Must-do activities on Samui

Must-do activities on Samui

Fodder for your short list

More on Ko Samui

So you've arrived for the first time ever and you're wondering, what are the must-do activities on Ko Samui? Well, aside from laying on the beach and having a bit of a swim, there are a few other activities that are well worth doing. Some are well known, others less so, but, in our opinion, these are all worth sticking on your short list.

Travelfish says:

First and foremost, don't make the mistake of sticking to your one strip of sand and not exploring any further. Ko Samui has well over a dozen beaches and just about all of them are well worth a look. If you have your own transport, this is easy, but otherwise, use Ko Samui's songthaew system to get to the other main beaches. If you're staying on Chaweng or Lamai, take a look at Thong Ta Kien or Chaweng Noi as both are good day trip destinations. Or from Chaweng, head north to Choeng Mon and the bays around the peninsula (you will really need your own transport for this area).

Hello Chaweng Noi. : David Luekens.
Hello Chaweng Noi. Photo: David Luekens

If you'd like to do some shopping, both Fisherman's Village in Bophut and Nathon town are bursting with shops – the better, more stylish shopping is at the former – but Nathon is great for cheap t-shirts and souvenirs. If you're looking for beaches that just go and go and go, Mae Nam in the north or Lipa Noi and Taling Ngam to the west are great choices. The west coast beaches also offer great sunsets too.

On the water rather than by it, do a trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park. There are a variety of trips available, from one day snokelling trips to multi-day kayak adventures and luxurious yachting options, so do your research to see what appeals the most, but whatever you choose, do it.

Early morning on Ko Taen. : Stuart McDonald.
Early morning on Ko Taen. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Another, closer to home option is visiting Ko Taen. If you have the time, we strongly recommend an overnight stay being worthwhile, but if you can't fit it in, a half-day snorkelling trip from Thong Krut to here and neighbouring Ko Matsun is well worth it. This is the best snorkelling you will see around Ko Samui proper.

Away from the beach, a great way to remember your island experience is learning to cook the local cuisine. By far the best cooking school on the island is SITCA (Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts). This is a hands-on cooking class, and ingredients and methods are explained in detail. Other off-beach activities include golf, grabbing a bottle of rhum agricole at the Magic Alambic Rum Distillery or perhaps swinging by a bird singing competition. If you're after a luxurious rubdown, consider a splurge at Tamarind Springs.

Wat Plai Laem is memorable. : David Luekens.
Wat Plai Laem is memorable. Photo: David Luekens

While Samui is best known for the photogenic Wat Phra Yai (better known as Big Buddha), Wat Plai Laem is considerably more interesting and also photogenic in its own right. Luckily they are walking distance from one another so there is no reason why you can't see both.

As with neighbouring Ko Pha Ngan, Samui is popular for both yoga and detox centres should you need a bit of body re-tuning after a bit too much indulgence in Chaweng.

Last but not least, if you have your own wheels, Samui is a great place just to go explore. Head down to the southern area and get happily lost following the small roads between the palm plantations and wooden Thai houses. There is plenty of undeveloped beach down there, but, being Thailand, there is always somewhere to eat and get a cold drink – what more do you need?

Reviewed by

Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.

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These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.


Our top 10 other sights and activities in and around Ko Samui

A weekend on Ko Samui
A weekend on Ko Samui

A two-day taster

Ko Taen
Ko Taen

Step back in time.

The best beach on Ko Samui
The best beach on Ko Samui

In the eye of the beholder

The Ang Thong Islands
The Ang Thong Islands

42 islands to explore

Thong Ta Kien
Thong Ta Kien

Just crystal

Lipa Noi
Lipa Noi

Laidback and sleepy

Natien, Laem Set, Bang Kao and Thong Krut
Natien, Laem Set, Bang Kao and Thong Krut

Samui's low key south coast

Detox programmes
Detox programmes

Regain equilibrium

Mae Nam Beach
Mae Nam Beach

Long and sleepy

No pic at the moment — Sorry!
Muay Thai on Ko Samui

Several venues to choose from