38 things to do on Koh Samui
Good news: you'll love this list whether you're the laziest person alive, or an over-active member of the CrossFit cult.
38 things to do on Koh Samui
Koh Samui's best things to do – I think – are a perfect mixture of lazy beach days and more adventurous island excursions. This list of 38 Koh Samui things to do will help you to see a lot, try plenty and maybe even learn something new. Round it out with fried food and lots of rum? You can't go wrong.
Been there done that?
No way! Many of these activities were original favourites on one of my first blog posts back in 2008 (see where it all began). Nine years later, they're still just as much fun to eat or experience on return visits to Samui. Enjoy!
Popular things to do
Stressed much? No more. Koh Samui is rated one of the best spa destinations on earth. Any of Samui's spa offerings makes a gorgeous island that much more blissful. Round out your indulgence with a beach massage or yoga session – it's a tough itinerary indeed.
1. Thai massage
“Hello, massaaaaaage!” So goes the call of every Thai beach masseuse and it's an entirely enjoyable gauntlet to run. Quality varies amongst beach masseuses, but - for sheer slothfulness - you probably won’t care. For an even lazier approach, enjoy a Thai massage in a poolside sala. Fall asleep or digest the sunset view, it's entirely your choice. Little secret? Thai massages are an ideal rainy day activity.
Long journey? Jet-lagged? Treat your weary self to a massage just before bed. If your hamstrings bend more than mine, you might have fewer Thai ladies laughing at you. Either that, or it’s time for some yoga on Koh Samui. Here’s another tip: brush your teeth beforehand, so you can waddle home and straight into bed.
The delicious thing about a Thai massage is that it's rather like someone doing yoga for you. However, if you'd like to enjoy the direct benefits – you'll be delighted with the great range of options for Koh Samui yoga. Yoga on Koh Samui is even better than at home – the views can be incredible and the coconut juice afterwards is guaranteed to be fresh – no juice cartons in sight. All types of yoga are found on Koh Samui (including hot yoga). No matter your skill level, you'll find something that suits you. Find numerous yoga studios, and many resorts offering their own programmes.
Yoga instruction and teacher training: Whether you practice yoga regularly, want to finally see what the fuss is all about or would like to become an instructor yourself, your options for Koh Samui yoga are abundant. (See full details, prices, etc).
3. Spa days
An inexhaustive list of Koh Samui's spas – an island voted Asia's top spa destination in recent years. Coming to Koh Samui as a couple? Every spa offers packages for two, yet another romantic idea to enjoy together while on the island.
Island favourites include:
How to plan your perfect trip?
Can't decide between sight-seeing, beach-hopping and lazy days? Concoct your perfect mix of R&R, with The Koh Samui Guide expert tips for your time on Samui. Written on the back of 15 years' Samui exploration, it gives you crucial island advice, recommendations and things to do. You can be as busy or as lazy as you like!
Koh Samui shopping
Say bye-bye to your Baht. Want a Koh Samui souvenir? Whether it's a wooden elephant or a silk-wall hanging – it's no difficulty parting with some Baht in your hunt for a take-home piece of Thailand. Thai triangle cushions travel well in an extra duffel bag, and silks pack lighter than anything. Here are a few things to look forward to about Koh Samui shopping...
4. Browse Thai handicrafts
Across Koh Samui, you'll find souvenirs of all sorts – including the ubiquitous Thai triangular cushion. Any of these provide the perfect Samui take-away.
Beware: while many of these shops are quite happy to sell you Buddha statues or images, they can’t (legally) be taken out of the country.
5. Stock up on souvenirs
Want T-shirts/postcards/paraphernalia? They'll literally come to you – but Samui's beach vendors are never pushy or intrusive. If you're not interested, they're not interested.
Want tailored suits, shirts and dresses? By vague estimate, you have the choice of a thousand-million tailors on Koh Samui. Worth your time and money? We'll leave the decision to you – this was our experience.
