An Extensive Travel Guide to Koh Samui: The Thai Island That Has It AllEverything you need to know including where to stay, what to do and where to eat on Koh Samui
The perfect recipe for a great vacation
We love Thailand and we have visited this wonderful country countless times.
The people are so friendly, the food is amazing and the beaches are plentiful!
Koh Samui is no different.
Thailand’s second-largest island really has it all.
When looking for a place to stay in January 2019 to work on our documentary film about sustainable coffee, we chose Koh Samui as our base.
A one and a half month workation. We needed stability and a reliable Internet connection and Koh Samui was a great choice.
But even if you don’t stay that long (or work while on vacation/call yourself a digital nomad), Koh Samui has so much to offer!
It’s one of the most popular destinations in Thailand – and for good reason.
In this guide, we will tell you everything you need to know about the island and share all of our best tips and secrets.
And by everything, we mean around 10,000 words. If you’re looking for anything specific, navigate using the menu below the photo.
Table of contents
- Why visit Koh Samui
- Koh Samui orientation and map
- When to visit Koh Samui
- Beaches on Koh Samui
- What to do on Koh Samui
- Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai)
- Wat Plai Laem Buddhist Temple
- Wat Khunaram
- Elephant Gate and Wat Kiri Wong Karam
- Laem Sor Pagoda and Wat Rattanakosin
- Pagoda Khao Hua Jook
- Secret Buddha Garden
- Overlap Stone
- Fisherman’s Village
- Walking streets and night markets
- Sport activities
- Ang Thong Marine National Park
- Koh Madsum and Koh Taen
- Get custom made tailored clothes
- Get a massage
- Party with (new) friends
- What not to do on Koh Samui
- Where to eat on Koh Samui
- Where to stay on Koh Samui
- How to get around Koh Samui
- How to get to Koh Samui
- Our best tips for visiting Koh Samui
Why visit Koh Samui
Koh Samui really does have something for everyone.
First of all, if you’re going to an island in Thailand, you would probably like to sunbathe and swim, right? On Koh Samui, there are so many beaches to choose from!
If you ever get tired of beach bumming, you can find endless activities and entertainment as well as beautiful Buddhist temples and statues in all sizes.
The Thai food is incredible, but if you want something else for dinner, a plethora of cuisines are available.
Or you can visit one of the countless night markets to sample delicious bites and buy some souvenirs.
If you’re an enthusiastic partygoer, you won’t be disappointed with the nightlife, but don’t worry if you’re looking for peace and quiet. You can easily find that, too.
Bring your family, your partner or your friends and you will surely have an awesome time on Koh Samui.
Koh Samui orientation and map
Koh Samui may look small on a map but it’s actually the second largest island in Thailand.
It’s located in the Gulf of Thailand – off the east coast of the Kra Isthmus and it’s a part of Surat Thani Province.
Driving around the 50-kilometre long ring road of the island takes about 1.5 hours.
The middle of the eastern shores of Koh Samui is the most heavily developed part of the island with Lamai and especially Chaweng as the epicentres of tourism.
Many tourists also base themselves near the beaches of the north where parties are fewer and the hotels and restaurants cater to everything from backpackers to retirees and families.
Nathon is the political centre of the island but of relatively little interest to most travellers.
The interior of Koh Samui is mountainous and home to stunning views, waterfalls and coconut palm plantations.
North of Koh Samui are the islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao and many people visit several of the islands on the same trip.
Click the icon in the top left corner of the map to find the places we have mentioned in this guide.
When to visit Koh Samui
When is the best time to visit Koh Samui?
Koh Samui is an all-year-round holiday spot.
The weather is really pleasant most of the time and there are lots of things to do in any kind of weather.
Throughout the year, the average temperature is about 28°C (82ºF).
Generally, there are three seasons on Koh Samui: dry season, hot season and rainy season.
There’s always a chance it’s gonna rain, but October and November are the wettest months.
February and March are the sunniest and driest months on Koh Samui.
As with any other place, the weather can change from year to year.
Dry season (December to March)
In the dry season, the weather on Koh Samui is amazing.
Peak season is from mid-December to mid-February.
If you’re planning your vacation during these months it’s recommended to book in advance.
Koh Samui is a very developed island and there will always be available accommodation, but the best hotels, bungalows and villas might be fully booked.
We visited from January 20 to March 1 in 2019 and the weather was perfect. We only experienced rain once or twice and solely at night.
The sun is very strong, especially from around 11 am to 3 pm. We recommend that you eat lunch, take a nap or at least stay in the shade at this time.
Hot season (April to August)
In the hot season, you can expect hot daytime sunshine followed by cooling afternoon rain showers.
Because of the holidays, July and August are popular months to visit Koh Samui.
The region is one of the drier ones in Thailand during the summer months.
Rainy season (September to November)
It rains quite a lot from July to December with October and November being the rainiest months.
Like in most other tropical places, it’s usually heavy rain for a short amount of time.
You will also have many hours of dry and sunny weather even if it’s rainy season.
As always, there are pros and cons to visiting Koh Samui during the low season.
