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40 awesome things to do in Koh Samui Thailand

Whether you’re a spiritual pilgrim, a party animal, or a shutterbug looking for the ideal beach photo, there are things to do in Koh Samui for every type of traveler! Wondering what to do in Koh Samui? Check out this list of Koh Samui attractions to find out where to go in Koh Samui — from Bophut to Nathon and Lamai to Chaweng! If you’re planning your Koh Samui itinerary, check out this list of epic things to do and plan a perfect island experience!

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40 amazing things to do in Koh Samui: the top things to eat, best tours, and most beautiful places to visit in Koh Samui

Airport transfer

OK… so on the list of things to do in Samui, this isn’t the most exciting… but it sure is practical! Book your airport transfer here so you can start your holiday off on the right foot! No negotiating at the airport or cramming into a shared bus for you… you’ll be traveling in luxury right to your front door. 

Book your private transfer here! 

Koh Samui Airport view from Pagoda Khao Hua Jook

Visit Guanyin at Wat Plai Laem

Guanyin is the goddess of mercy and compassion, said to be a protector of all creatures and a source of unconditional love. You’ll know her by the 18 arms, symbolic of her reaching out to all of humanity.

Guanyin at Wat Plai Laem

Wat Plai Laem is a modern Buddhist temple, built using ancient principles. The vibrant colors and intricate architecture are fascinating and surrounding lake is full of fish. For a small donation, you can purchase some fish food to experience the feeding frenzy for yourself. Be sure to devote at least an hour to walk around the laughing Buddha, take photos of Guanyin, and visit the ceremonial hall set on an island.

Wat Plai Laem Koh Samui

If you’re lucky, you may even see a new building under construction.

Artist at work at Wat Plai Laem

Note: This is a religious site. Dress appropriately by covering your shoulders and knees.

Book a tour including Wat Plai Laem here.

Receive a blessing at Big Buddha

Big Buddha is one of the top things to see in Koh Samui. Located within the Wat Phra Yai temple on Koh Fan, Big Buddha is attached to Koh Samui by a causeway. The 12 meter tall Big Buddha was built in 1972 and has been attracting devotees and tourists alike to visit the giant, golden statue.

Big Buddha Koh Samui

While there, you can receive a blessing from a monk, who will sprinkle you with holy water and gift a woven cotton bracelet for luck and blessing. We also received a book on Buddhism.

Monk blessing at Big Buddha

Note: this is a religious site. Dress appropriately by covering your shoulders and knees. If you don’t have proper covering, you can borrow a shawl at the entrance free of charge.

Book a tour including Big Buddha here.

Check out the terracotta temple

Wat Sila Ngu Temple or Wat Ratchathammaram is just south of Lamai in Hua Thannon on the Ring Road. This temple is special because of its brilliant red, terracotta coloring and intricate designs inside the temple. 

Terra Cotta Temple Koh Samui

The red clay sculptures on the walls tell a story. You could spend hours in here just looking at the intricate designs by skilled craftsmen. 

Buddha inside Terra Cotta Temple

Visit Guan Yu Shrine— a symbol of the Thai-Chinese culture

The Guan Yu shrine on Koh Samui is everything you might expect of the god of war in Chinese mythology. He’s imposing and strong and a symbol of loyalty, honesty and bravery. The statue is 16 meters high (that’s 4 meters taller than Big Buddha in case you’re keeping track).

Take your photos outside, but don’t miss venturing inside the shrine where you can see traditional Chinese artifacts and visit a traditional Chinese tea room.

Guan Yu Shrine

Taste the best coconut ice cream

The area around Guan Yu shrine offers delicious and cheap eats, so plan this visit around lunchtime!

Coconut ice cream at Noy’s

My recommendation? Visit my friend Noy at the last restaurant on the right. He sells a variety of Thai, Indian and Western dishes (including a ฿55 pad thai). But the main event is the ฿45 coconut ice cream. It’s served with a lazy Susan-style buffet of toppings you’ve likely never seen before! Top your ice cream with your choice of corn, potato, basil seeds, pineapple, coconut jelly, black jelly and chocolate or strawberry sauce. If you’re anything like me, this won’t be your last visit!

