Koh Samui is Thailand’s second largest island and one of the most visited in Thailand by travelers ever since there was an airport built on the island. Because of the airport it is one of Thailand’s islands with the easiest access but also means bigger crowds and less secluded beaches. The island is in the Gulf of Thailand on the eastern coast of Surat Thani province. The island is known for its coconut groves and mountainous rainforest. There are large bouldered beaches, many waterfalls and hikes, elephants, sandy beach coves and the small islands off its coast Koh Phangan and Koh Tao as well as the beautiful Mu Koh Angthong national marine park. There is a beautiful temple complex that is unique compared to most temples in Thailand called Wat Plai Laem featuring the 18 armed goddess Guanyin. There is also a large gold Buddha on a small island off the island connected by a causeway. The island takes around 1 hour to drive around and is 50 km long. The island does have traffic and takes longer to get from place to place on the road. The whole island can be explored in 3-4 days.
How to get there
Fly Bangkok–> Koh Samui Island
The fastest and most expensive way to get there is to fly from Bangkok. In order to try to save some money you could fly into Surat Thani from Bangkok and catch a ferry to the island. You could also save more money by taking a train to Surat Thani and then a ferry. There is also a bus from Bangkok to Surat Thani and then a ferry. Depending on your budget, trip time and values you can choose your transportation accordingly. Most people will probably book a flight which costs around $150usd roundtrip per person. There are 22 flights per day from 2 different airlines to get to the island from Bangkok.
Fly–> Surat Thani
This saves you more money than flying onto the island but adds 3 plus hours to your travel time. There is a 1 hour bus ride to take you from the airport to the pier. Then the ferry is about a 2 hour ride to the island. There are specific schedules and timelines to catch for these as well which can be complicated. It is best to buy a combined bus and ferry ticket at the Surat Thani airport once you arrive since they save money together. The fastest and most expensive way to get to the island is to fly into the island or surat thani.
Train–> Surat Thani
There is an overnight train that is more comfortable than the bus and still more budget than flying. The train and ferry ticket option is the middle range budget option.
Bus–> Surat Thani
This is the cheapest and longest way to travel to the island if you have the time flexibility or budget need. Busses run south on the hour normally if you show up at the bus station you can purchase your ticket before your trip. You can buy a bus and ferry ticket combination from the Bangkok bus station. The bus ferry ticket combinations are the most budget and longest way to the island.
When to visit
Mid-December to April has the most sun and least amount of rain or is the dry season. October and November are the most rainy months to avoid. Also they are the least tourist peak season and it is cheaper and more empty if you don’t mind rain. May-September has sun and rain mixed so you could go during this season for less people but still some nice weather if you don’t mind some showers for a bit everyday. December, January, July and August are the high tourist season which means the highest prices and more crowded.
Things to do
Coco Tam’s Beach bar/restaurant hangout
Boput is the north eastern tip of the island where Fisherman’s Village sits on the island. Fisherman’s village is a cute and quaint area with small walkable streets with coffee shops, stores, restaurants and beaches to relax. This is one of the best spots on the whole island. There is so much charm in this area and it has beautiful open sandy expanses of beach. This is a convenient central location on the island to get to everything and be close to the airport within 30 minutes and also the stores and restaurants. Coco Tam’s is the most trendy bohemian beautiful beach bar and restaurant that takes up several different spaces covering a mile of Fisherman’s village beaches. This was definitely our favorite beachfront hangout as well as beach bar on the island. They have two restaurant locations and an open beach bar space in between. Coco Tam’s Pepina is their larger higher end Italian restaurant that sells pizzas and pasta dishes. Their other restaurant is more local Thai dishes. The casual beach bar has sand hangouts that are better for those who want to beach lounge and stay for longer or just buy a drink not a meal.
Cost: Drinks around 80-200 baht
Explore Fisherman’s Village
Fisherman’s Village is the charming small village on the island that has all the cute restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques with quaint small streets to walk on and several beach areas to hang out. Cafe Darling became one of our favorite coffee shops and cafes with delicious soups and sandwiches for lunch as well as the most amazing breakfast with delicious omelets and keish. Karma Sutra Bar & Kitchen is a fun bohemian bar and restaurant that transports you to Bali. This spot is best for drinks or local thai food in an open air chill hangout space. There are some local boutique designers to check out like Thaikila which is a swimwear brand and beach loungewear clothes as well as Amazonas, another beach fashion wear store. Samui coffee roastery as well as sasatorn coffee are two local spots for a cup of joe. There are many great restaurants, bars and shops in this area that is very walkable. The streets shut down at night to become an open market walking street without bikes or cars allowed.
