Koh Samui Guide: What to See and Do in Koh Samui, Thailand

Koh Samui is the second largest island in the Gulf of Thailand and one of the most popular in the country. We explain what to see and what to do in Koh Samui, so you don’t miss a thing.

Located 80 kilometers from the Thai coast, the island of Koh Samui has an area of 247 m2 and a population of approximately 62,500 inhabitants.

There you can relax on its beaches, practice water sports, stroll through its urban centers in Chaweng or Bophut or take an excursion to some of the surrounding islands, such as Koh Tao or Koh Nangyuan.

We explain what to see and what to do in Koh Samui so that you don’t miss anything that is essential during your visit to this beautiful Thai island and its beaches.

Do you want to discover more beach areas in Thailand? Visit our Guide to the beaches of Thailand.

Index of contents

What to see in Ko Samui

One of the main attractions of Koh Samui are its beaches, which, like many Thai beaches, have spectacular views with crystal clear waters and white sand.

They are a perfect place for the traveler looking to relax or enjoy water activities. You can also discover monuments and temples, such as the Big Buddha or Wat Plai Laem, or delve into the most authentic part of the island at Bophut Fisherman’s Village.

As you can see, Koh Samui has all the ingredients to please beach lovers as well as those who like nature, culture and even the most urbanites.

How to get around Koh Samui?

Despite being the largest island in the Gulf of Thailand and the third largest island in the country, Koh Samui is a perfectly affordable island to get around by motorcycle, bicycle, minibus or taxi. In fact, to compare it, its extension is less than half that of the island of Ibiza. So it will not be difficult for you to discover the entire island in a short time.

Renting a motorcycle can cost around 10 euros per day, while if you opt for a bicycle, the rent is around 5 euros per day. Above all, it should be borne in mind that it is important to rent motorcycles and bicycles in places that you see that are trustworthy to avoid problems. You can also get on a minibus (songthaews) that makes your route or ask them for a destination that interests you, negotiating the price with the driver.

Getting around Koh Samui is not complicated, and having this freedom to discover the island will make your list of things to do in Koh Samui easily fulfilled 🙂

Ko Samui Beaches

Below we detail some of the most recommended Koh Samui beaches for your stay on the island.

Chaweng

Chaweng Beach is the largest on the island, with 7 kilometers of coastline, and surely one of the most popular. It is located on the east coast of Koh Samui and, apart from relaxing on the beach, it is a good place to enjoy a lively nightlife. In fact, some restaurants are set up right on the sand of the beach, where you can enjoy typical dishes by the sea.

In Chaweng you can practice practically any water sport. You will find many equipment rental companies or diving courses and excursions, both for people already initiated, and for beginners.

This is one of these Koh Samui beaches where you will not get bored and you can enjoy both the beauty of the sea and the lively activities, both day and night.

Chaweng Beach
Chaweng Beach

Bophut

In the north of Koh Samui you can relax on Bophut Beach, which stretches a few kilometers south from Big Buddha. As usual on other beaches on the island, in Bophut you can taste a typical Thai meal on the sand of the beach, where the restaurants set up their tables.

From there, and while you enjoy the best Thai cuisine, sometimes you can see fire shows also performed in the sand on the beach. If you like water activities, do not hesitate to rent a jet ski to explore the area. Bophut is one of the places that most maintains its traditional essence.

Bophut Beach,
Bophut Beach,

Choeng Mon

15 minutes from Chaweng and 5 minutes from Big Buddha is Choeng Mon Beach. It is a quiet, clean beach, quite small and ideal if you travel as a family. Choeng Mon Beach is also known for offering multiple water activities, such as snorkeling or kayaking. So, if you are looking for a place to practice sports, Choeng Mon beach is possibly one of the best alternatives on Koh Samui.

Choeng Mon Beach, a calm beach
Choeng Mon Beach, a calm beach

Lipa Noi

Located in the center of the west coast of Koh Samui, Lipa Noi is an ideal beach to enjoy with the family. The water is shallow in the first 100 meters and there are no rocks, so you and your family can enjoy the place quietly. Lipa Noi is the perfect place if you are looking to disconnect and be very quiet, since nightlife and urban life are non-existent.