It’s much less crowded and you can be lucky to find great deals on accommodation.
You’ll have to deal with the showers, though.
Beaches on Koh Samui
The most developed and touristy beach is Chaweng Beach on the east coast of the island.
The huge beach is beautiful with soft sand and there’s plenty of room to find a great spot to lay on the sand or rent a sunbed.
Both the beach and the area is filled with resorts, restaurants, snack bars, souvenir shops and all kinds of activities.
The nightlife is buzzing in northern Chaweng, so if you’re looking for a party in the evening, this is the place.
If you want endless options and don’t mind sharing them with other people, Chaweng is the place for you. If you’re looking for an undiscovered beach, this is not it.
The southern part of Chaweng is quieter than the north and we had a great time staying at Buri Rasa Village Samui.
The second most popular beach is Lamai Beach south of Chaweng.
Here you’ll also find lots of hotels, restaurants and bars lined next to each other on the beach, but it’s a little less crowded than Chaweng Beach.
Lamai is close to the waterfalls in the south.
Silver Beach (Thongtakian Beach)
South of Chaweng and north of Lamai, you’ll find this hidden little beach surrounded by large rocks.
Silver Beach, or Crystal Bay as it’s called as well, has pure white sand and clear water.
We spent a lovely morning here and can definitely recommend it. The water is at its most azure in the middle of the day.
Bophut Beach is a more quiet beach with a calm atmosphere on the northern part of Koh Samui, although it’s not one of the most isolated beaches.
The prices are a bit higher than average for Koh Samui, but the stretch of sand is wide and the western part is a good swimming beach with an up-market feeling.
In the east, the sand and water aren’t as good, but it’s a better option if you want to stay close to Fisherman’s Village.
This historic area of Bophut is home to a bunch of restaurants and shops in rustic-style buildings. Today, most fishermen have moved elsewhere on the island.
Maenam is a really long beach on the north side of the island.
Most of the development is on the eastern part. The western half is a lot more secluded and only features scattered resorts and restaurants.
Maenam Beach is great for long walks – but beware of the fishermen’s lines in the early morning and late evening.
The street leading down to the beach has charming wooden Chinese shop houses built side by side. There are lots of cafés, restaurants and shops and we frequently visited the café and restaurant Prava.
Bang Po Beach
Situated between Laem Yai to the west and Maenam Beach to the east, Bang Po Beach is a long stretch of sand on the northwest coast of Koh Samui.
Though not the island’s most beautiful, the beach does hold some appeal for its length, calmness and views of Koh Phangan to the north.
The eastern part of Bang Po Beach is sometimes referred to as Baan Tai.
Choeng Mon Beach
Choeng Mon Beach isn’t a place you’ll randomly stumble into as public access is limited.
Therefore mainly frequented by holidaymakers staying at the resorts, the vibe here is different to some of Koh Samui’s other beaches.
It seems to be particularly popular with European travellers.
The sand is white and the waters very suitable for swimming.
At the eastern tip are the two small islands Ko Fan Noi and Ko Fan Yai; only accessible by foot at low tide.
Bang Rak Beach (Big Buddha Beach)
Between Bophut and the Big Buddha Temple, you can find the more local beach Bang Rak, also known as Big Buddha Beach.
With a few private piers with boats leaving for Koh Phangan and several small boats in the water, this isn’t the most attractive place to swim on Koh Samui, although the sand is fine.
Lipa Noi Beach
Lipa Noi Beach is situated on the west coast of the island.
It’s definitely one of the island’s less visited beaches and you can easily find a private spot.
Walking away from the resorts in the middle part, you’ll meet more dogs and local people than tourists.
During our stay with Lipa Lodge, we got to experience the gorgeous sunsets of the Lipa Noi Beach!
Taling Ngam Beach
The Taling Ngam area of Koh Samui on the southwestern corner is about as remote as you can get on Koh Samui’s exterior.
With 30 minutes of driving to Nathon and almost an hour to Chaweng, you’ll be far from the action – but never too far, should you need the facilities.
The coast is splendid with the added bonus of views on clear days to the islands of the Ang Thong National Marine Park in the distance.
Laem Set Beach
Koh Samui hides some of its most spectacular beaches in its southeastern part.
Though only 15 minutes from the nightlife of Lamai, this corner of the island is enchantingly peaceful with palm tree-dotted shores framed by large boulders.
What to do on Koh Samui
Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai)
A visit to Koh Samui is not complete without spending some time with the graceful golden Big Buddha.
The 12-metre tall statue is located in the northeast part of the island, just north of the airport.
It’s actually located on a small island attached to the rest of Koh Samui by a bridge.
At the base of the stairs leading to Big Buddha, you’ll find shops with little Buddha-statues, clothing and other souvenirs. There are a few restaurants (and cute dogs) as well.
For the main attraction, the Big Buddha, you’ll not need more than 30 minutes to an hour. Remember to dress appropriately, i.e. cover your shoulders and knees.
We can recommend getting there early.
We went at 7.30 in the morning and had the statue all to ourselves in the gorgeous morning light. Sunsets should be beautiful too.