Cafe Darling seaside in Fisherman’s Village
Cafe Darling was our favorite restaurant and coffee shop on the island and in Fisherman’s Village area. This quaint french cafe was so beautiful and tucked away with a beautiful open back porch with seaside views. The back porch is the place to hang out and have breakfast or lunch. They are closed for dinner so be warned. We loved it so much we tried to come back for dinner and found it to be closed. This place has the best quality and budget prices comparatively to all the other restaurants on the island. There is homemade bread, delicious quality salami on the sandwiches and pickles which are hard to come by in Thailand. We loved everything we ate and wish we could have tried more of the dishes. A few favorites are the quiche and omelet for breakfast as well as the salami sandwich and salad combo for lunch. Lingering on this back porch seaside is one of our favorite memories from the island. You must come here once on your visit.
Cost: A dish around 200 baht
Samui is a lush and green jungle island that is known for its palm tree groves as you drive around the island. There are many waterfall adventures to be found as well as overlook hikes inland on the island. There is a great amount of outdoor activity on this island rather than just flat beach areas. There are 6 main waterfalls on the island, Na Mueang 1 and 2 (the most known and visited), Wang Sao Tong (the most dried up and not worth it), Tartain, Hin Lat, Tan Rua, and Khun Si. I recommend picking one main waterfall to visit and really I believe that Na Mueang waterfall is truly the only one worth visiting. The others are very small and not full size ones with waterflow especially if you visit outside of rainy season. The most visited waterfall and known is Na Mueang because of its size and water flow. The reason I love this one the most is because you can climb to the top and there are enough rocky pool areas to sit in and actually take a dip and cool off from your hike. We went to Wang Sao Thong first thinking it was Na Mueang and we had to hike 30 minutes in the forest only to get to a very dirty small stagnant pool of water with no flowing water or falls at all. It really was a dissapointment. Na Mueang is convenient off the main road and is near Grandmother and Grandfather rocks and the overlook rock hike if you are already seeing those. Na Mueang waterfall is inside of a jungle activities tourist park. You must pay 30 baht for parking and then it is free if you walk to the falls for 45 minutes uphill one way. There is an option to catch a jeep song thao ride from the park to the falls (roundtrip) for 100 baht per person. This saves alot of time walking on a cement path that is not a beautiful hike in nature. I highly reccomend getting the jeep ride up to the base where you can then hike in nature around 25 minutes to the falls across wooden bridges, streams, over rocks and up a hill.
Cost: 30 baht parking, 100 baht per person for jeep ride
Overlook Rock Hike
This cool overlook short nature hike is on the eastern shore of the island near Grandmother and grandfather rocks beach. This is south east of the airport and takes around 25 minutes from anywhere on the island to get there. The road to get up to the hike keeps getting more steep until there is a sign about parking and where to stop where the road starts to be straight up. The parking is in front of a local’s house who charges 30 baht to park there. From the parking lot it is a pretty intense hill walk that takes around 15 minutes. The rock bridge is in a local’s backyard and he charges a cheap fee to walk on the actual bridge.
Cost: 30 baht parking, 20 baht per person entrance to see the rock overlook
Wat Plai Laem Temple
This temple complex is a beautiful and unique one for Thailand. There are three different floating temples/shrines. The temple features an 18 armed goddess Guanyin. The temple is unique because it combines Chinese and Thai styles and traditions. This temple showcases Chinese Thai beleifs and Buddhist art and architecture. The temple was made by one of Thailand’s foremost artists, Jarit Phumdonming. Guanyin is seen as a source of love and compassion that reaches out and provides all over the world hence the arms. This temple has special Chinese new year festivities yearly. There was no entry fee and there was no one enforcing any dress code. Most women were wearing beach wear at the temple which is impolite. It is still good to be respectful even if they aren’t checking and keep your arms and legs covered in the temple areas.
