Koh Samui, Thailand, is an island just off the east coast of Kra Isthmus in the Gulf of Thailand. It’s the country’s second-largest island, and was once a small fishing community. Today it’s known for its thick rainforests, palm-lined beaches, and sparkling blue waters. The island attracts everyone from budget travelers looking to stay at one of beachside bungalows to vacationers wanting to unwind at one of the luxury resorts. Discover more about what to do, where to stay, and how to get to Koh Samui so you can enjoy the ultimate getaway to this island paradise.

Early Morning: Fuel Up With Breakfast

Before you can head out and see everything Koh Samui has to offer, you need to start your day with a healthy and filling breakfast. If you’re looking for something light and fresh, head to the Greenlight Café and Bar at Elysia Boutique Resort. The café offers vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free meals, as well as chicken and fish options. Wake up with a cup of organic coffee or a fresh smoothie. Nearly all the ingredients that go into the meals are organic and locally sourced, and many come directly from the garden on the property. You can even ask for a garden tour when you stop by.

With restaurants at Chaweng Beach and Bophut Beach, Bar Baguette has two convenient locations where you can find a delicious and healthy breakfast. Popular choices on the menu include the breakfast bruschetta, which comes with three slices of toasted baguette topped with scrambled eggs, guacamole, tomatoes, dill, basil, and a balsamic reduction. Other savory options include the classic French toast; plain yogurt topped with tropical fruit, honey, and granola; and fresh pastries.

wat plai laem temple
The Wat Plai Laem Temple in Koh Samui.

Midmorning: Explore the Temples

After your filling breakfast, you’ll be ready to start exploring Koh Samui. One of the first activities you should plan is to visit the beautiful temples that dot the island. Wat Plai Laem is a Buddhist temple on the northeast side of the island that features a statue of Guanyin, the goddess of mercy. This is an active temple, and you’ll see devotees come to pay homage to Guanyin. The temple gives you a chance to see Chinese-Thai beliefs and view elaborate Buddhist-themed architecture and art.

Just down the road from Wat Plai Laem, you’ll find Wat Phra Yai, also known as Big Buddha Temple. This temple sits on a rocky island just off the coast of Koh Samui, and you can reach it by a causeway that connects the two islands. As the name suggests, the temple is home to a 39-foot-tall gold-painted Buddha statue. As you explore the temple, you’ll also see a collection of bells in the back, a striking staircase with colorful dragons, and another smaller Buddha statue. Additionally, there’s a vendor area in the courtyard where you can buy amulets, souvenirs, and other Buddhist items.

Head to the southern portion of the island, and you’ll find Wat Khunaram. Along with beautiful Buddhist art and architecture, this small temple is known for being the shrine of Loung Pordang, also called the Mummy Monk. Loung Pordang was a monk at the temple who passed away in a seated and meditative position in 1973. Just before he died, he asked his followers to put his body on display if he didn’t decompose so that everyone would have a reminder of Buddha’s teachings. Today, local people still come to the temple to pray and show reverence in front of his glass shrine.

Noon: Don’t Forget to Stop for Lunch

After you’ve spent some time viewing the temples, you’ve probably worked up an appetite. When you’re ready for lunch and searching for a juicy and traditional American burger, you won’t want to miss the options available at Homemade Burgers and Sandwiches. In this small kiosk in the Maenam area, you’ll find an excellent selection of burgers and sandwiches made fresh all day. The menu includes classic options like the beef and cheese burger; beef, cheese, and egg burger; or the chicken, bacon, and cheese burger. Once you get your meal, head out to the covered patio and enjoy your food and the beautiful weather.

chaweng
Chaweng Beach.

Afternoon: Enjoy the Beach

Although Koh Samui offers plenty of unique attractions, most people do come to spend time on the beach. With gorgeous turquoise water and soft, white sand beaches, you certainly don’t want to miss your opportunity to relax in paradise. When you have a few hours available in the afternoon, plan some time to head to one of the island’s lovely beaches.

Located on the east coast of Koh Samui, Chaweng is the island’s largest and most popular beach. The beach is just over four miles long, lined with coconut trees, and offers pristine white sand. When the tide is low, there’s a natural reef just off shore that you can walk out to and explore. While you’re on the beach, you’ll see plenty of vendors walking along offering ice cream, fruit, beverages, and local Thai food cooked on small grills. Chaweng is also known for having excellent nightlife just steps away.

