Koh Samui is Thailands third largest island and also one of its most popular. Tourists flock to the island to take advantage of beautiful palm lined beaches, coconut groves and dense, mountainous rainforest. Most visitors stay in one of the luxury resorts or boutique spa’s, however there is plenty to offer the budget traveller with many hostels, budget hotels and guest houses around the island. Whatever your budget Koh Samui has plenty of activities on offer. The following post details some of the best things to do in Koh Samui including exploring the beautiful beaches and scenery, cultural activities as well as enjoying some of the local entertainment.
Affiliate Disclosure – Lou Does Travel contains affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to yourself.
Most of these activities can be done independently by hiring a motorbike, catching a songthaew or by taking a private or group tour.
25 Things to do in Koh Samui:
1. Visit Angthong national Marine Park
One of the best things to do when visiting Koh Samui is taking a trip to the beautiful Angthong National Marine park. This beautiful archipelago of 42 tropical islands featuring towering limestone mountains, thick jungle, white-sand beaches, waterfalls and hidden coves and lakes to explore.
From Koh Samui there are several companies offering speed boat trips to see some of the bigger islands as well as stoping at some of beautiful beaches and snorkelling stops. Be sure to climb up to the view point to check out the beautiful Emerald Lake at Koh Mae.
If you do wish to stay overnight you can stay in one of the simple bungalows and camping tents available on the main tourist island Koh Wua Ta Lap.
2. Check out some waterfalls
Like most of Thailand you are always only a short drive from some stunning waterfalls. One of the most popular in Koh Samui is Na Muang waterfall found about 12 km inland from of Nathon Bay.
This fabulous waterfall is actually 2 with the first flowing into a lovely pool ready and waiting for you to take a dip. The second is about a 30 minute walk further up a trail, although smaller its equally inviting.
3. Take a Thai cooking class
Thailand is renowned for its fabulous food, so why not take a cooking class and learn how to make your favourite dishes. Whether you are a complete novice or expert cook, there is a cooking class for you. Some of the more expensive classes can be found in luxury hotels. However, there are many more which are done in local restaurants and home stays which offer a more personal experience.
Be sure to always check what’s on offer before you book though. Many courses offer a trip to a local market first to collect ingredients. This can also give you a more authentic experience rather than just focusing on the cooking. It will give you a real flavour of Thai culture and a good introduction to the variety of ingredients available in Thai cooking.
Menus should also be checked as its not worth cooking dishes that you wouldn’t want to try again yourself. Try and pick courses with your favourite dishes, that way you can guarantee you’ll cook these time and time again.
4. Get a massage
You can’t go far in Koh Samui without seeing an opportunity for a massage! This is one of my favourite things to do in Koh Samui, Thai foot massages are the best! Whether you are chilling on the beach or staying in a luxury resort you can guarantee there will be somewhere to get a massage.
Prices can be extremely cheap as well, as low as 200 Baht especially on the beach and in and around the tourist areas. However if staying in one of the luxury resorts be prepared to pay a lot more for the experience!
5. Check out Fisherman’s village
Fisherman’s Village Samui is a historical part of Bophut, with rustic-style buildings housing boutique stores, trendy restaurants and a small selection of hotels lining the narrow Beach Road. This place is a charming area to explore with old wooden shophouses and small alleys running between them.
Every Friday the area is transformed into one big walking street with a vast selection of stalls selling souvenirs, homewares and clothing as well as an abundance of tasty street food stalls. Its the perfect place to pick out some souvenirs and feast on some Thai delights.
On a clear day you can also sit at one of the many beach bars and restaurants and check out the views of near by Koh Phangan.
6. See some interesting rocks
Hin Ta Hin Yai are the most famous and most visited rocks in Koh Samui. Located at the end of Lamai Beach, the rocks in the shape of male and female genitalia are known as Grandpa and grandma.
Local legend tells the story of an old couple who when their son was ready to marry they took a boat to a neighbouring province to ask the hand of marriage of a local girl. However their boat was destroyed in a storm and they both drowned. It is said as they died their bodies turned to stone and washed up on the beach.
