The islands of Phuket may be the best known resort to visit on your Thailand vacation, but the island of Koh Samui, located on the eastern side of southern Thailand about 80 kilometres/50 miles off the mainland, gives it a run a for its money in every respect.
As travellers will discover on Koh Samui tours, it is an oasis of natural beauty, with its white sandy beaches, excellent coral, gorgeous lagoons, picturesque waterfalls, swaying coconut trees, and crystal clear waters. Definitely a restorative kind of place!
Koh Samui is Thailand’s third largest island, measuring 25 kilometres/ 15 miles in length and 21 kilometres/13 miles wide. It is surrounded by some sixty other islands which together make up the Ang Thong Marine National Park (more about this later).
The central part of the island has an almost uninhabitable tropical jungle mountain called Khao Pom. There is a single road running mostly along the coastline and encircles the majority of Koh Samui.
Koh Samui’s Various Beaches
Due to the size of Koh Samui, you have a large range of beach options depending on your style and interests. There are many to suit all sunseekers on their Thailand vacation.
Chaweng Beach is the major and largest beach on Koh Samui. It suits the type of visitor who wants a lively resort offering a wide choice of accommodation options, together with bars and restaurants catering to every taste (from the street food to some world class restaurants with international chefs and standards). Chaweng’s nightlife is streets ahead of anywhere else on Koh Samui in terms of choice. The views from Chaweng Beach are spectacular and include two small islands that you can walk to and explore at low tide.
If you are looking for real peace and quiet, Mae Nam Beach, located in the north of the island, is a good place to stay. It offers swimming and sunbathing, especially for families with children, due to the shallow waters. The beach is set back from the main road, making it serene and calm. On Thursday evenings, people gather in the street near the Chinese temple for the weekly walking street market. Here you can enjoy cocktails, listen to local bands, and enjoy street food. Mae Nam has several well-priced spas which offer a Thai massage. It is also home to the Santiburi Golf Course and Country Club, which claims to be one of Asia‘s finest golf courses with its well-maintained fairways and greens set in acres of typical tropical surroundings, offering views over the bay and the neighbouring islands.
Lamai Beach, the second largest beach area, is somewhat quieter and less bustling but still offers plenty of accommodation, dining, and shopping options. However, it also has an abundance of clubs, bars, and restaurants and at night can be raucous. There are some odd looking rocks here called the Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks which bear a striking resemblance to male and female sexual organs and are one of the island’s biggest attractions!
Bophut Beach, also situated in the north of the island, is a popular starting point for diving tours and is not in any way as developed as Chaweng, but there are still plenty of restaurants, shops, and bars. It consists of two places, Bophut Beach and perhaps one of the oldest places on the island, the charming Fisherman’s Village, which takes up the middle section of the beach. Fisherman’s Village is fast gaining a reputation that stretches way beyond Koh Samui for being the most elegant and well-preserved place on the island. Lined with old wooden Chinese shop-houses interspersed with a few modern buildings, it has a distinctly Mediterranean feel. This has probably got a lot to do with the fact that it was the main French outpost on the island for many years. Every Friday night, it comes to life with its night market crammed with stalls and shoppers offering a diverse range of wares available at very low prices. Articles include t-shirts, simple jewellery, purses, sunglasses, souvenirs, branded clothes, and electrical goods. As with all market shopping you find on your Thailand vacation, a certain amount of good judgment is necessary when selecting your purchases.
Choengmon Beach is made up of a series of bays on the northwestern tip of the island and is more upscale. It caters especially to North Americans and Europeans. This is reflected in the food and entertainment on offer at many of the resorts’ restaurants.
Big Buddha Beach is located in the north east and is one of Koh Samui’s fastest developing areas, offering visitors good swimming opportunities and lovely views, plus there are many restaurants, shops, and bars. The beach itself is quiet.
Let’s Go Touring Around Koh Samui
The Big Buddha Temple sits majestically on a small rocky island off the coast. Known locally as Wat Phra Yai, this golden, 12 metre/39 foot high seated Buddha statue was built in 1972 and is one of the island’s most popular attractions. It is reached by a causeway that connects it to the mainland. The Big Buddha can be seen at a distance and is often the first landmark people see when arriving in Koh Samui by air. Buddhist devotees come daily to place offerings of fruit and flowers at the base of the statue. By night, the Big Buddha is bathed in a glow of spotlights, making for an exotic sight on your Thailand vacation.
The Wat Khunaram Temple is famous for its mummified monk, which is on display sitting upright in a glass case. The mummy is in fact the body of a very revered former abbot of the temple who, it is said, was also a meditation master who was able to predict his own death.
The Secret Buddha Garden is a beautiful garden 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 amazing views to be experienced. The garden’s surroundings are cool and peaceful with a waterfall and stream flowing through it.
The Koh Samui Butterfly Garden and Insect Museum has a huge collection of different butterflies. Visitors can also enter the insect museum nearby to see a variety of rare bugs and a bee house.
The Bophut Elephant Camp is just a few minutes away from Fisherman’s Village. You can have a ride on the back of an elephant and also watch and feed baby elephants.
The Na Muang Waterfalls are a majestic set of two cascades of water reached by taking a walking path from the entrance to a park. Also known as the “Purple Waterfalls,” they are so named because of the striking purple shade of their rock faces.
At the Koh Samui Aquarium & Tiger Show, you can get up close to an array of marine life, colourful birds, and exotic wildlife – all in one place. This family-oriented attraction certainly has enough to keep children entertained on an outing. The aquarium features mostly marine life native to the Gulf of Thailand. Its series of large tanks are filled with a range of marine life including sharks, manta rays, catfish, and many kinds of tropical fish. At the zoo, the main attractions are the Bengal tigers and leopards, which provide some thrilling displays of strength and agility in the daily live shows.
Although not exactly in Koh Samui, the Ang Thong National Marine Park is well worth the effort to include in your stay, with some of the most unusual and spectacular scenery you will find on your Thailand vacation. It is an archipelago of 42 islands situated 28 kilometres/17 miles from Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand and reached by government–approved only boats. It consists of towering limestone mountains, thick jungle, white sand beaches, fertile mangrove forests, waterfalls, and hidden coves and lakes. Snorkelling, hiking, sea kayaking, diving, sailing, or simply relaxing on one of its idyllic beaches are the main activities to enjoy here. With a limited amount of time, it makes sense to head to Koh Mae (Mother Island), which has a stunning beach and an inland saltwater lagoon called Emerald Lake. A popular climb up pathways and a wooden staircase takes you to the peak of a nearby mountain where you get the full view of the sea below.
So, with the opportunity to have that well-deserved escape to some of the best beaches in Thailand, and to know there are so many other activities for you to undertake, a Koh Samui tour could be the answer.
4-Day Koh Samui Stopover