Noy and The Sweet Wanderlust

Search for Koh Samui’s best street art 

Koh Samui is pretty dang Instagrammable. The white sandy beaches, the fresh coconuts enjoyed poolside (at an infinity pool, no doubt), and the stunning sunsets are beautiful fodder for any social media feed. But in 2019, Koh Samui upped its Instagram game with a street art festival. Colorful murals by famous artists (three Thai and three foreign) now dot the island. Can you spot them all?

Alex Face street art near Guan Yu Shrine Koh Samui

Visit an ethical elephant sanctuary

Visiting elephants is one of the best things to do in Koh Samui! Spend half a day with the rescued elephants at Samui Elephant Haven, where you can feed bananas to these gentle giants, witness them playing on their own terms, and take part in a Thai cooking class. If you visit now, you’re oh-so-lucky! Somboon was 21 months pregnant when we first met, but she just gave birth to a baby boy during the last full moon of the decade! Read all about Samui Elephant Haven’s ethical elephant tours in Koh Samui here

Samui Elephant Haven – elephants bathing

Have a drink with the funniest bartender on the island

Q: Why is the sand wet?
A: Because the seaWEED!

Bartenders are used to offering tall drinks to patrons with long faces. But James at The Station Beach Pub is serving up some of the punniest jokes on the island alongside the liquid offerings.

Want one more reason to smile? Visit from 5-7pm for happy hour, which includes ฿150 cocktails and (Spanish, corked) red/white/rose wines, discounts on all beer, and 2oz (56ml) pours of spirits instead of the usual 1.25oz (35ml).

You want one more joke to wet your whistle?

There’s something shaking at the bottom of the sea near Koh Taen.
It’s a nervous wreck!

Sunset from The Station

See Grandfather and Grandmother… like you’ve never seen them before

OK.. so this is one of the Koh Samui tourist attractions deserving of a 18 and up rating! The rocks are called Hin Ta and Hin Yai in Thai, and there’s a local legend explaining the presence of these rather risqué stones. 

The story goes that a local couple hopped in a boat to arrange the marriage of their son to a woman in a neighboring province. Rough seas capsized their boat and the couple didn’t survive the shipwreck, but they turned into these stones as an ever-present symbol of commitment to the parents of their son’s intended bride.

Dear potential future in-laws: I don’t think my parents would appreciate this. 

Grandfather and Grandmother rocks Koh Samui

Book a tour including Hin Ta and Hin Yai here.

Choose The Road Less Travelled

I’m not trying to be esoteric here. The Road Less Travelled is the name of an adorably artsy cafe bar in Nathon with decor reminiscent of a speakeasy. Sip on delightful cocktails and nibble on homemade chocolates as you attend one of their regular film + lecture evenings, karaoke and trivia nights, and Ru Paul Drag Race & Camp Disco events.

Mummy monk

I’ll admit it. I visited the mummified monk out of a sense of morbid curiosity. Every Koh Samui travel guide I consulted mentions the remains of Phra Khru Samathakittikhun on display, so I needed to see it for myself. 

The story is actually quite beautiful.  Phra Khru Samathakittikhun lived a great life– he had a loving family on Koh Samui, was financially prosperous and well-respected in the community. When he was 50, he decided to devote his life to the monkhood and became well-known for his meditation practices. It is said that he was able to forsee the time and date of his own death, which would occur just before his 80th birthday, so he asked for an upright casket in order to meditate before his time came. 

His body never decomposed and is on display for all to see, so everyone can be inspired to live a life of devotion as well. 

Mummified monk – Phra Khru Samathakittikhun

Book a tour including the mummified monk here.

Trek to a waterfall

If you’re looking for a waterfall in Koh Samui, you’re likely to read about Na Muang Waterfall. Because of the elephant trekking and unethical treatment of the animals there, I can’t recommend that waterfall. 

Wang Sao Thong waterfall

Instead, check out the Wang Sao Thong waterfall, not far from the mummified monk. How much water you’ll find depends on rainfall. However, there’s an adorable Instagram platform and ice cream available for purchase that makes this waterfall worth visiting.