Like a good mystery with your shopping? See what you think happened to silk king Jim Thompson – of the eponymous Jim Thompson Thailand silk company. He disappeared in the 1960s and, while there are theories*, nobody knows for sure what happened. In addition to a Jim Thompson shop at Koh Samui Airport, there's a small boutique in Chaweng's Centara Grand Beach Resort.
6. Day-drinking Koh Samui rum
New rule: if you're day-drinking in the company of French people, it doesn't count because it's their culture. Koh Samui's own Magic Alambic rum comes in a variety of flavours, crafted at a small island distillery by the aforementioned French people. Stop by for a tasting... and find that you don't get much done the rest of the day. Neat rum + tropical heat = night-night.Alambic's amongst our favourite Koh Samui attractions – well worth including as a stop on an island road trip. For a full itinerary with helpful maps, download The Koh Samui Guide. It has everything you need to know about Koh Samui in one tidy travel guide and downloads instantly.
Best things to do
Take to the seas and admire the island from a group or private boat tour. Whatever your preference – bring a camera, sunscreen and sit ready to be impressed. Samui doesn't disappoint.
7. Sunset cruise
Many yacht charters offer sunset cruises on a variety of craft – catamarans, wooden junks, yachts & high-end speedboats. Very romantic!
8. Day trip to Angthong Marine Park
Angthong Marine Park, a chain of small, uninhabited islands maintained as a national park, could easily be the highlight of your holiday: it’s just that beautiful. At AngThong - snorkelling, hiking and private beaches await. It’s possible to charter your own boat or to go with a tour. Allow a full day for the trip to and through Angthong's many islands, and its small museum room with a preserved dugong. Find preferred tour companies, plus tips for families in The Koh Samui Guide.
Whether you manage this day trip on your first visit or fit it into a return journey, you’ll take an embarrassing number of photos at Angthong Marine Park, a national park of thousands of uninhabited islands. Find out how to take better beach photos in Thailand.
Tasty things to do
9. Early morning beach coffee
Jet-lag might have other plans, but a first-thing-in-the-morning coffee on the beach is our favourite time of day. No one else is up and it’s not too hot. Perfect. Bring your camera for some great shots of local fishermen at work on their long-tail boats.
10. Thai cooking school
Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts (SITCA) – Professional chefs study here, and so can you. 3-hour small classes are held twice daily (lunch or dinner). Invite a friend to join you for the meal you’ll prepare. Choose your lesson from the calendar online. 6- and 12-day intensive courses are also available. Located opposite Central Samui Beach Resort, check SITCA website for printable map.
11. A fancy dinner
Once you’ve dispatched the sunset and learned quite what the tropics has in mind for your hair, a nice dressed-up dinner makes such a highlight of your holiday. Koh Samui’s food and drink choices are vast: spend pocket change or really make your eyes water (and every price point between). Cuisine isn’t limited to Thai (there’s plenty of quality Italian and steak choice, too... for Americans who can’t be without). The Koh Samui Guide covers food and drink options in great detail, with clear maps to get you there. Take a look and get ready to tuck in.
12. Pineapple shake
You’ve endured the flight, you’ve checked in, found your room, found your shorts and T-shirt... found the beach. This is the perfect drink to start a holiday – probably with some Samui rum for good measure. Once you're hooked, you'll want the recipe for a pineapple shake, Samui style.
13. Hotel cooking classes
A great many of Koh Samui's most beautiful hotels offer cooking classes that are open to anyone – whether you're staying as a guest or not.
14. Angela’s sausage roll
I once walked from Choeng Mon to Maenam for one of these sausage rolls. That’s a long way. In extreme heat. They’re really that good. (But the walk was a terrible idea. In this case only copy half of my suggestion – the eating part. Make sure to fit in a breakfast, lunch or quick snack at Angela's Bakery and Diner.
