Koh Samui is an island in the spectacularly beautiful Gulf of Thailand. It is a common stop for tourists en route to the neighboring islands of Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao as Samui has it’s own international airport. And while it’s easy to fly into Koh Samui and then quickly catch a ferry to another island, we would argue that there are plenty of reasons to stay for a few days.
And while lounging on the beach with an ice-cold cocktail may be your main priority during your trip to Koh Samui, there are quite a few other adventures to be had on the island. Check out our list of the 15 top things to do on Koh Samui, Thailand!
Quick Navigation Links
- The Best 15 Things to do in Koh Samui, Thailand
- 1. Visit the Big Buddha
- 2. Wander Around the Wat Plai Laem Complex
- 3. Admire the View from Wat Khao Hua Jook
- 4. Check out Hin Ta and Hin Yai
- 5. Swim at the Na Muang Waterfalls
- 6. Shop at Fisherman’s Village
- 7. Party on Chaweng Beach
- 8. Lounge on Lamai Beach
- 9. Take a Cooking Class
- 10. Visit Ang Thong Marine Park
- 11. Stroll Through Secret Buddha Garden
- 12. Go on a Wild Jungle Safari
- 13. See a Ladyboy Cabaret Show
- 14. Mummified Monk
- 15. Go on a Quad Bike Safari Tour
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links so if you make a purchase or booking through one of our links we might earn a small commission (but don’t worry, it’s no extra cost to you). This helps us keep this site running and we are deeply grateful for your support!
The Best 15 Things to do in Koh Samui, Thailand
1. Visit the Big Buddha
The giant golden Buddha, known as Wat Phra Yai, that sits at the top of a steep staircase is one of the most recognizable landmarks on Koh Samui Island. It sits on the northeastern corner of the island, on its own little island right near the airport. You may even catch a glimpse of it on the drive from the airport to your hotel.
The Buddha statue was built in 1972 and stands almost 40 feet high. You can either rent a motorbike and visit the Big Buddha on your own, or you can book a Koh Samui Island Tour and be chauffeured around in an airconditioned car to all of the highlights of the island!
As with most Buddhist structures in Thailand, you’ll need to remove your shoes at the bottom of the staircase except during the hours of 10:00am and 4:00pm when the tiles are much too hot for bare feet. It’s worth arriving early to avoid the crowds!
2. Wander Around the Wat Plai Laem Complex
Wat Plai Laem is right near the Big Buddha on the northeastern end of the island, near the airport. It is a beautiful, peaceful lake filled with impressive temples and a stop that you absolutely must make during your trip to Koh Samui!
The Wat Plai Laem temple is centrally located on the lake with the Statue of the Goddess Guanyin on one side and the Statue of the Chinese Laughing Buddha on the other. You’ll love wandering around this area, snapping photos of the impressive monuments and enjoying the shade around the lake.
The complex is also generally included on island tours but also very easy to get to on a motorbike if you are so inclined. Unfortunately, the lighting in the early morning is not ideal for photos, but it is the best time to visit as you’ll probably have the place all to yourself!
3. Admire the View from Wat Khao Hua Jook
Another great place to visit on Koh Samui, Wat Khao Hua Jook is located on the opposite end of the airport from the Big Buddha, and only about a 15-minute motorbike away. It’s an easy stop if you are touring the island on your own. However this temple is not generally included in the standard island tours and it’s not nearly as crowded as some of the other sites around Koh Samui.
Wat Khao Hua Jook is a simple pagoda located high on a hill overlooking the island of Koh Samui. You’ll have an uphill drive to get to the base of the stairs where you will have to climb the rest of the way by foot.
There is a very modest fee of 20 THB for foreigners to enter (a common complaint you’ll see in reviews) but the view from the top is absolutely worth it! If you’re lucky you may see planes taking off from the airport right below.
4. Check out Hin Ta and Hin Yai
Full disclosure – I booked an island tour of Koh Samui during one of my trips and this activity was included. But I didn’t love it. I’ve added it to the list because it is known as one of the best things to do on Koh Samui, but in my humble opinion, it is definitely skippable.
Hin Ta and Hin Yai are also known as Grandpa and Grandma rock. Essentially they are just two rocks on the ocean shore that resemble a penis and a vagina. They’ve been carved naturally and although they have interesting folklore that accompanies them, most people just visit these rocks to pose for awkward photos and make inappropriate jokes.
The tale of the rocks tells the story of an elderly couple that lived with their son and determined that it was time for him to marry. So they set sail to a neighboring province to ask for the hand of a young woman there. But unfortunately, there was a storm that capsized the boat and caused grandma and grandpa to drown. The legend is that they became the rocks as a sign of their intentions to the bride and her parents.
The genitalia rocks are located on the southeastern end of the island and are generally included as a stop on Koh Samui island tours.
5. Swim at the Na Muang Waterfalls
The Na Muang Waterfalls have the potential to be a relaxing oasis in the middle of the jungle in the south-central region of Koh Samui, but unfortunately, they’ve been turned into a bit of a zoo over the years. The waterfalls themselves are quite beautiful, with water cascading over purplish-colored rocks.
Na Muang 1 flows into a little natural pool that is ideal for swimming, and Na Muang 2 is further uphill and accessible by foot. Beware that the rocks get quite slippery and can be dangerous for tourists that aren’t prepared.
The falls have become overcrowded because they are one of the most popular stops on the Koh Samui island tour. Vendors set up their souvenir shops along the parking lot where elephant rides and various other animal shows are offered. While most of Thailand has moved away from this type of animal cruelty, the vendors at this waterfall are still using it for profit.