Big Buddha Temple is found on a small island off Koh Samui’s northeastern tip near the airport. The temple is called, Wat Phra Yai, and has a golden, 12-metre-tall Buddha statue. The temple was built in 1972 and is a popular site for local devotees as well as tourists. The temple is on Koh Faan, which is reached by a causeway that connects it to the main island. The Big Buddha can be seen from many kilometres away and you can see it from the air as you fly in to the island.
The Big Buddha is in the Mara posture, with the left hand’s palm up sitting on the lap and the right hand which faces down down, the fingers hang past the knee and touch the ground. This pose is symbolic of the Buddha’s journey to enlightenment where he subdued the temptations and dangers thrown at him by the devil-figure Mara by meditating. The pose is a symbol of steadfastness, purity and enlightenment. It is polite to have your legs and arms covered in the temple and dress modestly to be respectful.
Cost: Free, no entrance fee
Grandmother and Grandfather rocks
Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks also known as grandmother and grandfather rocks on the island are on Lamai beach on the eastern coast of the island. If you have seen pictures of the beaches on Samui chances are most likely you have seen pictures of a large boulder beach that is comparable to Lake Tahoe, California. These pictures are of this boulder beach area when the tide is low and out. There is a cool overview from the rocks and it is a fun cove to dip in when its low tide. I felt the rocks were underwhelming in person compared to other beaches and areas on the island. Be warned that early in the morning tourist busses bring many people to this spot to show them. Show up in the afternoon when the tide is lower and you could swim and enjoy the cove.
Cost: 30 baht parking fee for a motorbike
This is a random point of interest on the island that is a fun natural geological landmark. There is a large outcropping of rock that looks like an elephant that hangs over the road. There is a view point above that you can get beautiful views of the island. This is just a small lesser known point of interest on the island to do on your way to another beach or activity.
Jungle Club Viewpoint
Jungle Club is a 5 star fancy beautiful resort in the lush green jungle inland of the island on the north eastern side. The resort can be visited for its amazing restaurant/bar called Jungle Club even if you are not staying at this resort. The views from the tree top tree house hangout are breathtaking. This is the best overlook on the whole island and it is an amazing place to see a sunset as well in the evening. The resort is modern beautiful villa huts with several beautiful pools on property. This is a place I would highly recommend staying as well if this is in your budget abilities. We did not stay here but would definitely have been a top choice if we go back.
Cost: $140USD/night starting, see booking and details here
Day trip/overnight to Ko Tao
Ko Tao is the small and quiet private island you can easily visit from Koh Phangan. This island is smaller and less visited and touristy than Samui and Koh Phangan. This island is hardest to get to in this area and so it is definitely not as visited. You must factor into your trip the ferries to get there that don’t run often but if you do this island is a paradise getaway. I think this is one of the empty islands left in southern Thailand that is not overrun. We have yet to make it to this island and it is on the bucket list still to do in southern Thailand. If you are looking for a smaller, private and quiet island that is not touristy then this is your option.
How to get there: There is no airport, or trains or buses that go to the island. This is one of the only islands that you can only get to by boat and have to travel through two other islands to get there. The best way to get there is from Koh Samui and Koh Phangan islands. You can fly into Koh Samui and then take ferries to Koh Phangan and then Koh Tao.
There are three boats which operate between these two islands and Koh Tao. They are Lomprayah Catamaran, Seatran Discovery and Songserm Express.
Cost: 1200 baht or $38usd per person roundtrip (from Koh Samui to Ko tao)
Visit Mu Koh Angthong National Marine Park
The national marine park reserve is a floating paradise of jungle and emerald pools on its own island in the ocean untouched by man. The beauty can be seen for a day trip paying for a boat tour. There is great snorkeling around this park and is great for a day trip adventure when you are staying on one of the islands in the gulf area. This is a grouping of 42 beautiful limestone islands. This is something in our short weekend visit we did not get to do yet. Definitely keeping this on the list for our next visit.