So, if you are traveling with the little ones in the house, keep this in mind: Lipa Noi is one of the best beaches on Koh Samui for families!

Taling Ngam

An hour from Chaweng is Taling Ngam Beach. This area is surrounded by coconut trees and wooden houses, typical of southern Koh Samui. It is a particularly quiet place, with calm and shallow waters.

There is not much offer in terms of shops but you will find a restaurant if you feel like eating in the place. From Taling Ngam you can see an impressive sunset and see the famous Ko Si Ko Haa, or what is the same: Four Islands – Five Islands, so called because from Taling Ngam one island covers the other.

Silver Beach

Silver Beach is a small beach, approximately 250 meters long, ideal for relaxing or practicing water sports. A good option is to practice snorkeling around the rocks, if the water is calm. Near Silver Beach there are two of the most famous rocks of the place, the Hin Ta and the Hin Yai.

The beach is surrounded by four renowned local establishments that, although they are located along the beach, do not prevent you from bathing and relaxing in the sand even if you have not contracted their services or are not staying at the establishment.

Samrong Beach and Thongson Bay

Following our tour of the beaches of Koh Samui, another option to visit is Samrong Beach and Thongson Bay. These two beaches are practically identical. They are located in the north of Koh Samui and are a much quieter place than other beaches like the bustling Chaweng.

Both beaches are 250 meters long and are ideal for travelers seeking relaxation. This yes, without moving away from the entertainment venues, since they are located a few kilometers from beaches and towns, such as Chaweng or Bophut itself, where there is an offer of entertainment or shops.

Big Buddha and Wat Plai Laem

  • Big Buddha, a 12 meter tall Buddha statue

One of the main cultural attractions on the island is the Big Buddha, located in the northeast of Koh Samui. It is a 12-meter-high golden statue of a seated Buddha, built in 1972. It is also a very representative figure of the place since approximately 90% of the population of Koh Samui is Buddhist. In addition to Buddha you can see other figures, statues and traditional buildings.

To access the statue there are stairs and, from its top, you can see panoramic views of the place. It is common to find monks or pilgrims making offerings to the Buddha with flowers or incense.

The Big Buddha of Koh Samui
The Big Buddha of Koh Samui
  • Wat Plai Laem and its sculpture of 18 arms

Near the Big Buddha you can visit the Wat Plai Laem, a temple that is distinguished by a sculpture of Guanyin, the goddess of mercy and compassion. This goddess has 18 arms and is built in white and gold.

As in the case of the Big Buddha, it is interesting to walk around the surroundings of the statue itself, since you will find other figures, murals and buildings of traditional Thai architecture. Wat Plai Laem is also visited daily by people who follow Buddhism, so it is recommended to show the utmost respect when visiting the temple.

Wat Plai Laem
Wat Plai Laem

Hin Ta and Hin Yai

One of the most curious attractions of Koh Samui are the Hin Ta and Hin Yai rocks, on Lamai beach, in the south of the island. They are also known as grandfather’s rock and grandmother’s rock. Their shapes are reminiscent of the male and female sexual organs.

Legend has it that an elderly couple, he called Ta Kreng (grandfather Kreng) and she called Yan Riem (grandmother Riem) wanted their son to get married. They wanted to visit a family from the next town to ask for their daughter’s hand, but during the trip across the sea a storm destroyed their boat and they died.

They were then turned into rocks with this particular shape so that the parents of the potential bride would know that they wanted their children to get married.

Bophut Fisherman’s Village

In Bophut, in the north of Koh Samui, you can enjoy a magnificent day at the beach. In addition, one of the biggest attractions of the place is the town of Bophut itself, as it still retains its most authentic and traditional charm. Through its streets you will meet the locals and see their day to day, as well as buy in their traditional shops.

On Friday evenings this quiet town turns into an interesting night market (open from 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.) in the so-called Fisherman’s Village Walking Street. The streets are filled with shops where you can buy textiles, souvenirs, spices or handicrafts. You can also taste the best street food at a really good price. For example, one of Thailand’s star dishes, pad Thai, costs only around €1.50.

