Updated December 23rd, 2017.
With its abundance of bars, restaurants, activities and nightlife, Koh Samui is a favourite amongst ‘flashpackers’ and those travellers seeking a fun-filled few days or weeks! With a more holiday-maker feel rather than backpacker vibe, Koh Samui has boomed as a major tourist destination which has made the island quite ‘western’ and a bit more expensive than other islands, therefore attracting a somewhat older crowd. However, if you fancy pampering yourself in a fancy spa, sipping cocktails at a trendy beach bar, clubbing on one of Chaweng’s lively nightclubs, or taking a variety of courses from Muay Thai to Yoga; Koh Samui is your haven. More budget travellers, head to Lamai Beach for a good mix of beach life and party vibe and a good range of accommodation.
Places to Stay in Koh Samui
- Chaweng: The liveliest and most crowded spot in Koh Samui with an abundance of hotels, bars, restaurants and 24-hr buzzing nightlife. The options here are mid-range to fancy hotels and the cheap digs here are pretty dire – it is more 2-week party going tourists here than backpackers nowadays. The loft is a good value for money place to stay for backpackers with a lively atmosphere and funky attached bar and cafe.
- Hat Lamai: Lamai is still very popular, although much quieter than Chaweng, and you can find some cheaper options here. Lamai beach is long, white and sandy with numerous beach bars.
- Elsewhere on the island in charming Mae-Rim and Bo Phut, there are some great value hotels and guesthouses very close to the beach. Here the vibe is less of a crazy party scene, yet there are still plenty of restaurants and a lively atmosphere. This is Koh Samui after all!
Things to do in Koh Samui
Visit Ang Thong Marine Park: About one hour from Samui by speedboat is the Ang Thong National Marine Park. This world-renowned archipelago of small islands is considered a natural wonder of the world. The snorkelling and diving here is excellent. The best way to explore the many inlets and reefs around the park is by sea kayaking. The park boasts a spectacular inland lake and caves making it perfect for hiking.
Be a beach bum! Samui beaches (and there are plenty of them!) are safe and clean, and the perfect location for relaxing and unwinding. Many bungalow complexes offer a very affordable Thai massage on the beach, just to make sure you’re fully relaxed!
Take a TEFL Course! Koh Samui is home to one of Thailand’s most popular TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Courses. Located in the north-east corner of the island, in the village of Choeng Mon, the Samui TEFL Training Centre is an inspiring place where hundreds of students graduate every year as qualified English Teachers. If you’re interested in working abroad, TEFL is a great way to make that happen!
Pamper yourself at a world class spa: Samui has many, more “up market” spa complexes dotted around the island. While prices here are more expensive than a beach massage, again, they are a fraction of the price you would expect to pay at home. The standard of these spas is world class, and various options/ packages are available for those who want to pamper themselves. Every backpacker deserves to be pampered once in a while!
Water sports: If lying on a tropical beach is not fun-filled enough for you, there are numerous water sports just waiting to be enjoyed! Apart from swimming and snorkelling, you can ride the waves on a jet ski, or take a leisurely paddle in a kayak. Hone those water ski-ing skills, go sailing or learn to kite-board. How about a spot of fishing? Local companies will organise a “day on the bay”, and even BBQ your catch for you!
Muay Thai Boxing: Samui has its own Thai Boxing Stadium, with fight nights twice a week. Or if you want to take a step further than just spectating, you can take a Muay Thai Boxing course – a great way to keep fit and learn a new skill.
More adventure! If you’re the type of person who needs an adrenalin rush now and then, or you just want to get the blood pumping, Koh Samui has many action/adventure activities on offer. Bungy jumping and canopy riding will give you an exhilarating view of the island, whilst paintball, go-karting, frisbee golf and mountain biking will release some of that tension!
Motorbike the island: All of Samui’s sights/attractions are within easy driving/riding distance from wherever you stay. You can actually ride around the whole island in an hour, if you want! Take a refreshing dip at one of the island’s waterfalls; trek through the jungle on an elephant; visit one of the many Wats (temples) or other popular attractions.
Visit the Big Buddha: Located in the north-eastern corner of the island, the enormous majestic statue of Buddha that sits on a rock overlooking the sea and the rest of the island is a must visit! If you’ve just come off the beach, be sure to cover up legs and shoulders before visiting the Buddhist site.
Shop ’til you drop: From famous copy watches, designer label t-shirts and pirated CD’s, to that unique memento chosen from the excellent local products for sale. As the number of visitors coming to Samui increases so does the number of shops and stalls selling everything that your money can buy! From a huge supermarket (for those essentials!) to smart shops in every town, to an ambient local market, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.
Wicked nightlife! One of the things that attract people to Koh Samui is the nightlife. Chaweng and Lamai are the two main entertainment areas, with everything from vibrant nightclubs, sports bars (to check up on the football scores!), live music venues with top class bands, karaoke bars, cosy “pubs”, to ten pin bowling and shooting some pool. Whatever your taste in a fun night out is, you’ll find it here.
Gorge yourself on delicious Thai Food: Of course, before you head out for a night on the town, you’ll want to eat! Again, whatever your taste, Samui has it! And it’s so easy to “eat cheap” as well. The majority of the smaller Thai-run cafes and restaurants (and even the tiny food stalls) have excellent food at unbelievably cheap prices, so the budget doesn’t have to take too much of a beating! Western food is readily available, with Italian, Mexican, Indian, English, Irish, and even Australian restaurants and cafes everywhere.
Courses & Tours in Koh Samui…
- Air: Bangkok Airways have numerous daily flights from Bangkok direct to Koh Samui. The flight only takes around and hour and a half, so it’s very convenient. Air Asia also has flights operating from Bangkok to Surat Thani.
- Bus: Over-night buses depart from Bangkok’s tourist hub, the Khao San Road every evening around 7pm. The cost is about 900 baht for a bus ticket to Surat Thani, including ferry boat to the island of Koh Samui. The journey in total takes around 15 hours.
- Train: You can take an overnight train from Bangkok’s main train station, Hua Lamphong. The train goes direct to Surat Thani taking around 12 hours and then you can get the ferry from Surat Thani to Koh Samui. (Around 1.5 hours)
Where to go next?
- Koh Tao: A beautiful gem of an island just 1-hour ferry from Koh Phangan. Many backpackers learn how to dive here.
- Koh Phangan: So much more than just the Full Moon Party Island! Gorgeous beaches, untouched rainforest and a keen spiritual vibe with yoga, meditation, reiki and more.
- Ang Thong Marine Park: Can be visited in a day from Koh Phangan. Cast your eyes on natural lagoon or camp out.
- Khao Sok National Park: One of the most ancient natural rainforests in Thailand. From Surat Thani it’s a one hour bus journey.