DESTINATION GUIDE

Koh Samui: a complete guide

Sander & MariskaKoh Samui is a paradise that offers 1001 possibilities. It’s a massive and well-developed island with beautiful resorts, exclusive restaurants, and first-class wellness & yoga retreats.

You wouldn’t know it from a casual glance, but the jungle is always within reach, and you can find yourself at the foot of a huge waterfall in no time. Going inland especially, you’ll notice how pure Koh Samui still is. And that’s not even taking into account the stunningly beautiful beaches…
– Sander & Mariska

Sights in Koh Samui

Because of its busy streets full of tourists, Koh Samui is sometimes referred to as “Little Bangkok”. Not only is it a great place to go shopping, you can also visit its beautiful temples or look for the more peaceful environments of its beaches and its mountains and waterfalls that can be found in the jungle. Because the possibilities are endless, we gladly provide you with a list of 18 sights & attractions that we really enjoyed and things we feel truly represent what Koh Samui is all about!

1. Fisherman’s Village (Bophut)

Grand Palace in Bangkok

This former fishing village has turned into a trendy center with restaurants, little shops and hip bars. Every Friday night there’s an evening market which is a lot of fun.

2. Chaweng Walking Street

Chaweng Walking Street

The best place for a pleasant evening in Chaweng! Haggle for clothing, eat some cheap street food and toast to life with a 60 baht cocktail. Cheers!

3. Waterfalls

Hin Lat Waterfall Koh Samui

Take a swim under Koh Samui’s spectacular waterfalls. Hin Lat and Na Muang Waterfalls are especially worth it!

4. Hin Ta & Hin Yai (Grandmother & Grandfather Rock)

Hin Ta & Hin Yai

These two rocks resemble male and female private parts – complete with currents of water coming from the right places. Will make for some funny pictures.

5. Wat Phra Yai (Big Buddha)

Khao San Road in Bangkok

This 12 meter high golden Buddha statue is Koh Samui’s eye catcher. In the courtyard around the statue you’ll find lots of little stalls selling food, clothing and souvenirs.

6. Wat Plai Laem

Wat Plai Laem

The island’s most fun temple complex where, among other things, you can see an enormous 18 armed Buddha. Buy a bag food for the massive catfish that swim around it.

7. Wat Nam Tok Hin Lat

Grand Palace in Bangkok

An extraordinary temple located in the middle of the jungle. Follow the signs with philosophical sayings that will lead you to all kinds of small temples.

8. Phra Phuttha Teepangkorn

Khao San Road in Bangkok

An impressive Buddha statue that looks out across the island. Make the climb by foot (± 2 hours) or take a 4×4 jeep.

9. Wat Kiri Wongkaram

Chinatown in Bangkok

Here you can marvel at a mummified (!) monk, making this one of Koh Samui’s most remarkable sights.

10. Secret Buddha Garden

Grand Palace in Bangkok

Beautiful little garden in the middle of the jungle that has Buddha statues, little temples and waterfalls, hidden deep in the hills of Samui. Book a guided tour, it’s pretty easy to get lost!

11. Nathon

Nathon Pier

Koh Samui’s town center, where you’ll mainly find old, wooden buildings. As this isn’t the center for tourism, shopping and food are much cheaper than in other places on the island.

12. Hua Thanon Market

Market Koh Samui

Hua Thanon is a small village where time has stood still. A great place to soak up the traditional island life and take some nice pictures while doing it.

Grand Palace in Bangkok

Take a diving course at the best diving school on Koh Samui, with guidance from professional (Dutch speaking) diving instructors. Highly recommended!

14. Cooking Course

Thai Cooking Koh Samui

Learn how to prepare the best Thai dishes at Ying’s Thai Cooking Home, Island Organics Thai Cooking Class or the Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts for professionals.

15. Spa Day

Tamarind Springs Spa in Koh Samui

Treat yourself to a Thai massage or beauty treatment at, for example at Tamarind Springs Forest Spa in Thong Takian or Golden Hands Thai Massage in Lamai.

16. Yoga

Yoga House in Koh Samui

Interested in following a yoga class or going on a yoga retreat? Marga Yoga in Taling Ngam and Yoga House & Spa in Maret are very highly regarded.

Ang Thong National Marine Park

Imagine dozens of small tropical islands, clear blue water, pearly white beaches and viewpoints that will leave you speechless. You HAVE to see this!

Koh Tan

Take a taxi boat to the nearby little island of Koh Tan and follow the trail through a beautiful, deserted mangrove forest.

