This Thai island was once a favourite hideaway for backpackers, and despite lots of development in the last 20 years, it still retains much of it’s sleepy, laid-back charm.
The beaches are to die for, there’s fantastic nightlife, the locals are warm and friendly and there’s a liberal scattering of ruins and temples. It’s one of the world’s top scuba diving spots and in terms of accommodation, you’ll find everything from luxury five-star resorts to ramshackle beach huts which cost next to nothing. In short then, there’s something for everyone.
Getting there/around Koh Samui
Koh Samui has it’s own domestic airport and flights arrive regularly from Bangkok. Try and arrange a transfer from your hotel as the taxi drivers charge excessively for trips from the airport.
There are several options when it comes to getting around the island. As far as public transport goes, keep an eye out for song taews, which are basically customised pick-up trucks. They’re cheap and useful for exploring different beaches and towns.
There are lots of taxis too but make sure you agree a price before the journey as the meters are rarely switched on. Many tourists opt to hire a moped in order to get around, but if you do the same, try and ensure you get yourself a helmet first.
Beaches around Koh Samui
You’re spoilt for choice in terms of gorgeous sandy stretches. Hat Chaweng is the most popular beach as it’s also nightlife central. The 7km long beach has good surf and is lined with everything from budget cafes to sophisticated bars should you fancy a drink and a snack.
The second busiest beach is Hat Lamai in the south. It’s actually a better beach with safer swimming waters. For more peace and quiet, head to Maenam where you’ll find many luxury resorts too. For an even more secluded session in the sun, try the peaceful coves of Mae Nam and Bo Phut.
Sightseeing around Koh Samui
The one major sight of note is the Big Buddha on the north coast. This huge gold statue is worth the trip for a couple of snaps and it’s not far from some lovely beaches.
Another sight, or rather spectacle, which shouldn’t be missed is an evening of Thai Boxing. They normally consist of around five or six fights, and bouts take place regularly on the island drawing both local and western spectators.
Family attractions in Koh Samui
There’s lots to keep the kids amused including a snake farm near Ban Phang Ka, the Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo and Treasure Island Mini-Golf near Chaweng Beach.
The Ang Thong Marine National Park is very popular with families. It’s an archipelago consisting of 42 islands covered in stunning limestone mountains. There are lakes, nature trails and beautiful secluded beaches where you can enjoy a picnic or try a bit of kayaking.
Day trips from Koh Samui
Day trips are possible to both of Koh Samui’s neighbouring smaller islands, Koh Pha-Ngan and Koh Tao. The former has beautiful beaches and the Pang Waterfall National Park. Those looking to tap into their spiritual side can also visit the Wat Kow Tahm temple and meditation complex.
Koh Tao is renowned for its incredible dive sites which have unusual rock and coral formations teeming with the resident turtles, whale sharks and spectacular reef fish.
Restaurants in Koh Samui
Virtually every taste is catered for on the island. You’ll find cheap and delicious Thai food which is pungent and spicy with heaps of garlic, chillies, fish sauce and shrimp paste. Lime juice, lemon grass and coriander are characteristic flavours along with peanuts, tamarind juice, ginger and coconut milk.
International restaurants are everywhere and you’ll find all your favourite fast-food outlets such as McDonalds and KFC. The Thais love a bit of Premiership football too, so you’ll find English and Irish pubs where you can enjoy a good pint of Guinness while watching the footie.
Nightlife in Koh Samui
Koh Samui’s nightlife rates among the best in Thailand. All over the island, you’ll find pubs, clubs, cabaret, karaoke, live music and discos which carry on until the early hours of the morning.
Chaweng is where you’ll find most of the action but once a month you can join the mass exodus by ferry to the neighbouring island of Koh Pha-Ngan for the legendary Full Moon parties.
Shopping in Koh Samui
Although there are markets and shops in most towns on the island, Chaweng and Nathon (where the ferries arrive) are the best areas for a shopping frenzy. You’ll find goods from all over Thailand.
Thai silk is a great buy and there’s also the option of getting your very own tailored clothes. If you’re not bothered about made-to-measure gear, don’t worry, because designer fake clothing and accessories are everywhere.