Whenever people talk about beach holidays in Thailand, it’s hard not to mention Koh Samui.
After all, Koh Samui has all the trimmings of the quintessential Asian tropical holiday: white sand beaches fringed with swaying coconut trees, warm Thai hospitality, the perfect climate, lots of exciting water activities, massages on the beach, and so much more.
From the moment you arrive at the beautiful Koh Samui airport, which is decked out in landscaped tropical gardens, it will be hard not to fall in love with this place. It’s no wonder travellers return to this destination time and again; no matter how many times you visit Koh Samui, it will always beckon you to come back and rediscover it, and fall in love all over again.
But for first-time travellers, here are 5 must-see attractions in Koh Samui:
1. Big Buddha
You’ve probably seen the iconic image of Big Buddha on postcards and many travel websites; look out for it while you’re on the plane here too! This majestic statue is a top Koh Samui landmark, known locally as the Wat Phra Yai. Big Buddha is 12 meters high; it was built back in 1972 and today remains one of the most popular attractions on the island.
2. Ang Thong Marine National Park
No trip to Koh Samui is complete without a visit to the famous Ang Thong Marine National Park. The park encompasses over 80% of the archipelago, and only a handful of licensed tour operators are permitted access to the park. What makes this park so special is its rich, diverse landscape and scenery; from jagged limestone cliffs, dense forests, and 42 beautiful islands to explore.
Although it would take you a few weeks to discover Ang Thong Marine National Park in its entirety, you can opt to book organized day trips from Koh Samui that usually include snorkelling, lunch on a beach, and visits to the legendary lagoons.
However, the best time to discover the islands is between March to October when the waters are calmer, and there are fewer chances of rain.
The vibrant Fisherman’s Village in Bophut is a notable historical attraction in Koh Samui. It features rustic, old buildings that house various stores, restaurants, and accommodations along Beach Road. Try to visit on a Friday, when the area comes alive with its transformation into the Fisherman’s Village Walking Street market, which sells a wide range of wares.
This attraction was named after its past identity when it once served as home to Samui’s fishing community. The fishermen have long gone, although the iconic wooden shophouses are still around which add to the charm and elegance of the place. The Fisherman’s Village is a highlight of Koh Samui, and should not be missed for the sheer variety of food and shopping as well as the lively atmosphere.
4. Na Muang Waterfall
A visit to the breathtaking Na Muang Waterfalls will remind you that the beauty of Koh Samui is not restricted to the beaches. Located southeast of Nathon Bay, the waterfalls are accessible by taking a short trekking trail from the park’s entrance.
There are not one but two falls to enjoy here; the first of which is Na Muang 1, which cascades into a stunning natural pool that invites you to take a dip and recharge from the heat. Just 30-minute walk uphill will take you to Na Muang 2, which is smaller but equally beautiful.
Although Koh Samui has many other waterfalls, the Na Muang Waterfall is considered among the most picturesque. It’s a popular destination for travellers especially those visiting with children since it provides a cool place to unwind and swim. Several tour operators include a stop to the waterfalls on their itineraries.
5. Koh Tao
Koh Tao, whose name literally translates to ‘Turtle Island,’ is the prime scuba diving and snorkelling destination in Thailand. It’s only 55 km north of Koh Samui, and makes for the perfect day trip for travellers who want to experience what life underwater here has to offer.
Koh Tao is home to magnificent coral landscapes, turtles, barracudas, reef sharks, stingrays, and even whale sharks! You can snorkel just about anywhere here, and even get your Open Water Diver certification. Above the surface, Koh Tao also has several white-sand islands to discover.
The most popular beaches in Koh Tao include Haad Tien, John-Suwan Viewpoint, Koh Nang Yuan, Jor Por Ror, Mae Haad Beach, and Sairee Beach.
That’s barely scratching the surface because truth be told, Koh Samui just has so much to offer. However, this list makes a great starting point to ensure that you don’t miss out on the most important attractions.