Thailand’s self-styled ‘boutique island’ is an upmarket alternative to Phuket, situated on the east coast in the Gulf of Thailand. Recent development has seen the island’s infrastructure expand rapidly, with plenty of people buying villas and returning year after year.
For the majority of visitors, the biggest attractions here are the beautiful beaches and warm seas. But the island has much more to offer, and there are some interesting temples including the 12 metre high Buddha statue at Wat Phra Yai which is the most visited sight on the island. Much of the action is on the east coast at the popular beaches of Chaweng, and Lamai farther south. Somewhat quieter but conveniently close (with no nasty hills in the way) are Big Buddha and Bophut beaches which are never crowded.
Samui’s greatest attraction is its many lovely beaches, sometimes stretching for miles, but don’t spend all your time there, the island has plenty more to see including inland sights…more
Aside from beach lounging there is scuba diving, snorkelling, jet-skiing, motorbiking, mountain biking, full moon partying, Thai boxing; so you’re spoilt for choice on Samui…more
With Thailand’s best selection of beachfront hotels, visitors can join the ‘boutique’ trend, or opt for one of the cheaper guesthouses, all booked here online through our partner Agoda…more
Restaurants and bars
Practically everyone is on holiday here, so the idea is to eat well, drink lots and have a good time. Thankfully there’s lots of choice at the busy beaches for all types of restaurant and bars…more
Koh Samui guide
There are plenty of options here for the more adventure minded tourist with jet-skiing, water skiing, bungee jumping and scuba diving all available and popular. But the island also has lots of options for those seeking serious relaxation; luxury spas are dotted around Koh Samui and a de-stressing beach massage is a must.
The island’s interior is great for exploring either on foot or by jeep, motorcycle or mountain bike, and you can either arrange these independently or with an experienced guide. There is a hilly hinterland with several lovely waterfalls and viewpoints, but you’re never far from the ocean. The west side of the island is where all the locals stay, while the south is delightfully unspoilt with its coconut groves intact.
Samui also boasts a good nightlife, with Chaweng and Lamai beaches the main spots for those looking for some serious partying. You can choose from first class restaurants, quiet beach bars or the raunchy go go joints that are confined to a few ‘red light’ areas. On the whole, there is very much an upmarket character to the island, although plenty of budget choices also exist.
As you would expect from a location as popular as Samui, the accommodation choices are huge. With luxury five star resorts, ramshackle wooden huts on the beach and lots in between, you are certain to find something to suit your style and budget. ‘Boutique’ places have become all the rage in recent years, and refreshingly in Samui almost all resorts front onto the beach.
Samui is also near the backpacker favourite of Koh Pha Ngan, famous for its monthly full moon parties. Although the atmosphere here is altogether more bohemian, there are some upscale resorts on the nicer beaches and the island as a whole is far more natural, undeveloped and rustic. Farther away is the smaller, boulder-strewn Koh Tao, which is Thailand’s scuba dive centre island. The gorgeous Ang Thong archipelago is also near enough to be a popular day trip.