Beaches in Koh Samui

It’s not a coincidence that Koh Samui is so incredibly popular as a beach destination. The island has several dozens of beaches that wouldn’t be out of place on a holiday postcard. There really is something for everyone: there are pleasant family beaches and unspoiled ones where you’re likely to be the only tourist, but also busy party beaches with lots of bars and restaurants. We tore around the island on our little motorbike for one month and this list of favorites is the result! Using the map of Koh Samui, we’ll go from left to right, starting in the north.

Ideal beach for families with children, it has lovely sand and ample opportunities to just run around. On the beach there are a few restaurants where you can have an ice cold fruit shake or a plate of Pad Thai. Our favorite!

Beautiful beach with lots of luxury resorts. Maybe the most relaxing beach on Koh Samui, with lovely powdery sand, waving palm trees and here and there a deserted hammock. Great for a day of doing nothing!

Swanky beach with lots of expensive resorts and outstanding restaurants. It’s the type of beach where you can see yachts go by from your lazy reclining chair, all the while enjoying a cold Chang beer or a fresh cocktail. We like!

4. Bangrak Beach

Bangrak Beach is a beautiful, low-key, swimming beach that’s often called Big Buddha Beach. You’ll find small boutique resorts, local bars, and great restaurants.

The place to be if you like going out and big crowds. It’s always crowded, has a pleasant atmosphere and, during the day, this is the beach everyone flocks to. Make your way through the hundreds of parked motorbikes and find yourself a nice spot on this stretched out strip of sand.

6. Chaweng Noi Beach

Chaweng Noi Beach can be seen as Chaweng Beach’s quiet and small-scale little sister. A beautiful beach with soft, white sand and clear water, perfect for a swim. Ideal for taking a breather and getting ready for a night out.

In the bay of Thong Takien you’ll find one of the island’s most beautiful beaches: Crystal Bay Beach, which is a small sandy beach surrounded by spectacular cliffs and boulders. A great place for a bit of R&R or to go snorkeling in the sea.

Lamai Beach is the island’s second most popular beach, after Chaweng Beach. It stretches wide in all directions and it’s not very busy, giving ample opportunity to relax or play a game of beach volleyball with locals.

Thong Krut down south is not a swimming beach, but it is a very pleasant and peaceful beach where you can go for nice walks across the sand and run into the local fishermen, laying out their nets.

10. Taling Ngam Beach

This picturesque, local beach is surrounded by jungle and has an astonishing view across the islands of Ang Thong Marine Park. Here you won’t find more than a few cheap bungalows and a fish restaurant!

Lipa Noi Beach is another one of those great beaches for seekers of peace and quiet. Its sand is fine and white and the beach is excellent for kids because the water is shallow for 100 meters and doesn’t have any rocks or coral.

Hotels in Koh Samui

Koh Samui, with its beachside bamboo cabins and nighttime jungle parties, used to be Thailand’s number one backpackers’ paradise. These days Koh Samui is more famous for its dozens, if not hundreds, of high-end luxury resorts.

Are there no budget accommodations at all on the island? Thankfully, there are. We lived on Koh Samui for a couple of months, so we’ve had ample time to research it. Here then is our list of 8 of the best accommodations. We wish you a fantastic stay!

Coco Palm Beach Resort

1. Coco Palm Beach Resort

Right on the beach Nice swimming pool Amazing resort

$$ – Coco Palm Beach Resort is located on what might be Koh Samui’s nicest beach. Escape the hustle and bustle in the beautifully landscaped garden with its palm trees, luxury swimming pool and beach location.

Crystal Bay Beach Resort

2. Crystal Bay Beach Resort

Secret beach Affordable luxury View

$$ – Sleep in one of the nicer hotels at a reasonable price. Located between busy Lamai and Chaweng Beach, the Crystal Bay Beach Resort offers everything you would expect from a tropical island. One of Koh Samui’s best kept secrets!

Silavadee Pool Spa Resort

3. Silavadee Pool Spa Resort

Private Beach Luxury villas Infinity pool

$$$ – This amazing resort lies in a quiet bay with a secret beach, exclusively for guests. For the ultimate relaxation therapy, visit the spa. Or just enjoy the sea view from your private terrace, which is pretty relaxing as well!

Lazy Days Samui Beach Resort

4. Lazy Days Samui Beach Resort

On the beach Small-scale Friendly staff

$$ – For a nice and laid-back stay on Lamai Beach come to Lazy Days! No hordes of tourists here; instead this is a small-scale bungalow park with really nice accommodations. There’s a swimming pool with a beach view as well. How lovely!

