There are many things to do in Koh Samui! With so many attractions & activities not of them could make it into our list of top 10 things to do in Koh Samui but here is what we think you should while you are here:
1. Go Kayaking at Ang Thong National Marine Park
Visiting Ang Thong Marine National Park is at the top of our top 10 things to do in Koh Samui list. A stunning archipelago of 42 islands, Ang Thong (or “Golden Basin” in Thai) is located only a short boat trip from Koh Samui. The national park’s main islands include Wua Chiom, Wua Ta Lap, Paluay and Koh Mae Koh, which feature hidden lagoons, dramatic limestone cliff faces, secluded beaches and fascinating caves. One of the most notable attractions is Thale Nai, the emerald lake, a sea water lake located in the center of Koh Mae Koh.
Sightseeing, kayaking and snorkeling tours operate daily to Ang Thong National Marine Park by large tour boat and speed boat. There are many kinds of wildlife inhabiting the islands above and below water, which can be spotted on tour, including: sea turtles, iguanas, pythons, little herons, otters and dusky leaf monkeys.
2. Go Snorkeling at Koh Nang Yuan
One of the best things to do in Koh Samui is a day trip to Koh Nang Yuan. At this breathtaking paradise island just off the coast of Koh Tao, you will find some of the best coral in the area, teeming with colorful marine life. Turtles, stingrays, puffer fish, angel fish, butterfly fish, moray eels and anemone fish are all easily sighted. Snorkeling trips run daily from Koh Samui to Koh Tao & Koh Nang Yuan by ferry or speed boat.
Koh Nang Yuan will probably be the best beach day you'll have on your holiday in Koh Samui. Consisting of 3 small islands connected by beach, there's excellent sunbathing to be had, with the water a few meters away to cool off. There's cocktails & fruit shakes aplenty coming from the beach bar and charming wooden walkway encircling the southern most island & a route all the way to the top for a unforgettable view if you fancy exploring. Remember your beach towel, lots of sunscreen and a hat is recommended.
3. Get Your Scuba Certification in Koh Samui
Any stay on Koh Samui should include a go at scuba diving. You don't know what your missing until you get up close and personal with the colorful underwater life. Both 3 day certification courses and 1 day discovery dives to Koh Tao are available for beginners, where you'll learn the fundamentals of diving under the direct supervision of a qualified PADI professional dive instructor. 2 & 3 dive tours are available for qualified divers to all the popular dive sites in the area.
Enjoy several days viewing the stunning emerald seas at varied dive locations surrounding Koh Tao, a 90 minute speed boat ride from Koh Samui. Named “Turtle Island” in Thai, the location allows whale shark & sea turtle sightings, as well as gorgeous sea life of all kinds, including parrot fish, sea anemones, stingray, puffer fish, sergeant major, barracuda and more.
As qualified PADI & BSAC instructors, at Amazing Thailand Holidays we have the specialist knowledge to help guide you towards the right dive package & operator for a life altering experience that will be remembered as one of the favourite things to do in Koh Samui.
4. Discover the Rare Pink Dolphin
Seeing the rare pink and Irrawaddy dolphins in the wild is an unusual treat, and you’ll never experience anything like it except with our professional tour operators. The tour captains will take you to locations that many are not familiar with, so you can see these amazing animals frolic in their natural habitat. You’ll definitely want to bring a good camera. You might capture some amazing shots of these fantastic creatures leaping out of the water!
Speed boat tours from Koh Samui’s southern shore take you into the heart of where these spectacular, yet endangered sea species live - near the mainland fishing town of Khanom & within the protected Mu Koh Thale Tai National Park. Enjoy the special sight of watching local Khanom fishermen as they quietly “team” with dolphins “herding” area fish into their nets. The dolphins are rewarded with some of the fishermen’s catch. You’ll be rewarded with an unforgettable experience.
5. Eat Thai food at Local Markets and Restaurants
Take the opportunity to enjoy the local Thai food when visiting Koh Samui, some of the healthiest & some say the most delicious on the planet. Known for its wholesome goodness and rich flavors that mix sweet, spicy and savory local herbs with your choice of meats or vegetables, you can find it everywhere. Street stalls, great family restaurants, seafood grills and fruit & crepes wagons are all around the island, just as you will find sellers cooking Thai food to order on the beaches. All ridiculously cheap & ridiculously tasty. At number 5 of the top 10 things to do in Koh Samui, surprisingly it takes little convincing for visitors to step outside of their comfort zone and sample the local cuisine; lead the way and you'll not regret it!
Koh Samui has many local markets, where you can mix with natives as you choose the best fruit, vegetables, seafood, meat and herbs & spices to cook yourself that evening or you can try any number of ready made Thai dishes & rice on sale. Or, if you prefer, simply stop at any of the hundreds of Thai restaurants that dot the island. Don't be afraid to try ones outside of the tourist hot spots, they'll usually be cheaper and just as good! Our top tip is to be on the look out for a busy restaurant filled with Thais, they'll be more than welcoming to tourists and there will be little doubt the food is good or cheap! Tom Yum Goong, Pad Thai Gai, Gaeng Kiew Wan, Panang & Massaman are among the many favorites you simply must try.