This place is quite touristy with people taking pictures of these unique rocks. However the area also has a beautiful beach and viewpoint to explore as well.
7. Take a boat trip to Koh nang yuan
Another great boat trip to take when visiting Koh Samui is to the island of Koh Tao and the beautiful Koh Nang Yuan. Koh Tao is known as one of the best places in Thailand to go snorkelling so makes a great place to don ya mask and fins!
Most speedboat tours will take you to some of the fabulous snorkelling spots in and around Koh Tao as well as a trip to the picturesque island of Koh Nang Yuan. On Koh Nang Yuan you will usually have plenty of time to chill out on the beach , go snorkelling or take a climb up to one of the most photographed viewpoints in Thailand!
Tips for visiting Koh Nang Yuan:
- Be prepared for lots of tourists at peak times!
- There is only one overpriced restaurant and bar on the island.
- Plastic bottles are banned on the island, Take a refillable bottle instead.
- You can’t take a beach towel onto the island either due to trying to conserve the sand.
8. Khao Hua Jook Chedi
Khao Hua Jook Chedi is a beautiful temple located close to Chaweng Lake perched high on a mountain overlooking the gorgeous coastline and valleys of Koh Samui.
To get to the summit and the temple you will need to take a short hike up quite a few steps. However the fabulous panoramic views from the top are stunning! Once at the top you will also get the opportunity to see some intriguing artwork and beautiful sculptures.
9. Take a boat trip around the island
One of the beast ways to explore Koh Samui is by boat. There are a variety of trips on offer from big boat to the smaller long tails. If expense isn’t a problem you can even hire out your own speedboat or yacht.
Most tours will take you around the whole island exploring some of the smaller bays and stoping at some great snorkelling spots along the way.
10. Take aim at a shooting range
Have you ever wanted to try your hand at a shooting range, if so, why not visit one on Koh Samui. Although fun, it can also be very expensive especially if wanting to try out a few different guns.
Before opening fire on the range, visitors are given training with instructions in order to learn about the different weapons and firing techniques.
Once on the range you will be fully supervised by an instructor and will need to follow all rules given. prices depend on the weapon and number of rounds used.
11. Check out the night markets
Another one of my favourite things to do in Koh Samui is checking out the night markets. Even if shopping isn’t your thing, strolling around these colourful streets is one of the best ways to to spend an evening.
Filled with a multitude of stalls selling everything from unique souvenirs, homemade crafts, clothing and assessors as well as vendors selling some of the best Thai food on the island.
Some of the best markets include:
- Fisherman’s Village Night Market – Every Friday
- Elephant Walk in Bohut – Daily
- Chaweng Market Street – Daily
- Lamai Night Plaza – Daily
- Mae Nam Night Market – Every Thursday
- Nathon Night Market – Every Saturday
12. Chill out at the beach
One of the reasons people flock to Koh Samui is to relax on one of its many beautiful sandy white beaches. There are so many beaches around the island that offer something for everyone. some are renowned for the parties whilst others offer perfect solitude and relaxation.
However most are something in-between offering everything you could want or need for a day at the beach. Get a massage, have your hair braided, buy some delicious snacks or drink a cocktail or too, the beaches of Koh Samui offer the perfect place to chill out and relax!
My favourite beach is Chaweng Beach. This beautiful bay offers everything a beach bum needs. Beautiful white sand and turquoise shallow waters along with all the facilities you would ever need. As well as being my favourite its also the most popular so can get crowded at peak times. However this beach has more than enough space for everyone and you can usually find a spot suitable for your needs. For those looking for a lively spot I recommend spending the day at The Ark Bar. Not only located on a beautiful part of the beach its also offers great deals on food and drink and free sun loungers for patrons.
Other beaches worth checking out include:
- Bophut Beach
- Maenam beach
- Lamai Beach
- Lipa Noi Beach
- Choeng Mon Beach
- Silver Beach
13. See a ladyboy show
A ladyboy show may not be everyones cup of tea but its a fun way to spend the evening. Thai society is generally more open to ladyboys than many other cultures, and its katoey, have played a prominent role in the nation’s entertainment industry for generations. Thailand’s katoey are world famous, partly because there are so many of them and also because they are so feminine.
