Koh Samui hotels
Also called Koh Samui (Koh or Ko means island – surprise, surprise!), this Thai haven was discovered by travellers in the 1970s and has since been transformed into one of the world’s premier tourist destinations.
As the third-largest island in Thailand and second most popular after Phuket, there are more tourists than locals on Samui. But despite its popularity and penchant for wild parties (the legendary Full Moon Parties at Haad Rin Beach leave hoards of hungover and semi-naked revellers littering the sand), Samui is still a beautiful place to visit.
You’ll feel revitalised by the vibe of the island – whether you’re lounging by the beach, taking a day trip to Ko Taofor some awesome diving, or sticking your feet in a fish spa where little fish eat away the dead skin of your feet.
Beach lovers can choose between the ridiculously popular Chaweng Beach (which also has a happening nightlife) and the slightly less popular Lamai Beach. Or try spending a day with some seriously cool cats at Tiger Zoo Ko Samui – nothing gives bragging rights like a picture of you lounging with a 200kg tiger. Or trek to the heart of Samui with a local guide. Here, the island’s hubbub dissolves into a jungle of waterfalls and lush greenery.
Samui will enthral you with its beauty and infect you with its partying ways and while it’s packed with tourists, its allure is strong enough that you won’t really mind.
Samui’s Top 10
10. Magnolia Spa It’s one of the Top 10 Relaxation & Spa Destinations in Asia. Get a traditional Thai massage or a Dead Sea Minerals treatment. Go!
5. Siam Kitchen Learn how to cook authentic Thai food. You’ll love how passionate Sont, the owner, is about cooking.
9. Laem Sor Pagoda This yellow-tiled pagoda looks golden in the sun. It’s an important religious building in Samui.
4. Hin Ta Hin Yai Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks at Lamai Beach, which resemble male and female sexual organs. Intriguing.
8. Paradise Park Farm An animal and bird park, there are even two parrots here that speak both Thai and English. Try not to crack a smile…
3. Samui Snake Farm King cobras, pythons and lots more. People with a snake phobia may wanna stay away.
7. Samui Butterfly Garden Butterflies of course! There’s also an Insect Museum nearby.
2.Big Buddha Temple Built in 1972, this temple has a 15-metre golden statue of a Buddha. It’s big.
6. Secret Buddha Garden Jungles, rocky hills, sculptures and structures are found here. It’s also the highest point on the island, so go just for the view.
1. Anthong National Marine Park is a nearby archipelago of 42 islands, where you can go diving, swimming and snorkelling. Book a day trip for this.
- Wat Khunaram – This Samui landmark contains the body of a famous mummified monk.
- Hua Thanon – This old Muslim fishing village provides a glimpse of what life was like in the past.
- Laem Sor Pagoda – This stunning gold pagoda reveals Samui’s rich and diverse religious history.
- Ban Lamai Cultural Hall – This houses impressive historical relics.
- Wat Pradoem – This temple is the oldest on the island at over 200 years old.
Samui Art & Culture
- Secret Buddha Garden – This retreat is a great place to see some lovely plant life and enjoy peace and quiet.
- Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai) – This 12m-high shrine can be seen from all over Samui and is one of the most popular attractions.
- Buddha’s Footprint – Besides the carved prints, this area of Samui also offers outstanding views.
- Butterfly Garden – This museum shows the variety of colorful butterflies found on the island.
- Chinese Temple to the Goddess Zhao Mei Guan Im – This relatively new temple tells stories of the famous goddess.
- Bophut Beach Shopping – This is the first place to stop for beautiful furniture.
- Chaweng – This stretch of road has everything a person might want or need.
- Lamai – This shopping district is fit for those looking for a bargain and to beat the crowds.
- Nathon – This administrative centre is where locals do most of their shopping.
- Samui Footwear – This unique shop offers interesting designs for shoes and sandals.
Gay & Lesbian Samui
- Moulin Rouge – This is the most famous “ladyboy” show on the island and a favourite amongst GBLT tourists. Used to be Christy’s Cabaret.
- Lost in Thailand – This gay-owned travel guide could arrange any number of activities.
- AKWA Restaurant and Bar – This gay-owned restaurant offers Western-style food in a relaxed atmosphere.
- Bookazine – The best place in Samui to find guidebooks on the gay and lesbian culture of the island.
- Starz Cabaret – See Kylie and Madonna lookalikes at this gay-owned cabaret show.
- Grandmother Rock & Grandfather Rock (Hin Yai/Hin Ta) – These unique rock formations are favourites among hikers.