6. Visit the Big Buddha, Koh Samui's Most Famous Attraction
The Big Buddha statue and temple (Wat Phra Yai) is usually the first thing air travelers see when they fly into Koh Samui, as they pass directly over it when landing on the island. Providing superb photographs from below, top or the pier nearby, this stunning, gold-painted 12-meter-high seated Buddha statue is lit at night but it is best seen during the daytime. While visiting, you should dress respectfully (no beachwear) and take off shoes, as at all Thai temples. Ring the bells around the temple base under the statue, and you can pay a small fee to be blessed by a monk.
The Big Buddha was built in 1972 and rests on Koh Faan, a tiny island connected to the mainland by a short causeway. Other Buddha statues are set in pavilions around Wat Phra Yai and several shops sell trinkets, good luck charms & souvenirs. Come during the Loy Krathong or Songkran holidays, and you’ll encounter big crowds, as at every Thai temple. You can even float your own good luck flower boat off into the ocean and send a ‘lucky balloon’ aloft, for good measure.
While in the area, you should consider a visit to Wat Plai Laem no more than 2 minutes further down the road. While Big Buddha might be the most famous landmark, Wat Plai Laem is definitely the most impressive, with impressive statues, temples and a lake filled with koi fish.
7. Dance til Dawn at the Reggae Club, Green Mango, Sweet Soul & Sound
Well, you do want at least one crazy night on your list of things to do in Samui don’t you? If you’re 20-30 years of age, this might be every night, but that will wear on you if you’re older. One “must do” should include spending a night shaking your booty at the various clubs in Chaweng, including the infamous Reggae Club, one of Samui’s best known and most fun nightclubs. It is across the lake that separates the Chaweng beach area from the Ring Road segment of Chaweng, just near the central boxing arena. There’s a live band playing every night, and it’s an open-air (but covered) place that is always lively. It is at the end of a bar strip where young ladies will do everything in their power to tempt you into their bar, so just be aware of that when you enter Soi Reggae.
Green Mango is Reggae's equally famous counterpart in the middle of Chaweng. If you want a great night to remember, or an awesome one that you don't, party til the early hours at Green Mango and Sweet Soul opposite before finishing off at Sound, which takes off after 2am and gets a bit crazy with the late night crew. Loud music, tightly pressed bodies and alcohol everywhere, this night should definitely be in your top 10 list.
8. Relax with a Traditional Thai Massage
If you don’t have this on your list of things to do in Koh Samui then you’re really missing out on one of the true delights of visiting Thailand. For the price of 7-10 USD (1/8 of the price back home!), you'll experience a level of relaxation you never knew existed. It’s worth knowing that Thai massage, called “nuat phaen boran” in Thai (literally, “ancient manner massage” – though it is currently being rebranded by the Thai government as simply “nuat Thai,” the direct translation), involves a good deal of stretching along with deep massage. It is usually done on the floor (or the bamboo floor of a beach sala) on a padded mat, so that the practitioner can gently move about the person receiving treatment.
Most practitioners easily take directions to go “soft” or “hard” or “I hurt here”. For a bit more money, they’ll include aloe vera, oils with various aromas or Tiger Balm…which has menthol and camphor and feels warm as it soothes muscles, but then cools down to air contact. Massages are available along most beaches and at the many massage shops, where the ladies where uniforms. NOTE: At a massage shop with neon signs and girls in hot pants & tank tops, you are not likely to get a very good massage because that’s not what most people go there for.
9. Tour the Island on a Motorbike
One of the great pleasures of Thailand. In the western world the majority of us use cars to explore and we're really missing out on. Yes, there are cautions about riding and renting motorbikes on Koh Samui, and you might not be used to riding one or willing to risk an accident. But, if you get insurance, and fancy a go, touring the island on a motorbike is definitely one of the top 10 things to do in Samui. Taking a motorbike ride around the entire island is a wonderful way to see the many viewpoints, beaches, small and unique villages and side roads. If you do it in a rush, it’s possible to make the circuit in over an hour. But, do it right: start early, take your time, make many stops at viewpoints and “let’s see where that goes” turns, and try restaurants and bars in every area.
You’ll see the beauty of the island from the best perspective – street level – and, this allows you to see all the goings-on up close. Make as many stops or side trips as you like, with most roads looping back to the Ring Road eventually. Take a map. While many Thai natives farther from the crowded tourist areas might not speak much English, they will know the main town names and point you in the right direction if you find yourself a little turned around. Be aware that many Thai drivers enter roadways without looking, and you must yield to them, so drive slowly and with great attention at all times.
10. See a Ladyboy Cabaret Show
Last on our list of top 10 things to do in Koh Samui is a night out to a ladyboy cabaret show. Approached with a liberal sense of spirit, a ladyboy (or “katoey” in Thai) cabaret show is great fun and a great experience on a night out.
Starz Cabaret has a combination of Western and Thai style shows. The Moulin Rouge Cabaret’s 3 nightly shows start off with a more “fun for the whole family” approach and get more risqué as the night proceeds. Since both are along the Chaweng beach road and are openly promoted before each show by katoeys, literally in full dress, you can’t miss them. The lip-synched acts, put on with wildly fun, choreographed skill, are almost as convincing as the many very “feminine” performers. Men out at the bars who encounter an overly sexy woman might want to ask (and ‘make sure’) that she’s really a woman; it’s sometimes a bit hard to tell in Thailand.
If you are still in need of some inspiration, check out our Things To Do section for some more amazing Koh Samui activities.