Over the last decade or so, Koh Samui has established itself as one of Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations. What was once only a place for backpackers and people looking to get off the beaten track, the island has now developed in to a place that can be enjoyed by all manner of people both young and old.
There is so much to see and do on the island and in the surrounding area that that visitors to Samui are positively spoilt for choice with the amount of fun activities, interesting sights, incredible restaurants and stunning natural beauty that can be found here.
Throughout this page you will find a countdown of what we consider to be the most interesting sights on the island, which no visit to Koh Samui would be complete without seeing for yourself.
All of the items that make up the Koh Samui Top Ten Picks are based completely on our own opinions, all of which are totally impartial. If you happen to think there is something that we have failed to include on the list or you disagree with any of our choices, then we’d love to hear from you!
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch and tell us about your own favourite parts of Koh Samui and the surrounding area.
10. Muay Thai Training
Koh Samui has quite a reputation as a destination for people who want to learn the art of Muay Thai or train in some of the islands excellent gyms in order to improve their Thai boxing skills. People travel from all over the world to train here, with many gyms offering travel and accommodation packages that combine an intense training program with a relaxing holiday on a beautiful tropical island.
Regardless of your ability or experience, the Muay Thai gyms and fitness camps that can be found on Koh Samui are open to everyone, from complete novices to professional fighters.
Some of Thailand’s most experienced and knowledgeable Muay fighters have setup training facilities on the island, with the largest selection of Muay Thai gyms being found in Lamai. Many of the gyms here are equipped with the latest facilities and equipment such as boxing rings, weight rooms and punch bags.
Thai boxing isn’t simply about combat or fighting. Due to the nature of many of the moves that are involved in the sport, a great level of stamina and strength is also required.
Therefore, taking part in Muay Thai training camp on Koh Samui can be a perfect way to lose excess body fat and get in shape.
Daily training sessions can include time spent in the ring sparring, but for those who would just prefer the fitness benefits from this kind of intense training, then a personal training schedule can be specially designed based on an individual’s own level of fitness and experience.
For more experience fighters, where better to perfect your fighting technique, improve your kicks or work on those knock out blows than with the help of ex-championship fighters, on a tropical island paradise?
More information on Muay Thai and the benefits of training on Koh Samui
9. Koh Samui Water Sports
Koh Samui has an abundance of waters sports and other activities that are popular with many people who visit the island. With the Samui’s incredible beaches, clear, warm waters and stunning natural beauty, the island and its surrounding area offers the perfect setting to participate in a wide range of water sports, such as scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing, sea kayaking and sailing.
Koh Samui’s commitment and growing reputation as a destination for water sports is one of the many reasons why more and more people visit the island each year.
For some people, water sports on Koh Samui can be as simple and relaxing as going for a swim in the islands beautiful waters or snorkelling around rocks and reefs, which are thriving with marine life. For others, their idea of Koh Samui water sports might involve hiring a jet ski, windsurfing or gaining a PADI scuba diving certificate.
Some of the scuba diving sites that are located not too far from Koh Samui are considered by some to be amongst the finest in the world, due to the large amount of exotic marine life, as well as having excellent diving conditions for people of all abilities.
Throughout Koh Samui you will find scores of scuba diving schools and instructors, which generally offer diving courses at much cheaper rates than you can find elsewhere in the world.
If you are feeling a little more adventurous then why not give sailing or even kiteboarding a try, both of which are available on the island, with the waters around Samui offering near perfect conditions for both sports
One thing that you can be certain of is that there is no shortage of options when it comes to participating in water sports and other fun activities whilst staying on Koh Samui.
More information on Koh Samui water sports
When people talk about Koh Samui being a paradise island they aren’t just talking about the islands wonderful beaches, friendly people and stunning natural beauty.
In recent years the island has become well known for its large number of excellent restaurants and eateries, serving up some of the finest cuisine from all over the world. To coincide with this, a growing number of high quality chefs are now choosing Samui as the ideal location where they can share their impressive culinary skills. It is now said that the island now boast more Michelin star chefs and 5 star restaurants all in one place than anywhere else in the world.
Combine highly skilled chefs with the wide range of high quality, fresh ingredients and produce and the results will almost certainly be more than pleasing. Tropical fruits, delicious vegetables, free range poultry and meat, countless varieties of fresh seafood and fish, all help to make Samui a culinary treasure trove, which is just waiting for you to discover.
