Most people go to Koh Samui for the relaxing resorts by the beach.
I sure did. This island in southern Thailand has some totally gorgeous sand-covered coastline, and let’s face it – the favourable exchange rate makes it pretty appealing to splurge on a fancy resort and sit by the beach with a coconut cocktail in hand.
What most people don’t know is this: Koh Samui has some incredible cultural and natural attractions. I wanted to find out what this island has to offer aside from the beach, and what do you know – it had loads of things to see! National parks, temples, statues, and monuments are just some of the things I found while taking a trip around Samui.
If you get bored of swimming lazily in your hotel pool and relaxing in the sun (unlikely, I know!), here are some of Koh Samui’s best attractions.
How to get to Koh Samui:
Koh Samui’s airport receives multiple flights to and from Bangkok every day, so it’s easiest to get there from the capital.I flew from the island of Phuket to Koh Samui on my trip around Thailand, though this is a less frequent flight route.
It’s also possible to get a bus from Bangkok to Koh Samui which involves a lengthy coach trip and ferry transfer. This option obviously takes longer, but if you’re travelling on a budget, it will be a cheap way to get transport to the island.
Where to stay on Koh Samui:
The hip place to stay on Koh Samui is the central area of Chaweng, which has restaurants and bars that spread right onto the beach. If you stay around Chaweng, it will allow you to walk to the best dinner spots then sit on the sand with a Thai beer and watch the moon come up over the horizon.
I enjoyed spending time in Chaweng, but it was more of a happening hotspot than a relaxing place. If you want somewhere a little quieter, stay further south along the coast – we booked a room at Impiana Resort Chaweng Noi and it was absolutely perfect!
Things to do on Koh Samui:
See the Big Buddha
The Big Buddha is a giant golden Buddha, perched on a small hill on the northeast coastline. If you fly in to Samui, you may see the Big Buddha on descent as the airport is nearby.
At the foot of this monument, you’ll find some souvenir and snack stalls, so grab yourself a chilled coconut to sip on as you ascend the stairway of the to the statue’s viewing platform. At the top you’ll find some specky views of the surrounding beaches and ocean.
Day trip to Ang Thong Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park is just a 45 minute speed boat ride from Koh Samui. Consisting of 42 tropical islands, the marine park is the perfect place to kayak along spectacular coastlines, see bright and colourful tropical fish while you snorkel, or visit an amazing emerald lake in the middle of an island! Most boat tours from Koh Samui include hotel pick up, entrance fee to the park, and a delicious Thai buffet lunch at a secluded beach.
Visit Wat Plai Laem temple
Wat Plai Laem is a beautiful ornate temple, located very near to the Big Buddha, inside of which you’ll find oil paintings depicting Buddhist scriptures. Surrounding the temple is two large and ornate statues which celebrate the major religions in Thailand.
The Guanyin statue is a 40 foot tall depiction of the 18-armed Chinese goddess of mercy and compassion, and the Happy Buddha statue is the same height and is meant to bring happiness and good fortune. These giant statues are truly gorgeous and will have you looking upwards in awe!
Climb around the Grandma/Grandpa rocks
Giggle childishly at the Grandma and Grandpa rocks (Hin Ta and Hin Yai), which are amusingly shaped to represent parts of the male and female anatomy. These rock formations have taken shape over millions of years and are set on a very lovely looking coastline between Lamai and Hua Thanon.