If you’re a Northern Hemisphere inhabitant, January’s main excitement might be shuffling through the snow to your new gym.
Do you remember what lush plants and flowers look like? Barely, right? So let’s consider this bleak misery grounds for your evacuation: time to head to Thailand and enjoy Koh Samui in January. What can you expect?
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Koh Samui in January 2020
1. What to expect on Koh Samui in January?
While 2019 was a marked exception (thanks to tropical storm Pabuk), January is usually one of the best times to visit Koh Samui if you prefer balmy temperatures over strong heat.
Early January: Certainly there are lots of people around following New Year – the busiest time of year on Samui – but it’s easily possible to get a seat at one of the island’s most popular bars the next day. A week or so later, as soon as schools resume, Samui really quiets down.
Floods? Much like fluke weather worldwide, January 2017 and again in January 2019 on Koh Samui saw abnormal and insane quantities of rain, which caused island-wide flooding. Locals with good memories suggest it was the most January rain in decades. Ain’t global warming a treat? Normally, your worst-case weather means overcast skies and a little rain. Note that January floods are the vicennial exception.
2. What are hotel rates like for Koh Samui in January?
- High-end: SALA Samui Choengmon Beach (US$285/night)
- Mid-range: OZO Chaweng Samui (US$165/night)
- Budget option: By Beach Resort (US$30/night)
For an easy introduction to Koh Samui’s beaches, see Where to Stay on Koh Samui – freshly updated for 2020. (Rates from Booking.com for one night, double occupancy, mid-month in January 2020).
3. What to pack for Koh Samui in January?
January 2020 update: We’re happy to report that, as of January 1st, plastic bags are now banned at all major shops in Thailand – including supermarkets, 7-Eleven and Family Mart. Bring your own packable pocket-sized bag and sashay into the sunset with planet-saving smugness.
More packing tips: Every shred of knowledge I’ve accumulated in nearly 17 years of Thailand packing trial-and-error is in these two posts:
Given the chance of rain and cloud cover in early January, I especially recommend bringing entertainment (like travel games or some good books), plus extra sun protection for the surprising skin-burnability of overcast days. More than anything, pack quality mosquito repellent. This natural brand, Incognito Anti-Mozzie Spray, is my absolute tried-and-tested favourite. I love it so much I’d almost drink it.
4. Is January a good time to visit Koh Samui?
Taking the 2-in-18-year chance of mega-rain, I say yes! Typically (and what else can you offer where the weather is concerned), Koh Samui in January will be 945,809,348 times preferable to the cold, frozen place you’re trying to escape.
January is a great time to visit Samui – especially later in the month. With good odds from the weather gods and balmy, barefoot days – it’s no hardship. January is one of my favourite months on Samui, especially when it quietens down from the Christmas rush.
5. Is January or February better on Koh Samui?
I’m assuming that “better” means “sunnier”, in which case it’s February. However, if you’re choosing between one week or the next, the difference will be minuscule. That said, once the Christmas/New Year crowd has gone home, you can often find the island to yourself in January. February on Koh Samui has, on average, fewer rainy days, and a slightly higher temperature.
- Temperature (avg): 26°C in Jan vs 27°C in Feb
- Sunshine (hours): 7 in Jan vs 8 in Feb
- Rainy days (avg): 7 days (90mm) in Jan vs 5 days (30mm) in Feb
- Sea temperature: 26°C in Jan vs 27°C in Feb (data source)
6. Is Koh Samui or Phuket better in January?
Choose your own adventure, my friends, or you risk me saying Koh Samui is always better.
- Temperature (avg): 26°C on Koh Samui vs 27°C in Phuket
- Sunshine (hours): 7 on Koh Samui vs 8 in Phuket
- Rainy days (avg): 7 days (90mm) on Koh Samui vs 6 days (40mm) in Phuket
- Sea temperature: 26°C on Koh Samui vs 28°C in Phuket (data source)
7. Is Koh Samui busy in January?
Christmas and New Year on Koh Samui are one of the island’s peak seasons, with visitors typically staying as long as they can stretch school holiday. It can also get busy at Chinese New Year (if the holiday falls in January – as it does in 2020).
Otherwise, expect a medium volume of (mostly European) retirees escaping their dreadful winter. Note that, even at peak times of the year, it’s always possible to find a quiet corner on Koh Samui – it only has to feel busy if you want it to. Plan your itinerary to suit introvert or extrovert preferences in The Koh Samui Guide.
Koh Samui weather in January
8. What’s the weather like on Koh Samui in January?
Early January: You’ll experience two different types of January weather, depending on whether you come early or late in the month. For example, two recent New Year’s Eves included evening deluges of biblical proportions, both drying up at the perfect time for incredible fireworks and thousands of lanterns.
Later January: While early January on Koh Samui can be cooler (it is, statistically, the coolest month of the year), it warms up towards February.
9. How much does it rain on Koh Samui in January?
Put it this way … (on average) it rains:
- Less than: MUCH less than November, and much less than December.
- More than: However, it rains more (almost twice as much) than in February and March, which are the two driest months of the year.
As mentioned, 2017 and 2019 were very different from the norm and it rained Forrest Gump-style, non-stop, for many days. However, the occasional rain shower is very welcome; rain cuts the humidity wonderfully.
10. How hot is it on Koh Samui in January?
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^ Not as cool as this dog! In general, expect January temperatures from about 27° C (brrr) to the low 30s. Ideal for kicking off your reading for the new year!
11. Is it sunny on Koh Samui in January?
Late January tends to be sunnier than early in the month. Is your brain fried with trying to make the perfect decision? Relax! If it rains for an afternoon, you just get a massage or a pedicure or read another great book. Unless you only want to sun-tan all day every day, you’ll never notice the weather.
Things to do on Koh Samui in January
12. What are the best things to do?
Tend to Your New Year’s Resolutions: Of course, you’ve got New Year’s resolutions, right? Happily, Koh Samui is the perfect place to start things properly. A cracking formula? Lots of fresh Thai coconuts (Vitamin C!) and plenty of ocean-front yoga. There’s no better place to maintain a healthy breakfast – with extra Vitamin D for free. (I’ll pretend not to notice if you fall off the wagon around happy hour).
New Year, New You: Try something new, way out of your comfort zone. (It’s my New Year’s Resolution).
13. Koh Samui events in January?
As for big events (see the 2020 island calendar), January on Koh Samui is largely a case of “make your own entertainment” (something a set of Cards Against Humanity and a few Singhas will sort out very nicely). Much like elsewhere, it’s a low-key month after the parties of late December. Sounds pretty good to me!
14. Can I swim in the sea on Koh Samui in January?
Usually, you definitely can. However, earlier in the month can have periods of ‘remnant rainy season’ where the sea is a bit rougher (certainly the case in 2017 and 2019 when beaches had to close for a few days). Yet don’t let freak weather dissuade you: January is more likely to be nice than not.
15. When are sunrise and sunset on Koh Samui in January?
On January 1st, you’ll need to be up before 6:36 am to see the first sunrise of the year. Sunset is 6:11 pm. (Push things back approximately 5-10 minutes by February 1st).
How do I…? Where do I…? What’s the best…?
More questions? Ready to get planning? The Koh Samui Guide gives you every scrap of my nearly 17 years’ Samui expertise: from how to choose your perfect beach, to where to enjoy romantic nights out … it’ll even help you hobble your way to hangover brunches (and will totally save a rainy day). Enjoy!