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Ko Samui (or Koh Samui) is Thailand’s second-largest island, after Phuket, and it’s also one of Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations. Anyone who’s visited can see why: abundant beaches, a variety of accommodation options for visitors, and endless ways to enjoy the beautiful outdoors.
Ko Samui’s main attraction is its beaches, which are dotted with the island’s resorts. But you’ll be able to do more than relax in the sand, if you’re in the mind for exploring.
There are Buddhist temples, waterfalls, and other islands to visit. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing stay at the beach or a well-rounded adventure vacation, Ko Samui can be a great option.
Ko Samui’s Different Beaches
The first thing you need to know about Ko Samui is what its different beaches are like. Particularly when you’re choosing a place to stay, you’ll want to think about each beach town’s vibe. Some are laid back, perfect for families or vacationers looking to relax. And others are resort centers, with a vibrant nightlife and lots of options for dining and drinking.
Chaweng Beach is one of the biggest tourist centers on the island, and one of the most developed areas. In Chaweng, you’ll be within a quick walk of a great range of restaurants, shopping, and other attractions. Chaweng is home to some of Ko Samui’s top resorts, including Amari Koh Samui, Centara Grand Beach Resort, Sareeraya Village and Suites, and the Nora Buri Resort. These resorts all feature access to beaches with the white sand and clear ocean you’d expect to see on a postcard. If you’re looking for a lively nightlife, Chaweng will give you plentiful options.
Lamai, located on the southeast of Ko Samui, is one of the island’s older resort centers. You’ll find a great variety of hotels, restaurants, and entertainment, but the area is less built-up, and typically less crowded, than Chaweng. Lamai is a good option if you’d like access to a lot of nightlife but are looking for budget-friendly options.
If you’re looking for more of a sense of Thai culture and history, Bophut is the perfect area. Also known as the Fisherman’s Village, Bophut is full of traditional wooden shops and more traditional Thai accommodations, all gathered right along the water of a two-kilometer beach. This area has become popular with families, who are looking to have a uniquely Thai vacation.
If you’re looking for a quieter option, where you can relax on the beach and enjoy a tranquil environment, Maenam may be right for you. Maenam tends to be less crowded, leaving more space on the beach. There are a handful of high-end resorts, with a wider selection of budget-friendly options that have become popular among backpackers. There’s plenty to do around Maenam, but most of the options are outdoor activities, such as kite surfing.
Explore the Outdoors in Ko Samui
Most people visiting Ko Samui plan to spend most of their time at the beach, which is always a great choice! If you want to explore some of the island’s plentiful jungle, there are a number of beautiful sites to visit that will show off all that Ko Samui has to offer.
- Na Muang Waterfalls
- Samui Football Gold Club
- Zip Lining
- Ang Thong
Na Muang Waterfalls
There are two waterfalls at Na Muang, but the larger of the two is what’s really worth your visit. This waterfall cascades down from the tallest point on the island. At its base, there’s a large pool where you can enjoy a relaxing swim to reward yourself for your trek.
Samui Football Gold Club
Like golf? How about football? This large grassy course, set in the middle of a coconut plantation, will let you put your athletic skills to use. The course is laid out like a golf course, but you’ll play with a soccer ball and use your feet. This can be a fun activity for families or for groups of friends.
If you want to get a sense of Ko Samui’s jungles, there’s no better way to do it than to zipline through. The Treetop Cable Ride company, accessible by moped or taxi, takes you soaring through the trees. This is a great half-day activity if you want a break from all your beach time.
Ang Thong Marine National Park
If you have time, this national park is a must-see The park consists of over 40 small islands, with ocean teeming with ocean life in between. Look for a guided tour that will take you into the park for diving, snorkeling, or kayaking. You won’t be disappointed.
Religious Sites in Ko Samui
If you’re looking to get a sense of Thailand’s rich culture and architecture, you’ll likely be interested in visiting one of Ko Samui’s Buddhist temples.
Wat Plai Laem
When you visit this temple, you’ll immediately be struck by its central statue of Kwan Im, the bodhisattva of compassion, whose many arms stretch upward above the island it is perched on. An ornately decorated modern hall sits just next to it. The temple site is also home to schools of catfish, which tourists can feed for a small fee.
Wat Phra Yai
Wat Phra Yai, or the Big Buddha Temple, is the other famous temple no Ko Samui, and it’s only about a five minute walk away from Wat Plai Laem. The temple is on its own small island, which you can walk to over a short causeway. There, you’ll be able to view an immense golden Buddha statue. The site also offers beautiful views of the surrounding island and waters.
If you’re planning a trip to Thailand or simply looking for an affordable beach vacation destination, add Ko Samui to your list. You’ll be able to enjoy a beautiful resort island, relax on the beach, explore the jungle and ocean, and take in some stunning Buddhist architecture.
© 2019 Sam Shepards
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on March 07, 2019:
Thank you, Koh Samui is definitely one of the more famous places in Thailand that is still worth a visit. Even better is to find the more 'hidden' gems, but that's something you should do yourself. Given the amount of visitors Thailand receives each year this is becoming more and more difficult. A lot has changed in even the +-10 years since my first visit.
On the whole there are a lot of famous places in Thailand that I prefer to avoid.
Liz Westwood from UK on March 07, 2019:
This looks like a lovely area to visit. You make the case very well for the attractions of visiting Ko Samui.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 07, 2019:
Wonderful piece. I only got a fly in and out -- two days of negotiations but I booked a local hotel instead of like a Hilton. The Thai side was impressed by that. And it sealed a deal. (Got the location from the owner of my favorite Thai food restaurant owner) My Vietnamese wife and I are discussing going there.
Your descriptions and photos are top notch, thank you. Sharing this in our home.