15. No names
Thais rival Alabamans for a love of deep fried things. ‘No Names’ kick spring rolls and fish cakes into oblivion for tastiness and moreish-ness. More concept than specific recipe, they’re a varying ratio of chopped vegetables fried in something like waffle batter. In the South they’d be on a stick. Meaning? They’re delicious.
16. Fish on the beach
You probably saw it caught earlier in the day, while you drank your beach coffee. Fresh, local fish is displayed every night. For true Koh Samui cuisine, you won't eater closer to the sea than at Had Bang Po. Choose it, specify how you’d like it cooked and tuck into No Names until it’s ready.
17. Fruit and vegetable carving
SITCA also offers a basic 1-hour course and comprehensive a 3-day course. The latter includes a take-home instructional book, apron and carving tools. Book well in advance, as this course is wildly popular.
Challenging things to do
How to exercise on Koh Samui? While Koh Samui is the ideal destination for doing little more than laying by the pool and occasionally raising a cold drink to your lips, sporty types are well catered for, too. So how to exercise on Koh Samui, and where can you run?
Utterly crucial: pack sports sunscreen with a high SPF (try Sun Bum SPF 50 Continuous Spray) and a reliable mosquito repellant. We prefer DEET-free and there's none better than Incognito Natural Anti-Mozzie Insect Repellent. If you're exercising outside, just remember plenty of sunscreen and a big bottle of cold water! Fresh coconuts have tons of electrolytes – if you needed another reason
18. Sunset beach tennis
A past-time I take more seriously than necessary. You too? My order of operations goes: beach tennis, sunset, shower, dinner – but your champion level of play might take longer. Game on! (Paddle set + balls).
19. Your hotel gym
Most of Koh Samui's larger, chain resorts have gyms of various sizes. However, those that market specifically to sporty, healthy types likely offer much stronger, colder air-conditioning than at standard, box-checking, "we should put a gym in our hotel" hotels. Koh Samui resorts with great gyms and other fitness facilities (yoga, tennis, muay Thai lessons, etc) include:
- Chaweng: Vana Belle, OZO Chaweng Samui, Centara Grand Beach Resort Samui
- Bophut: Anantara Bophut Resort & Spa
- Maenam: W Retreat Koh Samui and Santiburi Beach Resorts, Golf & Spa
- Bang Por: Four Seasons Resort
- Taling Ngam: InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Resort
20. Road running on Koh Samui (or not?)
Are you a dedicated pavement-pounder, determined to brave the heat outdoors? Running along Koh Samui's main ring road (a total loop of 51km) is possible and some expats and tourists choose to do it. As a lazy person with a strong safety bent, I don't recommend it for two reasons:
- Road surfaces are pot-holed and uneven concrete, with plenty of ankle-rolling opportunities per mile.
- Erratic traffic can make pedestrian activities a hair-raising proposition.
Are Koh Samui's pedestrians are sweet, noble beings worthy of rights? Oh, no, no, no. Instead, they're the very lowest on the pole and big trucks at high speeds make that very clear. I explain exactly what to expect (+ where, when and why) in The Koh Samui Guide. However, if you're used to running Ironman distances in extreme heat then you already know you're crazy and I won't say another word.
21. Beach running on Koh Samui
A few options for beach running include:
- Maenam Beach is one of Koh Samui's longest beaches and is longer and flatter than Bophut.
- Choeng Mon Beach is too short to bother for a run of any merit, though it makes a very pretty walk (or morning yoga spot).
- Bophut Beach: Local schools' track teams train on Bophut Beach (very early in the morning) as it's got a steep slope and very soft sand. If you want to build some brand new quads, try Bophut.
- For a walk or run that could last hours, Chaweng Beach is Koh Samui's longest – but it can get busier than the others.
If possible try to make it to your beach of choice before 7.30 am to keep the heat at bay.
