Koh Samui, one of Thailand’s largest islands in the Gulf of Thailand, is known for its palm-fringed beaches circling coconut groves and dense, mountainous rainforest.
It’s also home to luxury resorts and a rowdy nightlife scene that often attracts a backpacker crowd. With a population of 64000 people and approximately 95% of the locals being Buddhist Koh Samui is a small island with very friendly locals.
When to go:
Low season: Lasts from May through to September
High Season: Lasts from October all the way through to April with peak season occurring during December and January
I visited during the high season being there during late November to early December. While this is considered to be high season it was obvious it was not peak season as the beaches, markets and bars were not nearly as busy as peak season. There are also three seasons in Koh Samui; the dry season, the hot season and the rainy season. Being there during the end of the rainy season meant that it was hot and humid with plenty of showers that would come and go quite quickly.
Dry Season: December-January
Hot Season: March-August
Rainy Season: September-November
Where to stay:
Koh Samui is a fairly small island; to put it into perspective it only took a day to drive around the whole island with plenty of stops. The most popular places to stay are on Chaweng beach, Lamai, Bophut and Maenam. We decided to stay on the east side of the island at the top end of Chaweng beach to stay out of the way of the bars and nightlife in the centre. After driving around the whole island I can confidently say that Chaweng was the best choice to make as it boasts the softest white sand, beautiful blue water and mountain views like no other. As for where to stay on Chaweng beach, I can’t recommend Casa De Mar enough. As a fairly new, boutique hotel it blew my expectations completely. All rooms have easy access to the beautiful infinity pool overlooking the beach and the beanbags chairs on the deck, so no matter what room you choose you can easily get up, throw on your bathers and be in the pool or the ocean in a matter of minutes. If food is an important aspect for you when choosing a hotel, the daily breakfast buffet will not disappoint with a huge range of food including an egg bar. Breakfast also tastes better when you can sit down with a beautiful view of the beach. The lunch and dinner menus also don’t disappoint with a great selection of food for a good price and a daily happy hour from 5pm-8pm where cocktails are ‘buy one get one free’. I honestly could not fault this hotel and would happily return to this incredible hotel with wonderful staff.
Where and what to eat:
The Thai food did not disappoint everywhere we went, but I can’t recommend enough that you try to only eat Thai food while here. There are ‘western’ options almost everywhere that might be tempting but it’s so worth it to try the fresh food made by locals who have been living this cuisine for their whole lives. I would recommend that you don’t leave Thailand without trying a classic green curry, pineapple fried rice, coconut soup, and mango sticky rice. Beaches in Koh Samui have a wide variety of restaurants where you can sit on the beach and have your food served only a metre or two away from the water. One place that I can definitely recommend is a bar on the beach at the fisherman’s wharf. We simply made our way to the fisherman’s village, walked down the beach and had to stop when we saw beanbags lined up on the beach with beautiful lit up paper bags lining the rows.
Where to go for the nightlife scene:
There are bars around every corner in the main tourist areas in Koh Samui and popular clubs that draw tourists and locals in together. Cocktails are, in general, extremely cheap in Koh Samui, with the average price being about $4 AUD making it extremely cheap to go out. Green Mango is a popular choice for locals as well as tourists and is seen as ‘the’ club located on Chaweng beach road. Another popular choice Ark Bar which is located in the centre of Chaweng Beach where there are pool parties, beachfront seats and plenty of people to meet. On a more serious note, it is important to be cautious with street vendors and less popular places when ordering cocktails. Make sure you watch them make your drink and try to make sure you go with someone, as it is definitely possible to get drugged in these circumstances.
How to get around:
Koh Samui is such a small island it’s very easy to get around. We walked A LOT, but sometimes it’s easier to get a pickup taxi (Songtaew) as a cheap way to get to places that are a little bit too far to walk. I would also recommend hiring a car for one day of your trip to explore the whole island.
Islands nearby to visit:
Angthong National Marine Park- We did a tour that included a speedboat trip out to the marine park with stops at various islands for snorkeling, kayaking and relaxing.
Koh Tao- Also known as turtle island this beautiful land boasts crystal clear blue water for a great snorkeling experience.
What to see/do:
W a t P l a i L a e m
B i g B u d d h a
F i s h e r m a n ’ s v i l la g e
T h e G r a n d m o t h e r a n d G r a n d f a t h e r r o c k s
N a m u a n g W a t e r f a l l 1 & 2
‘ B e s t M o u n t a i n V i e w p o i n t ’
W a t c h a n i g h t o f M u a y T h a i ( T h a i b o x i n g ) a t o n e o f t h e m a n y s t a d i u m s
P a d d l e b o a r d i n g a t C h a w e n g b e a c h
M a k e K r a t h o n g ( a n i n c r e d i b l e e x p e r i e n c e i f y o u h a p p e n t o b e h e r e d u r i n g L o y K r a t h o ng )
Approximately 95% of the locals in Koh Samui are Buddhist so it is important to respect their culture. Temples, Buddha statues and images are considered as holy so please remember to wear clothing that covers the shoulders, legs, stomach and chest to enter temples.
Visit Chaweng Beach Road markets and have some fun bartering with the locals. Choose a price that you would be happy to pay before you start to barter and work up to that price.
Greet Thai people by saying ‘Sawadika’ and say thank you by saying ‘kob khun ka’
To see more photos of Koh Samui check out my Koh Samui Photo Diary
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