During the day the sun is strong and the steps get very hot.
It’s free to visit Big Buddha Temple, but donations are appreciated.
Wat Plai Laem Buddhist Temple
Wat Plai Laem is a fairly new Buddhist temple compound very close to Big Buddha.
It’s built in Thai-Chinese style with many colours and it’s famous for two enormous statues.
The most alluring (or at least that’s what we think) is Guanyin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy and Compassion.
She is the protector of women and children and the champion of the sick, the poor, the unfortunate and the disabled.
Guanyin has 18 arms so that she can reach out and help as many people as possible!
The other statue is a fat, laughing Chinese Buddha representing wealth and prosperity.
Apart from the eye-catching sculptures, the temple complex house several other beautifully decorated buildings, murals and art.
As with all other sacred places, remember to dress politely.
Wat Plai Laem Buddhist Temple is free to visit, but donations are appreciated.
In the southern part of Koh Samui, there’s a pretty temple called Wat Khunaram.
The temple is well known for the mummified monk, Loung Pordaeng, who’s displayed in a glass casket (wearing sunglasses).
The body of the monk is worshipped. Many Thai people see death as an opportunity to be reborn in a next and better life and they visit the temple to make merit.
It’s free to visit Wat Khunaram, but remember to be respectful.
Elephant Gate and Wat Kiri Wong Karam
As you might have guessed, Elephant gate is a gate with two big elephants.
To be honest, it’s not really an attraction, but it’s great for a quick stop and a photo.
Further down the road, you’ll find the temple Wat Kiri Wong Karam.
However, the real reason to make a trip to this part of the island is the awesome vegan café Futurehippie. We found this gem by coincidence, but we’re so glad we did!
Elephant Gate and Wat Kiri Wong Karam are free to visit. Dress respectfully at the temple.
Laem Sor Pagoda and Wat Rattanakosin
In the most southern part of Koh Samui, you’ll find some of the lesser-known attractions of the island.
The golden Laem Sor Pagoda sits at the end of the beach of Bang Kao guarded by two large, colourful statues.
A few minutes drive from the pagoda, on a hill at Laem Sor, you’ll see a golden, lying Buddha with a white Chedi at Wat Rattanakosin (Khao Chedi).
From the viewpoint you can see the surrounding coconut plantations, the south coast of Koh Samui as well as the neighbouring islands of Koh Taen and Koh Madsum.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see these two beautiful attractions, but we’re sure they’re worth a visit if you find yourself around this area.
It’s free to visit both attractions. Donations are appreciated.
Pagoda Khao Hua Jook
If you like spotting planes, you should visit Pagoda Khao Hua Jook.
This beautiful golden pagoda has an amazing view over Samui airport.
We came just before sunset to enjoy the panoramic views of the Chaweng Lake and the surrounding nature to the sound of chanting monks.
If you walk from the main street, it’s a steep walk to the temple. You can also drive all the way up there with a motorbike.
Expect to spend around 30 minutes around the pagoda soaking in the views.
It’s free to visit Pagoda Khao Hua Jook, but donations are appreciated.
Secret Buddha Garden
The Secret Buddha Garden, also known as The Tarnim Magic Garden, is located on a hill on the island surrounded by lush jungle.
It’s a bit of a drive, but you can easily go there by yourself if you have a motorbike or car.
The peaceful garden is decorated with numerous Buddha statues, sculptures of animals, humans and deities as well as miniature waterfalls.
Many people seem to love this place!
In our opinion, it’s not a must-see attraction, but it’s kind of cool anyway. We spent about 30 minutes in the garden.
The entrance fee to Secret Buddha Garden is 80 baht per person (~ 2.5 USD / 2.2 EUR).
On Koh Samui, there are countless waterfalls.
The most popular ones are Na Mueang Waterfall 1 & 2.
Other notable waterfalls include Hin Lad Waterfall, Wanorn Waterfall and Tan Rua Waterfall.
We only went to Na Mueang Waterfall 2, where we enjoyed the breathtaking view from the top while cooling off in the natural pool.
The waterfalls on Koh Samui are not the most spectacular we’ve ever seen, but it was really nice to go there for a refreshing swim.
If you haven’t seen waterfalls in Asia before, you should definitely check them out.
Overlap Stone is literally in someone’s backyard. We didn’t see the owners, but we did buy some of their bananas and left a small tip.
The stone itself is a natural phenomenon made even better by the offbeat location.
Turn away from the main ring road and follow a steeeep road up the hill.
You can park your scooter at sort-of level ground for 20 baht (~ 0.6 USD / 0.5 EUR) or find your own spot.
Then just follow the signs and walk for a few minutes until you step on a porch, walk the bridge and find yourself next to the Overlap Stone and an amazing view.
The best thing? You’ll probably have it all to yourself as this spot isn’t really on the tourist radar. Yet.
It’s free to visit Overlap Stone but the family accept donations in a small box.
Besides views from Overlap Stone, Pagoda Khao Hua Jook and Wat Rattanakosin, there are lots of other viewpoints on the island.