22. Trail running and hiking on Koh Samui
Koh Samui is almost 230 square kilometres (88 sqm), much of it undeveloped jungle, and its tallest peak is 635 metres (2083 feet). There's definitely lots out there – with a strong caution about knowing where you're going (and what kinds of scaly creatures you might encounter on the way). In short, many expats do enjoy regular trail runs and welcome visitors. The Samui Runners Club is a friendly bunch with weekly hill runs and other events.
Running races and other sports events: Our Koh Samui events calendar lists upcoming road races, marathons and fun runs. In a typical year, there are a number of short charity fun runs (under 10km), a midnight run through Chaweng, plus a marathon and triathlon.
As a non-golfer, I just Googled "how many calories burned in a round of golf". I'm not sure the "ride-in-a-cart-while-a-caddy-carries-everything" answer earns its place in the sports and exercise section ... but I digress. Santiburi Samui Country Club, high up in the hills above (and with an incredible view of) Samui's north coast, is Koh Samui’s best golf course (and its only 18-hole option). It offers full cart and caddy service. Shoes and clubs are available for rent, and other golfing paraphernalia is available at the pro shop. After a round, relax with a light lunch and refreshing drink in Santiburi's breezy patio restaurant. A dress code is in place and reservations are necessary.
Free things to do
24. A good rain storm
You’ll either see it coming or, especially dramatically, the skies will just open and let loose. As my Samui itineraries are never based on getting a tan, I love a good rain storm. While other parts of the world add thunder or lightning, Samui’s speciality is sheer volume of water. Unless you’re caught walking from Choeng Mon to Maenam (don’t do it!) in a white T-shirt, it’s a memorable and refreshing half hour or so.
If the rain lasts longer, see our ideas for things to do on a rainy day.
25. A Koh Samui sunset
Done properly, you’d add a Thai beer or some Samui rum made into a haphazard cocktail. Enjoy a leisurely happy hour while the sun sets (it happens quickly this far south!), then shower off the sand and get ready for dinner.
26. Orchid enjoyment
I'm crazy about plants – I might love them more than Prince Charles. So Koh Samui’s orchids and tropical flowers are a real treat. For a longer visit, you might consider adding extra flower power to your accommodation. If so, visiting a Koh Samui garden centre would easily add some gorgeous orchids to your life. Throughout your stay, keep your eyes open for incredible butterflies, too!
27. Thai language lessons
Learn Thai Podcast (LTP) – Knowing just a handful of Thai phrases will enhance your visit to Thailand a thousand-fold. Download a few free holiday Thai lessons from LTP and see if you like it enough to continue with the paid course, which has a 1-year curriculum (self-taught) that should get you more or less conversational.
One year later: see our full review
28. If you're horrible and you know it
Ever played Cards Against Humanity with your most PC relatives – and discovered it's all an act? As this hilarious game edges towards 36,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, I have to reiterate what a brilliant addition it makes to a Koh Samui vacation – whether you're coming as a couple, with friends or with your grandparents. No exaggeration – one joke nearly killed my most upstanding family member.
Rolling around on the floor, crying, unable to breath with laughter ... we considered medical intervention (and then decided to add more rum – see #6).
We rely on this game for group trips, rainy days and beach happy hours and pack every set of cards we've got. For the free version, print some cards at home before you leave.
Early morning is a beautiful time of day to enjoy a much quieter Koh Samui – but with good sun protection, the afternoon is gorgeous, too. Bring a friend and enjoy walking the length of Maenam, Bophut or Chaweng beaches.
30. Do nothing
Do you think you'll make a good lazy person? Anantara Bophut has fantastic balconies, beach-front bean bags and a garden with hammocks.
Whatever your preference, rest assured Koh Samui is beautiful from just about every angle. If you're more of a home-body, you might be content to simply watch the world go by. A huge variety of beaches means there's always something different to see – a Samui tour that comes to you.
For more solid gold Samui secrets, plus activities and ideas for all ages, jump into The Koh Samui Guide. Consider it the easiest way to discover your favourite 12 (or 120…240…) things to do on Koh Samui.
