Koh Samui is the 3rd largest island in Thailand and, of course, has all the facets of any Thai island–silky smooth white sands, darling fishing boats, stunning sunsets, delicious street food, Buddhist temples, and an abundance of coconuts. Koh Samui is my least favorite place I’ve visited in Thailand as it’s overly westernized, expensive, and seriously lacked authentic charm, even in the offseason. That being said, it is ridiculously beautiful and worth a short visit. Just not a 2-week stay like I had while collaborating with The Content Castle. Other islands in the Gulf of Thailand have so much to offer, such as nearby Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. So rather than hanging out in Samui for an extended period of time spend one day traversing around the island before hopping onto a ferry to a more peaceful isle. These are the best things to do in Koh Samui in one day.
HOW TO GET TO KOH SAMUI
The most exciting and most affordable way to get to Koh Samui is to take the high-speed ferry boat from Bangkok to Koh Samui for just US$35. Another option is to fly to Surat Thani and organize an air-conditioned car to pick you up at arrivals and drop you off directly at your Koh Samui accommodation. If you’re on a budget you can get to Koh Samui from the Surat Thani by taking a shuttle to a ferry to a shuttle to your hotel which takes 2 or more hours. You can also take a bus to Koh Samui from almost anywhere in Thailand, check routes and book the best quality buses on 12Go.Asia.
Don’t forget to purchase a travel insurance plan to cover you in case of medical emergencies while you’re in Thailand from World Nomads.
WHERE TO STAY ON KOH SAMUI
The launching point for your adventure around Koh Samui will depend on where you book your overnight accommodation. I stayed at The Content Castle on Koh Samui, which is a great option if you’re a budding travel writer. However, if I were to go back I would stay at any of these incredible eco-conscious and sustainably minded hotels. The Tongsai Bay seems to be the most popular as it’s an eco-luxury resort nestled right on a private all-natural beach–their eco-initiatives include maintaining all trees naturally growing in the area (none were cut during building), organic growing methods, and more. The Kala near Crystal Bay is a plastic-free luxury eco-resort that uses locally produced toiletries preserved in ceramics and coconut wood. At the Amari Palm Reef Koh Samui they’re fully committed to going green with a long list of projects including a village cleanup each month. Six Senses is a five-star eco getaway which has been Green Globe 21 benchmarked for over a decade due to their sustainability efforts that include community contributions, paper products, waste recycling and water saving. Zazen is an eco-luxury resort that’s involved with the local Green Island Project which aims to maintain Koh Samui’s ecosystem.
HOW TO GET AROUND KOH SAMUI
As you have a lot to see in just a day rent a motorbike to get around the island or if you’re not an experienced motorbike driver hire a car or book a private car with a driver for the day. The best way to see Koh Samui in a day is with a local guide from Take Me Tour who can show you off-the-beaten-path places and tell you the local legends about the locations you visit. GetYourGuide also has a less expensive day tour option.
Save 200 THB (around US$6.00) off of your first Take Me Tour experience by using the exclusive discount code MFLTLTPROMO when booking on TakeMeTour.com.
WHAT TO DO IN KOH SAMUI AND PLACES TO VISIT
From unique temples to breathtakingly beautiful nature this is what to do and where to visit in Koh Samui in one day.
VISIT THE LAEM SOR PAGODA ON THE COAST
The beautiful golden Laem Sor Pagoda (Google Maps) is unique due to its location right on the ocean’s edge. It’s small, but ornate, and is worth visiting as the driver here is spectacularly beautiful. It is free to visit the Laem Sor Pagoda at any time and you won’t need more than 10 minutes to explore the temple grounds. The Laem Sor Pagoda is a serene place to visit in Koh Samui.
LEARN ABOUT RUBBER TREES
Maybe this is common knowledge but I had no idea that rubber comes from trees! That’s why I was completely astonished when I saw loads of these tiny baskets collecting fresh rubber dripping from expertly placed holes in the rubber trees on the picturesque road from the main 4170 street down to the Laem Sor Pagoda. Stop and gawk for 5 minutes on your way back to the main road from the coastal Laem Sor Pagoda.
DRIVE UP MOUNTAIN TO SEE NA MUANG WATERFALL
Head uphill to visit the Na Muang Waterfalls (Google Maps) centrally located in Koh Samui. There are actually two waterfalls here, one which is very easy to access as it’s just a few minutes walk from the car park, the other, which is the tallest waterfall in Koh Samui requires a 30-minute trek through the rainforest. As we’re on a time crunch here we’ll just see the lower level Na Muang Waterfall, it’s very impressive as masses of water pour fiercely over a sheer edge. Seeing this beautiful waterfall is one of the best things to do in Koh Samui. One of the worst things you could do is ride the elephants here. It’s vastly apparent how distressed they are, please don’t partake in this unethical tourism activity.
