When you visit Ko Samui, it’s understandable that you may want to do as little as possible as you gently relax into the slow rhythm of island life. But if you want to venture beyond the beach and experience more of Samui, there is plenty to see and do on the largest island in the Gulf of Thailand. Listed here (in no particular order) are our suggestions for some of the best things to see and do when you visit Ko Samui.
1) Travel to Ang Thong National Marine Park
Home to dozens of islands, the beautiful Ang Thong National Marine Park is one of the best day trips you can enjoy from Ko Samui. These islands were once a hideaway for pirates and their hidden bays and beaches were also the inspiration for Alex Garland’s book, The Beach. While the movie adaptation famously used Maya Beach in Krabi province, it is the locations in Ang Thong National Marine Park that inspired Garland.
2) Take a sunset cruise
Taking a sunset cruise is a romantic way to end the day. Join a group tour or opt for a private boat as you witness the Samui sunset. Ask at your hotel or visit any tour office who can arrange it for you. Amongst the options available is the luxury speedboat from Oceana Samui. Half-day yacht charters are also available from Sailing in Samui.
3) Chill out at the Jungle Club
With a relaxed ambience and wonderful views over the island, the Jungle Club restaurant is well worth seeking out when you visit Samui. Settle back in your beanbag chair as you watch the sunset or visit any time of day to enjoy food and drinks to go with the views.
4) Explore Samui by bicycle
Explore some of the local culture of Ko Samui with a bicycle tour. Half-day and full-day trips are available where you can learn more about the traditional way of life on the island as you visit fishing communities and cycle through rubber farms and coconut plantations. Check Koh Cycle and Easy Day Samui for routes and trip ideas.
5) Visit the Fisherman’s Village at Bophut
The Bophut area of Ko Samui has long-established links with the Hainanese fishermen who migrated here centuries ago. Some descendants of those original families still live in Bophut with the red Chinese lanterns dotted around the Fisherman’s Village a nod to the area’s heritage.
The Fisherman’s Village also hosts an excellent night market every Friday. Regardless of what day you visit, this corner of Ko Samui is a delight with a plethora of eateries and venues to relax with a cold drink or cocktail.
6) Eat and drink at the Walking Street Markets
A number of Samui’s resort areas have established Walking Street Markets. They make for a pleasant traffic-free space to buy locally made produce and sample a range of Thai food.
The Friday night Walking Street Market at the Fisherman’s Village in Bophut is the best-known one on the island, but good alternatives can be found at Lamai (Sunday), Maenam (Thursday) and at Chaweng Night Market (Monday-Saturday).
7) Admire the phallic rock formations
The unusual rock formations at the southern end of Lamai Bay feature on most island tours. Located in close proximity, Hin Ta (Grandfather Rock) and Hin Yai (Grandmother Rock) are renowned because they resemble the male and female sexual organs.
Whether you are impressed by the rock formations or not, this area is a good place to sample some tasty local deserts like coconut ice cream or kalamae, a sticky sweet treat made from coconut, palm sugar and glutinous rice flour.
8) Pose for photos at the Overlap Stone
We include the Overlap Stone on our list because there is no doubt it offers fine views and has become well-known thanks to Instagram. Although it’s true you can get some memorable photos here, it’s also worth noting that some visitors describe the experience at the Overlap Stone as a disappointing tourist trap. The rock is located on private land so you will need to pay to enter the viewing area. If you do visit, use your own common sense and pay attention to any warning signs.
9) Visit Pig Island
Located just off Samui’s south coast, the small island of Ko Madsum is better known to many visitors as ‘Pig Island’. The pigs can be seen wandering along the beach and have become a tourist attraction in their own right.
Ko Madsum’s porcine inhabitants are there thanks to the intervention of a local man who rescued the pigs from a market at Surat Thani on the mainland and brought them back to Ko Madsum to raise them.
10) Stay on a private island
Ever fancied the idea of staying on a private island? The good news is you don’t have to be a millionaire to live the dream if you stay at Cape Fahn Hotel. The tiny island of Ko Fahn is situated off the east coast of Ko Samui and home to the exclusive hotel where you can indulge in a luxurious escape.
11) Relax at a jungle waterfall
For an inland adventure, head to any of Ko Samui’s waterfalls. The best known one on the island is Nam Tok Na Muang. There are actually two waterfalls in this area labelled on maps as Na Muang 1 and Na Muang 2. The first waterfall is relatively easy to reach, but the second waterfall requires more effort and the rocks there can be dangerous. Most visitors opt to just enjoy swimming and relaxing at Na Muang 1.