Wang Sao Thong waterfall platform

Shhh! It’s a secret!

When you visit the Secret Buddha Garden, it’s easy to imagine these statues have been around for centuries. However, these stones have a much more recent history. Starting in 1976, local fruit farmer, Nim Thongsuk, crafted each and every statue — creating the mystical garden, also known as Heaven Garden or Magic Garden. 

Budget at least 45 minutes to an hour here– the statues are intricate and you’re sure to discover a little bit of magic everywhere you turn. From carved fish near a stream to a hidden throne and dozens of Buddha statues, this was one of my favorite things in Koh Samui!

If you drive a motorbike, you can visit on your own for an entry fee of ฿80. Join this 4×4 tour that includes a visit to the secret garden!

Magic Buddha Garden Koh Samui

Dinosaurs with a view

When I saw the sign to Mountain Grand View Seaview Restaurant promising dinosaurs and a great view, I couldn’t miss the opportunity. For a small entry fee, you can visit one of the quirkiest tourist attractions on Koh Samui. The view is great… but how often do you get to see statues of T-Rexes mingling with elephants and tigers?

Mountain Grand View Seaview Restaurant dinosaurs Koh Samui

There’s an infinity pool up here, too, so bring your swimsuit for a refreshing dip before heading back down the hill!

Mountain Grand View Seaview Infinity pool

Find the only non-stinky durian in Thailand

On your way back from visiting the Magic Buddha Garden and the dinosaur viewpoint, don’t miss the giant tropical fruit salad! From mangosteens, bananas, and pineapples to a giant durian (nose plugs not needed), it makes for a fun photo spot!

Giant durian Koh Samui

Enjoy cocktails at the most picturesque bar on the island

W Koh Samui is perhaps the most beautiful hotel on the island of Koh Samui. With luxurious digs at an ultra-luxe price tag, most travelers won’t have the opportunity to stay at W Koh Samui. But non-resident guests can drink at the iconic WOOBAR for a minimum spend of ฿1,000 (non-resident entry may be limited during peak season).  Can you put a price tag on a view like this?

W Hotel Koh Samui

Keep Koh Samui clean

Thailand is a beautiful country. Sadly, though, its turquoise waters and white sandy beaches are often strewn with trash. You can’t fix everything, but every little thing you do can make this country more beautiful. Bring a baggie with you to the beach and do your own beach clean up.

Some places, like Future Hippie, will even reward you with a drink for helping keep their beach clean!

Beach clean up at Future Hippie

Prefer a more community oriented clean up? Join Trash Hero World for their weekly Sunday beach clean up. More than 4,000 volunteers have collected over 80,000 pounds of trash.

Beautify Koh Samui with a painting day at Art Bin Samui

I’ve never thought much about rubbish bins. They’re either there when you need them, or they’re not. But what if a beautiful bin could increase the lowly trash receptacle’s visibility, thus increasing its use?

Idania (Donna) was born in Cuba, spent much of her life in Florida, and now chooses to call the beautiful island of Koh Samui home. She has mermaid hair, an artist’s soul, and a desire to beautify Koh Samui.

Donna at Art Bins Samui

Every Wednesday and Friday from 10am to 5pm, she hosts a painting party in her beachside home. But these aren’t souvenirs for tourists… these are giant trash barrels which will stay on the island for years to come.

The recycled bins are sanded down and layered with two coats of primer and two coats of blue paint by Idania’s husband, Ken. Then, the artists arrive. Some bins are commissioned for specific businesses while others are generic island themed. Many of the painters live on Koh Samui, and it’s easy to see they’ve formed a sense of camaraderie at this biweekly gathering. Everyone has a niche— whether painting corals or mermaids— and I was happy to start by filling in letters! Every bin takes 50 hours from start to finish, and every job is an important one!

Turn trash into treasure with Art Bins Samui

Painting works up an appetite, and there’s a delicious vegan lunch— complete with a divine chocolate cake.