Coco Palm Beach Resort

5. Smile House Resort

Nice bungalows Beautiful swimming pool Great location

$$$ – These gorgeous bungalows are surrounded by palm trees, jungle and fishing village Bohput’s sandy beach. When you’re done sunbathing on the beach, take a dip in one of the two swimming pools.

Thongson Bay Bungalows

6. Thongson Bay Bungalows

Beautiful swimming pool Nice restaurant Calm & relaxed

$ – Looking for a simple bungalow on a quiet beach? Then this might be exactly what you’re looking for! Days here are spent relaxing and enjoying the amazing beachside restaurant’s excellent food, served on bamboo tables.

Villa Giacomelli

7. Villa Giacomelli

Near the beach Very friendly staff Peace & quiet

$ – Catch a glimpse of real Thai life! This beautiful, small-scale hotel lies near some deserted beaches where you can relax and unwind. The owners are incredibly warm people and will do everything to make your stay unforgettable.

Liquid Lounge Hostel

8. Liquid Lounge Hostel

Modern & Hip Friendly staff Relaxed atmosphere

$ – The Liquid Lounge Hostel is a great place for chilling out and meeting other travelers. The rooms are pretty, the air conditioning system works well, the food’s great and Chaweng Beach, with all its bars and clubs, is within walking distance.

9. Secret Garden Beach Resort

Boutique Resort  Low-key  Great price

$$ – The two Dutch owners; Rik & John are running this low key boutique beach resort at Bangrak Beach. Enjoy the luxury, the green garden, the pool and the beach!

Restaurants in Koh Samui

Dine in style on the beach or have a nice bowl of soup on the street at a Thai eatery. Up to you! On Koh Samui, you can choose between hundreds of amazing restaurants that would make any foodie’s heart beat a little faster. During a month or two we tried food all over the island and listed the following as our favorite places to eat, in alphabetical order.

1. La Fabrique

105/1 Moo 6, Ban Lamai & 89/1 Moo 6 Ban Chaweng
The best place to have a great breakfast with freshly made croissants, crêpes, sandwiches and a nice cup of coffee. La Fabrique is located in two places: Lamai and Chaweng.

2. Lay Thai

67 Moo 5, Taling Ngam
Local Thai stand that serves really good and cheap Thai food on the water. Among the best-loved dishes are the Penang chicken curry and the Thai noodle soup. Yum!

3. Pizza del Sol

139/22 Moo-4 Maret, Ban Lamai
We still long for the pizzas of Pizza del Sol. They are truly divine! When you’re in Lamai, try it. It’s an absolute must!

4. Ninja Crepes Restaurant

109/15 Moo1, Road 4171, Bophut
Fast, tasty and cheap Thai food. We love it! Don’t expect luxury dining at Ninja Crepes. Do expect quick service and fresh food.

5. Secret Garden Restaurant & Bar

22/1 M. 4 Baan Bangrak Beach
Looking for the best European and Mediterranean dishes? Go to the Secret Garden Restaurant & Bar right on Bangrak Beach. The best dinner we’ve had!

6. Spices Cafe

Soi Maenam Resort, 4169, Mae Nam
Awesome little Thai restaurant. The dishes served here taste good, are fresh and prepared with love. It’s slightly more expensive than the average Thai restaurant – but it’s well worth it.

7. Stacked Samui

Across from Ozo Chaweng Samui Hotel, Chaweng Beach
For greasy food you HAVE to visit Stacked, where they serve the best hamburgers of the entire island. You might pay a little more for it, but you’re guaranteed to get your money’s worth.

8. Sweet Sisters Cafe

Corner of route 4173 and route 4170, Baan Bang Kao Road
We lived practically next door to the Sweet Sisters for a few months and were in there almost every day. Bio ingredients, salads, little cakes, smoothies… Love!

9. The Hut Cafe

71/2 M.1, Fishermans Village, Bophut
This tiny little restaurant in Bophut is run by a Thai family. No frills, simply GORGEOUS and cheap Thai food.

10. The Jungle Club

Soi Panyadee School, Bophut Rd, Chaweng Noi
Visit the Jungle Club for the view: you’ll be chilling on a platform with an amazing view over Chaweng and Bophut. Nice place to have a drink.

11. The Seaside Steak House

54/2 Moo 1, Fisherman’s Village, Bophut
If you feel like having some tasty meat, then visit the Seaside Steak House. Not only is it a great place to have steak, but also hamburgers, spare ribs and beefsteaks.