12) Climb the steps of the Big Buddha
One of the most iconic landmarks on Samui, the Big Buddha statue is located within the temple grounds of Wat Phra Yai. Walk up the stairs to the viewing platform for expansive views over the ocean.
The nearby temple of Wat Plai Laem with its impressive statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, is also worth a visit. As always when visiting any temple in Thailand, please dress and act respectfully.
13) Pay your respects to the mummified monk
For Thai Buddhists, the temple at Wat Khunaram is an important site. A glass display cabinet contains the mummified remains of the island’s most famous monk, Luang Pho Daeng, who died in 1973 while meditating. Sitting upright and wearing sunglasses, the body of the monk is an extraordinary sight. The presence of the monk reminds all visitors that nothing in life is permanent.
14) Wander around the Magic Garden
Set up in the mid-1970s by a local fruit farmer, Nim Thongsuk, the landscaped grounds at Tarnim Magic Garden are a shady oasis amidst Samui’s jungle-clad hills. This was a labour of love for the late Khun Nim, with dozens of statues recounting tales from Buddhist mythology and Thai folklore.
15) Visit an ethical elephant sanctuary
Samui Elephant Sanctuary is inspired and supported by Save Elephant Foundation. The forest environment here provides a safe retirement home for elephants who have previously been overworked or poorly treated in the tourist or logging industry. Visitors to Samui Elephant Sanctuary are able to walk with the resident elephants and observe them socialise, bathe, and play in the mud.
16) Sample local rum
La Rhumerie isn’t an obvious tourist attraction, but this is an interesting spot to visit with a restaurant and shop in addition to the rum distillery. Unusually, the rum distilled here is made from sugarcane juice. Visitors can learn about the production process and sample different flavours including a coconut rum.
17) Watch a fire show on the beach
In common with many Thai islands, fire shows on Samui’s beaches are a popular way to entertain visitors at night. Perhaps the best-known fire show on the island is the one at ARKbar Beach Club on Chaweng Beach which takes place each evening from 8pm onwards.
18) Try your hand at Muay Thai
Muay Thai fans travelling to Ko Samui can train at camps including Superpro or Lamai Muay Thai. Superpro also offers yoga and MMA classes while Lamai Muay Thai has classes to suit all ages and levels of fitness. Find more details for Muay Thai holidays on Ko Samui here.
19) Learn kiteboarding
Whatever month you visit Ko Samui, it’s possible to go kiteboarding or learn how to stand up paddle (SUP). Kiteboarding equipment and SUP boards can be rented from Kiteboarding Asia who run two schools at different locations on Samui depending on the season.
20) Go snorkelling or diving
If you’d like to go diving on your holiday, get in touch with any of Samui’s dive schools such as The Dive Academy. They can take you out to some of the best dive sites in the Gulf of Thailand including Sail Rock which is suitable for all divers from beginners to advanced level. Expect to see a wide variety of marine life with the Sail Rock area also seeing frequent sightings of whale sharks.
If you’d prefer to simply snorkel, ask at your hotel or contact any of the tour offices on Ko Samui who can arrange trips for you. Snorkelling is usually included as an option for day trips to the Ang Thong National Marine Park and Ko Madsum.
21) Explore by kayak
If you’d like to keep dry, but still get a good look at the marine life and natural beauty of Ko Samui, take to the water on a kayak. As with the snorkelling trips, kayaking is often available as an add-on to island trips.
22) Play a round of golf
Golfers visiting Ko Samui can take the opportunity to play a round at the scenic 18-hole Santiburi Golf Course. With cracking views of the island’s north coast, this is an excellent course to play. Shoes and clubs can be rented from the pro shop with a full cart and caddy service also available.
23) Bend it like Beckham
If you like the idea of playing golf, but worried your golf skills won’t do the Santiburi Golf Course justice, take a look instead at football golf. Footgolf is a fun game for all the family with the playing area on Ko Samui part of the picturesque botanical gardens.
24) Recharge body and soul
For a wellness holiday or some precious ‘me time’ during your travels, there are few better places in Asia than Ko Samui. With world-class wellness resorts and spas, the tropical setting of Ko Samui is ideal for recharging body and soul.
Amongst the many locations to unwind and destress are:
25) Get a beach massage
Getting a beach massage on Ko Samui is one of those simple pleasures in life. With the sound of the waves in the background and the warm tropical air on your face, this is a must-try experience during your Samui holiday.
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