When you stay in Koh Samui you will not only enjoy the excellent beaches and wonderful nightlife, but you will also have access to the best diving in this part of Thailand. The 20 or so dive sites are characterised by large rocky seamounts, colourful corals and reefs with plenty of marine life for you to enjoy, including chances to see whale sharks.
A popular and friendly tourist island in the Gulf of Thailand, Samui offers tourists plenty of action activities and adventure, as well as access to modern amenities. Yet the island manages to retain most of its natural charm, with tropical jungles, waterfalls and some superb beaches and bays just waiting to be discovered. People for whom scuba diving is the main focus of their holiday tend to prefer the west coast of Thailand and the Similan islands. But Koh Samui is ideal for tourists who want to enjoy all that the island has to offer, including a few days of diving in Thailand.
There is a wide variety of accommodations on Koh Samui. Choices range from 5 star international beach resorts to budget guesthouses, and everything in between. There is sure to be something that suits your taste and pocket on hotelscombined.com, our affiliated hotel reservation specialists.
Whichever option you choose, stays of 5+ days are ideal. Packages normally include diving, drinks, lunch and boat-hotel transfers.
The climate at Koh Samui is tropical and warm throughout the year. March and April are the hottest months with average temperatures of 34°C and 75% humidity.
The High Season is from December to August and temperatures are consistently around 28-32°C. July and August are the busiest months and therefore the most expensive when it comes to finding accommodation. March to September, outside of July and August, is the best time to visit as there are fewer tourists, accommodation is much cheaper, the weather is at its best, and the seas are calm.
The rainy season runs from November to January. November is normally the wettest and windiest month although through much of the rainy season it is only a cool, late afternoon shower. This is also when the waves are their biggest.
If you are interested in trying your luck at seeing a whale shark, they are most spotted here in March and April, and again in September and October. Check out our dive site descriptions for details of the conditions in the Koh Samui diving season.
There is a night train from Bangkok that goes to Surat Thani. From there you can transfer to the ferry port for Samui. It is best to take a sleeper carriage because the trains are very slow. It is advisable to book trains in advance as they are often fully booked. For tall people, you will find the bottom bunk more spacious.
The cheapest mode of transport though is the bus. There are different classes of bus on offer. The government VIP 24 seat buses are highly recommended. First class buses are comfortable enough but standard class buses are not good for long journeys. You can buy tickets direct to Koh Samui with the price including the ferry. We recommend against buying tickets from travel agents in Khao San Road.
It is a 10 hour journey from Bangkok to Surat Thani. The bus air-conditioning can be chilly so we recommend you take a sweater (VIP buses provide blankets). It is a 4 hour journey from Phuket to Surat Thani with regular departures. You can also buy the government bus tickets from Phuket direct to Koh Samui.
The standard buses are good if you want to make friends with interesting locals. They will stop on route every time that someone along the roadside raises an arm. This mode of transport is only recommended if you are on a tight budget and time is not a factor.
When the bus arrives at the ferry port you will need to choose a ferry. You may find it easier to book the ferry with a bus ticket that includes the transfer to the port.
The big standard ferry takes 2½ hours. It has seating and sunbathing areas and for a small surcharge there is even an air-conditioned cabin. There is a smaller express boat that rolls quite a bit in the sea. It is normally full of backpackers. There is also the Seatran Express from Surat Thani which takes 2 hours to get to Nathon Pier on Koh Samui. There is also a slow night ferry from Surat Thani.
We recommend you consider taking out insurance to cover diving and travel activities, including trip cancellation. See our insurance programme for a competitive price:
If you are looking for some fun and excitement on your dry days, rather than just parking yourself by the pool, why not join one of the many outstanding action and adventure activities that Koh Samui has to offer!
You can take a sea kayak through hidden lagoons and past an Emerald lake to The Beach located in Angthong National Marine Park and made famous by Alex Garland's book and the subsequent Hollywood movie. This fascinating group of islands to the north and west of Koh Samui are geographically different from the other islands in the region. The Ang Thong islands rise hundreds of metres high from the seas as dramatic walls of rock. There are many small coves and beautiful little beaches. The elements have shaped some strange formations, for example, one island has a mysterious sink hole in its centre, completely enclosed by walls of sheer rock.
You can snorkel the Gulf of Thailand's colourful coral reefs and wonder at the myriad marine fauna. You could learn to cook Thai food at one of the cookery schools, or learn Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) at one of the local gyms. Check out the market stalls at the beach road markets and maybe buy a few designer-copy knock-offs.
Samui has something to do for everyone - a relaxing round of golf or a not-so relaxing bungee-jump; it's an adult's paradise playground!
For the times when you are not under the water there is plenty to see around Samui. You can take an organised tour or go independently with a map and a sense of adventure.
The only Muslim community on Koh Samui is the fishing village of Hua Thanon. The people here migrated from Pattani, in Thailand's far south on the Malaysian border. They brought their distinctive high-bowed boats, painted with bright patterns. The fishermen send their fresh catch straight to the village market. Hua Thanon adds its Muslim element to a patchwork of peoples, including Thai, Chinese and Indian, that together constitute Samui's population.
