Nestled in the Gulf of Thailand lies the second largest island in Thailand, Koh Samui. For some reason, whenever someone mentioned Koh Samui, I imagined it to be a resort-laden beach town full of fancy hotels and restaurants.
While there are parts of Koh Samui that are like that, after recently spending a week or so on this island, I soon discovered that there was so much more to it than what meets the eye. When we were there, we spent a good amount of time chilling, working, and just enjoying the laid-back island life (yes, Koh Samui can be laid back!) So without further ado, here are a few of our top recommendations on the best things to do in Koh Samui.
Koh Samui is a HUGE island. While you can easily drive around the entire place in 3-4 hours, you will find that there is so much to see and do. Naturally, our first recommendation is to rent a motorbike and explore the island. There are so many hidden beaches and coves away from the main touristy areas waiting to be explored. Be warned, though if you’re not 100% comfortable on a motorbike, do yourself a favor and rent a car instead. We stayed in a hostel for a couple of nights and just in that time we saw at least 4 badly injured travelers who all got into motorbike accidents. Oh and yeah, at the risk of sounding like my mum, don’t forget to wear a helmet. You can thank me later.
Now, back to exploring. The island has many points of interest, with some being really really touristy. However, for me, the best part of exploring is finding random beaches and coves which was away from the main tourist hotspots. Soon, we set off in our bikes, ready for a day of adventuring. A few points of interest which we visited were:
- The road going to the shortcut to Mae Nam (a steep and windy road cutting through the mountains) This was tricky to drive but the road and scenery was worth it and is highly recommended.
- Bophut (Fisherman’s Village)
- Mae Nam Beach
- Hin Lad Waterfalls
- Big Buddha Shrine
- Wat Plai Laem temple
- Secret Buddha Garden
- Khan Chedi & Pagoda Lem Sor
- Famous Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks
Insider Tip: Located a little bit further from Hemmingway’s by the Beach is a long sandbar with the whitest and softest sand imaginable. We kayaked here during our stay at the luxurious Beach Samui and found it to be a little stretch of island paradise! Worth stopping by and hanging around in for a couple of hours.
Other than exploring the island, here are a few of the many activities that you can choose from when in Koh Samui.
Take a Cooking Class
What better way to remember your time in Thailand than by taking home a bit of Thailand with you? While the entire island has heaps of cooking classes available, your best bet is to check out websites like Cookly who feature different cooking classes that you can easily book online.
In Koh Samui alone they have 8 different cooking classes available. We were toying with doing one but unfortunately ran out of time which was gutting as I absolutely LOVE Thai food.
Take a Day Trip to Ang Thong Marine Park
One of the best things that we did while in Koh Samui was take a boat trip to the beautiful Ang Thong Marine Park. We decided we wanted to see the park without hoards of other travelers so we decided to do a trip with Samui Boat Charter. Aboard a high-speed boat, we set off on a VIP tour of the Marine Park. If you want fewer crowds, follow suit and book your tour the day after the full moon party. We practically had the whole park to ourselves with the exception of a few other boats.
We enjoyed a full day of snorkeling, kayaking through caves, and of course, climbing to the famous viewpoint which shows of the emerald colored lake and scattered islands around the marine park. If you’re looking for a fun way to see Ang Thong Marine Park, the VIP tour with Samui Boat Charter comes highly recommended.
If you’re interested in diving, you have to check out the many liveaboard boats in Thailand which take you to some of the best dive spots in the region.
Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks
Known as the Grandfather and Grandmother rocks of Koh Samui, the Hin Ta and Hin Yai rocks is one of the island’s main attractions. To my surprise, the rocks are shaped as male and female genitalia and have an entire myth and folklore revolving around them.
Located in between Lamai and Hua Thanon, you will find these peculiar rock formations in all their shining glory. While it is a large tourist attraction, the main novelty, however, is seeing people take selfies with these oddly shaped rocks. It’s pretty hilarious!
Koh Samui Waterfall Hunting
As we have already spent a good amount of time by the beach, we decided to take one day off exploring all the nearby waterfalls. Much to our delight, when we got to Hin Lad waterfalls, we trekked for a good 45 minutes or so until we reached a completely empty and pristine waterfalls. Trust me, the trek there is worth it! At the bottom of the waterfalls was a large pool of water where you could swim and cool off. While the path was relatively easy, we still recommend wearing trainers or shoes during the trek. However, one of our mates did it in his flip-flops and he was fine.
Along the trail, you can see various tiers of the waterfalls making for a refreshing break from the sweltering tropical heat. Other waterfalls worth visiting are Namuang waterfalls 1 and 2 located 12km Southeast of Nathon Bay. Namuang 2 is Koh Samui’s most impressive waterfall towering at an impressive height of 80m.
Another one in the area that is less impressive but is very peaceful with very little to no crowds is Wang Sao Thong falls. While spending your day trekking and exploring falls may be an odd concept especially with such stunning beaches nearby, it is something we highly recommend you doing.
Go Beach Hopping
Around Koh Samui, you will find a variety of beaches and coves, all within reach with motorbikes or dirt roads. While the main beaches of Lamai and Chaweng are beautiful, they can get pretty busy. If you’re looking for a bit of rest and relaxation, you can head on over to the other beaches to get some peace and quiet.
Our top picks for quiet and secluded beaches are Mae Nam Beach, Bophut Beach (fisherman’s village), Thong Krut sandbar, and Lipa Noi. If in doubt, ask any local person in Koh Samui and they will definitely be able to point you to the right direction!
Insider Tip: During one of our drives around Koh Samui, we drove all the way to Lipa Noi, a beautiful sleepy beach where we stumbled upon the coolest bar ever called Retro Bar (definitely highly recommend visiting this place!) The entire bar and restaurant was outfitter with refurbished furniture and was a perfect place to spend an afternoon by.
Have Breakfast by Jungle Club View Point
While most people opt to go to jungle club in the afternoon, we actually prefer to visit in the morning. We went there for a late breakfast and practically had the whole place to ourselves. Known for its stunning viewpoint, this place is a must stop while in Koh Samui! While the breakfast wasn’t amazing, the view definitely made up for it. Plus, did I mention a whole pot of freshly brewed coffee was only THB 100 ($2.8). Winning!
Watch the Sunset by Rock Bar
For those who are looking for a little bit of chilled out beach vibes, head on over to Rock Bar situated right next to Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks. Here, you can casually hang out all day with nothing but reggae music blasting. The bar itself is perched on a rock with various steps and ladders making it even more cool and atmospheric. By sunset, people are sat down on top of the large rocky area chilling out and watching the sunset. Pretty epic if you ask me!
Things to Avoid: Elephant Trekking in Koh Samui
While there are probably a million other things that I recommend you do while in Koh Samui before I end this, I also want to write about the things that you should AVOID.
Sadly, like many places in Thailand, there are loads of animal-based tourist attractions. Coming from someone who has been traveling around Thailand for a long time, I urge you to do your research before you participate in any kind of animal tourism. Koh Samui is home to loads of those from elephant trekking, crocodile shows, snake farms, etc. If you’re wondering why riding elephants should be avoided, read the article above and find out why.
My word of advice is to just stay clear of these types of tours and attractions. There are so many fun and exciting things to do in Koh Samui that are both enjoyable while still promoting responsible tourism. There you have it! Hope you have a blast while exploring Koh Samui.
Travel and Safety
While traveling Thailand, make sure that you have travel insurance. We personally recommend World Nomads due to their extensive adventure activity coverage. Use the widget below to get a quote from them.