THE BEST OF KOH SAMUI: TRAVEL GUIDE

Koh Samui is a popular resort destination in the Gulf of Thailand that also serves as a gateway to the diving mecca of Koh Tao and the world renowned full moon parties of Koh Pha Ngan. Of these three Surat Thani islands, Samui is the most upscale, catering to the luxury traveler with an array of five-star resorts, private pool villas, world class spas and fine restaurants. If time permits, I suggest visiting all three islands, as each offers a dramatically different experience, and equally incredible landscapes. For most visitors, Koh Samui is the first stop, and below is my complete guide to the island including the best resorts, beaches, offshore islands, waterfalls, night markets, day trips and transportation options - there's enough here to fill a week on the island!


The 19 arms of Wat Plai Laem. Outfit details: Saylor dress, linked here.


HOW LONG ON KOH SAMUI

Four Days. Five nights will give you four full days on Koh Samui, and it's enough time to see the sights, visit the best beaches and even take a day trip to offshore islands. For travelers that want to tack on Koh Tao or Koh Pha Ngan, both are easily accessible via the Lomprayah high speed ferries.


Koh Tan is a 20-minute longtail boat ride from Koh Samui. Outfit details: Lovers + Friends one-piece, linked here.


WHEN TO VISIT KOH SAMUI

Unlike most of Thailand, Koh Samui's rainy season spans October to December. The island sees far less rain July through September than Phuket, making a great alternative for late summer travel. That said, the best months for sunshine and dry skies are still January through March. April and May are the hottest months of the year - can be brutal if you aren't near a pool or the ocean during the day.


Beautiful rugged coast.


Another friend at Phra Yai. Outfit details: World Market dress, linked here.


Koh Madsum is also a 20-minute longtail boat ride from Koh Samui. Outfit details: Lovers + Friends one-piece, linked here.


PLACES TO VISIT ON KOH SAMUI

CORAL COVE BEACH

Visit on a calm day for the ultimate paradise vibes on Coral Cove. The stretch of beach sparkles every shade of turquoise, but it's the massive granite boulders that add all the character to this slice of paradise.


HIN TA HIN YAI

Located at the far end of Lamai Beach, Hin Ta Hin Yai are large granite rocks that resemble phallic symbols, hence the nickname "Grandpa and Grandma Rock." The beach is beautiful, but very touristy - not a place for peaceful sunbathing. Arrive early to avoid tourists.


KOH ANTHONG MARINE PARK

Koh Anthong Marine Park is a stunning archipelago of 42 islands located east of Koh Samui, home to limestone peaks, caverns, dense jungle, remote beaches, coral gardens and marine lakes. Speed boats shuttle visitors out for the day, but it's also possible to camp on Koh Wua Ta Lap (main island with park headquarters) if you coordinate with your tour operator.


KOH MADSUM

Koh Madsum is a 30-minute longtail boat ride off the south coast of Koh Samui. The island is a little slice of paradise, home to soft white sand, ocean swings, clear turquoise shallows and a handful pigs that roam the beach. Many more pigs used to live on the island's main beach, but idiot tourists would feed them human food, and they slowly started to die off.


KOH NANG

If you don't have time to visit Koh Tao, it's possible to visit Koh Nang (stunning island off the coast of Koh Tao) as part of a half-day trip from Koh Samui. The island is the epitome of paradise, surrounded by iconic granite boulders where a thin strip of sand connects different parts of the island (almost looks like a sandbar). It's a 15-minute hike up to the viewpoint, one of the prettiest island views in Thailand. It's easier to avoid crowds, and explore Koh Nang at leisure if you visit by longtail boat from Koh Tao (tour group from Koh Samui is a last resort).


KOH TAO SCUBA DIVING

If you don't have time for a separate trip to Koh Tao, it's possible to book a dive trip from Koh Samui. A full day of diving includes two dives at two of Koh Tao's world class dive sites, as well as lunch on the boat.


KOH TAN

Another offshore island reachable via a 20-minute longtail boat ride. The island not developed, and feels very off the-beaten-path. There is a palm tree swing in front of the island's only shop / restaurant where the longtail boat dock.


NAMTOK NA MUEANG WATERFALL

Namtok Na Mueang isn't the most epic waterfall, but it's a nice change of scenery if you're looking for a break from the Koh Samui coastline. There are technically two waterfall hikes by the same name - the second one is the prettier hike, if you can make it to the pool at the top of the falls. Note that to get to the waterfall, you'll pass an awful elephant camp - just ignore it, and keep walking. The elephants are mistreated - DO NOT give this camp any money.


NAMTOK TAR NIM & MAGIC GARDEN

Sculpture park on Pom Mountain, just north of Namtok Na Mueang Waterfall. Moss covered stone statues are scattered throughout the forest, and have all the feels of a fairytale.