Samui Viewpoint, Lamai Viewpoint and Lat Ko Viewpoint are among the most popular ones.
Valentine Stone is a “tourist attraction” as well, but it’s basically just a colourful sign on a rock. It’s close to the Lamai Viewpoint and Siva Tara Waterfall.
Another strange view is the Hin Ta and Hin Yai (also known as The Grandmother and Grandfather Rock). The rocks supposedly represent the male and female genitalia and for some reason, it’s a really popular attraction. We searched for photos of the place online and didn’t find it that interesting to see – but if it’s your thing, hey, go take a picture!
Once a village for fishermen (surprise), this area is now a magnet for tourists.
The original shops have been transformed into restaurants, tourist shops, galleries and accommodation.
Swing by on a Friday evening to explore the huge night market Elephant Walk on walking street between the Fisherman’s Village and The Wharf Samui.
Walking streets and night markets
If you like walking streets and Thai markets, you’ll be happy on Koh Samui.
You can find various markets around the island.
Besides the walking street mentioned above, both Lamai and Chaweng have walking streets.
In Chaweng, there’s also a night market next to Chaweng Lake every evening.
You will usually find lots of inexpensive food options, cocktails, clothes, souvenirs and much more.
We can’t even begin to describe the many activities Koh Samui offers.
You’ll not be bored!
Alex joined Elite Gym and Fitness Classic between Bophut and Chaweng for a month where he kept in shape with weight-training and by running on the treadmill (when the sun was too strong outside).
There are several gyms to choose from around the island offering day passes as well as annual memberships.
If yoga is more your thing, there are a few good yoga schools offering retreats.
You can also opt to join the locals in the national sport Thai boxing (Muay Thai) or test your agility and balance at a tree-climbing course.
Alexander played football golf (yep, that’s a thing) with some friends in 2014, but if you’re more into regular football (soccer), you can join a team in the Samui Arena Football Stadium three evenings a week.
If you like team sport, you could also play a game of paintball. For driving, try go-karting or exploring the jungle on a quad bike. There’s also virtual reality driving inside Central Festival.
There are surprisingly many shooting ranges. We really don’t know if that’s a good thing or not?
If you prefer calmer types of entertainment, you can try petanque, golf or mini golf.
We practised archery at Flying Arrow for a few hours and found it both surprisingly hard and really fun to use bow and arrows.
You can also take a Thai cooking class or learn how to carve fruits.
As Koh Samui is surrounded by water, you can of course dive and snorkel, but there are lots of other water activities such as windsurfing, jet skiing and sailing as well.
There’s a suitable activity for everybody on Koh Samui!
Ang Thong Marine National Park
The archipelago northwest of Koh Samui consists of 42 smaller islands in different shapes and sizes, famous for their untouched beauty.
The main island Ko Wua Talap contains the national park’s headquarters, a cave, a stunning beach as well as the main draw for most visitors to Ang Thong; the view dubbed the viewpoint of viewpoints – also called the most beautiful sight in Thailand.
So far, we have to agree.
On the other islands, it’s possible to visit an emerald lake, hike to other viewpoints, chill out on the secluded beaches or snorkel in the waters.
Many boat companies operate daily tours to Ang Thong Marine National Park. Tickets can be bought from most travel agents around Koh Samui.
There’s an entrance fee of 300 baht per person (~ 9.4 USD / 8.3 EUR) which is sometimes included in the price.
Kayaking, snorkel gear, food and drinks are sometimes included as well, but not always – so make sure to double check with your travel agent.
We booked one of the few bungalows in the national park to be able to spend more time soaking in the beauty of this place.
Ang Thong Marine National Park is usually closed in November and December due to rough ocean conditions.
Koh Madsum and Koh Taen
Victoria really wanted to see the beach at Koh Madsum, but unfortunately, we didn’t visit the island or the neighbouring island of Koh Taen this time around.
You can organize a trip to the islands by yourself. Find a boat driver in Thong Krut and agree on a price.
Get custom made tailored clothes
Do you want a suit or dress custom made for you?
There are soooo many shops offering this.
We didn’t do it as we’re trying to be as non-shopping as possible, but if you do, make sure to find a quality tailor with great recommendations.
Just a tip: that’s usually not the ones approaching you on the street with the “I have special offer for you” greeting.
Get a massage
Getting a massage is one of our favourite activities!
Thai massages are so hardcore but so amazing.
And the prices are more than fair.
Usually, an hour of Thai massage will cost you 200-300 baht (~ 6.3 to 9.4 USD / 5.5 to 8.3 EUR).
The massage parlours also offer oil massages, deep tissue massages (not for the faint of heart), Swedish massages as well as other types of beauty treatments.
Party with (new) friends
When we visited Koh Samui with five friends back in 2014, we had a good time visiting Chaweng at night and hopping between the bars and clubs.
On that trip, we also went to the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan.
When visiting Koh Samui in 2019, we didn’t party at all.
Extremely loud music, drunk people and neon lights are not something we enjoy being around as much as we did when we were younger, haha!
However, if clubbing and pub crawling is your thing, Chaweng is party paradise.
