Imagine an island full of palm tree-lined beaches, clear blue waters, lively nightlife, and spectacular viewpoints, temples, and waterfalls. Koh Samui, Thailand’s second largest island, is located in the Gulf of Thailand to the northeast of Surat Thani. It’s neighboring islands Koh Phangan and Koh Tao are also top tourist destinations, known for the full moon party and snorkeling and diving. If you find yourself island hopping in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui is a gorgeous island with lots to offer that should not be skipped. This Koh Samui travel guide will help you plan the perfect getaway to this tropical paradise.
Koh Samui Travel Guide: FAQs
Why should I add Koh Samui to my Thailand itinerary?
Not only does Koh Samui offer stunning beaches, but the island offers lots of fun activities that can’t be beaten by other islands. Koh Samui town has lively nightlife, great shopping, delicious food, and plenty of Thai spas. If you venture slightly outside of town, you will find an abundance of natural, cultural, and historical sites, as well. Because Koh Samui is a large island, there is lots to offer any type of visitor. Additionally, Koh Samui is the closest island in the Gulf to mainland Thailand via ferry. It’s on the way to Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, making it an easy addition to your itinerary, whether you are continuing on to more islands or returning to the mainland.
How long should I spend in Koh Samui?
Make sure to have at least 2 full days in Koh Samui if you want a busy, active trip. However, this isn’t enough time if you want to lounge around on the beautiful beaches for a while. I would recommend 3 to 4 days to fully enjoy what Koh Samui has to offer, although you could stay longer and still not see everything. It really depends on what you want to get out of your trip to the island.
Is Koh Samui safe for solo female travelers?
Yes, Koh Samui is an ideal destination for solo female travelers. Thailand is a very welcoming country for solo female travelers, and it’s fairly easy to get around. It’s safe, although you should always take standard safety precautions and stay vigilant, and you will encounter lots of other solo travelers. It will be easy to explore Koh Samui and make friends while traveling solo.
Koh Samui is one of the best destinations in Thailand for solo female travelers. Wondering about safety, tips, and what to expect when solo traveling in Thailand? Read my Thailand solo female travel guide today for everything you need to know for a successful solo journey.
How can I get to Koh Samui?
Koh Samui has its own airport with direct flights from several places in Thailand, including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Krabi. This is the easiest and fastest way to get there, although it’s not budget-friendly. There are also cheap land options that are fairly easy, although they take much longer. From Bangkok, you can take an overnight train to Surat Thani town, where you can catch an early morning ferry from Donsak Pier to Koh Samui the next morning. This is what I did, and while I didn’t sleep at all, it wasn’t too bad and saved a lot of money! From Phuket, you can take a bus to Surat Thani or Donsak Pier, which takes 4-5 hours, and then hop on the ferry. From Krabi, you can also take the bus and ferry, with the bus taking 5-6 hours.
Where should I stay in Koh Samui?
The best place to stay in Koh Samui is near Chaweng Beach. It will take about 30 minutes to get to and from Chaweng Beach from the pier that the ferry drops you at, but it’s worth the commute. This area is full of shops, restaurants, spas, bars, and of course the beautiful and easily accessible Chaweng Beach. It’s also a good location to be based in for the many activities across Koh Samui that might interest you.
When should I visit Koh Samui?
The best time to visit Koh Samui is December to February, when temperatures are cooler, chances of rain are low, and the skies are sunny. March and April are also good months to visit if you’ll be taking part in water activities, as the seas are calm and warm during this time. The rainy season in the Gulf of Thailand is different than mainland Thailand, with the monsoon season coming to Koh Samui from October to November.
Koh Samui Travel Guide: Top 15 Things to Do
1. Chaweng Beach
The best place to start your visit to Koh Samui is at the most popular beach on the island, Chaweng Beach. The white powdery sand, gentle slope, palm trees, and clear turquoise water make it the perfect place to enjoy a couple of hours taking in one of Thailand’s many stunning beaches. After the beach, you can walk into the town area, where you can find many restaurants, spas, bars, and shops.
2. Big Buddha
The Big Buddha, an almost 40 foot tall gold Buddha sculpture, sits at Wat Phra Yai, a temple in the northeast of the island. While visiting the temple, tourists can observe the religious rituals happening in the complex, along with taking in stunning beach and ocean views. As with other sacred places in Thailand, be sure to dress modestly. Women should cover their shoulders and knees.
3. Wat Plai Laem
Wat Plai Laem is a colorful, modern Buddhist temple known for its two giant statues of the smiling Buddha and the 18-armed Buddha, Guanyin. The temple is dedicated to Guanyin, who is the Chinese goddess of compassion and mercy. Her statue features 18 arms, a platform with a large dragon, and overlooks the temple and a pond.
4. Na Muang Waterfalls
Na Muang consists of 2 waterfalls set in the middle of the island in a lush jungle. Na Muang 1 is easily accessible via a short walk from the park’s parking lot, and Na Muang 2 is a steep but short hike uphill from there. Na Muang 1 is the bigger waterfall, featuring a small pool that you can swim in. Na Muang 2 is Koh Samui’s highest waterfall at an impressive 262 feet, making it worth the extra trek.
