25 Best Things to Do in Koh Samui

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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The most famous of all the islands in Thailand is Koh Samui, a beautiful island that is famed for its stunning palm tree edged beaches and crystal clear waters. Due to its broad appeal the island is visited by all types of travelers from the budget backpacker to the mega wealthy Hollywood celebrities.

There really is something for everyone on this paradise island in Thailand and you will be hard pushed to fit everything in if you are only visiting for a couple of days. With so much to do here we have narrowed it down to our top 25 things to do in Koh Samui:

1. Visit Koh Samui’s Famous Big Buddha

Big Buddha, Koh SamuiSource: oceanlau / shutterstock
Big Buddha

The best known and most famous of all the landmarks on this island is the Big Buddha temple. Sitting just off the corner of Koh Samui on a little tiny island is a 12 meter tall statue of Buddha in a seated position. The local name for the temple is Wat Phra Yai and it is connected to the main island by a causeway. Made of gold and sitting in the Mara position it shows a time when Buddha was rejecting all temptations that were forced upon him. When you fly into Koh Samui the statue is usually the first thing that you will spot due to its prominent location. There are a few food and amulet stalls at the temple which are also worth looking at either when you arrive or depart.

2. Take In The Interesting Sights At Hin Ta And Hin Yai

Hin Ta And Hin YaiSource: kokkodrillo / shutterstock
Hin Ta And Hin Yai

All throughout Thailand you will see things that shock and surprise you, but maybe nothing quite like this. The rocks were discovered by locals many years ago and are naturally shaped to look like male and female genitalia. The rocks have been fondly named Ta (Grandpa) and Yai (Grandma.) The rocks have a story that has become part of folklore over the years and you can see the story on a sign as you get closer to the rocks, the story goes that an old couple called Ta Kreng and Yai Riem were traveling to a neighboring province to see a man called Ta Monglai to ask that his daughter marry their son, on the way the boat ran into a storm and they died at sea. The couple then turned into rocks as a symbol of their intentions.

3. See Awesome Scenery At Namuang Waterfall

Namuang Waterfall, Koh SamuiSource: MannPanithi / shutterstock
Namuang Waterfall

Set in Jungle surroundings are two beautiful waterfalls that are certainly worth a visit, the waterfalls are known as Na Muang 1 and Na Muang 2, the first waterfall flows into a small pool that you can swim in, the second waterfall is about thirty minutes further uphill and is also just as stunning. The park featuring the waterfall is completely free of charge and there are lots of beautiful spots along the way as well as small food stalls and souvenir huts to make purchases from. With many tourists choosing to go to the various beaches this makes for a nice change and an idyllic spot for a swim

4. Go on a 4WD Jungle Safari Tour

4WD Jungle Safari TourSource: getyourguide.com
4WD Jungle Safari Tour

Enjoy the highlights of Koh Samui on a Jeep Safari tour.

You’ll see explore sights such as Mummified Monk, Namuang Waterfall and Buddha’s Magic Garden.

A live guide will entertain you and tell all about the magnificent sites you visit.

Recommended tour: Samui: 7-Hour 4WD Wild Jungle Safari Tour Including Lunch

5. Meet The Ladyboys at Chaweng Beach

LadyboysSource: TUVISION / shutterstock

When you are in the area near Chaweng Beach there are many different ladyboys shows on offer, they are all close to each other and vying for your hard earned money so competition is fierce and you will often find they are trying to drag you into their show. The shows usually consist of popular songs being lip synced whilst the performers wear beautiful costumers and make up, the ladyboys are all at various stages of their journey but in most cases it is very hard to tell that they are men. The shows are light hearted so sit back and enjoy.

6. Hide Away At The Secret Buddha Garden

Secret Buddha Garden, Koh SamuiSource: puhhha / shutterstock
Secret Buddha Garden

Back in 1976 Nim Thongsuk started putting up many beautiful statues in the land that he and his family owned, the land is hidden away in the center of the island and surrounded by lush forests. The area is very peaceful and has a stream as well as a waterfall, a journey to the garden is a challenge as the road leading to it is very steep, if you have a four wheel drive you will be fine. From the top most point of the garden you can enjoy panoramic views over the island and take in all its splendor and beauty.

7. Take a trip to Angthong Marine Park

Ang Thong National Marine Park, ThailandSource: Don Mammoser / shutterstock
Ang Thong National Marine Park, Thailand

Board the big tour boat and travel to Angthong Marine Park on a full-day excursion from Samui Island.

Kayak along the stunning coastline, hike to the top of Mae Koh for views of the Emerald Lagoon, and snorkel at Wua Talap Island. Enjoy lunch on the boat.

Suggested tour: Ang Thong Marine Park: Full-Day Kayaking & Snorkeling Tour

8. Time For A New Temple At Wat Plai Laem

Wat Plai LaemSource: Daniel Machacek / shutterstock
Wat Plai Laem

If you have been in Thailand for a while you would have seen many an ancient temple, this one is fairly new but it still uses the techniques that have been in place for hundreds of years. The feature of the temple is an 18 arm statue of Guanyin, Guanyin is the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. This living and working temple has a lot of visitors daily who pay homage to both Buddha and Guanyin. The temple is surrounded on all sides by a lake and if you make a donation to the temples coffers you will receive a bag of fish food to feed those that live in the lake.