You’ll easily find cheap beers, buckets and new friends.
What not to do on Koh Samui
Or should we say animal exploitation?
Please, avoid riding elephants, taking selfies with tigers or watching dolphin shows.
There are so many reasons you shouldn’t support this kind of cruelty.
Read all about it in our detailed guide Be a Responsible Tourist in Thailand: 10 Things You Need to Know.
Where to eat on Koh Samui
Even after staying for one and a half month on the island, we didn’t get to try nearly every restaurant we wanted to.
There are so many options!
Most of the places we did get to eat at, though, were great, and some even lip-smackingly delicious.
Thai food is, of course, ubiquitous on Koh Samui, but you’ll also be spoilt for options when it comes to international dishes and modern takes on old classics.
Thai food restaurants are plentiful on Koh Samui.
Most places targeting tourists will probably serve some kind of international fare along with rice, noodle and curry dishes.
The food at these kinds of places is most likely good, but if you want to taste outstanding thai food, you’ll have to walk past the places touting “European” and “pizza”; having menus in both Russian and Chinese.
It’s actually a pretty good sign if they don’t have an English menu – although these kind of places are difficult to find.
Some of the tastiest and most authentic thai food we had on Koh Samui was at Jay Tamachad, a small place roadside on the road leading to/from Central Festival and the northwest of the island.
Everything is vegan, but don’t let that scare you away if you love the taste of flesh. They use lots of mock products, tofu and other kinds of “meat substitutes” to bring extra texture and flavour into the dishes.
If you don’t want to leave sweatin’, forego the spicy options. Some of the dishes are really hot (and so good).
This is true for all thai food!
We should also mention Khunnay, another vegan thai place just a few hundred metres west of Central Festival.
Every day they offer a buffet of thai soups, woks and curries for just 120 baht (~ 3.8 USD / 3.3 EUR) along with an extensive a la carte menu.
Babu’s Indian Hot at Maenam deserves a shout out for reigniting Victoria’s taste for North Indian food.
We ate roti, curries and rice until our bellies almost burst and loved the deep flavours.
There are also quite a few Indian restaurants in the Chaweng area and elsewhere on Koh Samui for those lassis and samosas.
Unfortunately, we didn’t find any restaurants serving South Indian cuisine.
Burgers and pizza
There’s no shortage of burgers and pizzas on Koh Samui.
Our favourite place to go for comfort food was Hungry Wolf on the Chaweng main road.
Hungry Wolf offers lots of enticing pizza and burger options – and they have a dedicated vegan menu.
Another favourite was Homemade Burgers and Sandwiches in Maenam. Great simple burgers (including two vegan ones) and very cheap.
Middle Eastern food
We were glad to discover that it’s possible to eat rather decent falafels and other Middle Eastern inspired food on the island.
Prava at Maenam has a diverse menu including a few options with flatbread, falafels, hummus and eggplant.
For that fluffy bread and a real street food experience, head over to Falafel Mor on the first road leading down to ARK Bar on Chaweng – open 24 hours a day.
Though we didn’t try it, the Mediterranean mezze at Wild Tribe on Lamai also seemed very appetizing.
Juice Queen on the main road behind Chaweng mainly caters to health-conscious locals with cold-pressed juices, light meals and açaí bowls.
It’s very affordable and the cool interior left us feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.
Fisherman’s House at Bophut is the only spot that, to our knowledge, takes its coffee making seriously. They offer lots of brew methods and a very creative menu.
Around Chaweng you’ll also find international coffee shop chains.
If you’re on the southwest side of the island, Futurehippie is such a lovely place to have a meal (or spend the day!).
With no alcohol and a 100% vegan menu, a holistic approach to health is in focus here – and their smoothie bowls, juices and freshly baked goods tasted amazing.
The Art Club south of Nathon is worth the slight detour… At least we went there several times ourselves.
Everything coming out of their kitchen really packed a punch flavour wise, including a burrito wrap with spicy rice, sushi sandwiches, a smoothie bowl with artfully cut fruit and an Indonesian inspired satay curry with tempeh. So good!
Even if you’re not staying in Lamai, it’s also easy for us to recommend stopping in at Pure Vegan Heaven.
With low prices and meals bursting with flavour, this quickly became one of our favourite places to dine on Koh Samui.
For dining with a view, Vikasa Life Café is hard to beat. The food was supremely good, too.
Supermarkets and convenience stores
One of the reasons Koh Samui is so well-suited to longer term stays is the fact that there are numerous huge supermarkets.
They aren’t exactly charming, but you can get almost anything, which is quite handy.
Big C and Tesco Lotus are Walmart-like gigacenters offering everything from smartphones and bicycles to clothes and groceries. Both are found in the Chaweng area.
Tesco Lotus also have a location in Lamai, one on the west side of the island plus several smaller outlets called Tesco Lotus Express.
Makro is more of a wholesale experience, but still open to private persons. Everything is sold in big bulk.
We didn’t get the impression that there’s too much money to be saved by shopping here, but it was nonetheless an interesting experience to walk through the chock-full, mega tall aisles.