OVERLAP STONE

A strange, massive boulder that sits upright on a viewpoint surrounded by lush banana trees, palms and greenery. Located near Lamai Beach.


TAMARIND SPRINGS FOREST SPA

Beautiful spa set in the forest that offers an array of services including massage, facials, natural rock plunge pools and herbal steam caves.


WAT PHRA YAI

Also known as the Bid Buddha Temple, Wat Phra Yai is located on Koh Faan, a small rocky island, in Bophut. The Golden Buddha sits at the top of a staircase where locals come to make offerings including incense, flowers, food and money.


WAT PLAI LAEM

Wat Plai Laem is a modern temple, located in Bohput near Wat Phra Yai. The 18-armed statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy rises up over the complex that sits over a serene lake.


Cute coastal cafes on Koh Samui.


Beach swings on Koh Madsum.


Colorful fruit stands on Koh Samui. Where's the passion fruit?


EATING IN PHUKET

CHAWENG NIGHT MARKET

Popular night market packed with food vendors selling all the favorites including seafood, crab curry, pad thai, fruit shakes, stir-fry and more. (check closures due to COVID)


COCO TAM'S

Open-air restaurant in Bophut that serves Western dishes in a Boho beachside setting. Menu includes pizzas, pastas, salads and cocktails. Fire shows take place on the beach in front of Coco Tam's Sunday through Thursday, at 8 PM and Friday and Saturday, at 7:30 PM and 9 PM.


DUOMO

Solid Italian option on Koh Samui if you need a break from Thai food. Duomo serves bruschetta, pasta and wood-fired pizza.


HAAD BANG PO

Delicious restaurant on the beach that serves up popular Thai and seafood dishes including whole fish, curries, prawns, shrimp and more.


SALEFINO

Another solid beach option in Bophut that serves a variety of pastas and fresh seafood.


SABEINGLAE RESTAURANT

Popular seaside restaurant that serves classic Thai dishes, as well as delicious fresh seafood options (highly recommend the tamarind prawns, one of the signature dishes).


Wheeeee!


Koh Madsum used to be home to dozens of beach pigs, but groups of idiot tourists would arrive and feed them human food. It caused most of the pigs to die off, and now these guys are the only ones left.


Tamarind prawns at Sabeinglae Restaurant - so delicious!


STAYING IN KOH SAMUI

FOUR SEASONS RESORT KOH SAMUI

Far removed from the bustle of Bohput and Chaweng, the Four Seasons sits on the northwest tip of Koh Samui, and feels a world away from the night markets, walking streets and airport, but all are just 20-minutes by taxi. There are more than 60 pool villas and private residences scattered across the resort, all home to spacious sundecks and private infinity pools.


THE RITZ-CARLTON, KOH SAMUI

The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui is loaded with everything you'll need for a complete five-star resort experience - pool villas overlooking the ocean, 11 restaurants, a spa village, infinity pools, a private reef, secluded beaches and Thailand's only ocean swimming pool. And the resort's coastal location in Bophut is ideal, a short drive from local temples night markets and some of island's best beaches.


SIX SENSES SAMUI

66 private villas sit perched in the hills on the northern tip of the island, many with sweeping views of the Gulf of Thailand. The luxurious rustic elements of Six Senses Samui are folded into lush vegetation, you'll find infinity pools, fine dining restaurants, a spa and even a small farm all surrounded by tropical greenery.

W KOH SAMUI

For an ultra modern vibe, book one of the 74 private pool villas at the W Koh Samui. The villas offer a very comfortable stay mostly because everything is wonderfully oversized - the bedrooms, the bathrooms, the ceilings, the villa windows and the sunken tubs. If you can peel yourself away from your villa, the resort also boasts a full-service spa, the Woo Bar, beach access and on-site restaurant.


I was obsessed with The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui spa pool, and I had it to myself every afternoon.


Bathroom goals in my villa at The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui.


GETTING AROUND KOH SAMUI

You'll need wheels on Koh Samui to access the tourist sights, beaches, hiking trails and night markets that are scattered across the island. The most affordable option is to rent a scooter for the duration of your time on the island. If a scooter isn't a viable option, then taxi will be the most convenient mode of transport.


We met a man at this coconut farm who makes 70 baht for every 100 husked coconuts.


Wat Phra Yai.


Beach sparkles.


GETTING TO KOH SAMUI

Koh Samui is one of the more expensive island's to reach in Thailand because the island's airport is owned by Bangkok Airways. They operate almost all flights to and from the island, limiting the schedule, route and pricing options for passengers. Direct domestic routes include Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Pattaya and Krabi, and direct international flights to Singapore.