Not only is the there a wide range of excellent restaurants available on Koh Samui, there are also more than enough dining options to suit all tastes and just about every budget. It is definitely fair to say that you won’t be going hungry when you stay on Koh Samui!
Such is the choice of dining options available on the island that no matter where you might be staying, you are never too far away from a good restaurant. But it isn’t only about the amount of restaurants that are available on Koh Samui, the variety of different types of food that is sold here is also quite staggering.
As well a traditional Thai cuisine, the island has everything from budget international fare such as burgers, pizzas and English pub food to a la carte fine dining and just about everything else in between.
More information on the wide range of dining options available on Koh Samui
7. Hin Ta and Hin Yai
One of Samui’s most famous attractions is the Hin Ta and Hin Yai rocks, which are located between Lamai and Hua Thanon. An important part of Samui culture and folklore, Hin Ta and Hin Yai are well worth checking out if you visit the island.
When translated into English, Hin Ta and Hin Yai means ‘Grandfather and Grandmother rocks’ and upon visiting the rocks you will immediately see why they have become one of Koh Samui’s most popular attractions.
For those that don’t know, Hin Ta and Hin Yai pose an uncanny resemblance to the male and female genitalia, which makes them quite a site and certainly makes for an excellent photo opportunity.
It is said that the rocks have been formed naturally by the elements, but as with many unusual sights and attractions in Thailand, there is often a story or fairly tale associated with them and this is certainly true with Hin Ta and Hin Yai.
The area around Hin Ta and Hin Yai is also pretty spectacular with amazing views of the clear blue water and coastline around Lamai.
Heading away from the rocks, there are also a number nice little souvenir stalls selling all sorts of Thai handicrafts and other gifts. There are also a handful of stalls which sell coconut caramel, which is delicious and well worth trying.
If nothing else, the sight of these unusually shaped rocks will certainly put a smile on your face and will provide you with a talking point when you look back through your Samui holiday snaps!
More information regarding the story behind Hin Ya and Hin Ta
6. Fisherman’s Village
The Fisherman’s Village in Bophut is arguably one of the most elegant, traditional and well preserved places to visit on all of Samui. If you want to get a true sense of what the island used to be like before the introduction of mass tourism, fast food chains and international resorts then head over to the Fisherman’s Village.
Lined with a number of Chinese style old wooden shop houses, the village itself has almost a Mediterranean feel to it. There is also a relatively large French expat community that live in the area and this is probably somewhat reflected in the architecture and feel of the surrounding area.
You won’t find any of the large supermarkets or brand name outlets here; instead the Fisherman’s Village is home to a number of boutique style shops selling a wide range of goods from handmade clothes and handicrafts to furniture and footwear. If you are looking to take home souvenirs or gifts for friends and family then head over to Bophut Plaza in the centre of the fishing village.
Located amongst the trendy boutiques and souvenir shops are a number of good restaurants, bars and other eateries which are a great place to relax and have drink or bite to eat, whilst taking in the magnificent views of surrounding turquoise waters. Emerald Bar in the Fisherman’s Village is one such spot that offer great panoramic views of the sea.
A great place for couples or families, the Fisherman’s Village is the complete opposite to what you might find in Chaweng or Lamai, especially when it comes to the night life.
Koh Samui has developed rapidly over the past decade, and whether you think mass tourism has been good for the island or not, it is important that we don’t forget how Samui used to be, not all that long ago.
Before the traditional Samui is lost forever, make sure you visit Bophut and the Fisherman’s Village in order to take a nostalgic look at the Samui of old.
5. Explore Koh Samui
Koh Samui has been described by some as nothing more than a toned down version of Phuket and whilst this might be true to certain extent, the island still has plenty of areas that are relatively undeveloped.
It is fair to say that the majority of visitors to Samui will more often than not end up staying in Chaweng or Lamai. However, to find Samui’s unspoilt and undeveloped areas, you will need to get off the beaten track, as it were, and explore the island, in search of Samui’s hidden treasures.
Probably the best way to explore Koh Samui is to hire a motorcycle and head out on to the open road.
Whilst Samui’s roads can be dangerous, providing you wear a helmet at all times, drive responsibly, don’t take unnecessary risks and be aware of what other road users are doing around you then travelling around the island on a motorcycle or scooter can be fun, exciting and inexpensive. Also note that you should only hire a motorcycle if you have adequate travel/medical insurance cover and have previous experience in riding a motorcycle.
