Koh Samui in January: What to expect
Is January a good time to visit Koh Samui? Where to stay? What to pack? What's on the January events calendar?
Koh Samui in January
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 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?
Is January a good time to visit Koh Samui?
Oh yes. While there are occasional tropical storm exceptions, January is usually one of the best times to visit Koh Samui if you prefer balmy temperatures over strong heat. Want stronger heat and solid sunshine? Plan to visit 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.
Koh Samui questions? Start here
The Koh Samui Guide: 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 20 years of Koh 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).
Where to stay in January
My pick: Sea Dance Resort
Sea Dance Resort will really suit those with fond memories of ramshackle beach bungalows, who want the same ambience, with more comfort. As with many Koh Samui favourites, it’s equally suited for honeymooners as it is for families with children. Its small size and tucked-away location mean it’s quiet, yet is very friendly.
Hotel Tip: Confused and need to start from scratch? No problem – let’s get to know Samui with a beach-by-beach guide. See where to stay on Samui.
More hotel ideas
- Mid-range: The Jungle Club
- Couples: Khwan Beach Resort – Adults Only
- Families: Holiday Inn Resort Samui Bophut Beach
Hotel questions? Start here
What to pack for January
More than anything, pack quality mosquito repellent for your time on Samui and in Thailand generally.
Your face vs. Thailand’s heat and humidity? Inescapable truth: It’s really hot in Thailand and you’re going to do a lot more than ‘glow’. It was during extremely sticky weather that I first tried a konjac sponge – a magic, totally natural sponge made from a Japanese vegetable – that very gently exfoliates your face and neck. I could almost feel my skin thanking me after each use – it felt much cooler and happier. If you can start using yours a few weeks before you travel, even better. Given how much sunscreen you’ll be putting on your face (and how much you’ll sweat), I like to ‘win’ and get a headstart on happy skin. (Burn easily? Get my favourite sun safety tips).
3. Pocket Belt
Solved! The ‘what do you do with you stuff’ situation when you want to do something at the beach. One of these pocket-belts keeps your cash/phone/keys literally on your person at all times – leaving both hands free for beach tennis, stand-up paddling or kayaking. (Just tuck your phone inside a waterproof case).
I’ve read almost every Thailand guidebook currently published and some are far more portable than others. If packing a travel guide to bring with you, Lonely Planet Thailand is a ubiquitous reference. Of the pack, DK Eyewitness is my favourite for its educational content – but if you just want to find a bar in a hurry, choose Lonely Planet. (For Koh Samui – slightly biased – you’ll want The Koh Samui Guide).
What to wear on Koh Samui in January?
Note that, for men, a light-weight pair of trousers/pants are more appropriate for dinner at nice restaurants. It’s hot though, so choose the lightest option you can find (learn which fabrics are best to wear in Thailand’s heat). If you have exploratory intentions, pack protective clothing for excursions into ‘nature’.
Packing questions? Start here
Every shred of knowledge I've accumulated in nearly twenty years of Thailand packing trial-and-error is in these two posts:
Weather in January
- Temperature: 26°C / 79°F
- Sunshine (hours/day): 7
- Rainy days: 7 days (90 mm / 3.5 inches)
- Sea temperature: 26°C / 79°F
What’s the weather like on Koh Samui in January?
Early January: You'll probably 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. (Those floating lanterns you've maybe seen in photos are now banned due to environmental concerns/fire hazards).
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.
Is it sunny on Koh Samui in January?
Late January tends to be sunnier than early in the month. Is your brain fried while trying to make the perfect decision? No cause for concern. 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.
How much does it rain on Koh Samui in January?
Put it this way ... (on average) it rains MUCH less than November, and much less than December. However, it rains more (almost twice as much) than in February and March, which are the two driest months of the year.
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.
How hot is it on Koh Samui in January?
January might be one of Samui's coolest months, but it's never cold. I can count on one hand the times I've wanted a thin linen sweater or a long-sleeved t-shirt. I've never needed a jacket, ever.
At night, the temperature will rarely (if ever) fall below 25°C (77°F). Daytime temperatures are between 28°C to 31°C (82°F to 88°F).
For reference, the coldest recorded month in Koh Samui history was a 24°C average (75°5) in 1976. Let this prove – you don't need to pack a scarf.
Is it rainy season in January?
No, typically Koh Samui’s rainy season is roughly October through December.
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. Yet don't let freak weather dissuade you: January is more likely to be nice than not.
Taking the 2-in-20-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 events calendar
January 2024 events
Your January FAQs
What are the best things to do on Koh Samui in January?
Tend to your New Year's resolutions? 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. As for big events, January on Koh Samui is largely a case of make your own entertainment (something a pack of cards 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.
The Koh Samui Guide: Confused what’s where? To completely get your bearings on the island‚ find everything you need to know in The Koh Samui Guide. Checklists‚ maps‚ all that Organised-Person-Happy-Place stuff is included, too.
Koh Samui parties in January?
If you'd like your New Year to maintain its festive feeling, the spots below are Gen Z favourites with something going on most (or all) nights of the week. Pool parties, Black Moon parties, Full Moon party warm-ups, Half Moon parties and regular DJ sets.
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. Based on Samui airport passenger arrivals (excluding ferry traffic), January is busier than February on the island (by just a touch).
What to expect on Koh Samui in January?
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. Expect things to get busy again towards later January and/or Chinese New Year (if it happens to fall in January).
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. Even if it's sunny, it might be quite windy and the sea might be choppy, so you'll want some land-based activities. Stick to shore and devour a stack of books – really ramping through the 5000 books you plan to read this year. It's also a great time of year to try out any new fitness hopes and dreams. January is the perfect temperature for yoga and Koh Samui is a global yoga HQ.
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 holidays. It can also get busy at Chinese New Year (if the holiday falls in January – as it will in 2025).
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.
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 (90 mm) on Koh Samui vs 6 days (40 mm) in Phuket
- Sea temperature: 26°C on Koh Samui vs 28°C in Phuket
What are hotel rates like for Koh Samui in January? How do they compare between January and February?
- My pick: Sea Dance Resort – £96 (US$119)
- Mid-range: The Jungle Club – £52 (US$64)
- Couples: Khwan Beach Resort – Adults Only – £117 (US$144)
- Families: Holiday Inn Resort Samui Bophut Beach – £216 (US$267)
- My pick: Sea Dance Resort – £96 (US$119)
- Mid-range: The Jungle Club – £117 (US$144)
- Couples: Khwan Beach Resort – Adults Only – £117 (US$144)
- Families: Holiday Inn Resort Samui Bophut Beach – £150 (US$185)
Between the four hotels, rates are fairly similar between January and February: three are the same and one is 144% higher in January (perhaps due to school holidays). Rates via Booking.com for a random night in January 2024.
Can I swim in the sea on Koh Samui in January?
Usually, you can choose to do so in fairly calm seas (obviously at your own risk). 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).
When are sunrise and sunset on Koh Samui in January? What time does it get dark?
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).
Koh Samui in January
The Koh Samui Guide: The Koh Samui Guide is newly updated and continues to receive fantastic feedback from new and repeat customers alike.
“Very grateful of the kind advice. We have now read the KS Guide back to back and looking forward to arriving in January.” – Stephen
- Shop: The Koh Samui Guide
- FAQs: How to Transfer Flights at Bangkok Airport?
- Next month: Koh Samui in February
Weather details via Weather Spark, which promises that “snow is exceptionally unlikely to fall at this location in January”.