Ko Samui, Thailand. Travel And Things To Do.

Ko Samui, often called just Samui, is an island in the Gulf of Thailand, about 700 km (430 mi) south of Bangkok and 80 km (50 mi) from the eastern coastline of Southern Thailand.

Ko Samui is all in all a fairly big island, the second biggest in Thailand after Phuket. The most popular and commercialised beaches are Chaweng and Lamai, while the northern beaches and their adjacent villages of Mae Nam, Bophut, Bang Rak (Big Buddha) and Choeng Mon are more peaceful choices, and the west coast beaches are still (comparatively) quiet.

Clockwise from Nathon on the west coast, the main beaches are.

  • Nathon — Samui’s port and administrative centre, but with little to attract the tourist
  • Laem Yai — set on the northwest tip of the island, a secluded beach overlooking the islands of Ang Thong
  • Mae Nam — a quiet and beautiful beach on the northern coast
  • Bophut — known for its Fisherman’s Village, laid-back but growing fast
  • Bang Rak — at the northeastern tip, home of the Big Buddha
  • Choeng Mon — 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” beach south of Chaweng, more backpackery than Chaweng, but full of hotel tourists and a vibrant night life too
  • Samui South Coast — the small beaches of Ban Hua Thanon, Na Khai, Laem Set, Bang Kao and Thong Krut
  • Lipa Noi – an upcoming beach area south of Nathon

See

The major reason people come to Samui is, quite simply, to enjoy the beaches. Even though the two main beaches of Chaweng and Lamai have generally suffered due to mass development over the past decade they are still relatively impressive. Development has been thwarted slightly because of the island’s regulation governing height restriction, although it can be argued that this has caused sprawl.

Other than lying on the beach with a cold beer in hand and ogling at the babes and hunks sauntering past, there isn’t all that much to see on the island. A certain pair of rocks on Lamai amuses some visitors, Bang Rak has a large but nondescript Buddha statue, and there are some waterfalls (notably Na Muang) of minor interest.

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Beaches and places

  1. Ban Lipa Yai. This village grows high quality fruits, including rambutan, durian, mangosteen and the famed langsat.
  2. Bang Rak Beach. Also known as “Big Buddha Beach”, in northeast Samui, Big Buddha offers visitors good swimming and lovely views. The area has developed a lot over the past few years and there are now plenty of restaurants, shops, and bars.
  3. Bophut Beach. In the north of the island, is a popular starting point for diving tours. The place isn’t in any way as developed as Chaweng but there are still plenty of restaurants, shops, and bars.
  4. Chaweng Beach. The major beach on Ko Samui and one that has developed tremendously since the early 1990s. Just 20 years ago the beach was home to just a sprinkle of wooden bungalows but now the place is swamped with hotels, pizza joints, pubs, and go-go bars. Samui’s nightlife is becoming legendary but unfortunately does not always attract the highest standard of tourist. Chaweng’s once hippie-only backpackers have given way to a lot of lager louts. Chaweng is the place to be if you are one of them.
  5. Choeng Mon Beach. In the northeast corner of Samui just 10 minutes from Chaweng. Unlike the latter, it is a perfect place for relaxing.
  6. Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks. These odd-looking rocks at the south end of Lamai Beach bear a striking resemblance to male and female genitalia and they have turned into one of the island’s biggest attractions. For those who would like to hear a legend or two surrounding the rocks, they need only ask a local.
  7. Hin Lat Waterfall. Easily accessible by car. Some of the numerous tiny levels have a large basin for swimmers.
  8. Lamai Beach. Like Chaweng, Lamai has been transformed from a hippie hangout into a fun, party place packed out with bars and exciting nightlife. The beach though, is still in better condition than Chaweng and the place doesn’t get quite so crowded. But if it’s a quiet relaxing location you are after, then the tourist downtown, known as Lamai Beach, won’t be the ideal place for you. The quieter northeast end of the beach is lined by both good-quality luxury resorts and low-cost guesthouses and bungalows, which front along the highway towards Chaweng.
  9. Mae Nam Beach. This quiet beach, in the north of the island, is decent enough for swimming and sunbathing especially for families with children due to the shallow water.
  10. Na Mueang Waterfall. A local road leads to the Na Mueang 1 Waterfall just off Rte 4169. A walk of about 30 minutes ends up at the more scenic Na Mueang 2 Waterfall. Purple rocks surround the stream of water, which gushes in from an impressive height of around 79 m.
  11. Old House. This Chinese-style house, almost 200 years old, represents Samui’s hints at Samui’s distant cultural past. Grandpa Si and Grandma Maen Hancharoen, the present owners, open the house to visitors.
  12. Secret Buddha Garden. This beautiful garden was made by a 76 year-old Ko Samui fruit farmer in 1976. It is surrounded by lush jungle, rocky hills and is adorned with sculptures depicting both humans, in various poses, as well as various deities. Since the garden is the highest point on the island, there are also some awesome views to be had. Organized tours to the garden last for about 2 hours.

