Photo: On Ko Phaluai, Ang Thong NMP.

Must-do activities on Samui

Our rating:

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.

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. Photo taken in or around Must-do activities on Samui, Ko Samui, Thailand by 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. Photo taken in or around Must-do activities on Samui, Ko Samui, Thailand by 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. Photo taken in or around Must-do activities on Samui, Ko Samui, Thailand by 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?

If you enjoyed this article and would like to support independent travel writing on Southeast Asia, please subscribe to Travelfish—it’s just A$35 per year (less than A$1 per week)!

By .

Start planning your holiday today

Sent every Monday, our newsletter is full of travel advice, news & special deals. Read past issues.


Popular attractions in Ko Samui

A selection of some of our favourite sights and activities around Ko Samui.

Best places to stay in Ko Samui

A selection of some of our favourite places to stay in Ko Samui.

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Ko Samui.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Ko Samui.
 Check out our listings of other things to do in and around Ko Samui.
 Read up on how to get to Ko Samui, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Ko Samui? Please read this.
 Browse tours in Thailand with Tourradar.

See below for more sights and activities in Ko Samui that are listed on

Top of page

Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Ko Samui? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Thailand.

Top of page