5. Day trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park
Just over 12 miles away from Koh Samui is Ang Thong National Marine Park, a tropical paradise consisting of over 40 islands. Its coral reefs, white sand beaches, limestone islands, and marine life are easily accessible on a day trip. Get ready for an active day of snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, swimming, and/or paddle boarding surrounded by beautiful scenery.
Book your Ang Thong National Marine Park excursion, including a stop at Wua Ta Lap Island, the Blue Lagoon, and a Thai lunch buffet, here.
6. Day trip to see the pigs on Koh Madsum
Just a 10-minute boat ride from Koh Samui is Koh Madsum, also known as Pig Beach because of the friendly pigs that populate the island. Not only are the pigs adorable, but the beaches are pristine, making this the perfect day trip. You can relax on the white sands, wade in the clear turquoise waters, and enjoy a delicious picnic, all while being in the company of the cute pig residents. When I went, there were piglets everywhere, making it even more adorable!
Join this day trip from Koh Samui to Koh Madsum, including a stop for snorkeling!
7. Lamai Beach
Located in the southeast of the island, Lamai Beach is a quieter, more laid-back beach than Chaweng Beach. Like Chaweng, it’s also known for its restaurants and nightlife. At the south end of the beach, you can find the famous Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks, which are known for their resemblance to female and male genitalia.
8. Choeng Mon Beach
In the northeast, you’ll find this hidden gem of a beach that doesn’t get as crowded the others I’ve mentioned. Because of this, it’s a peaceful place to relax, eat, and drink. The sand is super powdery and the water is calm, making it an ideal place to swim, snorkel, and paddle board.
9. Fisherman’s Village
Located on the Northern coast of the island, Fisherman’s Village is a historic area full of boutiques, trendy restaurants and cafes, and Bophut Beach. The highlight is the night market, which is held every Friday. The entire area turns into a lively market with local goods and delicious street food. Don’t miss it if you’re in Koh Samui on a Friday evening!
10. Go to a Muay Thai boxing match
Muay Thai, a combat sport also known as Thai boxing, is the national sport of Thailand. Catching a match is a must during your time in Thailand (if you’re not squeamish!). Although Muay Thai fight nights can be found all over Thailand, Koh Samui is a great place to go because the island has become popular among fighters and enthusiasts. Fight nights are every Tuesday and Friday at 9:30pm. You can book a ticket online here.
11. Take a cooking class at the Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts
Learn how to cook authentic Thai food at one of the best cooking schools on the island. With the help of Thai expert chefs, you’ll whip up delicious Thai dishes made with fresh ingredients from the local market. There are vegetarian menus, along with other dietary restrictions.
12. Watch a famous sunset
Koh Samui has some of the most beautiful sunsets in all of Thailand. The best place to catch one is on a north-facing beach such as Maenam Beach and Bang Po Beach. Chill out on the beach or find a nice restaurant, bar, or cafe to relax in while taking in the vibrant, color-changing skies.
13. Go to a Ladyboy Cabaret show
Experiencing a ladyboy show is a must when visiting Thailand. Featuring bright costumes, impressive makeup, and lip-synched performances, ladyboy cabarets are a fun, popular form of entertainment all around Thailand. Starz Cabaret is a good place to go, with shows every night at 8:30, 9:30, and 10:30. The shows feature a blend of Thai cultural dance and Western pop songs.
14. See a fire show and enjoy the night at Ark Bar
Ark Bar is a popular beach club for nightlife located on Chaweng Beach. The beach-front bar offers fire shows, fire dancers, pool parties, dancing on the beach, and a DJ, along with plenty of fellow travelers to party with. Chaweng is known for its nightlife, so you can explore the many neighboring bars if you want to continue the night afterwards.
15. Continue onto Koh Phangan and/or Koh Tao
The 2 other notable islands in the Gulf of Thailand are Koh Phangan, known for the full moon party, and Koh Tao, known for its snorkeling and scuba diving. Koh Phangan is only a 30 minute ferry away, while Koh Tao is a 1.5-2 hour ferry ride away. While you’re in the Gulf of Thailand, visiting at least one of these islands is a must! If you’re interested in nightlife, Koh Phangan is perfect if you can time your visit to work with the full moon party. You can check the upcoming party dates here. If you’re more interested in marine life and water activities, Koh Tao is unmissable.
You won’t regret adding Koh Samui to your Thailand itinerary. With the help of this Koh Samui travel guide, you’ll enjoy your time in a true tropical paradise!
Traveling to Koh Samui as a solo female traveler? Read my guide to everything to need to know about safety, tips, and what to expect as a solo female traveler in Thailand here.
Have more time to spend on the Malay Peninsula? Head next door to the beautiful country of Malaysia! If you enjoyed this Koh Samui travel guide, check out my Malaysia travel guides and resources here.