Koh Samui in the Gulf of Siam is one of the best destination in Southern Thailand. It is the second most visited island in Thailand right after Phucket. It is perhaps not a surprise as it offers unprecedented natural beauty, with white sandy beaches surrounded with coconut trees, azure clean water, hidden waterfalls and dense lush forests at its heart. It’s the perfect place to take a stress free holiday or a more active one enjoying everything the island has to offer including numerous water sports and the famous elephants treks.
Koh Samui content
- Koh Samui Interactive Map
- About Koh Samui
- Getting Around Koh Samui
- Koh Samui weather
- Koh Samui beaches
- Koh Samui Accommodations
- Attractions around Koh Samui
- Koh Samui Dinning
- Photographs of Koh Samui
Koh Samui Interactive Map
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About Koh Samui
Koh Samui, occasionally spelled Ko Samui and often just called Samui is one of the top destinations in Thailand. It is located some 700km south of Bangkok and about 80km from the eastern coastline of Southern Thailand. It is 25 kilometres long, 21 kilometres wide and with its area of 247km² is the biggest island and main hub in the Gulf of Siam.
Without any doubt it is an island of great natural beauty and variety. It is small enough to get around it in just a couple of hours by scooter, but big enough for some serious exploration. The shoreline is mostly comprised of sandy beaches and coconut trees, while mountainous rainforest is located at its heart.
The island has a population of about 40,000 people, with many thousand more can be added during the peak touristic season. The vast majority of its inhabitants are Buddhist, and therefore many temples (also called vat) can be seen all over the island.
It is said that Chinese fishermen where the first to settle on the island, some 15 centuries ago. Samui stayed an isolated and self-sufficient community until the late 20th century. The tourism industry only really started a couple of decade ago, in the 90’s after years of backpackers visiting the island and spreading the word. It is safe to say, that now tourism represent the primary industry of the island, as can be seen by the numerous resorts, hotels, spas, restaurants and many other businesses that satisfy every customer desire.
Top 20 places in Koh Samui
The natural beauty of the island with its numerous white sandy beaches surrounded with coconut trees remains the main attraction of the island, but there are plenty more places and activities to be discovered including diving, day trips to marine parks, full moon partying on nearby Koh Phangan, spas, massages and famous elephant trek in the heart of the island.
Perhaps the most known attractions is the Big Buddha statue, located at the end of Bo Phut beach in the north east of the island. Below are the 20 top places in Koh Samui, clockwise from Nathon. A short description of each will follow.
- Ao Bang Pho
- Hat Maenam
- Hat Bophut
- Hat Bangrak and Big Buddha
- Hat Choeng Mon
- Hat Chaweng
- Ao Lamai
- Hin-Ta And Hin-Ya
- Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo
- Samui Butterfly Garden
- Hat Laem Set
- Laem Hin Khom
- Ao Phangka
- Ao Taling Ngam
- Ao Thong Yong
- Secret Buddha Garden
- Na Muang Falls and elephant trek
- Samui Higlands
- Hin Lat Waterfalls
Nathon is the capital and primary hub of the island where live the majority of its inhabitants. It may not have the most beautiful beaches but it is for most travellers the transit point to other destinations on Koh Samui or to the other of the surrounding islands.
Ao Bang Pho
Ao Bang Pho located on the north western side of the island is the ideal place for extreme water sports lovers, especially for windsurfing and kite boarding.
Maenam is a quiet and beautiful town and beach on the northern coast. It is much more peaceful then the famous Chaweng or Lamai, but offer a similar quality beach and many good value front view resorts to choose from. I personally recommend the Hutcha resort, our first accommodation on the island.
Hat Bophut located on the north of the island between Maenam and Big Buddha beach, has plenty of facilities and resorts to choose from including excellent restaurants and a vibrant nightlife. Once known as a Fisherman’s Village, it has more recently become a good spots for a beach holiday and a place to enjoy numerous water sports including jet skis.
Hat Bangrak and Big Buddha
The Hat Bangrak beaches is a 3 miles long stretch of beautiful sand with the famous Big Buddha statue and temple on the west side.
Hat Choeng Mon
Choeng Mon, a quiet North East shore beach is the more deluxe alternative of all the resorts of the north and east of the islands. If you are looking for a beautiful vacation away from the crowd, and your budgets permits it, it is definitely the place to be.
Chaweng is the largest, most-developed and most popular beach destinations of the island. Located on the northern East coast, it is close to the airport and has plenty of resorts, hotels and cheap bungalows to choose from. The town of Chaweng also offer a lively atmosphere with many seafront places to eat and drink, and plenty of places for an exciting night out.
Lamai, Samui’s second most popular beach located south of Chaweng is another tourist favourite. It is well known for its lengthy white sanded beach, restaurants and bars. It is a perfect place to unwind and have a relaxed vacation.
Hin-Ta and Hin-Yai
Hin-Ta And Hin-Yai also called the Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks are located on the Lamai beach and consists of rocks that have a striking resemblance to male and female sexual organs. It is one of the island’s biggest attractions and also a great place to buy bowls and vases made from Samui’s coconut palm wood.
Only a few kilometre of Hin-Ta and Hin-Yai is located the Elephant stone which is also worth making quick stop.
Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo
Located on the south part of the island, it is the perfect attractions to discover the marine wildlife and fauna of the region. It is a great attractions for kids.
Samui Butterfly Garden
Located in a beautiful tropical garden, the Samui Butterfly garden offers a wide variety of protected species of butterflies.