Phra Yai Temple (Wat Phra Yai) is in the northeast of Samui on route 4171. It is the home of Koh Samui's most famous landmark the Big Buddha which is visible from several kilometres away, and even from the air when arriving or leaving the island. Most visitors come to marvel at the sheer size and beauty of this remarkable statue.
Wat Khunaram is home to the body of Samui's most famous mummified monk, Loung Pordaeng. It is between the Na Muang waterfalls and Hua Thanon, in a specially constructed building. He died sitting in a meditation position and he is still in that same position. His body shows few signs of any major decay.
There are several waterfalls dotted around the island. The most scenic waterfalls on the island are at Na Muang. Na Muang I can be reached by vehicle and is 18m high. Na Muang II can only be reached by a 30 minute walk and is about 80m high. Hin Lad Waterfall is in a rainforest setting with palms and creepers and can be reached by a 3 or 4 km walk down a country track. The waterfall has several levels with a cool splash pool for a fresh water swim.
The most popular beach in Koh Samui is Chaweng Beach. This 7 km stretch of sand is located on the east coast of the island. It has hotels, bungalows, restaurants, shops and beach bars scattered between the palm trees. The central Chaweng area is the island's main town and resort area. It has the biggest selection of nightlife venues while food lovers will be in their element. Chaweng caters for every taste, from Thai to Western with some delicious seafood restaurants right on the beach.
Around a headland just south of Chaweng is Lamai Beach. This is Samui's second most popular resort town and its most naturally beautiful beach. It is a little smaller and quieter than Chaweng. Take an easy stroll inland and a short way from the white golden sand beach and you'll find yourself in amongst coconut plantations and banana groves. You can explore the hill tracks on foot or by bicycle, or you can follow the headland road out for a picnic at a favourite local spot - Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks. Shops, restaurants and bars cram the main street and the many small lanes branching off from it. There are even a few late night discos.
The north coast of Samui has quieter and more secluded beaches. These calm, scenic bays are good for swimming and are a great choice for some privacy or a romantic getaway. They are not so good if you want night time entertainment. Bophut is a small fishing village with a 2 km white sand beach. Big Buddha Beach has no town to talk of and is known for its 12m high Buddha statue and small Thai beach restaurants. The Choeng Mon Beach area is a collection of small capes, some of which have private resorts.
Koh Samui's capital city is Nathon on the west coast of the island. It houses all the main administrative offices on the island. Nathon also has streets of bustling shops, traditional Thai architecture and an evening food market. It also boasts wonderful sunsets thanks to its west coast location.
Bang Po Bay has calm seas and fringing coral reefs offering some of the island's better snorkelling. The 4 km long beach is mostly undeveloped apart from a few traditional bungalows. Taling Ngam Beach is a quiet cove, well away from the crowds. Thong Krut Bay at the south of the island has a very small village and an unscheduled ferry service to Koh Taen (known also as 'No Dog Island') which is just 3 km away.
Samui caters for all culinary tastes. If you can name it, you can find it. As well as plenty of local Thai restaurants offering the delicious and (sometimes) spicy food that Thailand is famous for, there are also French, Scandinavian, English, American, Japanese, Indian, German, Mexican and Italian restaurants. So whether you want a lip tingling red curry or a non-too-wholesome pie and peas, you won't be disappointed!
The liveliest resorts in Samui are the Chaweng and Lamai Beach areas. You will find all the usual 'girlie bars' there and also plenty of nice regular bars to relax in after a day's scuba diving. There are plenty of live music venues with everything from traditional Thai music to western cover bands. If none of that is your scene you can happily relax at one of the open air beach bars and sip cocktails as you gaze out on the Gulf of Thailand.
If shopping is your thing then Koh Samui will not disappoint because you can find all the usual Thai souvenirs, both genuine and counterfeit. Traditional handicrafts, gold, gems, tailor made clothes, designer labels, oil paintings, furniture and antiques. The list is endless and with some careful haggling you can pick up some real bargains.
The majority of shopping options are in Chaweng and Lamai; you will find most of the tailors and gem shops there. All around the island there are smaller boutique shops where it's possible to pick up a more unique reminder of your vacation in Thailand.
There are 'Songthaews' (pick-up trucks with bench seats in the back) that circle the island in both directions and pick up passengers along the way. They are cheap and regular. There is no timetable, they start at 6 am and you just stand by the side of the road and wave one down as it approaches. You should agree the fare at the start of your journey.
There are a few 'meter taxis' which can whiz you around the island in a bit more comfort. They are more expensive than the Songthaews but are also more convenient. Again you should agree the fare in advance because the meter is often more for decoration than actual use.
If you want to drive yourself you can hire a Jeep or motorbike. Please be careful if you hire a motorbike. You will almost certainly not be insured and Samui has Thailand's worst road accident statistics. The police will fine you for not wearing a helmet or driving without an international driving license.