Vegan lunch at Art Bins Samui

Art Bins Samui has completed 117 bins since March 2017… will you help them beautify even more? Book through Facebook by sending Donna a message!

Visit Pig Island

You’ve likely seen photos of people hanging out with pigs on the beach in the Bahamas, but did you know Thailand has beach pigs, too? Take a day tour to Koh Madsum (Pig Island) via longtail boat, where you can feed the pigs healthy snacks and snap some photos for Instagram. The day also includes snorkeling near Koh Tan, a beach cleanup, a walk through the mangroves and a seaside lunch. 

Book your Pig Island excursion from Koh Samui here. 

Help out the good boys and good girls

If you’ve been on the island for more than an hour, chances are good that you’ve met one of around 20,000 island dogs who call Koh Samui home. If you’re looking for things to do on Koh Samui that will leave the island a better place than you found it, get in touch with Dog and Cat Rescue Samui. For more than 20 years, the men and women at Dog and Cat Rescue Samui have been providing medication, treatment, and castration services to the strays of the island. 

You may notice a large population of dogs at the temples… and there’s a good reason for that! In 2007, Dog and Cat Rescue Samui began providing dog and cat food at many of Samui’s temples. Every day, more than 600 dogs and cats are fed at the temples and in their shelter. If you want to get involved, visit from 9am to 6pm daily (no appointment necessary).

Beach dogs in Koh Samui

Beach puppy Koh Samui

Go fish!

Whether you’re a fishing pro or a total newbie, Koh Samui is the perfect place to break out the rod and reel. Take to the sea where you can fish for barracuda, cobia, mackerel, sailfish, snapper, grouper, trevally and more. Of course, catching fish is never a guarantee, but most Koh Samui tours offer snorkeling, so you’re guaranteed to have a good day even if the fish don’t bite!

Book your big game fishing trip here.
Book your Koh Samui: Fishing and Snorkeling Boat Trip with BBQ tour here.

Enjoy a Friday at Fisherman’s Village Walking Street Night Market

Some people like to party on a Friday night… I can’t think of a better way to get down than by eating good food, watching epic performances, listening to great music and shopping with friends. If that sounds like your kind of good time, too, visit Fisherman’s Village Walking Street from 5pm to 11pm on a Friday night. You’re sure to find adorable outfits, genuine fake handbags, and plenty of souvenirs!

Cheap cocktails at Fisherman’s Village Walking Street in Bophut Koh Samui

If you won’t be in town on a Friday, you can visit the Elephant Walk Koh Samui, a small night market near Happy Elephant Restaurant, which is open every evening!

Shop at the Bophut Fisherman’s Village

If you’re following me on Instagram, you’ve seen the pink and yellow tie-dyed romper I picked up in the Bophut Fisherman’s Village. Shopping here is a little more expensive than elsewhere on the island, but the quality and variety is worth the visit! Plus, you can get the best Mexican food on the island overlooking the water!

Bophut Fisherman’s Village

Snack your way through the Lamai Sunday Night Market

Every Sunday from 3-11pm, Lamai has its very own market, with food stalls, souvenir shops and street performers.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ll love the filled donuts, homemade coconut ice cream and khanom buang (crispy Thai pancakes). Don’t worry— there’s “real” food too! From pad thai and chicken satay to sushi and pizza, there’s something to satisfy any craving! If you’re feeling especially adventurous, I recommend the bug kebabs!

Eating bugs at Lamai night market

Once you’ve had your fill of food, head for the shopping street and haggle for your favorite souvenirs.

If you’re not in town for a Sunday, check out the Lamai Night Plaza, which sells all kinds of knockoff and pirated goods (which I don’t recommend) and local goods (which I do recommend).

Experience a stunning sunrise

Good morning sunshine! It’s your holiday, but the sunrises in Koh Samui are worth setting the alarm clock. As the sun crests over the horizon, meet the local fishermen, just coming back from their nighttime fishing exploits. Soon, their catch will be filleted and set out to dry under the hot sun.  

Koh Samui sunrise with fishing boats at Ko Samui Beach

Get a massage at the grocery store!

