Koh Samui, our final destination in Thailand after over two months of exploration, is a paradise for everyone. After staying one week in both Ko Tao and Ko Phan Gan, we only stayed 3 days in Koh Samui. We didn’t find it as attractive and authentic as the other islands in the Gulf of Thailand. We were there at the end of May when the weather was good but it wasn’t the peak month for tourism. Our time on the island was still pleasant and we found plenty of things to do. Here is our Koh Samui travel guide and top 5 places to visit.
How to get to Koh Samui
Whether you are coming from the North or the South of Thailand, your transfer from Donsak Pier to Koh Samui should be included in the price if you book on 12go.asia. We arrived from Khao Sok and everything was arranged very smoothly. You can try to negotiate a price directly at any agency in Surat Thani or Donsak Pier, but you will find the same prices (220-240THB).
Koh Samui travel guide: top 5 places to visit
Our number one advice for Koh Samui is to rent a scooter. It’s so much easier to get around and definitely cheaper. We rented ours for only 100THB per day and had the freedom to go wherever we wanted and whenever. We heard many stories about crazy traffic on the island and difficult driving conditions, but we didn’t experience any of that during our 3 days there. If you choose the local taxis (songthaew), you will pay at least 200-250THB per trip. They are at every corner but can take some time to reach your destination.
We were happy to visit Koh Samui at the end of our Thailand trip because it was a mix of everything we saw in the rest of the country. We explored stunning beaches, visited serene temples, wandered through vibrant night markets, and stumbled upon some hidden gems on the island. Here’s our Koh Samui travel guide and the top 5 places to visit.
Discovering Koh Samui’s beaches
If you’re staying in Koh Samui, you can’t miss out on the beaches. They are very easy to reach and have plenty of shops and restaurants around. The most popular are Chaweng Beach and Lamai Beach, situated on the East Coast of the island, away from the big boats. They are perfect for a sunrise or to go snorkelling. The beaches on the West Coast aren’t as popular because they are near the ferries and the water isn’t as clean. In the North, Maenam Beach and Bo Phut Beach are among the most popular. You can catch a stunning sunset at both of those beaches.
If you like water sports, you can rent a jet ski or a stand-up paddleboard on most beaches. Renting a jet ski can be expensive (2000THB) and you have to beware of one of the most popular scams in Thailand. Some companies will claim you damaged their jet ski by going on a rock or invent another lie. Don’t fall for this, examine your jet ski before and after renting it.
Exploring Buddhist temples
There are a few Buddhist temples scattered around Koh Samui. They are all free and charming. On the Southern tip, you will find Wat Khao Chedi. It seems abandoned and definitely needs some maintenance. However, you will find some nice Buddhist statues and some nice views of the island and its surroundings.
On the Northern tip, there are Wat Plai Laem and Wat Phra Yai. They are less than 20 minutes walking distance from each other and even less with a scooter. Wat Plai Laem has many Buddhist statues, a koi pond, some turtles and many temples. It’s not very touristy and very beautiful. Wat Phra Yai is almost on a separate island. There are a few shops around where you can buy souvenirs. If you walk up the stairs, you will reach a giant Buddha statue. It is also a good place to enjoy a quiet sunset.
Enjoying the vibrant night market in Fisherman’s Village
The main activity in Koh Samui is without a doubt the Night Market in FIsherman’s Village. Not only can you buy various Thai dishes, but it is also right next to Bo Phut Beach. There is a boardwalk spanning almost 2km where you can eat, drink, party and buy some souvenirs. Enjoy mesmerizing fire shows held every evening on the beach – a must-see experience.
Hidden gem: Tarnim Magic Garden
Tucked away from tourists and on a hill, you will find Tarmin Magic Garden. The locals set up many Buddhist statues of all sizes along a path. It’s a very charming spot.
Around Tarmin Magic Garden, there are a few waterfalls such as Na Muang, Khao Yai and Wang Sao Thong you can visit during the rainy season. If you are hungry, you should visit Sea View Restaurant which is less than 5 minutes away. It has the best views of the island and some reasonably priced food. They also have a dinosaur park for some reason.
Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park
One of the best and quietest places to snorkel is at Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park, which comprises 42 islands. You can’t get there by your own means. The only way to visit Mu Ko And Thong is to book a tour from Koh Samui or Kho Phan Gan. There are a few mammals on the islands, but you have to be lucky to see them. You can see some dusky leaf monkeys, macaques, leopards, fishing cats, boars and otters. The tour costs around 1000THB but can be more if you choose extras such as kayaking.
During your visit, you can snorkel with turtles and fish, visit some viewpoints and swim in clear blue water. If you choose to stay overnight, you can either camp for 150THB or book a night at a hotel.
Choosing accommodation in Koh Samui
The best places to stay in Koh Samui are around the popular beaches to ensure you can find transport and food. The island is full of life day and night. When you compare the accommodations and the prices with Ko Tao and Ko Phan Gan, the quality just isn’t there. We ended up booking a hotel by Chaweng Beach and we were a little disappointed. It was just alright. We very much preferred our accommodations on the other islands. This is one of the weak points of Koh Samui.