12. Tree Tops

92/1 Moo 2, Bophut
Highly recommended for an elegant and romantic dinner. Dinner will be served in a type of tree house from where you’ll have an amazing view over the island. Expensive, but very memorable!

Transport in Koh Samui

From Bangkok

Direct flight

  • Travel time: 1 hour
  • Cost: ฿ 2,500-6,000 pp

From Bangkok (Don Muang Airport or Suvarnabhumi Airport) you’ll take a Bangkok Airways or a Thai Airways flight and arrive at Koh Samui’s airport in one hour. Koh Samui’s airport is located near the center of the touristic heart, making sure you’ll be at your hotel in Bophut, Chaweng or Lamai in no more than half an hour.

Domestic flight Surat Thani + ferry

  • Travel time: 3-4 hours
  • Cost: ฿ 1,000-1,500 pp

A cheaper alternative is flying to Surat Thani, a nearby town on the mainland. There’s a shuttle service in between Surat Thani and Donsak Pier, the pier the ferries to Koh Samui depart from, which will take about an hour and a half. You can buy your ferry tickets at the ticket offices next to the exits. The ferry will take an hour and a half to get to Koh Samui.

Sleeper train + bus + ferry

  • Travel time: 14 hours
  • Cost: ฿ 1,400-1,750 pp

The earliest sleeper train leaves from Hua Lamphong Train Station in Bangkok at 5:05 PM and arrives in Surat Thani at 4:25 AM – but of course you can also choose to take a later train for a slightly more agreeable time of arrival. From Surat Thani train station you get on the bus to Donsak Pier, which will take about an hour and a half. Then the ferry will take an hour and a half to get you to Koh Samui.

From other destinations

Surat Thani

  • Travel time: 3 hours
  • Cost: ฿ 600 pp

At the bus station, the train station and the airport in Surat Thani, it’s possible to buy combined tickets (bus + boat). The trip will last ± 3 hours and will cost ± ฿ 600 per person. The last bus to the pier leaves at 2:30 PM from Surat Thai.

Krabi

  • Travel time: 5 hours
  • Cost: ฿ 800 pp

From Krabi Town you can leave for Koh Samui four times a day: at 7:00 AM, 8:00 AM, 11:00 AM and 12:30 PM. First you’ll travel by bus and then by ferry. All in all, the trip takes around 5 hours and the cost of the tickets will be ± ฿ 800 per person.

Koh Phangan

  • Travel time: 3 hours
  • Cost: ฿ 350-400 pp

There’s a ferry that leaves from Koh Phangan to Koh Samui pretty much every hour. The time it takes to get there varies from 20 minutes to 3 hours. For the quickest passage we recommend Lomprayah and Seatran. Ticket prices: ฿ 350-400 per person.

Koh Tao

  • Travel time: 2 hours
  • Cost: ฿ 600 pp

You can reach Koh Samui easily from Koh Tao. Between 6:30 AM and 3:00 PM various ferries leave from Mae Haad Pier. The trip will take around 2 hours and ferry tickets are about ฿ 600 per person

Getting around

Motorbike

Renting a motorbike in Koh Samui isn’t exactly cheap, but it will cost a lot less than constantly taking a taxi. Because Koh Samui is very busy and traffic can be unpredictable, we advise you only rent a motorbike if you’re an experienced rider. Rent is 200-400 baht for 24 hrs.

Songthaew

Shared taxis that run along fixed routes and shuttle between the beaches. One ride will cost you anywhere between 50 and 100 baht. However, make sure you’ve negotiated the price before you get in, as drivers like to overcharge!

Taxi

Taxi rides are expensive. Even through every taxi has a sign on top that read “Taxi Meter”, none of the taxis on Koh Samui use it. So make sure you’ve clearly negotiated a price before you get in or share a taxi. Fares start from 400 baht.

Weather in Koh Samui

The best time to visit Koh Samui is from April – August.

November – February

Normally the cool season is the time to visit Thailand, but that’s not entirely the case for Koh Samui. November, December and January are marked by considerable downpours.

March – May

The hot season on Koh Samui means sun, sun and even more sun. Expect little to no rain during these months. It’s incredibly hot, but luckily the wind and the sea are there for some cooling down.

June – October

Surprisingly, the rainy season is the ideal time to visit Koh Samui. Every day there’s a chance of small and refreshing showers, while the rest of the day is sunny and dry. The sea is calm and clear.

Map of Koh Samui

Continue your journey to...

Koh Tao
Koh Phangan
Krabi