9. Get In A Boat And Go Diving

Koh Samui DivingSource: think4photop / shutterstock
Koh Samui Diving

The Gulf of Thailand is an absolute paradise for diving fanatics and you can get tours from reputable PADI certified instructors who will take you on a boat trip to see the marine life for yourself. The best diving area is 60 kilometers out from Koh Samui so you will go out on a big boat with the other divers and participate in a two dive course. Each dive usually lasts about 40 to 50 minutes and is suitable for complete beginners. If you are going to go diving make sure you always check the schools certificates are current and that you are completely happy with all their safety procedures.

Available tour: From Koh Samui: Full-Day Snorkeling Tour on Koh Tao

10. Oktoberfest Thai Style

OktoberfestSource: r.classen / shutterstock

Maybe not what you would expect to find on an island but Koh Samui’s latest cultural import began in 2004 and stuck pretty strictly to Teutonic traditional features, i.e. lots of bratwursts, lederhosen, oompa loompa music and liter after liter of beer. Organized by the local Rotary Club, it is a fantastic event to attend all the profits from Oktoberfest are donated and used for buying much needed equipment for local schools and other good causes.

11. Everything Happens At Chaweng Beach

Chaweng beach, Koh SamuiSource: Preto Perola / shutterstock
Chaweng Beach

Chaweng Beach is the hub of Koh Samui, it is the biggest and largest town and has the busiest and possibly most beautiful beach. This is also where the main nightlife is located with plenty of bars and restaurants to keep everyone happy. The strip in Chaweng is nearly three kilometers long and the young and young at heart make their way from one bar to another taking advantage of the cheap drinks and the loud music. If you want a drink in quieter surroundings then there are also some nice beach front bars offering a relaxing view and see breeze to help you wind down of an evening.

12. The Laidback Life At Lamai Beach

Lamai Beach, Koh SamuiSource: Anton Gvozdikov / shutterstock
Lamai Beach

Unlike Chaweng Beach, Lamai Beach is a lot quieter and not as busy. The beach is just as beautiful though so if you like the quieter life this is the place to head. The water is deeper at this part of the island making it better if you want to go swimming. Like most beaches in Koh Samui there are a selection of beach bars and restaurants selling cocktails and good food, meaning you never have to wander too far when you are hungry and thirsty. If you do leave the beach there is a main road which also has a lot of places to eat and drink.

13. The Backpackers Life At Maenam Beach

Maenam beach, Koh Samui, ThailandSource: Nataliia Sokolovska / shutterstock
Maenam Beach

Koh Samui is an expensive island compared to many other places in Thailand, if you are looking for a cheaper location on the island to stay and also hang out on the beach, this would be the ideal choice. The beach itself is about 7km long and there are not as many beach vendors as you will find on the most popular beaches. The beach has palm trees at the top and in many places is still undeveloped giving it that natural untouched feel. The night life is a lot quieter and cheaper in these parts with many bars shutting fairly early but the prices are low and the locals friendly.

14. Take The Kids To Lipa Noi Beach

Lipa Noi Beach, Koh SamuiSource: Pe3k / shutterstock
Lipa Noi Beach

Lipa Noi Beach is the most child friendly of the beaches on Koh Samui, the water is completely clear of rocks and coral and the beach has beautiful white sand stretching along it. The water remains shallow for a very long way and it is not till you get over 100m out that it starts to get deep. The area is quite remote and you will notice upon arrival that it is a place for relaxing rather than partying, there are several restaurants around selling delicious seafood which are worth stopping for lunch at.

15. Koh Samui’s Capital Nathon Town

Hainan Chinese Temple in Nathon town Koh Samui, ThailandSource: Dennis Albert Richardson / shutterstock
Hainan Chinese Temple In Nathon Town Koh Samui, Thailand

The capital of Koh Samui but a place you may never see if you arrive by plane, situated near the car ferry port the town has an array of shops and restaurants and if you need a bank they are mostly located here. The attraction for tourists are the Chinese shop houses that sell a wide range of goods including lots of gold. The town is a very local town so prices are low and if you are looking for souvenirs this will be the cheapest place on the island to purchase them.

16. See Something Different At Fisherman’s Village

Bophut, Koh SamuiSource: Chantal de Bruijne / shutterstock

Away from the busyness of Lamai and Chaweng is a gorgeous little fishing village called Bophut. The village is growing in popularity but it is still quiet enough that you can enjoy the tranquil beach or a coffee in one of the nearby restaurants. When you are in the village you will see there are various original wooden homes, these were built in the 19th century by a group of Chinese immigrants that set up home here. The village is worth exploring and even has its own walking street full of eating places, food stalls and cafés.

17. Fly Through The Sky

Koh Samui ZiplineSource: Daniel Machacek / shutterstock
Koh Samui Zipline

Fly through the lush jungle on a zipline at fifty miles an hour and you are sure to take in a lot of the Koh Samui Scenery with the Sky Fox cable ride.

