Thailand Koh Samui Guide
Koh Samui is a pure, tropical island paradise that exudes a magical spell of romance, calm, and adventure. With miles of soft beaches, tall coconut palms, abundant rainforests, plus a top pick for famous hotels and wellness retreats, Koh Samui will be a unique memory. If you’d like a relaxing vacation filled with memorable experiences such as diving with whale sharks, exploring hidden beaches or dancing all night long, then Koh Samui is your place.
Koh Samui lies in the southwestern part Gulf of Thailand, and it is one of the most accessible island holiday destinations in the Kingdom. Koh Samui may only be the second biggest island in Thailand. Still, it has its picks of mega-celebrities and dignitaries from all around the world lining up for a visit. It is not surprising as the crystal clear waters, vibrant local culture, and fantastic expanse of beachfront can charm anyone without much work. Since its renowned status, Koh Samui is a well-connected with Surat Thani and surrounding islands such as Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. Koh Samui is an excellent place if you’re planning to do island hopping since its central location and, arguably, the most beautiful international airport.
For some, it is the sandy beaches lined with thick palm forest and surrounded by turquoise waters that create a unique and relaxed vibe. For others, it is the combination of hidden waterfalls, lively night markets, and an abundance of Buddhist temples. Even though Koh Samui has been widely developed, it still manages to retain that natural island aura, which travelers from all around the world are looking to experience. What started as just a fishing village in the ’90s is now blessed with its international airport, high-end resorts, fine dining, luxurious shopping centers, and modern cinemas. It has undoubtedly made Koh Samui more in tune with current standards but does nothing to take away from the charm. Koh Samui is an exclusive island since it offers something for everyone’s taste. If you’re an active type, the island will greet you with dozens of hiking trails, stunning viewpoints, and hidden waterfalls. Also, the surrounding islands are known to host the world-class diving spots where you can enjoy a considerable diversity in lively marine life and even swim with majestic whale sharks. If you’d like a relaxing family vacation or a romantic honeymoon, Koh Samui offers luxurious and quiet retreats where you can simply relax and share the moments with loving ones.
The period from late December through April is considered to be the best season in other parts of South Thailand, but NOT on Koh Samui! The weather usually picks up from March onwards and stays perfect and steady up to October, with calm seas and beautiful beach life. More rainfall and choppy seas generally accompany the period from November until February. If you’re visiting in November, you can still expect beautiful weather with occasional showers and way lower prices. Therefore, due to climate uncertainty, the best time to visit would be between March and October. During that period, you can expect an abundance of water activities, boat tours to neighboring islands, diving and snorkeling activities, as well as a lively nightlife and a variety of accommodation options.
When choosing a place to stay in Koh Samui, make sure you do so with a feel of the experience you are looking to have. Many travelers will favor the busiest Chaweng Beach since it’s a spot for crazy nightlife and shopping. The town is built to meet tourist needs – so there are a lot of cozy western restaurants and bars, tour operators, and beach bars. You can also get the Chaweng experience, but without all the crowd, if you move further south to Chaweng Noi (small Chaweng) and up to Lamai. While Bophut and Choeng Mon areas with its abundance of luxury villas make a perfect spot for a family getaway and honeymoon vacations. The beaches offer a secluded and relaxed vibe where you can enjoy a good book with the sound of waves and freshly-picked coconut juice. Keep in mind that the Lamai area isn’t accessible for night-long parties, so if you’re missing the action, Chaweng is just a short ride away.
When on Koh Samui, it makes sense to explore the surrounding islands. For that reason, you should consider visiting Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan. In case you’re not time-limited, the islands of Ang Thong National Marine Park are nothing less than spectacular for its biodiversity and the abundance of eco-adventures. Koh Phangan is just about 25 minutes away with Islander’s speedboat. And it’s a beloved island for renowned Full-Moon Party, secluded tropical beaches, shallow waters, and colorful coral reefs. If you’re looking for exotic island hopping, trekking, and kayaking experiences, then charter a private yacht with Islander and explore the stunning nature in Ang Thong National Marine Park. For diving and snorkeling enthusiasts, Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan is the best island destination nearby Koh Samui. Sail Rock, in between Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, is one of the most popular diving spots in the whole of Thailand. Featuring deep waters, excellent visibility, massive underwater rocks with whale sharks and giant manta rays floating freely during the right season.
The total area of Koh Samui is 229 sq.km., which is barely half the size of touristy Phuket. A nicely furnished and wide main road will take you on a scenic 60 km drive around the island in less than 90 minutes – a blessing compared to the massive and dense traffic in Phuket. A striking difference between Koh Samui and Phuket is the height of buildings. Koh Samui has a strict development regulation that no building be higher than a coconut tree. It allows the perfect escape from the city’s bustle and skyscrapers, into your peaceful seclusion anywhere anytime. On the other hand, beaches on Koh Samui do not enjoy the same level of activity, nor size, of the Phuket alternatives. The best summer season to visit Koh Samui is between March to October, while it is the opposite for Phuket, from October till May.
Koh Samui is an indisputable choice for the best island-like experience, seeing as it is about ten times the size of Koh Tao. This instantly tells you that life on Koh Tao will be as simple, serene, and gentle as it can be, especially in comparison with Koh Samui. But if you are after the best diving and snorkeling off the beaches, Koh Tao is a clear winner.
Koh Samui might be quieter compared to Phuket, but it is way busier than Koh Phangan. Koh Phangan is less developed and more secluded from the city bustle, which makes for an authentic travel location. Koh Phangan island is known for a hippy vibe where party and health-consciousness collide — featuring dense jungle, hidden waterfalls, scenic roads, remote beaches, small local markets, as well as cozy beach bars and restaurants cooking local delicacies.