Top’s inside Central Festival has a wide array of imported goods along with fresh greens, a bake-off section and a salad bar. It felt cramped compared to the other supermarkets, but it’s your best bet if you’re staying in Chaweng on foot.
7/11 and Family Mart are everywhere on the island. They’re both open 24 hours a day and are actually quite well stocked when it comes to snacks and daily necessities. And the prices aren’t outrageous.
For the freshest and cheapest fruits and vegetables on Koh Samui, you have to visit the local markets.
Apart from greens, this is also where you’ll find many food stalls catering to locals with wonderful snacks and different thai dishes.
Some of the biggest markets are Lamai Market, Laem Din Market in Chaweng, Bophut Market and Maenam Market. Try to go in the morning.
We ate 100% vegan fare with delight during our stay on Koh Samui.
As we had our own kitchen most of the time, we cooked several meals at home.
Fresh produce is cheap and if you don’t go too crazy with imported foods there’s a lot of money to be saved this way.
But… As Koh Samui has so many vegan-friendly places, it would be a shame to forego sampling the many delicacies.
We actually did our very best to try them all…
Check out the Koh Samui map on Happycow for an updated overview of all the animal-friendly places to eat on the island.
Where to stay on Koh Samui
With hundreds of hotels and thousands of rooms, Koh Samui is jam-packed with accommodation options for all types and budgets.
For lots of restaurants and (perhaps more importantly for some) bars and nightclubs, Chaweng is the obvious choice.
It’s easily the most popular area on the island and the many accommodation choices reflect that.
In Chaweng, you can find everything from cheap backpacker hostels to luxury beach resorts lining the beach avenue.
Moving from the north end to the south end, you’ll get fewer parties and more of a relaxed and quiet vibe.
South Chaweng is renowned for its nice sand and has great water for swimming and playing.
Be aware that rooms situated close to the road might pick up noise from nightlife and especially from the cars driving around blasting audio messages about Thai boxing matches and other activities.
Buri Rasa Village Samui
We stayed at this 4-star luxury boutique resort for a couple of days and we loved it.
The beachfront hotel is on the more quiet side of Chaweng Beach, there’s a pool and the room we stayed in even had a private garden with a dip pool.
Buri Rasa truly has a village vibe and the wonderful staff treated every guest with attention and great care.
If you want a truly different hotel experience while staying on Chaweng, The Library looks like an enticing option.
The hotel holds a near perfect score on most review aggregators, with people especially praising the personalized service and stylish design.
Samui Paradise Chaweng Beach Resort & Spa
Located in the far south end of Chaweng, you’ll be far away from the action at Samui Paradise – but still have access to the beach.
With the hotel’s 4-stars, you get two outdoor pools, two restaurants, a front desk open 24/7, free parking as well as air conditioning and wifi in the villas.
Samui Green Hotel
If you don’t expect any kind of luxury, Samui Green Hotel might just be the place for you.
Samui Green Hotel’s rooms include the modern necessities of air conditioning, free wifi and a private bathroom at a very affordable price.
It’s located in the calmer part of Chaweng.
Lamai is a great option if you need less party and shopping options than Chaweng offers, but would still like to stay near lots of restaurants, massage parlours and big supermarkets.
The beach is lovely and long enough to never feel completely crowded.
Staying near Lamai makes day trips to the waterfalls of the south a breeze and also offers you a quick getaway to the less developed parts of Koh Samui.
Le Meridien Koh Samui Resort & Spa
Le Meridien is situated a few hundred metres south of Silver Beach on the far end of the Lamai area, nestled between the mountains.
This means you’ll be about a 20-minute walk away from most of the tourist options, but if you’re staying at La Meridien, they probably won’t be needed.
The private beachfront location has stunning ocean views and the resort offers great facilities, including a beautiful seaside pool, full-service spa and a gym.
For visiting Koh Samui’s other beaches and towns, Le Meridien offers complimentary shuttle services.
Samui Jasmine Resort
Check out Samui Jasmine Resort if you’re looking for a good value 4-star hotel in Lamai.
Situated on the northern end of the beach’ action, you’ll have access to plenty of restaurant options while still being away from some of the noise.
Choose between garden view or sea view, and then hop between the pool and the beach.
Samui Sense Beach Resort
For staying centrally in Lamai by the beach on a budget, Samui Sense Beach Resort is a great choice.
With free wifi, a private bathroom and air conditioning you have your bases covered.
Choose between lounging by the pool or on the beach – and then use the money you’ve saved on accommodation at Lamai’s many restaurants or by getting a relaxing massage.
Stay at this beautiful beach without the crowds – while still being just a short drive away from the plethora of options of Lamai or Chaweng.
Silver Beach probably had the prettiest, most saturated turquoise water of all the beaches we visited on Koh Samui. A real treat for real beach lovers.
Crystal Bay Yacht Club
Nestled behind the rocks on Silver Beach’ south end, Crystal Bay Yacht Club holds amazing views over the bay.
There’s a pool, the rooms look very nice and according to our research, this is the best value accommodation on Silver Beach.