Buddha’s secret garden

The Secret Buddha Garden, also called the Magical Buddha Garden, is a hidden garden located on top of a hill in Baan Saket (Route 4169) in south-central Koh Samui. It is in the middle of nature so it can be a very rewarding excursion for lovers of outdoor activities.

This garden was built in 1976 by a farmer from Koh Samui who erected some wonderful sculptures turning the place into a secret garden. He went there to relax and connect with nature. Today in this garden there is still an atmosphere of peace and spirituality.

To access the garden you can do it either by yourself or with an organized excursion, which usually lasts approximately 2 hours.

Things to do in Ko Samui

Despite the small size of Koh Samui, the island offers a multitude of activities for all tastes, from travelers who want to discover the most cultural part of the place, to the most foodies who want to discover the most authentic food of Koh Samui. These are some of the activities to do in Koh Samui during your trip.

Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan Island Tour

If you fancy taking an excursion to one of the islands near Koh Samui, a good option is to visit the islands of Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan. These two islands are only accessible by sea, so you will need to take a ferry to get to them.

A good option to get from Koh Samui to Koh Tao is to depart from Bophut, in the north of Koh Samui. From there you can take a ferry that will take you to Koh Tao. From Koh Tao you can also access Koh Nang Yuan by sea.

Koh Tao Main Beaches
Koh Tao Main Beaches

Both Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan are two islands with stunning beaches with crystal clear water. Perfect for practicing water sports such as scuba diving. In the case of Koh Nang Yuan, you will notice that they are actually a group of islands, linked to each other through curious sand walkways. An impressive image that is worth seeing.

Dine or have a cocktail on the beach

As we have seen before, in Koh Samui there are many options to enjoy a good dinner in a restaurant on the beach. The restaurateurs put their tables on the sand or, if you are going to have a cocktail, you can lie on one of their huge cushions on the sand itself and enjoy the night.

On the beaches of Koh Samui you will find a wide gastronomic offer where you can taste the best dishes of Thai cuisine or a refreshing drink. If you are in Bophut, one of the best places to enjoy on the beach is Coco Tam’s.

Go hiking and swimming at Namuang Waterfalls

20 kilometers from Chaweng you can bathe in the Namuang Waterfalls, two impressive waterfalls also known as “Violet Waterfalls”. They are known for the color of the water reflected on the rocks.

One of the waterfalls is 18 meters long, while the other, much more impressive, is 80 meters long. At the end of the waterfall a natural pool is formed, ideal for bathing. Access and bathing in the waterfalls is absolutely free.

To access the Namuang Waterfalls you will need to take Route 4169 between Nathon and Lamai Beach. Once there, if you want to climb to the highest part of the waterfalls, it is recommended only to do it if you are an experienced person and you go with the appropriate equipment, since it is a slippery place. If you prefer to stay below you will enjoy majestic views towards Namuang Waterfalls and you will be able to enjoy its waters by taking a bath in them.

Attend a show at a ladyboy cabaret

If you want to attend a really different show and enjoy the nightlife, a good option is to go to a show in a ladyboy cabaret. Ladyboys or katoey, in Thai, are transsexual or gay people dressed in a very feminine way. In fact, the katoey are considered a third gender in Thailand, where they are much more open in this regard than in other countries. Ladyboy cabarets are shows where katoeys perform popular songs and perform typical Thai dances.

One of the places where you can enjoy these shows is in Chaweng, where there is a lively nightlife and a wide range of ladyboy cabarets. Some of them are the Starz Cabaret (11/1 Moo 2, Chaweng Beach Road) or the Paris Follies Cabaret (166/92 Moo 2, off Chaweng Beach Road). Hours are from 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Do you want to travel to the beaches of Thailand? If you want to know other beaches, apart from the beaches of Koh Samui, in this Guide to the best beaches in Thailand you will be able to discover much more about the charms of the beaches of Thailand, both in the Gulf of Thailand and in the Andaman Sea.

Now that you know what to do in Koh Samui during your trip, do you want to see our itineraries for the beaches of Thailand? Discover our routes through the best beach destinations in the country.

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