FIND THE CRAZY CURLY PALM TREE
Somewhere along the scenic mountain-top road that cuts through the middle of the Koh Samui island I came across this astonishing palm tree that looks like it belongs in a Dr. Seuss book! I didn’t mark the location on my map so if you find it please tell me where it is!
VISIT THE BIG GOLDEN BUDDHA
The Big Buddha Temple is locally known as Wat Phra Tai (Google Maps) and is located on the Fan Island in northern Koh Samui. The sacred location used to be a burial grounds for babies and children that died before they turned 10 years-old. The immense 12-meter golden image of The Enlightened one was built in 1972 and can be reached after climbing 75 steps. When you visit make sure to cover your shoulders and knees, this is not a place to wear your bikini. It’s best to arrive at the Big Buddha early in the morning as it is one of the top things to do in Koh Samui.
GAZE AT MORE MASSIVE BUDDHIST STATUES AT WAT PLAI LAEM
Continue your temple tour to the quirky Wat Plai Laem (Google Maps) sacred Buddhist space. The vibrant temple is home to several larger-than-life statues of various Gods and Goddesses including my beloved Ganesh. There’s a darling gigantic Budai Chinese laughing Buddha with his customary large tummy due to his tendency to swallow people’s suffering. A beautiful statue of the 18-armed goddess of mercy, Guanyin, sits on an adjacent platform. You’ll notice that each hand is holding a tool, these are what she uses to torture evil beings. The temples here are just as stunning as the statues with an ornate ordination hall even seemingly appearing to float on a lotus over the lake. It is free to visit Wat Plai Laem, which I think is the most beautiful temple in Koh Samui!
GET BLESSED AT THE WAT KHAO HUA JUK GOLD STUPA
Nestled atop a hill that overlooks all of Koh Samui is a ginormous golden stupa, Wat Khao Hua Juk (Google Maps). After a dizzying ride to the top of the hill, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Koh Samui as a Buddhist monk ties a white bracelet onto your wrist with three knots. It’s unlucky to remove the bracelet, and you’re meant to make a wish with each knot. Mine has been on for 9 months! Perhaps because the things I wished for that day are no longer a part of my life and I need to make some new wishes! Although the Khoa Hua Juk temple isn’t extraordinary it is a special place to visit on Koh Samui due to the blessing from a monk.
Another popular temple to visit on Koh Samui is Wat Khunaram (Google Maps) where there is an embalmed monk who died in 1973 and is wearing black sunglasses.
TAKE IN ENDLESS AZURE VIEWS
As you zip around Koh Samui for your one day tour to see all the top sights you’ll come across many viewpoints. Stop at them all to take in beautiful vistas of the azure sea.
EAT ALL THE COCONUT ICE CREAM
One of Koh Samui’s biggest industries is coconut production which will come as no surprise as you drive around the island. From Thai young coconut juice to handmade coconut ice cream topped with peanuts I probably ate an average of three entire coconuts a day during my 2-week stay on Koh Samui!
SPEND THE AFTERNOON AT CRYSTAL BAY
Alright, you’ve finally made it to your beach time! If you woke up early and got around to all of the sights hopefully you’ll have a few hours of fun in the sun. I went to nearly every beach on Koh Samui and can say without a doubt that Crystal Bay (Google Maps) is the most beautiful stretch of coast on the island. At Crystal Bay, you can play in the crystal clear water to your heart’s content then lounge in the sand or do as I did and swim out to a rock to catch some rays.
WITNESS COTTON CANDY SUNSETS
Koh Samui is known to have some spectacular sunsets but I was on the island during the beginning of the rainy season so most nights were overcast. However, Mother Nature did treat me once or twice to cotton candy skies at dusk. The west side of the island is the best place to watch the sunset. End your day with a bit of a physical challenge by going stand up paddleboarding at sunset in Koh Samui.
ENJOY A THAI MASSAGE
You’ve spent the whole day taking in the sights and wonders of Koh Samui so now it’s time to relax but before you head back to your eco-luxury resort why not indulge yourself in a Thai massage before you take a long boat ride to another island tomorrow? This 3-hour spa package is just US$25! If Thai massages are too painful for you then you could try a sensory deprivation float experience.
Where are you going after Koh Samui? Get inspiration by reading about these adventures in Thailand.
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