Koh Samui (50,000 citizens), is the largest island of Thailand after Koh Chang. The island is located in the Gulf of Thailand about 430mi from Bangkok and 9mi from Koh Phangan. In the early 70s tourism started to come to this island. Initially it were the backpackers who discovered Koh Samui. Koh Samui has gotten her fame mostly because of the beautiful beaches like Chaweng and Lamai. On the west coast you will find the quiet beaches. Koh Samui is also excellent as starting point for diving and snorkeling excursions. Besides the beaches and the sea, there are also many cultural and historical sites on the island, like the temples Wat Khunaram and Wat Phra Yai. Koh Samui is together with Bangkok and Phuket a destiniation for Far East cruises.
Sights and Tourist Attractions
Location: 11mi from city center - 40 minutes drive | Category: Culture and History
Wat Khunaram is probably the most famous temple of Koh Samui. It's mostly famous for the mummified monk of the temple. This monk is still in the same position as at time of death. The last week of his life he stopped eating and talking and went into meditation untill the moment he died. He meditated in the nearby cave Tham Yai. He sits in a display case with sunglasses to hide his decayed eyes. The temple itself is a fairly normal temple where local Thai go to bring sacrifices.
Ang Tong National Marine Park
Location: 10mi from center - 30 minutes by boat | Price: 200 THB | Category: Nature and Sea
Ang Tong National Marine Park covers an area of over 60,000 acres. This park is accessible from three islands: Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. In this park you'll find beautiful scenery, caves and coral reefs. This makes it ideal for diving or snorkeling. The sea marine life includes, blacktip sharks and butterfly fish. On land you can encounter several turtle species, bird species and several species of frogs.
Wat Phra Yai (Big Buddha Temple)
Location: 12mi from city center - 45 minutes drive | Category: Culture and History
The Wat Phra Yai Temple (also known as Big Buddha Temple) is known for its 50ft high Buddha statue. When arriving at koh samui by plane, you can already see this statue if the sky is clear. Before getting to the big statue you will pass a number of smaller Buddha statues. To reach these statues you'll have to climb a long staircase.
Location: 90 minutes by boat | Category: Nature and Sea
Samran Pinnacles is a beautiful site to dive for experienced divers. Because of the strong currents here are mainly pelagic fish like f.e. the Barracuda. This site is located close to Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. By boat it takes about 90 minutes to get there. The best time to dive is June, July and August. The visibility is about 15 to 65ft, the depth varies from 40 to 100ft.
Koh Kra & Koh Losin
Location: via Live-aboards | Category: Nature and Sea
The waters surrounding Koh Kra & Koh Losin are one of the few locations in the world where you still can see the Loggerhead turtle in the wild. Besides the Loggerhead turtle you can also encounter other marine life like the blacktip shark and manta rays. The best time to dive at these locations is June, July and August. During this period the visibility varies between 15 to 80ft. Diving depths vary between 15 to 100ft. You can only reach these regions by the so called live-aboards, there destination is often Koh Losin.
Namtok Na Muang
Location: 10mi from city center - 30 minutes drive | Category: Nature
Namtok Na Muang is the highest waterfall on Koh Samui. The name of the waterfall means loosely translated "Purple Waterfall". This name is based on the purplish glow which this waterfall seems to have. This effect is caused by the dark rocks behind the waterfall. The waterfall is easy accessible from the parking lot nearby. The waterfall itself is about 250ft high and 30ft wide.
Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks
ocation: 9.5mi from city center - 30 minutes drive | Category: Nature
The Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks are a rockformation created as a result of thousands of years of erosion by water and wind. These rocks resemble the male and female sex organs. This natural phenomenon can be found at the southern end of Lamai Beach. From this location you have a nice view over the beach and sea. Around this tourist attraction are many stands where you can buy souvenirs.
Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo
Location: 12mi from city center - 30 minutes drive | Price: 250THB | Category: Zoo and Nature
The Samui Aquarium is in a long underwater tunnel. While walking through the tunnel you can see all kinds of marine life. Many of the marine life actually lives in the waters around Koh Samui. At the Tiger Zoo are daily shows with birds and tigers. Bengal tigers, lions and cheetahs live here.
Secret Buddha Garden
Location: 15mi from center - 1 hour drive | Price: 80THB | Category: Culture and Nature
The construction of the Secret Buddha Garden started in 1976. The creator of the garden was the then 77-year-old Nim Thongsuk. The location is very difficult to reach, so it's best to visit the Secrect Buddha Garden with an organized excursion. The many statues and beautiful nature make this place unique. Therefore the garden is also known as the "Magic Garden". On the way to this location you'll pass the highest point of Koh Samui. It is worth to stop here for a second to enjoy the beautiful view.