After Chaweng, Lamai Beach is the second-largest beach on the island. Although you’ll still find plenty of shopping and dining options at Lamai, it’s also calmer and quieter than Chaweng. If you’re interested in swimming, head to the southern portion of the beach, which has a wide strip of sand and calm waters. The northern half of the beach doesn’t have water that gets deep enough for swimming, and it also gets narrower the farther up you go. This is a good spot to check out if you’re searching for a place where you can simply sit back and take it easy.

na muang 1 waterfall
The Namuand Water Fall.

Late Afternoon: See the Wildlife

A visit to Koh Samui gives you the opportunity to see some exotic wildlife up close. Namuang Safari Park is located in the interior of the island and offers plenty of eco adventures. You can take an unforgettable elephant trek through the tropical forests and have a chance to feed the elephants during your journey. You can also rent an ATV and ride along the trails through the jungle and by the coconut plantation. Additionally, there are hikes up to Namuang Waterfall 2, which, at 80 meters, is the highest waterfall in Koh Samui.

To see other amazing land and sea creatures, head to Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo in the southern part of the island. The aquarium showcases much of the diverse marine life found in the Gulf of Thailand, including sharks, sea turtles, and colorful tropical fish. Then head to the tiger zoo, where you can view magnificent and powerful Bengal tigers and leopards. While you’re here, you can also enjoy an exotic bird show and sea lion show.

Dinnertime: Relax and Recharge

After spending a day taking in the beautiful scenery around the island, you’re probably ready to eat again. Head to Dr Frogs Bar and Grill just south of Chaweng. This restaurant serves up beautiful views of the water along with delicious Italian and Thai cuisine. The Italian menu includes homemade pasta and gnocchi, risotto, seafood, and pizza. The Thai menu has soups, salads, curry pots, noodles, and traditional platters. If you still have room after your meal, the dessert options include a lemon tart, rum chocolate mousse, and mango cheesecake.

Although Vikasa Life Cafe at Vikasa Yoga Retreat is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., the best time to come is around dinner time so you can take in the stunning colors of the sun setting on the water. Here you’ll find meals made with fresh, local, and organic ingredients. Begin your meal with a starter item, such as beetroot quinoa sushi roll, raw Chinese dumplings, or bruschetta. For your main course, consider options like raw zucchini pasta, the signature burrito, or the charcoal quinoa burger. With dessert options that include vegan cheesecake, vegan tiramisu, and chia pudding, you won’t feel bad for giving in to temptation.

fisherman village
The Fisherman’s Village in Koh Samui.

Late Night: Find Something Unexpected

A tropical Thai paradise is probably the last place you’d expect to find an Irish pub, yet in the center of Lamai Beach and two minutes from the water sits Shamrock Irish Pub. Stop in for a pint of Guinness or Kilkenny. If you’re in the mood for something else, the pub also has an extensive drink menu that includes rum, whiskey, cocktails, wine, and shots. Enjoy live entertainment, watch one of the latest games on the big screen television, or play a game at the pool tables. If you get hungry, you’ll also find a full menu with some of the best pub foods available.

When you’re searching for a good place to hang out and enjoy some cocktails, you can’t beat Karma Sutra at Bophut Beach. This eclectic and colorful hangout offers large wooden furniture softened by plush pillows and cushions. Take a seat and sip your drink as you watch the people walking around the Fisherman’s Village. The muted lights and fun music just add to the funky atmosphere here. If you happen to get hungry, you’ll find a menu offering platters that come with cheeses, meats, fruits, and more.

silver beach
Silver Beach.

Koh Samui Airport Guide

Although there are ferries that run from mainland Thailand to Koh Samui, most people choose to fly to the island. If you also decide this is the best option to reach here, you’ll arrive at Samui International Airport. This airport is just over a mile north of Chaweng Beach and handles over one million passengers every year, making it the seventh-busiest airport in Thailand. Samui International Airport has two terminals. One handles domestic flights, and the other handles international flights. The airport has a unique, open-air design, and the only indoor areas are the ticket office, toilets, gift shop, and VIP lounge.

Samui International Airport is a hub for Bangkok Airways, and it offers flights from airlines such as Lucky Air, SilkAir, Thai Airways, and Tibet Airlines as well. These airlines provide service to cities like Bangkok and Phuket in Thailand, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Guangzhou and Chengdu in China, and Hong Kong.