Once you’ve hired your motorcycle, you should consider exploring the west coast of the island. A good route could be to start in Maenam in the north, on the main island ring road and head south towards Nathon, Taling Ngam and Phangka Bay, until you to get to Thong Krut.
Right along the west coast there are secluded bays and beaches that are well worth visiting and which are generally very quiet.
Some days you could even have a whole beach to yourself. Once you head down to Thong Krut and Bang Kao, in the south of the island, there are a number of really good restaurants that are located right on the beach. One such restaurant is Bang Kao Seafood, which serves great tasting food, which is reasonably priced and provides magnificent views out to sea, well worth checking out.
The waters around here are also great for snorkelling and fishing and can also be a good place to book yourself on a fishing trip to the nearby islands of Koh Tan and Koh Mudsum.
Another option is to head away from the beach and go off exploring inland. Here the roads can get a little steep and quite hilly in places but providing you take it easy, you should be ok. Once you travel inland and along the islands main hill/mountain roads, then you can see some pretty spectacular views of many of the islands coconut plantations.
It is said that some of these areas are rumoured to have been earmarked as a potential location for a new international airport, which is very much at the rumour stage at the moment, but an interesting bit of island gossip nonetheless!
Anyway, exploring the inland scenery of Samui gives you a pleasant alternative to the islands beaches and coastline and in parts, can be just as stunning.
Travelling around the island is fairly straightforward and providing you find your way back on the island ring road, there is little chance of you getting lost.
For those that don’t want to a hire a motorcycle, another option is to travel around the island by Songtaew. Although this won’t give you the freedom of a motorbike, it is still a very cheap way to travel from one part of the island to another.
Overall, getting away from the busy tourist hotspots of Chaweng and Lamai and exploring other areas of Koh Samui is something that everyone can enjoy.
4. The Mummified Monk at Wat Khunaram
Samui’s famous and extaordinary mummified monk, which is located at Wat Khunaram in Lamai, is the next item in our top ten list and is one attraction that you should definitely go and visit. This remarkable and unusual sight gives you a firsthand look at traditional Buddhist culture and Thai history.
At Wat Khunaram you will find the mummified remains of a monk called Luong Pho Daeng who died in 1973, whilst meditating. Ever since, his body has been on display at the temple in the very same meditative position. Today, you will see him sitting upright in a display case and unbelievably, after nearly 40 years, the body of Luong Pho Daeng shows little sign of decay.
In the Buddhist religion, rather than being frightened by death, Thai Buddhist’s are very accepting of it and consider death to be an opportunity to be reborn and get one step closer to nirvana.
One thing that you won’t fail to notice about Luong Pho Daeng, is that his mummified form is wearing sunglasses! It is said that the sunglasses were place on him just after he died by a fellow monk with a somewhat jovial sense of humour. Whether this is true or not, nobody really knows but it does help to give you an idea of the fun loving nature of many Thai people.
Wat Khunaram is open during daylight hours but probably the best time to visit is first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon when people visit the temple for worship and when many of the monks will be chanting.
Entry to the temple is free, although donations are welcomed to help with the temples upkeep and maintenance.
As this is a sacred and religious site and a place of worship for many people, please make sure that you dress appropriately and respectfully at all times.
There are other mummified monks on Koh Samui but Luong Pho Daeng is certainly the most famous.
More information on Luong Pho Daeng and other religious sites on Koh Samui
3. Wat Plai Laem
Built in 2004, Wat Plai Laem is arguably on Samui’s most colourful and beautiful temples. Located on route 4171, not too far from the Big Buddha statue, the temple is home to a number of religious sights and temples.
The temple itself was designed by Jarit Phumdonming, a renowned Thai artist and took nearly 3 years to complete.
Arguably the most famous of these sights is a large and spectacular statue of an 18 armed Buddhist goddess, the design of which actually look more Indian than Thai. The statue is certainly impressive and you can’t help but be drawn to her as she looks down at you from her position in the surrounding lake.
The large statute set against a backdrop of the clear blue sky can make for a great photograph.
At Wat Plai Laem there is also a large sitting Buddha, which although is not quite as spectacular as te 18 armed goddess, it is still pretty impressive and is another famous attraction that can be seen on this site.