As previously mentioned, the Na Muang Waterfalls are a common stop on the Koh Samui island tour. But if you are touring the island by motorbike on your own, this attraction is quite far from the rest. It’s a 45-minute drive from Chaweng Beach or a 20-minute drive from Lamai Beach. So depending on where you’re coming from, it may be worth skipping.
6. Shop at Fisherman’s Village
Fisherman’s Village is a darling little area located on Bophut Beach Road on the northern edge of the island and one of the places you absolutely must visit during a trip to Koh Samui! Here you’ll find the cutest little restaurants with views of the sea and lots of boutique shops, just perfect for finding souvenirs to take for friends and family back home.
The best time to visit Fisherman’s Village is on Friday nights from 5:00pm until 11:00pm when it transforms into a bustling night market. But if your schedule doesn’t allow, Bophut Beach Road becomes a pedestrian-only street at 5:00pm daily and tends to be lively every night of the week.
Be sure to have a drink at Summer by Coco Tam’s during sunset, or stay until after dark for the fire show – it’s one of the best bars on Koh Samui. And if your feet are feeling weary, Cyan Spa offers reasonably priced foot massages in a peaceful room that overlooks the sea!
7. Party on Chaweng Beach
If you’re looking to experience Thailand’s famous party scene during your trip to Thailand, then look no further than Chaweng Beach! Located on the eastern side of the island, Chaweng Beach is a popular place to stay if you want to be in the heart of the action.
Filled with hotels and beach bars, it’s the perfect place to day drink in the sun while meeting some new friends from around the world. It’s also the place to be in the evenings, after dark, when beach clubs turn into night clubs and the popular fire dancers start their entertaining shows. Spending a night partying on Chaweng Beach is definitely one of the best things to do on Koh Samui.
8. Lounge on Lamai Beach
After Chaweng Beach, Lamai Beach is the second most popular area to stay on the island of Koh Samui. There are plenty of hotels, restaurants, shops, and bars, but it tends to be more peaceful and less of a party scene.
Even if you don’t stay on Lamai Beach, you can generally snag a free lounge chair as long as you agree to purchase a drink or meal. The water is quite calm and inviting here so you’ll love having a swim or enjoying one of the many water activities available fora small fee. And with so many amenities in close proximity, you’ll want to stay on Lamai Beach all day!
9. Take a Cooking Class
You can’t take a trip to Thailand without learning a bit about how your favorite Thai dishes are prepared! And if you book a traditional Thai cooking class with a market tour, you can learn all about the ingredients that are used so you can try your hand at cooking once you get home. It’s a fun learning experience for all ages!
10. Visit Ang Thong Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park is not actually located on Koh Samui Island, but it’s easy enough to get to visit via speed boat and is one of the most popular tours on Koh Samui. This archipelago of 42 islands has remained spectacularly pristine and somewhat remote due to the fact that visitation is limited to a few licensed tour operators.
Filled with towering limestone cliffs, white sand beaches, jungles, lakes, and everything in between, it’s an amazing place to spend a day snorkeling and cruising around while enjoying the scenery. While the movie The Beach was actually filmed on Koh Phi Phi Leh, Ang Thong is actually the setting of the camp as described in the original novel (one of our favorite travel books). One visit and you’ll understand why the characters found it to be paradise.
11. Stroll Through Secret Buddha Garden
The Secret Buddha Garden (known on Google Maps as the Tarnim and Magic Garden) is located in the hills just north of the Na Muang Waterfalls. This small garden was a labor of love that was created by a fruit farmer who began collecting a variety of Buddha statues for his land.
You’ll need to pay an 80 THB fee to enter the garden but it’s a nice place to escape the heat and the crowds for an afternoon. You can wander around, enjoying the statues and the small stream that runs through the garden. Just beware that the ground can be steep, uneven, and slippery in some areas.
It’s certainly worth a stop during your trip to Koh Samui, especially if you are already touring around the area!
12. Go on a Wild Jungle Safari
If you’re itching for a little excitement during your trip to Koh Samui, then you’ll definitely want to book a wild jungle safari tour!
Not only will you get to see some of the top highlights of the island during this 7-hour tour, but you’ll also get to cruise up the mountains and through the jungles in an ex-army jeep. It’s an exhilarating tour of Koh Samui that’s bound to get your heart pumping!
13. See a Ladyboy Cabaret Show
Funny enough, one of the things that Thailand is well known for around the world is its stunningly beautiful “ladyboys”. They are fully transitioned or in the process of transitioning to women. And since Thailand remains relatively conservative when it comes to transgendered people working in office-related positions, many of them end up working in the entertainment business.
Ladyboys are often quite beautiful and feminine and have a reputation for confusing male tourists. They can also put on one hell of a cabaret show! Check out Paris Follies or Starz Cabaret for an incredibly entertaining night out on the town.
14. Mummified Monk
If you visit the temple of Wat Khunaram during your trip, you’ll find one of the most popular tourist attractions on Koh Samui sitting inside – the mummified remains of the monk Luong Pordaeng. He died in 1973 in the same meditative position that he is in now and has remained on display in a glass case at the temple since.
This is both a tourist attraction and a very spiritual place for Thai people so be sure to dress and act respectfully during your visit.
15. Go on a Quad Bike Safari Tour
If the previous 14 things to do on Koh Samui still haven’t provided you with enough adventurous activities, consider booking a quad bike tour!
Rather than visiting the same old Koh Samui tourist spots you’ll get to cruise through the lush jungles of Koh Samui. It’ll be an exciting tour and a great way to experience another side of the island that most tourists never see!
We hope you have a wonderful trip to Koh Samui, Thailand!
Planning a trip to Thailand? Check out our favorite books and resources!