Koh Samui is an ideal location for diving in Thailand. At the waters around the island are many dive sites. The three main are: Angthong Marine park (known for the book "The Beach"), Sail rock and Chumpon Pinnacle. Chumpon Pinnacle is located just to the North of Koh Tao. If you only go to Thailand for diving Koh Tao is a better alternative. The depths vary and go up to about 130ft. On Koh Samui are also many diving schools.
Koh Samui offers many opportunities for activities on the beach and in the sea. Just like Phuket and Pattaya there are many possibilities for renting jetskis etc on the beaches. In addition to the standard activities on Koh Samui you also can go surfing and kiteboarding. It's also possible to fish during sail excursions. If you want to enjoy the nature then kayaking in the Angthong Marine Park is a great option.
Koh Samui does not have many locations to play golf at the moment. There are two locations: Santiburi Samui Country Club and Bophut Hills. Due to the mountainous landscape these golfcourses are a real challenge. The golfcourses are well maintained and at many points you have a nice view on the sea and the island. At the golfcourses you can hire caddies who know the golfcourses very well.
At many locations on Koh Samui (as in the rest of Thailand) it is possible to go to cooking courses. At many hotels it's possible to take these courses in the kitchen of the hotel. During the lessons, which may vary in duration, you will learn the basics of Thai cooking. There are two courses that are a lot better then the rest: At Sitca and Pro Chef the courses are well cared for and offer opportunities for the beginner as well as the professional chef.
Entertainment and Nightlife
Full Moon party
On the neighbouring island of Koh Phangan the world famous Full Moon Party is held every month. At night there are people from all over the world partying on this island. The busiest places are Sunrise Beach and Haad Rin. At these beaches mostly backpackers party until the early morning.
Koh Samui is well known for its fantastic food. Along the beaches there are a lot of possibilities to dine. It doesn't matter what you prefer in terms of food, all kinds of food are available on Koh Samui. There are also plenty of accommodations where you can eat for all price ranges. From lowbudget to extreme luxury and fine dining. At restaurants along the coastline, it is possible to dine in the open air with a splendid view on sea. Especially during and after sunset this is worth your time.
Like in Pattaya, on Koh Samui there are daily cabaret shows. The artists in these shows are the so called "Ladyboys". They provide good entertainment while you can enjoy your drink. The beautiful costumes and good production makes it a show that must be seen. The two most famous shows on the island are: Christy's Cabaret and Star Club Cabaret.
During the night, life on Koh Samui is very active. There are three main locations fore going out: Bophut, Chaweng Beach and Lamai Beach. To a lesser extent, it is also possible to go to Maenam. The real entertainment can be found at Chaweng Beach. Along the boulevard there are several bystreets that lead to all sorts of pubs and nightclubs.
How to get there
There are different possibilities to get to Koh Samui. Trains and buses run every day from Bangkok to Surat Thani from where you can take the boat to Koh Samui
Koh Samui can be reached by boat from Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and Surat Thani.
From Koh Tao the crossing takes about 1.5 hours and costs around 600 THB.
From Koh Phangan the crossing takes about half an hour and costs approx 300 THB.
You can take the bus from Surat Thani to Donsak pier. From here you can take the boat to Koh Samui. The boat trip takes about 1.5 hours and will cost about 200-300 THB. These boats, especially in the main season, can be pretty busy which makes the crossing uncomfortable. It is also possible to take the overnight ferry. These boats are very primitive (old cargo ships). That's why we recommended to take an mattress or air mattress with you, as the crossing takes approx. 7 hours. Twice per day (at 6:00am and 9:00pm) a combined boat-VIP bus drives from Bangkok via Hua Hin to Chumpon. From here a catamaran departs to Koh Tao and then to Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. The journey takes approx. 8.5 hours and costs about 1,500 THB. If you use the night service the trip will take three hours more, as you arrive at Chumpon hours before departure.
Koh Samui can be reached by plane from many locations. There are daily flights from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Pattaya. The cost of an one-way ticket from Bangkok, according to Thai standards is quite expesive. The price of a single trip is about 3,000-4,500 THB. Also daily flight depart to Koh Samui from locations as Hong Kong and Singapore.
Twice a day a VIP-bus leaves from Bangkok to Chumpon via Hua Hin. The catamaran departs from Chumpon to Koh Samui. If you are using the nightbus then the trip takes approx. 3 hours longer than the normal 9 hours. The price will be approx. 1,500 THB. If you are travelling to Chumpon by yourself, then the price of the crossing with a catamaran is 1.100 THB and takes about 3.5 hours.
On Koh Samui there are numerous accommodations and types of stay. Prices range from a few hundred to thousands of Baht per night. There are guesthouses where you can stay for 300THB per night and the luxury resorts that start at 4,500THB per night. At the luxury resorts and hotels you'll have facilities such as spas, restaurants, swimming pools etc. While at the cheap guesthouses only the basic facilities are present. It is even possible that you have to share bathrooms and toilets.