The town by the beach is a fishing village and we actually lived very close to this area for some time while staying on Koh Samui.
We found a lovely little house on Airbnb with our own kitchen and two small swimming pools shared with five other houses.
First time trying Airbnb? Sign up through this link and get up to $52 USD towards your first trip.
It was really nice being close to Fisherman’s Village with its many dining options.
Anantara Bophut Koh Samui Resort
For a perfect holiday on Bophut, look no further than Anantara.
At an international 5-star standard, the resort caters to couples looking for privacy and romance with its boutique take on Thai decor.
The highest level of service and amazing facilities are guaranteed.
Anantara is in walking distance to the shops and restaurants of Fisherman’s Village but just west of the walking street.
Bandara Resort & Spa
Like most hotels and resorts in Thailand, you get a lot for your money’s worth at Bandara Resort & Spa.
Direct beach access, clean and spacious rooms, gym, spa, swimming pools in plural and a huge breakfast all make Bandara a 4-star resort worth considering if you want to stay comfortably in Bophut.
The White Cottage
Staying in one of The White Cottage’s 11 bungalows is a good budget option in Bophut.
Each bungalow features a private bathroom, air conditioning and free wifi. The family bungalow sleeping up to four people looks like it’s outstanding value.
There’s a bit of a walk to the main action of Bophut, but this part of town also houses great local thai restaurants, the usual 7-Elevens and Family Marts, basic shops and massage places.
Staying on Maenam Beach will guarantee you a romantic holiday with long walks in the sand.
Beach vendors are few and far between, just like other people in general.
Compared to the rest of the long beaches of Koh Samui, Maenam Beach is very quiet.
You won’t have any problems finding your own spot in the shade of the gently swaying palm trees.
Several of the hotels on the beach are for adults only.
For a luxurious stay right on Maenam Beach, Santiburi is sure to meet your vacation needs.
With a jogging track, tennis courts, soccer, Muay Thai lessons and more, you won’t get bored – and for relaxing, your biggest problem will be choosing between the pools or the beach.
Four Seasons Resort
The Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui isn’t technically on Maenam Beach but rather on their own private tip on the northwestern corner of the island.
It’s expensive, there’s no way around it, but if you want the top resort on Koh Samui, this is it.
Four Seasons Samui is about as good as a romantic getaway can get.
Sensimar Resort and Spa (adult only)
With most of the rooms featuring plunge pools, private balconies and/or jacuzzis, a splendid private experience is all but guaranteed at Sensimar.
The design is rather minimalistic and unobtrusive, making room for romance and relaxation.
Choeng Mon Beach feels like a secluded hideaway far from the hustle and bustle. You won’t be far from great restaurant options, though.
The beach is especially popular with families. Here days go by quickly with simply enjoying your vacation.
The water is suitable for swimming and the sand is fine and white.
Cape Fahn Hotel Samui
Cape Fahn is simply too stunning to miss.
Situated on a private island (!) accessible from land at low tide from Choeng Mon, the 22 villas all have mesmerizing views over the ocean and a truly unique location on Koh Samui.
P.S. Thana Resort
At a fair price, you get a spacious villa at P.S. Thana Resort right on Choeng Mon beach with access to the pool area, lush surroundings and breakfast with sea views.
Each villa has a bathtub as well as free wifi and air conditioning.
The Tongsai Bay
Long standing champ of green accommodation on Koh Samui, The Tongsai Bay is renowned for its eco-friendliness and relaxing environment.
Where to start… Leftover food is donated to an animal shelter, pesticide use is non-existent, there’s a ton of wildlife on the premises, no trees have been cut building the resort, there’s an organic garden…
All in all, The Tongsai Bay is a great choice if you want to minimize your planetary footprint while visiting Koh Samui.
And of course actually staying here looks wonderful. The rooms are beautiful, as are the pool and beach, and there’s a huge array of great activities for enjoying your holidays (guilt-free!)
The Tongsai Bay is located just north of Choeng Mon Beach.
Lipa Noi Beach
On the west coast of the island, you can find a quiet place to stay on Lipa Noi Beach.
Lipa Lodge Beach Resort
We stayed at Lipa Lodge and thoroughly enjoyed the peaceful garden and private beach.
From the beautiful beachfront room, we could admire the ocean from sunrise to sunset and fall asleep to the sound of the calming waves.
You can see lots of pictures and read more about Lipa Lodge Beach Resort in our review or you can check prices and availability here.
If you want a remote place to spend quality time with your family or significant other, you can escape the clubs and bars by staying in the unspoilt southwest coast near Taling Ngam Beach.
InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Resort
This 5-star luxury resort is built on a mountain overlooking the Gulf of Thailand.
Ocean vistas, none other than 7 swimming pools and romantic sunsets are just some of the many advantages of staying here.
The resort even has a 5-star kids’ club offering InterContinental’s signature blend of fun and games with traditional Thai culture for a unique experience.
It’s relatively close to the Elephant Gate, Wat Kiri Wong Karam and the most delicious smoothie bowls at the vegan café Futurehippie, but you’ll most likely have a difficult time pulling yourself away from the enchanting resort.