A typical show includes elaborate costumes and performances all lip synched to popular Western songs. The tone is generally light hearted sprinkled with some glitzing and sparkle.
The best of the cabaret shows are held in Chewang where you will often see many of the acts walking up and down the street with flyers before the show. Usually entrance is free with the assumption of buying a drink inside, be warned though they can be on the expensive side. If you want to have you picture taken with anyone after the show you will also have to pay for the privillage.
14. Check out the famous big buddha
Wat Phra Mai as it know locally is a buddha temple located on a rocky island on Koh Samui’s northeast corner connected to the main island via a causeway. This 12 metre tall golden buddha statue is one of Koh Samui’s most visited attractions.
A colourful staircase with a lovely dragon design then leads up towards the buddha statue. At the base pf the buddha is a courtyard with various stalls were amulets, religious artefacts, clothing and souvenirs are sold.
The temple is open to visitors all day, but for those hoping to catch a true cultural experience, it’s best to go in the early morning hours. At this time local people bring their food and other offerings to the temple and the monks do their morning chanting.
15. Go diving
Although Koh Samui has some good dive sites, most divers take a trip to the nearby island of Koh Tao and Koh Phangan where the dive sites are much better. Koh Tao is know as a divers paradise and offers many spectacular places to explore under the waves.
If you plan to only take on a couple of dives whilst visiting the area, Koh Samui is a great place to base yourself. Dive boats leave Koh Samui around 9am visiting some of the popular dive sites close to both Koh Tao and Koh Phangan.
Popular dive companies in Koh Samui include:
16. Wat Play Laem
Wat Plai Laem is a Buddhist temple compound on Samui’s north-east coast of Samui, featuring a striking white 18-arm image of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. Adding to its feel of tranquillity, the temple is surrounded by a lake, which is teeming with fish. Visitors who make a donation to the temple are given a bag of food to feed the fish.
This temple is my favourite of all the temples I’ve seen on Koh Samui, unfortunately both times I’ve visited its been raining. However you could still appreciate the beauty and detail in the design.
17. Practice yoga
There are countless places across Koh Samui that offer the opportunity to practice yoga. Furthermore there are retreats that offer everything from beginner to experienced yoga sessions. You can even learn to become a yoga instructor if that’s your thing.
18. Go hiking
As well as a beautiful coastline, Koh Samui also has a lush and green interior waiting to be discovered. There are several popular walking trails available offering panoramic views to hidden idilic beaches.
Before setting off on any trails make sure you have enough water as the heat can make even the easier routes hardwork! As well as independent trekking you can also join a group tour, perfect for solo travellers.
19. Secret buddha garden
Secret Buddha Garden is hidden away high in the hills in Koh Samui’s interior. This little remote garden offers majestic views and an unusual collection of statues amid lush jungle surroundings.
The gardens are a creation of an old Samui fruit farmer, Nim Thongsuk, who in 1976 began erecting several statues and temples around his family’s verdant land.
As the garden is in such a remote part of the island, its probably best visiting as part of an organised safari tour.
20. Fly through the sky
One of the most thrilling activities to do on Koh Samui it to go Zip lining.
There are several places on Koh Samui that let you fly through the air and climb above the treetops. What better way to explore the beautiful Koh Samui interior.
21. See a mummified monk at Wat Khunaram
Koh Samui’s Mummified Monk at Wat Khunaram is an unusual sight yet it offers a unique insight into Buddhist and Thai culture. Long Pordaeng was a Buddhist monk who passed away while in the meditative seated position back in 1973. He had stated before his death that he wanted to be displayed as visual reminder of the Buddha’s teachings.
This sight may seem strange but Buddhist Thais are highly accepting of death. There are many mummified monks on Koh Samui and around Thailand. however Long Pordaeng was is the most revered.
22. Enjoy some watersports
Koh Samui is one of the perfect places to enjoy some thrilling water sports. Try your hand at the usual jet skiing, banana boating, or paragliding. As well as flyboarding, wakeboarding or even have a go of a jetpack! For children and adults alike you could also have a go at one of the inflatable watercourses on the beach. These courses are great fun but also extremely tiring! I was aching for days after trying this!
