offers shows with leopards and real Bengal tigers.
When to visit Ko Samui
Ko Samui is warm, and generally sunny, almost all year round. If you only want to get a tan, visit it between December and April. After that, rain is more frequent. Also, between May and September the rates decrease. To admire the wildlife, May is the perfect month. Average annual temperatures range from 29 to 32 ºC.
Getting to Koh Samui
Samui International Airport (USM) enjoys a daily connection to the country’s capital, Bangkok, operated by Bangkok Airways. In addition, SilkAir manages flights from Singapore. There are also flights from Penang, Phuket and other Chinese destinations. After landing, it is best to travel to the city by minibus via 120 ฿, although you can also rent a car.
It is not possible to travel directly by train to the island of Ko Samui, but it is possible to travel from Bangkok to Surat Thani, the province to which Ko Samui belongs, and there take the ferry. The boat will cost you 300 ฿ and the train about 850 ฿. If you want to save money, hire duo bonds, which combine both services in a single package.
If you are going to drive to Surat Thani or Chumphon ferry port from Bangkok, it will take at least 8 hours, although the itinerary is simple. Follow Route 4 south along the coast and you will arrive in Chumphon. If you continue along it, you will reach Surat Thani one hour later by route 41.
Buses from Bangkok to Chumphon or Surat Thani are the cheapest way to get around: about 450 ฿. These buses, which are operated by the Thai government, are air-conditioned and make the journey in about 9 hours. The bus station is located in Nathon on the west coast of the island.
Airports near Ko Samui
USM Koh Samui
URT Surat Thani
Airlines Serving Ko Samui
Where to stay in Ko Samui
The island is full of hotels, luxury resorts, family beach hotels and backpacker hostels. Among the best luxury options are the Four Seasons Resort, located in exquisite surroundings, the Centara Grand Beach Resort Samui, which was once the summer palace of the King of Thailand, and the Chiva-Som International Health Resort.
Interesting neighborhoods in Ko Samui
Chaweng, in the heart of Ko Samui, is the most developed resort on the island. It offers a wide range of beachfront hotels, a great nightlife and many restaurants. Among its most impressive accommodations are Anantara Lawana Koh Samui Resort and Six Senses Samui. For dining, Tandoor Kebah House serves excellent Indian cuisine and, Top Ten BBQ, grilled seafood and meat.
Bang Rak is a more relaxed area than Chaweng, located in the north. It houses the huge statue of the Great Buddha, as well as fabulous beaches, including Bophut, and is well connected to the airport and ferry port.
Mae Nam is a true tropical paradise. Blessed with 12 kilometers of perfect beach, it has calm waters, relaxed atmosphere and beautiful sunsets. You can find economical accommodation options, such as the Ibis Samui mentioned above, or luxurious ones, such as W Koh Samui.
How to get around Ko Samui
The main public transport option is the songthaews (scheduled minibuses), a mix between bus and taxi. Passengers get on, ask the driver if they are on their way, and pay right there. Their price is low, about 50 ฿ for short trips.
In theory, Ko Samui taxis use a taxi meter, apply a flag drop of 50 ฿ and add 18 ฿ for every 1.6 kilometres travelled. In practice, you should be sure to get the driver to start it up or, better still, negotiate a fixed price before you leave.
There are many rental offices, including international companies such as Sixt, Budget and Hertz. Prices are usually affordable, approximately 250 ฿ per day.
Car rental agencies in Ko Samui
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Cost of living in Ko Samui
The best place to shop in Ko Samui is the pedestrian street of Bophut (Friday, between 5 and 11 p.m.), where you will find countless stalls of local crafts and good street food. There is a similar market every Monday next to the Centara Grand Beach Resort in Chaweng. There is also a market on Mae Nam Beach every Thursday. If you prefer a dazzling modern shopping mall, go to the Central Samui Festival in Chaweng, which features international brands such as Uniqlo, Esprit and Rip Curl.
Groceries and more
Most of the beaches and resorts on Ko Samui have a small grocery store backed by companies such as Big C, Tesco Lotus and Makro. Grocery shopping is not usually expensive: 12 eggs are worth 50 ฿ and a 33 centilitre can of domestic beer, Chang brand, 38 ฿.
Where to eat in Ko Samui
Ko Samui is a perfect destination for tasting the spicy, creamy, fruity and delicious flavours of Thai cuisine. If you love seafood, Bang for Seafood is your place, thanks to its gourmet food and picturesque marine location. The restaurant at Six Senses Resort in The Rocks and Tree Tops Sky Dining are also recommended. Meals are reasonably priced, between 100 and 300 ฿, depending on the restaurant.
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