Diversions

  • Monkey Shows. These shows can be observed at the open-air theatre on the main road behind Bophut beach. The entertainment also includes performing elephants. However, the capturing and training of otherwise wild animals is at best ethically questionable.
  • Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo (In the southeast near Na Thian Beach south of Lamai). Daily, 09:00-18:00. The undersea world of the aquarium has an amazing collection of tropical fish and other vibrant aquatic animals such as turtles and colourful coral. The tiger zoo is home to Bengal tigers and leopards. For those who are daring enough, they can have their photograph taken with the animals.
  • Samui Butterfly Garden / Insect Museum (In the southeast near Laem Set, off Rte 4170). There is a huge collection of butterflies, some a quarter of a metre wide. In the nearby Insect Museum, you can see a variety of rare bugs and a bee house.
  • Buffalo Fighting Festival: One of the best-known festivals on Ko Samui is the Buffalo Fighting Festival which is held on special occasions such as New Year’s Day and Songkran. Unlike Spanish bullfighting, the fighting on Ko Samui is fairly harmless. The fighting season varies according to some ancient customs and ceremonies. The buffalo are beautifully decorated with ribbons and gold-painted leaves. Before the contest, which lasts just two rounds, monks spray the buffalos with holy water. The winning owner typically takes home millions of baht in prize money.
  • Ten Stars Samui Art Party: A recurring cultural event bringing together art lovers, local Thai and international artists, and their new, original artworks. The annual event, hosted at various high-end resorts and other high-end venues on the island, focus on building the art community on Ko Samui, with presentations by featured artists.
  • Samui Triathlon: The International Triathlon Union organizes this event every year. This event draws more than five hundred participants from around the world.

Temples

  • Laem Sor Pagoda Ko Samui. This chedi (pagoda) at Laem Sor temple is one of the most important shrines on Ko Samui. The structure with its yellow tiles which gives off a golden aura is quite impressive.
  • Wat Khunaram Ko Samui (In the island’s southeast corner off Rte 4169). This temple is the island’s most famous temple for its mummified monk on display. The mummy sits upright in a glass casket and devotees offer it flowers and incense. The mummy is in fact the body of a very revered former abbot of the temple who was also a meditation master who was able to predict his own death.
  • Wat Phra Yai (Also known as Big Buddha Temple) (In the island’s northeast). Has a 15 m tall statue of the Buddha. It was built in 1972.

Do
The usual panoply of water sports are available, including plenty of dive shops, but most diving is done either in the nearby Ang Thong National Marine Park or Ko Tao as the visibility around Samui’s sandy beaches tends to be poor. You can book diving day trips at dive shops, most of which are based in Chaweng. The dive boats tend to leave from the pier at Bophut and Bang Rak.

  • Ten Stars Samui Art Party. A recurring cultural event bringing together art lovers, local Thai and international artists, and their artwork. The annual event, hosted at various resorts and other venues, focus on building the art community on Ko Samui, with presentations by featured artists.
  • Koh Samui THA Midnight Run. The Ko Samui Midnight Run is a charity run organized by the Thai Hotel Association (THA) and the Thai Association of Ko Samui (TAKS). It is a yearly event usually held in March. With up to 2000 participants, the run is one of the biggest on Samui and in Thailand. Participants will run 5 or 10 km around the buzzy and lively streets of Chaweng Beach. The first run was held in 2013.
  • Samui Regatta. A sailing race held every year. The tournament is internationally known and competitors come from as far away as Australia, Singapore, Japan and China. The event began in 2002.
  • Samui Triathlon. The International Triathlon Union organizes this event every year. This event draws more than five hundred participants from around the world.

Diving
Without a doubt the south of Thailand is home to some of the finest and most beautiful beaches and islands in the world, surrounded by crystal clear water and stunning coral. And that is the main reason why the number of divers coming to Thailand has escalated over the past decade or so. Even though the best time year of the year to dive in the Ko Samui is between Jun-Aug, it is still perfectly possible to dive virtually all year round. As Thailand is considered one of the safest destinations for diving and snorkelling in the world, it is perfect for novices. Under sea visibility in some places around Ko Samui is very good (distances of up to 10–30 m). One can enjoy splendid sights of underwater mountains, coral gardens, undersea rock formations, hard and soft coral, and whale sharks in season.

  • Ko Kra & Ko Losin: These two small islands to the southeast of Samui don’t get too many divers due to their remoteness. Blacktip sharks, manta rays and hard to find loggerhead turtles can be seen.
  • Samran Pinnacles: Since the currents in this area are often quite strong, this site is recommended for experienced divers only. Due to the currents, the site is a haven for larger pelagics such as barracuda and jacks.

Water park

  • Pink Elephant Water Park, With pools, Jacuzzi and slides. Restaurant on site, with children’s menu and vegan options.
  • Ko Samui information from wikivoyage.
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