Whether you’re hungry, looking to shop, or simply have some time before your flight takes off, Samui International Airport offers plenty of shopping and dining opportunities at Samui Park Avenue. Here you’ll find boutiques offering some of the latest styles in clothing and jewelry, a Bookazine branch, Jim Thompson silk shop, a skin care and health spa store, and a cigar outlet. Grab a bite to eat or drink at Whittard Coffee and Tea or catch up on your email at Taste Internet Café.

When you’re ready to leave the airport and see more of Koh Samui, Samui Accom Company offers shared and private transportation options directly from the airport. The transportation counter is in the arrival hall inside the airport. Here you can find and book a private car or a private minivan that seats up to six passengers. The private transportation options leave as soon as you are ready and take you to various destinations around the island.

Samui Accom Company also has shared minivan service. This service typically doesn’t leave immediately after flight arrivals. Instead, the minivan will wait until it has a minimum of five passengers. Sometimes, this can mean your wait will be anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on where on the island you’re heading. If you’d prefer your own transportation, Samui International Airport also offers car rentals from Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, and Sixt. It takes about six minutes to drive from the airport to Chaweng.

wat plai laem temple 2
The Wat Plai Laem Temple.

Where to Stay in Koh Samui

With its exciting attractions and beautiful beaches, it’s no wonder so many people travel to Koh Samui for vacation. When you’re ready to take a few days to relax and take in the sights, you’ll need a place to stay. Luckily, there are plenty of hotels in Koh Samui where you can find the type of accommodations you’re searching for. Whether you need something affordable or you’re looking to splurge, discover the perfect place to call home during your stay on the island.

Budget-Friendly Hotels in Koh Samui

With these Koh Samui hotels, you won’t have to break the bank to afford a tropical getaway. When you want to stay near all the action at Chaweng Beach, book a room at Nantra Chaweng Beach. This laid-back hotel is just over two miles from the airport and a two-minute walk from the beach. The cozy rooms offer free wireless internet access, flat-screen televisions, minibars, and coffee makers. Upgraded rooms also come with balconies and windows. The hotel provides an outdoor pool and a complimentary breakfast buffet.

Head to the northern part of the island to find Coco Palm Beach Resort. This beachfront resort is conveniently located near plenty of exciting attractions, including Canopy Adventures Secret Falls – Koh Samui. You can choose between one- or two-bedroom bungalows that come with garden-view terraces, mini-fridges, satellite television, free wireless internet access, and safes. Upgrade to a bungalow, and you’ll also get a living area and tea and coffee maker, or choose the villas, and enjoy a private garden, pool, and sun deck.

If you’re interested in staying near Lamai Beach, Rich Resort Beachside Hotel offers casual rooms that are directly on the beach and a few miles from popular attractions like Wat Lamai and Namuang Safari Park. The rooms come with tiled floors, wood decor, safes, mini-fridges, cable television, and free wireless internet access. The hotel also offers amenities that include a beachfront restaurant and bar that has Thai and European dishes, live entertainment, an outdoor pool, beach loungers, and a barbecue area.

Luxury Hotels in Koh Samui

If you’re planning on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Koh Samui, and you want to splurge on where you stay, check out a few of the luxury hotels on the island. Banyan Tree Samui is perched on a hillside and offers sweeping views of Lamai Bay. The luxurious villas come with terraces, living rooms, private infinity pools, landscaped gardens, flat-screen televisions, free wireless internet access, and tea and coffee makers. If you choose to upgrade to a one- or two-bedroom villa, you’ll also get a hot tub and complimentary in-room spa treatments. Additionally, the resort offers a private beach, spa, outdoor pool, yoga studio, on-site restaurants, and free breakfast.

W Retreat Koh Samui is an opulent beachfront resort in the northern part of the island. The rooms here feature patios with full or partial views of the Gulf of Thailand, private pools, modern decor, custom-designed beds and furnishings, flat-screen televisions, and free wireless internet access. The hotel also offers a spa, tennis courts, fitness lounge, outdoor pool, free breakfast, free valet parking, two upscale restaurants, and four bars.

When you’re planning your trip to Koh Samui, let GoDoTrip help you search for how to get there, what to do while you’re there, and where to stay to experience everything the island has to offer. With all the information you need in one place, it’s easy to plan the perfect trip.