Koh Samui, though perhaps one of the less fashionable islands in the Gulf of Thailand, has plenty to see and do for those who make the trek down here. If visitors can look past the old, Western men arm in arm with girlfriends half their age, they will find that the island is spotted with unique finds, including waterfalls, stretches of stunning beaches, and more. Here, the top 15 things to see and do on Koh Samui.
Rent a motorbike
As the country’s second largest island, Koh Samui is undoubtedly one of the most difficult oases to explore due to its massive size. It is about 228 square kilometers in size and takes it a little over an hour to get around the entire island. That said, you can rent a scooter for an incredibly affordable price and zip around Koh Samui as you please. A scooter should cost no more than a few hundred baht per day, and most of the top attractions can be reached on these fun little forms of transportation. Remember to be careful!
Chaweng Beach is arguably one of the most stunning beaches on the Gulf of Thailand. It stretches some seven kilometers in length, and the crystal clear, blue water is complimented with white sand and rolling mountains acting as its backdrop. The beach, unfortunately, has become a tourist hot spot and a must-see destination for all who visit the island. Due to this, it is spotted with cheap massage parlors and overpriced lounging chairs. That said, visitors can find a patch of secluded sand to enjoy the impeccable views on Chaweng Beach.
As one of the most renowned landmarks on Koh Samui, visitors to this extensive island must not miss out on visiting the giant Buddha that sits just along the island’s coastline. Overlooking the Gulf of Thailand, the Buddha stands at some 12 meters tall and you must climb up 73 steps in order to reach the religious relic. The Gulf surrounding the Buddha stretches as far as the eye can see, making for some amazing photographic opportunities.
Wat Plai Laem serves as both a tourist attraction as well as a place of worship. The temple is over 100 years old and is especially picturesque right before the sun sets. Surrounded by still, fish-infested water on every side, the three main structures which make up Wat Plai Laem house or display a different yet equally important religious relic. Entrance into the temple is free.
Sunsets on the island of Koh Samui are simply stunning. The island is surrounded by sloping mountains adorned with lush jungle, with nearby islands decorating the island’s coastline. There are plenty of viewpoints around the island to choose from, and visitors can select the best one to visit depending on where it is they find themselves as the sun is going down.
Sun setting behind clouds at Intercontinental Koh Samui Courtesy of Chris Hoare/Flickr
Grandpa and Grandma Rocks (Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks)
Grandpa and Grandma Rocks (Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks)
A phallic shrine is no new concept in the Land of Smiles. Shrines consisting of a number of penises in all shapes and sizes can be found in places like Bangkok and Railay Beach in Krabi. There is yet another attraction in Thailand that is made out to look like genitalia, but this time, it was formed naturally. The grandpa and grandma rocks, otherwise known to the locals as Hin Ta and Hin Yai, are natural large granite rocks that do not look like an ordinary natural wonder. These rocks, quite possibly the only rocks like this in the entire world, are shaped like male and female genitalia. The story goes that this natural formation came to be after a tragic love story. A couple found themselves trapped in a storm atop these rocks and decided to take their lives together, thus the seemingly strange formations came to be.
The Fisherman’s Village Bophut is not what visitors would normally think of when imagining a seaside community. The area, though dubbed the Fisherman’s Village, is actually a row of upscale shops and coastal restaurants. Diners can catch stunning views of the seemingly never-ending Gulf while chowing down on a delicious array of both Thai and Western cuisine. The area lacks authenticity, as many of the shops and restaurants have inflated prices due to the fact that the majority of their clientele are foreigners. That said, this stretch of road is great for those craving a Western meal or on the hunt for a stylish souvenir or two.
Skeptical visitors may find themselves questioning this tourist attraction, otherwise known as the Secret Buddha Garden, found some 20 minutes up one of Koh Samui’s mountainous terrain. They will though be pleased to have made the journey once they meander down the handful of steps leading to the Secret Buddha Garden. Contrary to its name, this garden is not embellished with vibrant foliage or greenery: instead, it is decorated with stone statues. From Buddha relics to turtles to fish and more, the Secret Buddha Garden is a great place for amateur photographs to get one too many photographs or for those visitors simply curious as to what this garden holds. Entrance into the Secret Buddha Garden is ฿80.
The massive coastline of Koh Samui is equipped with a plethora of restaurants. Those who head down to the Fisherman’s Village will find everything from Italian to Mexican cuisine gracing the pages of the menus of the restaurants found here. Those looking for something a bit more authentic (and affordable) should instead explore between Chaweng Beach and the Fisherman’s Village, where there are plenty of mom and pop Thai restaurants serving delicious cuisine at low prices: what’s not to like? The best time to visit one of these restaurants is right before sunset, so diners can enjoy a cocktail or two as the sun sets over the Gulf of Thailand.
The Wang Sao Thong Waterfall is just a stone’s throw away from the Secret Buddha Garden. Visitors can make a pitstop here either before or after meandering the garden’s grounds. The waterfall, though less impressive during the dry season, is a stunning natural feature after a good amount of rain. Visitors must make the 100-meter climb to get a photograph or descend some 100 meters to cool off in the pool found opposite the top of the waterfall. There is a ฿20 fee for parking.
Mummified Monk at Wat Khunaram Courtesy of Sergey/Flickr
Mummy Monk at Wat Khunaram
Many visitors to Thailand have identified as being “templed out.” With literally thousands of Buddhist of temples to choose from, island hoppers may wonder what it is about Wat Khunaram that makes it worth visiting. The temple’s most remarkable feature is not its architecture or any of the other usual elements that make a temple noteworthy. Instead, Wat Khunaram’s most extraordinary feature is the mummified monk that sits at the religious structure’s core. The monk’s name was Phra Khru Samathakittikhun, and he died in 1973. After his passing, his body seemingly remained intact, so his family decided to preserve him in the temple where he can be found today.
Made up of a total of 42 islands, Angthong National Marine Park is one of Thailand’s most untouched areas. Though tourists are allowed to visit on day trips, the area is protected, making sure that its mangrove forests, limestone cliffs, and more remain pristine. Visitors can stay overnight if they please, but there are many of companies that allow visitors to frequent this marine park to kayak, hike, and explore before heading back to Koh Samui.
Angthong National Marine Park (The Golden Bowl) Courtesy of Nayaab Shaikh/Flickr
Lipa Noi Beach near Nikki Beach Koh Samui Courtesy of patrickcam/Flickr
Lipa Noi Beach
Though not as large or pristine as Chaweng Beach, Lipa Noi Beach certainly comes in at a close second for being one of the most stunning beaches on the island of Koh Samui. Unlike Chaweng, there is little to do around Lipa Noi Beach, which is what makes it so quiet and peaceful in the first place. Those looking to simply relax, sunbathe, and enjoy the crystal clear water will love it here.
Koh Samui is just a boat ride away from some of the best dive sites in the world. Though the neighboring island of Koh Tao certainly is the top contender in terms of being the most stunning underwater, almost all of the same dive sites can be reached from Koh Samui.
Last but not least, visitors to Koh Samui must make a quick pit stop to Laem Sor Pagoda. This golden pagoda is located on the southwest corner of the island, with the crystal clear Gulf acting as its backdrop. If not just for a photograph or two, this is one religious structure all visitors to Koh Samui need to see.