Surprising things to do
Unusual Koh Samui attractions to visit: Koh Samui's attractions start on the beaches, and wind into the jungle hills. You might expect to see Thai temples, and even monkeys – but Samui has surprises. For a small island, it has its fair share. If your cultural curiosity takes you further, you might like these local attractions. Truly, they're sights to behold.
31. Grandmother and Grandfather Rock
Yes, there's a female version, too... what are the chances? The shape, the scale, the sheer implausibility... Giggle like a teenager at ‘Hin Ta Hin Yai’ & snag some postcards your friends will never believe. Be sure to ask about the local legend...
32. Mummified monk
Wat Khunaram is home to the mummified remains of a monk who died over 20 years ago. Near Na Muang waterfall, on the 4169 ring road.
Before visiting the Mummified Monk, or any Koh Samui temple, kindly note the Thai dress code for visiting temples.
33. Magic Garden
A garden high in the jungle hills filled with statues and treasures carved by the late Nim Thongsuk. You’ll need an intrepid driver to get here on your own - ‘off road’ barely does it justice. A 4X4 Jeep is absolutely necessary, but I recommend joining a group or hiring a local driver for the purpose. Enquire with an island travel agent for transport details. Why? It’s very easy to get lost. In the jungle. Which is scary.
34. Things that bite
With a massive sn*ke phobia (so much so I can barely handle the word), I'll never go anywhere near Samui Snake Farm. Ever. If you need a safe, insulated space while members of your group pay a visit, may I suggest Air Bar at InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Resort, three miles away. The only deadly things on site are the negronis.
'Look but don’t touch’ is the motto of the Samui Snake Farm, a reptile zoo home to Thailand’s many venomous snakes. Daily 60-minute shows feature performers (such as ‘The Scorpion Queen’) interacting with snakes and scorpions in a way many – me! – might find too close for comfort. 88/2 Moo 4 Taling Ngam – slightly off the beaten track, but the route is well marked.
To plan every stop on your adventure, use The Koh Samui Guide to gain island insight, answer all your questions and have more fun. I've included lots of detailed maps and genuinely idiot-proof directions, too.
Koh Samui water-sports to do
Many Koh Samui beaches cater to water-sports enthusiasts and offer kayaking, tubing, jet-skis and more. Further from shore, it's possible to charter sail and motor boats or join diving trips.
It's easy as anything to arrange someone else to sail you around on a Samui boat tour. If you're more hands-on, perhaps some sailing lessons?
36. Diving + PADI certification
Nearby island Koh Tao is the region’s diving mecca, but beginners will equally prosper in Samui waters. There are many (many) dive companies to choose from, so see which gets your pick with a little TripAdvisor research.
Scuba courses and PADI certifications are available throughout the island, with a particular concentration in Bangrak (near the pier) and in Fisherman's Village (Bophut). Reviews vary, so do your research. If you're serious about diving, though, you should probably head straight to Koh Tao – it has the best diving in the region.
What to pack to get sporty on Samui?
There's limited availability of 'performance' athletic-wear on the island, and even less so for those larger than "Thai size". Certainly, you'll want great sun protection. For water-sports, consider a UPF-protective rash guard shirt (suggestions here). Don’t forget the sunscreen on the back of your knees!
37. Kayaking tours
Experienced guides can suggest options of varying duration, from local Samui trips to further afield in Angthong National Marine Park.
Kiteboarding Asia offers individual or 2-on-1 lessons from certified instructors. 3-day beginners courses are available. Recommended for confident swimmers. Between November and March they're based in Lamai and in the summer months, May to August, they're near Big Buddha (between Choeng Mon and Bang Rak).
So, where should you start?
Clearly, there are a million things to do on Koh Samui. These 38 suggestions are just the start of an incredible itinerary. Skip the lists, browser tabs, panicked forum posts and total confusion. Use The Koh Samui Guide to find the very best and – just like that – you've planned your perfect trip. Enjoy!