What ever your age or skill level there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Most activities are concentrated on just a few main beaches though such as Chaweng, Lamai and Lipa Noi.
23. Laem Sor Pagoda
This is a lovely pagoda situated on the beach in the quieter south west corner of Koh Samui. Although from a distance this pagoda looks painted in gold. Closer inspection shows its actually decorated in yellow painted tiles.
A little walk away from the pagoda is a small boat hall with glass walls. Inside is a small boat with a wax figure of the monk who built the pagoda.
Although the pagoda is always open, I suggest visiting whilst the sun is shining as it looks beautiful against the turquoise waters nearby.
24. ATV tour
One of the best ways to explore Koh Samui is to take an ATV tour. Ride along remote mountain trails, through sparkling rivers and streams, to breathtaking viewpoints and rock formations.
This is truly a fabulous adventure and a great way to see some of the beautiful scenery around the island.
There are various companies and options available for both beginners and the more experience riders. However when booking please make sure that the company you choose has a good safety record and that insurance is included.
25. Party the night away
Last but not least Koh Samui is renowned for its nightlife. Most of it is located around Chaweng where most of the clubs and bars are located. Along with lively bars and clubs there are also many bars located on the beach offering beach parties and entertainment.
There is a degree of variety to the nightlife in Koh Samui. You can either indulge on the buckets of cheap whisky to sipping sophisticated cocktails at a posh bar. There really is something for everyone!
Depending on the when you are visiting Koh Samui you may also be interested in one of the beach parties on the nearby Koh Phangan, home to the infamous Full Moon Party held every month.
Tips for visiting temples on Koh Samui:
When visiting a temple in Thailand, there are some rules that you should follow. Please be respectful:
- Dress properly (knees and shoulders should be covered)
- Take off your shoes when entering the buildings
- Be quiet
- No hugging or kissing
- Don’t point your feet to Buddha’s image
- Please don’t smoke
How to get to Koh Samui:
The fastest and most comfortable way to reach Koh Samui is by plane direct into its own international airport. Although it’s only accessibly by using major airlines such as Thai Airways or Bangkok Airways.
The airport is actually owned by Bangkok airways and is thought to be one of the most beautiful airports in the world. I can defiantly agree its the best one I have even flew in and out of, where else can you sit watching the runway with a refreshing coco in hand.
Once at the airport there are several options to take you to your final destination including private transfers, taxi and group minivans.
Other local budget airlines such as Air Asia usually fly into Surat Thani and offer transfers to Koh Samui via coach and ferry.
There are various ports around Koh Samui that provide ferries from various ports from the mainland as well as the other nearby islands. Whilst on the ferry many operators will offer tickets to transfer to your final destination. For the best deals booking ferries and transport around Thailand and the island I recommend using 12goAsia.
Getting around Koh Samui:
Getting around Koh Samui is relatively easy, there are always local taxis and shared songthaews to help you get around.
There is only one taxi company in Koh Samui with all the taxis displaying the yellow and maroon colours. However prices are usually expensive and many drivers refuse to put meters on, instead opting to negotiate a fixed price in advance.
Songthaews offer a more budget friendly option for getting around the island. These vehicles look more like pick up trucks with benches in the back.
Many people choose to explore the island independently and hire motorbikes. Rental rates are usually around 200-300 Baht per day and gas about 30 Baht a litre making this an economical option. With no bus stops you literals just hail a passing van, jump and then press the bell when you want to get off. Prices are usually around 50-100 Baht.
However you must have an international motorbike driving license to legally drive motorbikes in Thailand. Without this you may still be able to rent a bike but your insurance will be void if you have an accident! Be warned!
Where to stay in Koh Samui:
There is so much choice when picking a hotel in Koh Samui it can become a task in itself. I recommend using booking.com as you can search and filter the options that you require. As well as giving you honest reviews of each of the hotels available.
So there you have it my best things to do in Koh Samui. Have you been to Koh Samui, would you add anything else to this list? Let me know in the comments below. Plus if you have enjoyed reading this article then please share on your favourite social media and subscribe to hear more about my travel adventures.
Thanks for reading,