- Ang Thong National Park – Home to some of the most beautiful scenery in Samui and an abundance of wildlife.
- Samui Aquarium & Tiger Zoo – This zoo features some of Samui’s most majestic creatures up close, including royal bengal tigers and leopards.
- Crocodile Farm – This is a place to see deadly animals from a safe distance.
- Hin Lad Waterfall – This is a great place to take a hike in Samui with a popular temple resting spot.
- Catch the best Thai boxing fights on Samui at Chaweng Stadium.
- Take an ice-cold dip in the waters of Na Muang Waterfalls.
- Ride the trails with ATV Adventure.
- Play badminton at the 99 Sports Club.
- Go for a quick round at the Royal Samui Golf and Country Club.
The most popular part of Samui is definitely. It’s a beautiful beach, but unfortunately very crowded. With a cold Singha (Thailand’s most popular local beer) in hand and your new $2 pair of genuine replica sunglasses propped perfectly over your eyes, you can do some serious perving. But other than going gaga over hard bodies and revealing bikinis, you can, of course, get a bit more active. There are two little islands nearby – the closest one you can actually reach by wading through the water. At the second island you can do some snorkelling or kayaking.
Other than its relaxed beach lifestyle, Chaweng also has a crazy nightlife where you can get your drink on. Green Mango is the largest and most popular club on Samui. Mint Bar also goes off – it plays dub step, house and trance. Hello hangover, goodbye dignity!
Lamai is the second most popular beach on Samui and offers some more cultural and non-water-related activities. Wat Lamai is a temple that has a Cultural Hall with a collection of historical Samui artefacts. The temple is often host to temple fairs, where you can enjoy concerts, food and an outdoor cinema. At Wat Khunaram you can find Loung Pordaeng, a mummified monk, in a glass case. Stop in and say hi.
If you’d like to do a bit of shopping, head to Walking Street on a Sunday evening. The closed-off street has stalls, live music and kids’ activities. There’s also a night market from 6pm, where you can browse through jewellery, handicrafts and souvenirs.
Bophut Beach is a 2km (1.25 miles) white sand beach lined with lovely coconut trees. The water is calm, but it can be murky – especially in December. The beach is also a great spot to take in the beautiful sunset. Otherwise, you can go jet skiing or try out the Go Kart track. The centre of Bophut is known as Fisherman’s Village. It’s not wild in terms of nightlife, but it is one of the best places to eat in Samui.
Samui was pictured on Chinese maps in the 17th century under the name Pulo Cornam and tiny traces of a Chinese character still remain. Bophut is the only area in Samui where you can still get a feel of the Thai-Chinese bond embodied by the old Chinese shops.
Choeng Mon Beach
Only about 15 minutes north of Chaweng, Choeng Mon Beach is clean, quiet and more upmarket area due to the number of pricey resorts. Perfect for those seeking lazy afternoons on tranquil sands, Choeng Mon Beach is also good for swimming and snorkelling. If the mood to move strikes you, you could also kayak to a nearby islet called Ko Fan Noi.
Samui Eat & Drink
Samui has something for every palate. Of course you should try to treat your tastebuds to Thai flavours, but other cuisines are also readily available. Let your stomach guide the way!
Zazen Restaurant Award-winning regional Thai cuisine. That pretty much says it all.
Betelnut One of the most popular restaurants on the island. Great for tapas.
Zico’s is a Brazilian concept restaurant. You’ll be entertained by Brazilian performers while you savour your churrasco experience. Unlimited amounts of meat! Get to it.
Eat Sense This beachside restaurant serves Southern Thai cuisine with a focus on healthy eating. The candlelight dinner will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.
The Pier commands breathtaking views of the Gulf of Thailand. Devour wonderful Thai and international dishes, particularly seafood.
Carpe Diem brings Thai food to a fine-dining level. With European influences, the Thai dishes aren’t complete without a bottle of wine from the walk-in wine cellar.
The Mangrove An al fresco French fine-dining restaurant, where the menu changes every month. The restaurant overlooks mangrove forests. What a lovely way to dine!
Beach Republic At this modern international dining spot, you’ll be not only beachside but also poolside! Chill out to lounge music while you take your pick from tapas and mains.
Chaweng Beach Dining Just before sunset, restaurants set up mats, cushions, low tables and torches. It’s like you’re suddenly Aladdin and Jasmine on a carpet, except you’re not flying, you’re on the beach. Every restaurant does it differently – pick whichever looks prettiest!