Yoga retreats on Koh Samui
Though nearby Koh Phangan’s fame is more exclusively attained from its huge array of yoga schools, Koh Samui also offers enough options of detoxing and stretching for a lifetime.
Though it is, of course, possible to sign up for single yoga classes or weekly memberships, the best value will usually be attending a dedicated yoga retreat or buying a package including accommodation.
How to get around Koh Samui
Unfortunately, Koh Samui hasn’t really prioritized public transportation on the island.
Almost everyone has their own motorbike or car.
It’s possible to rent your own vehicle during your stay on Koh Samui. Prices vary depending on the model and the place you rent it from.
It’s always a good idea to take pictures of the vehicle at the time you rent it. That way you will be able to prove if it was already damaged when you got it.
Luckily, we have never been scammed this way but some people have had to pay for damages they weren’t responsible for.
We rented a Honda Click motorbike for more than a month and got a great discount. We paid approximately 125 baht per day (~ 3.9 USD / 3.5 EUR), but for shorter periods you can expect to pay at least 150-200 baht per day (~ 4.7 to 6.3 USD / 4.1 to 5.5 EUR).
Insist on getting a helmet and always wear it while driving.
Just a simple warning; there’s a lot of traffic on the main road and it can be chaotic at times.
It might be helpful to know that you drive on left side of road in Thailand.
If you aren’t used to driving in cities, Koh Samui is not the best place to learn.
Instead, opt for a yellow and red taxi or an open taxi called songthaew.
The latter is usually the cheapest option, although prices can vary greatly depending on your bargaining skills, the time of day and even the mood of the driver.
How to get to Koh Samui
The easiest and fastest way to get to Koh Samui is by plane to the international airport.
You can find direct flights between the island and places like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Pattaya, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
If you’re travelling from Bangkok, make sure to spend at least a day in the big city. There is so much to do! Get some inspiration on what to do in Bangkok in a day here.
By bus, train and ferry
The cheaper option is to travel by bus or train and then hop on a ferry.
First, you need to get to Surat Thani or Donsak Pier on the Thai mainland.
From Bangkok, a good choice is to take the sleeper train from Hua Lamphong Station or one of the many buses leaving early in the morning.
From Surat Thani, the boats arrive on Koh Samui between 1 hour and 45 minutes and 3 hours after departing.
Donsak Pier is a closer (and cheaper) option with a crossing time of about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Schedules change frequently and vary with the seasons, so be sure to make arrangements prior to travelling if you want to lock down your itinerary.
If you have more leeway, it’s possible to simply arrive on the pier and ask about the next crossing.
The first boat usually leaves around 5 am and the last one around 7.30 pm.
Tip: Full Moon Party coming up? The ferries and boats will be full of partygoers travelling to Koh Phangan, so make sure to book in advance.
Our best tips for visiting Koh Samui
- The electrical outlets in Koh Samui generally feature two round prongs, fitting both most European and Asian appliances as well as the flat prongs of USA and Japan. The standard voltage is 220 volts.
- How long to stay on Koh Samui is a difficult question to answer – you can see the highlights in a few adventure-filled days or spend weeks eating your way through all of the delicious food and exploring the hidden coves.
- Koh Samui vs Koh Phangan vs Koh Tao… If you have the time, why choose? Each island offers something unique and is just a short ferry ride away. Quickly summarized, Koh Samui offers the best value accommodation and has something for everyone, Koh Phangan has unique parties and more of an undiscovered vibe + a big yoga community and Koh Tao is much smaller and famous for its diving schools.
- Beachwear belongs on the beach. Though the Thai inhabitants of Koh Samui are used to tourists, it’s considered inappropriate to wear beachwear anywhere else.
- Be sure to book your accommodation well in advance if you’re travelling in the high season (July, August and December to March). There will always be beds available, but many of the best hotels and resorts get fully booked months ahead.
- Koh Samui is beautiful. Make sure to bring a good camera! Here’s our guide to lightweight photography gear for high-quality travel content.
- Wifi on Koh Samui is everywhere in hotels and cafés. It’s usually super fast. If you need to stay connected while on the road, consider buying a local SIM card with data. It’s rather cheap and the process is simple.
- Koh Samui is super family-friendly. Thai people love children, and there are so many fun things to do apart from simply lazing around.
- The sun is strong. Remember your sun protection!
- Credit cards are mostly used at upscale places, so you’ll need to carry cash for most restaurants, shops and services.
- You’ll seldom be far away from an ATM and/or a place to exchange money. Usually, it’s cheapest to withdraw money in baht. Because of fees, try to limit your amount of withdrawals and go for your daily max each time.
- With several well-respected hospitals, clinics and dentists on the island, help is never far away should you have any medical issues while visiting Koh Samui.
Thanks for reading
Thanks for getting all the way to the end!
We hope our guide to Koh Samui has been useful.
If you’ve visited Koh Samui, it would be awesome to hear your best tips in the comments.
If you haven’t been yet, please don’t hesitate to ask us anything. We’re glad to help.