Another highlight of the tour is a swim at Samui’s largest waterfall.

Recommended tour: Samui Island: Sky Fox Cable Ride in the Jungle

18. Take A Trip To The Quiet Side And Visit Laem Sor Pagoda

Laem Sor PagodaSource: Daniel Machacek / shutterstock
Laem Sor Pagoda

The south west corner of the island is a quiet part of the island, situated away from the other tourists and night life, this where you will find the Laem Sor Pagoda. It is guarded by two colorful yaks that each carry a sword to protect the pagoda. The building looks gold from a distance but it is actually made from yellow tiles which glitter as the sun reflects off the sea and onto them. Just down from the pagoda is a small hall that has a wax casting of the monk that built the pagoda, he is sitting inside a boat and locals come and prey here as he is highly revered.

19. Go For A Hike At Elephant Rock

Elephant Rock, Koh SamuiSource: holidaypointau / Flickr
Elephant Rock, Koh Samui

Elephant rock actually looks nothing like an elephant but the size of the rock formation was where the name originated from, the rock is located in-between Chawang and Lamai Beach. The rock itself is in a very peaceful area so if you feel like some time away from all the activity this is the place to go. There are plenty of spots to go for a hike around this area and if you climb to the summit you will be greeted with beautiful views of the Gulf of Thailand.

20. Take A Climb To See Khao Hua Jook Chedi

Khao Hua Jook ChediSource: DENOZUKE / shutterstock
Khao Hua Jook Chedi

Located near to the Chewang Lake and sitting at the top of a hilly terrain is Khao Hua Jook Chedi, A beautiful temple that overlooks the coast as well as the valleys below. The temple has some intricate carvings to marvel at as well as many golden sculptures of Lord Buddha. The building itself does not sit next to any road so you will have to park your car at the bottom of the hill and hike up to where it is located.

21. Learn About Chinese-Thai Culture At Wat Jee Kong

Wat Jee KongSource: Marina Ivanova / shutterstock
Wat Jee Kong

Chaweng Beach was the location that the Chinese immigrants chose to live when they settled on the island many years ago, the immigrants built this beautiful temple and it has to be on your to-do list. There are many ornate sculptures and golden decorations around the temple which truly stand out for their beauty. Once you have taken a good look around the grounds there is a market nearby that sells traditional items as well as various crafts and fabrics.

22. See a Mummified Monk At Wat Khunaram

Wat Khunaram, Koh SamuiSource: Tatiana Dyuvbanova / shutterstock
Wat Khunaram

Luong Pordaeng was a Buddhist monk and in 1973 he died whilst in the seated meditative position, it was decided that his body would be preserved and he has been on display in a glass case ever since, forty years later the body is still in excellent condition with no signs of degradation at all. Unlike westerners most Buddhist Thais are not frightened of dying as they believe it to be one step closer to enlightenment, seeing the dead body gives them something to reflect on. The body is stored in the Wat Khunaram temple and local people visit the temple daily to pray and make merit, visitors are very welcome to come and look around the temple.

23. Take A Boat To Ang Thong National Marine Park

Ang Thong National Marine ParkSource: benschie / shutterstock
Ang Thong National Marine Park

The Ang Thong National Marine Park is visited by catching a boat that leaves from Koh Samui, it is an archipelago made of 42 islands sitting in the Gulf of Thailand. The area covers more than 100 square kilometers and consists of mountains, jungles and white sandy beaches, there are also coves, waterfalls and lakes to explore whilst on your trip. The area itself is protected and home to a wide variety of exotic creatures. You can choose to camp the night on one of the islands by hiring a tent during your tour. In the novel ‘The Beach’ Ang Thong was the location where the backpackers set up their secret camp, the movie however was filmed on Koh Phi Phi.

25 Best Things to Do in Koh Samui:

  • Visit Koh Samui’s Famous Big Buddha
  • Take In The Interesting Sights At Hin Ta And Hin Yai
  • See Awesome Scenery At Namuang Waterfall
  • Go on a 4WD Jungle Safari Tour
  • Meet The Ladyboys at Chaweng Beach
  • Hide Away At The Secret Buddha Garden
  • Take a trip to Angthong Marine Park
  • Time For A New Temple At Wat Plai Laem
  • Get In A Boat And Go Diving
  • Oktoberfest Thai Style
  • Everything Happens At Chaweng Beach
  • The Laidback Life At Lamai Beach
  • The Backpackers Life At Maenam Beach
  • Take The Kids To Lipa Noi Beach
  • Koh Samui’s Capital Nathon Town
  • See Something Different At Fisherman’s Village
  • Fly Through The Sky
  • Take A Trip To The Quiet Side And Visit Laem Sor Pagoda
  • Go For A Hike At Elephant Rock
  • Take A Climb To See Khao Hua Jook Chedi
  • Learn About Chinese-Thai Culture At Wat Jee Kong
  • See a Mummified Monk At Wat Khunaram
  • Take A Boat To Ang Thong National Marine Park