Dining on the Rocks Feel the sea breeze in your hair as you dine on the rocks at this fusion restaurant. There’s an impressive wine list (over 1000 to choose from!). Expect to dole out hundred dollar bills, y’all (or rather, lots of hundred baht bills, y’all).
Nearby Koh Phangan is known for its monthly Full Moon Parties. Head on over and let the wild times roll!
Songkran (Thai New Year) is celebrated in April everywhere in Thailand, but in Samui it’s taken to a modern level with rowdy parties.
In May, you can celebrate Buddha’s Birthday.
The Koh Samui International Regatta takes place every June, attracting yachters from all over the world.
In November, join the festivities at Loy Krathong (Festival of Light) and see the island come to life with lights.
When To Go
- Samui has three seasons. Temperatures are pretty consistent at 23-33°C (73-91°F) throughout the year.
- The hot season lasts from around February to May. If you can stand hot weather, this is great time to visit because there isn’t much rainfall.
- In September to November, Samui is at its wettest. It can be quite unpredictable, but it’s a good time to visit because the island will be less crowded and hotels will generally cost you less.
- The dry season is when it’s coolest in Samui. This might be a better time for you to go if you’re not a fan of scalding heat. It’s also peak season in Thailand, which means you’ll definitely be paying more for hotels.
Getting There & Around
There are daily flights that arrive at Koh Samui Airport from Phuket, Chiang Mai and Bangkok (as well as some other international cities like Singapore and Hong Kong). You can also reach Samui by ferry.
Taxi drivers don’t want to use the meter, so bargain and agree on a price beforehand. You can also rent motorbikes, songthaews (little buses that are like group taxis) or pushbikes.
What To Miss
It’s a problem everywhere in Thailand, but it’s worth a mention anyway: tuk tuk drivers will try to over-charge you. Be ruthless with your bargaining!
Avoid beaches at night because the alcohol-fuelled revelling can distract you from pickpockets, and violence can break out between tourists without warning.
When travelling to Samui by bus, keep your valuables on you. Bus drivers may pick the lock on your luggage, steal the contents, then close it so that you won’t notice anything has gone missing.
Thailand is a vital lynchpin in world tourism. The popular destination in Southeast Asia offers one of the most dynamic and frenetic urban capitals in the world, in addition to a surplus of relatively quiet and pristine beach retreats.
Koh Samui is the prime example of the latter. The island that ranks third in size in Thailand had irresistible appeal upon discovery by intrepid backpackers in search of an affordable and rustic escape back in the 1970s. Since then, Samui has undergone a rapid development on par with the resort coastlines of Spain and the French Riviera. As a result, it now trails only Phuket in terms of sheer tourist numbers. Thankfully, portions of the island remain unspoiled.
With the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand and hazy archipelagos on the horizon, Samui's magnetic allure has always been gorgeous coastline. The best beaches on the island are Lipa Noi, Maenam, Choeng Mon and Ao Tong Takian. One main road lines the circumference of Samui and offers easy access to sandy points around the island.Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park
The 102 km² network of 42 islands in the Gulf of Thailand is a phenomenal wildlife and plant conservation park. The boat ride out and subsequent day trip to the marine preserve is well worth the time and effort.Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo Ko Samui
One of the best zoological parks and aquariums in Thailand, with a kaleidoscopic array of endemic fish and an up-close-and-personal Bengal tiger and leopard exhibit.Jungle Interior
Life on the coast of Samui is a stark contrast with the interior. Virtually uninhabited, the dense mountain jungle within the heart of the island offers a welcome break from the carefree ease of resort life. Traversable with the aid of a local guide, a trek through the diverse interior landscape doles out a panoply of rewards, from remote waterfalls to brilliant Gulf of Thailand views.Wat Khunaram Ko Samui
The most notable Buddhist temple on Samui contains the embalmed remains of a venerated monk from the island.
EventsFull Moon Party
The proximate island of Koh Phangan throws a legendary full moon party every month, an event on every lifelong backpacker's bucket list.Elephant Treks
Though not the most conventional mode of transportation for most, elephant treks amid the lush tropical forests of Samui provide unique vantage points of the beautiful island that are otherwise unavailable.Songkran Thai New Year
Traditional Thai New Year celebrations in the month of April have a decidedly modern twist in Samui, with a raucous party atmosphere in the towns and resorts.Koh Samui International Regatta
A major competition in the regatta world, the annual June event draws yachters from around the world to the shores of Samui.
Like much of Southeast Asia and indeed Thailand, Koh Samui has a wet and dry season. The former generally runs from May to December, although it can begin later in the year. The temperature range is from 23°C and 33°C for the entire year.
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