Hat Laem Set
Hat Laem Set is one of the nicest beach in the southern part of the island. Apart from swimming and sunbathing it is also an ideal place to learn kite boarding.
Laem Hin Khom
Laem Hin Khom represent the luxury area of the southern part of the island. It is packed with astonishing high end resorts.
Ao Thong Yang
Ao Thong Yang is perhaps of the most peaceful places on the west coast of the island, and only a short ride from Nathon.
Ao Taling Ngam
Ao Taling Ngam offers multiple beaches along its 2 miles coast and is home to one of the top hotel on the island, the famous Baan Taling Ngam Resort and Spa.
Located on the western part of Koh Samui, Ao Phangka also named Emerald Cove is a beautiful bay and perhaps one of the most remote places on the island.
Heaven’s Garden/Secret Buddha Garden
In the heart of the island can be found a beautiful garden called the Heaven’s Garden or most commonly known as the Secret Buddha Garden. It was created by a 77 years old local Samui who decided to create a place where we could all appreciate all that beautiful vegetation of the island.
Na Muang Falls and elephant trek
The Na Muang Falls are two amazing waterfalls located south east of Nathon. This place is also the location of the famous Elephant trek, which is definitely worth the experiencing. Both the trek and the waterfalls are available for a package at 700THB per person.
Even though the island is mostly know for its idyllic beaches, the Samui highlands, Packed with loads of coconut trees are definitely worth a visit.
Hin Lat Waterfall
The Hin Lat waterfalls are located in the heart of the jungle, only a few kilometres south of Nathon. There is no direct access by road to the falls but only a long walk (about 3 kms)down a forest path. There is a possibility of a swim at the base within a large rock pool. There is also the Hin Lad monastery close by that is worth making a visit.
Getting Around Koh Samui
Koh Samui is very easy to get around with a main ring road all around the island, linking all the different beaches and local attractions. There are many transport options including air conditioned taxi, pickup buses and motorcycles. Perhaps the best and more affordable option is to rent a scooter on a daily basis for about 200THB.
Koh Samui weather
Koh Samui tropical weather is almost always perfect with an above average temperature, plenty of sun and with a refreshing ocean breeze. Even if the island can be visited all year round some say the best months are between late December to the end of March. As for those who like it really hot then April to June would be a better option and mid-October to early December if you enjoy a bit of rain.
Koh Samui beaches
If you love the beach, sun and sea, then look no further as Koh Samui is definitely the place. Indeed the island offer numerous stripes of sands from more secluded one, to others packed with resorts, bars and restaurants. The most popular are the ones located on the east coast of the island including the beaches of Chaweng and Lamai. If you are looking for a more peaceful option than perhaps the northern beaches of Mae Nam and Bo Phut is a better option.
From North to South the main beaches of the island are:
- Mae Nam, a quiet and beautiful beach on the northern coast
- Bophut , once known as Fisherman’s Village, had recently became a good spots for water sports
- Choeng Mon, a quiet North shore beach
- Chaweng, the largest and most-developed beach, with a curious mix of luxury hotels and backpacker guesthouses and a hopping nightlife
- Lamai, Samui’s “second” most popular beach located south of Chaweng
- Samui South Coast, including the small beaches of Ban Hua Thanon, Na Khai, Laem Set, Bang Kao and Thong Krut
In terms of sporting activities the island has plenty of options available including both on land and of water. The water sports to be experienced includes diving, sailing, kayaking, fishing just to name a few. As for the on land activities, there is something for everyone including golf, mountain biking, bowling, bungee bumping, horse riding and martial arts with the famous local combat sport, Thai box.
Koh Samui Accommodations and Dinning
The island is packed with different accommodations from 5 stars resorts to beach front bungalows that will fit every budget. The most remarkable thing about Koh Samui is that unlikely other popular islands a big majority of the accommodations have their own beachfront. The east coast, including Chaweng and Lamai are where most of the tourist resorts are located, mainly because of the beaches and nightlife. If you are looking for a more quieter place, the north of the island is your best bet. The best place is Maenam if you are looking for a lovely deserted beach away from the crowds, and the Bo Phut beach if you are interested in water sports. Finally if you are looking for some more upscale and exclusive accommodation then Choeng Mon in the north east and the private resorts of the South of the island.
As for Koh Samui culinary experience it has been put on a higher level in the last decade. Indeed a vast array of high end restaurant opened with many renown chefs. From enjoying a meal on mats on the beach to the AC comfort of a location with breathtaking views it has dining experiences for every taste. Not to forget that Koh Samui also offer a great nightlife packed with numerous bars and clubs.
Attractions around Koh Samui
Some of the best sightseeing around Koh Samui includes the following destinations:
- Ang Thong Marine Park
- Koh Phangan
- Koh Tao
Ang Thong Marine Park
The Ang Thong National Marine Park is natural beauty at its purest. Located west of Koh Samui, the archipelago consist of mostly uninhabited islands and is a great day trip. It is said that it is one of the places where the movie “the Beach” was filmed.
Koh Phangan is the little sister of Koh Samui. It is less developed , with fewer resorts but is the home to beautiful beaches and to the famous Moon parties every month.
Koh Tao is the smallest of the three main islands of the Gulf but offers the best environment for diving. Indeed with some of the best diving schools in the world combine with pristine water it is the perfect place to discover the underwater world.
Perhaps the most fundamental characteristic of this tropical island is that it is able to maintain a broad appeal to everyone. From vacationers, to water sport lover, from the backpacker to the more high end tourist. Everyone is welcome to join its distinctive laid back atmosphere. If you are looking to be spoiled in a tropical paradise, Koh Samui is your answer.