Away from the statues and religious deities, you will find the main temple, which is home to a number of carved images that are said to depict the life of Buddha. The inner walls of the temple are also beautifully decorated with other Buddhist images.
Entry to Wat Plai Laem is free of charge. If you do plan to visit the site then please make sure that you dress respectfully at all times.
2. Ang Thong National Marine Park
The stunning Ang Thong National Marine Park is one area close to Koh Samui that no visit to the island would be complete without visiting.
The marine park is made up of over 40 islands, which are located approximately 40kms north-west of Koh Samui and covers more than 100 square kilometres. Ang Thong is an area of incredible natural beauty and at times can be nothing short of breathtaking.
As well as being stunningly beautiful, this amazing group of islands are actually rather fascinating, as geographically, they are quite different from many of the other islands that can be found in this region. Upon first sight of the Ang Thong Marine Park, it almost appears that the islands seem to rise out of the sea from nowhere, as these dramatic rocks soar hundreds of metres high.
The waters around the islands are an impressive, rich turquoise colour and contain scores of tropical sea life, which makes it the perfect place for scuba diving or snorkelling.
Around the islands you will also be able to find a number of impressive limestone caves that contain large numbers of stalactites and stalagmites.
Some of the islands in the Ang Thong National Marine Park are home to some incredible viewpoints, which offer some of the most spectacular views in Thailand.
It is said that the Ang Thong National Marine Park inspired Alex Garland to write the international bestselling book, The Beach and after visiting the marine park, it is easy to see why.
Visiting Ang Thong from Koh Samui is fairly straightforward as there are a number of operators who provide tours by boat that depart the island every day. Many of these tours will also include food and drink, as well as snorkelling equipment and kayaking tours around the islands, which is something you should definitely consider going on.
Make sure you visit the Ang Thong National Marine Park, marvel at the stunning natural beauty of the area, explore the caves, tunnels and secluded beaches of many of the islands or take a peek at the amazing array of underwater wildlife, whilst taking part in a spot of snorkelling.
A trip to the Ang Thong National Marine Park isn’t something that you are going to forget in a hurry!
More information on the Ang Thong Marine Park
1. Wat Phra Yai – Big Buddha Statue
For people who live on the island, it is probably not all that surprising that we have named this as our number one attraction. However, The Big Buddha statue on Koh Samui is undoubtedly the most famous attraction here and visiting the statue is arguably worth a trip to the island in itself.
Upon visiting the statue you will no doubt marvel at the sheer size and beauty of this magnificent structure. It really is quite something.
This amazing golden statue was built in 1972 and stands an impressive 12 metres tall. It can be seen from quite a distance away and if you travel to Koh Samui by air, it is often the first attraction you will see as your plane approaches the islands airport.
The Big Buddha statue, sitting in a Mara posture is said to depict a period of time during Buddha’s journey to find enlightenment, where he successfully repressed the dangers and temptations that were thrust upon him by the evil Mara by remaining calm and meditating. The pose in which the Big Buddha sits is a symbol of determination, purity and enlightenment.
Once you get up close to the statue you can see some magnificent views of the sea and nearby beaches.
At the base of the Big Buddha is a courtyard with vendors selling and nice range of souvenirs, clothing and handicrafts. There are also a few stalls selling snacks and refreshments and couple of small restaurants and cafes, which look out to sea.
During the day, locals and Buddhist devotees come to the site to offer fruit, flowers and incense to the statue, which when witnessed can give you a real insight into Thai and Buddhist culture. The daytime is also when the whole site is generally busiest with foreign tourists.
Come the night time, the statue takes on an even more exotic and holy aura as it is lit up by a series of spot lights that help to give the statue a wonderful golden glow.
During religious festivals such as Songkran or Loy Kratong, the Big Buddha Temple becomes filled with people who descend on the site to make merriment and party with friends and family.
The Big Buddha Temple can be found by taking route 4169, towards the northeast of Samui. You will then need to turn onto route 4171. Located not too far from the airport, the temple is open all day, but the best time to visit is first thing in the morning when the locals bring flowers and food to Buddha and the temples Monks are busy performing their morning chanting.
The giant golden Big Buddha statue is one of the islands most iconic images, so make sure that you don’t leave Koh Samui without seeing it for yourself.