How to get there: There are many boat tours and companies that you can reserve coming off Koh Phangan island or Koh Samui to tour the park. Speed boats only take 45 minutes to get to the islands and are seen as safer than other boat options and the slow boats take 2 hours to get there as well. You can book group or private tours depending on your budget and vision. Safari Boat is one of the best known and recommended tour companies that has daily boats that leave from the two main islands piers (Samui and Phangan).
Cost: Group tours per person start at 1600 baht including kayaking and private charters are 26000 baht. See tours and booking info here. They do 1 day tours that are from 8am-5pm you arrive back on the island you left from.
National Park Fee: Not included in the boat tours is the national park entrance fee which is 300 baht per person (foreigner). Be prepared with cash on your boat tour to have this on hand for when you disembark onto the island. See more information on the island and national park here.
Day trip to Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan island is only a 30 minute ferry boat ride away. There are regular ferries daily between the two islands and is a great close day trip to see more islands without even staying on them. This island is small enough to see for a day trip especially if you pick and focus on one main beach area to explore. Secret Beach was our favorite spot on the island hidden in a quaint small cove. In the mornings the cove is empty and you have the beach to yourself. There are beautiful small intricate shells on this beach that is fun to beach comb and walk in the quiet morning. In the afternoon this beach becomes very crowded from the late coming party goers who slept in the night before. There is the coolest beach bar/restaurant in the jungle to the right on the peninsula jutting out on the right side of the beach cove. There is a jungle tree tunnel you walk through to get to the restaurant inside a large canopy of trees and a very bohemian decor and feel. There are hanging coconuts and other dried strings of nuts and its a very cool jungle hangout. There are swings in the water and a dock to jump into the water from. There are two restaurants on this beach/area to choose from.
See my full blog post on Koh Phangan island here.
Where to stay
Farmer’s Boutique Resort
Farmer’s Boutique is the most tucked away gem on the island. It is centrally located a 5 minute drive from the Lomprayah pier which is the one that takes you on a ferry to Koh Phangan. I recommend staying near this pier if you are island hopping in your time on the island. This is a great spot to be close with easy access to Bo Put town and Fisherman’s Village area but is also quiet and peace at night. The resort is on lotus ponds and rice fields a 10 minute drive outside the more busy and crowded Fisherman’s Village resort area. The grounds of this hotel make you feel like you are out in the countryside and is so peaceful at night. Sunrises over the lotus ponds and getting to see the beautiful flowers before sunrise was such a cool experience of staying here. The huts are a mix of traditional Thai wooden stilted houses and modern decor and comforts. They are beautiful and had the most comfortable bed as well as two different infinity pools on the property. When we stayed there we were alone except one other man staying. The hotel starts at $70usd a night and depends on high or low season and the room chosen. This is a 4 star very nice hotel that is high quality with very helpful staff. I would stay here in a heartbeat again. We even forgot our phone charger and they mailed it to us.
Cost: $70usd/night starting, see details and booking here
Vikasa Yoga Retreat
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The meaning of Vikasa is evolution, or spiritual growth, as translated from Sanskrit. When you visit us in Koh Samui, Thailand, we hope to offer a space for you to release the distractions of the modern world and form a strong connection with who you really are. So strong, that it will stay in tact when you return to your daily life. Have you been to Vikasa? Share some of your experience with us below ⤵️ PC: @alinalag #Vikasa #VikasaYoga #VikasaYogaRetreat #VikasaYogaTeacherTraining #YogaRetreat #YogaRetreats #YogaRetreat2020 #YogaTeacherTraining #YogaTeacherTrainings #YTT #YogaThailand
If you are interested in having a yoga experience in Asia this is a beautiful spot and highly recommended spot. I know many people who have stayed here and had great experiences. This is a private resort and beach access in a tranquil jungle setting with an all organic restaurant with a spa and large pool on the grounds. This eastern private cove is a quieter area of the busy tourist island.
Cost: $100/night starting, see booking and details here
This beautiful and modern 4 star hotel is on the quiet eastern coast north of Grandmother and grandfather rocks at Lamai beach. This hotel is known for its red tinted pool that sits overlooking the ocean on a private beach. The resort is very high end, modern and has lots of creative/artistic flair. This is one of the higher end places to stay on the island that is still convenient distance from the airport. There are private pool villas and a large beautiful library room hence the name.
Cost: $270usd/night starting, see booking and details here