I don’t know about you, but I usually go to Tesco for groceries. And at the Tesco in Lamai, they DO have groceries (including some very unique flavors of chips!), but it’s the massage shop just inside the Tesco building that was usually the reason for my “grocery run.”

Unique flavors at Thai grocery store

My Friend Massage offers one of the cheapest massages on the island at only ฿200 for a one-hour Thai massage, and it’s consistently the best.

If you have trouble deciding which kind of massage you’d like to get, try a 1/2 and 1/2 with a foot massage and neck, back and shoulder massage for ฿250.

Relax with a massage on the beach

If getting a massage at a grocery doesn’t quite fit your island vibe, Best Mama Massage on Lamai Beach, just next to Baobab Restaurant. It’s one of those places you have to know about, because it won’t show up on Google. (Aren’t you glad we’re friends?!) Wear your swimsuit and choose an oil massage for a fully relaxing beachside experience. Achieve maximum relaxation as the waves crash just outside this massage shack. 

Pro tip: If you order anything from the restaurant next door, you can hang out on one of their beach recliners and use the stand up paddle boards!

Skip the elephant tank tops and buy local artisan souvenirs instead!

While you’re in Koh Samui, you’ll pass hundreds of shops selling the same bikinis, “same same but different” tank tops and beer-themed tops (I even saw a baby onesie modeled after a Chang beer!). But if you’re a discerning shopper, you’re looking for gifts with meaning that will last longer than the beer you’re drinking. 

Pay a visit to Bowtiful Samui in Lamai for jewelry, purses and wallets made by women from the hill tribes in Northern Thailand. I’m currently sporting a gorgeous backpack purse made from a recycled leather jacket and a handmade wallet modeled after the traditional hill tribe dresses. 

Bowtiful – local, high quality souvenirs in Koh Samui

Explore Koh Samui by ATV

Koh Samui is full of lush green jungles, begging to be explored. If tour buses cramp your style and you’re looking for something a little more unique than a motorbike, join an ATV tour! During your two hours on an ATV quad bike, you’ll have the opportunity to explore areas many tourists don’t visit, visit a waterfall (seasonal) and witness beautiful viewpoints.

Book your ATV adventure here.

Make a wish at Pagoda Khao Hua Jook

Pagoda Khao Hua Jook is perhaps the most underrated destination on Koh Samui. Many see the golden-domed pagoda from below, but few venture up the steep road to check it out. I can assure you, you’re missing out if you skip it. 

Pagoda Khao Hua Jook

Pagoda Khao Hua Jook offers 360 views of Koh Samui and is the perfect spot to watch flights take off and land at Samui Airport. Your ฿20 entry fee includes a prayer flag and a woven bracelet, which can be tied to the railing after you’ve made a wish. 

Prayer bracelets at Pagoda Khao Hua Jook

Prep for a big night out in Chaweng with cheap drinks

Elephant pants and beer-themed t-shirts definitely aren’t the main event at the Chaweng Night Market. This is a place to eat and drink! Before your big night out, fuel up with Western and Thai dishes at reasonable prices. If you’re on a budget (and who isn’t?!) Pre-game with cocktails for as low as ฿80 and buckets which start at ฿250 before heading out to the party spots.

If you want to sip while you shop for local textiles and “genuine fake” products, head over to Chaweng Walking Street!

Get lit in Chaweng

Wondering what to do in Koh Samui at night? Having a really fun night out is one of the top things to do in Chaweng! ARKbar Beach Resort is loved by partygoers from around the world. DJs spin house music starting at 2pm daily by the pool and continue the party on the beach until 2am each morning. 

Partying at Ark Bar is at the top of the list of things to do in Chaweng

If watching a fire show in Koh Samui is on your bucket list, check out their nightly show from 8:30pm to 1am!

Practice yoga near the beach

Koh Samui is a mix of peace-seekers and party-goers. If finding zen is your aim, there’s no better place to practice than at a spiritual retreat with the waves crashing as you settle into your child’s pose.

At Future Hippie, you can enjoy fresh, healthy food, yoga in a beachside pavilion, and a room where the waves will lull you to sleep.

Beachside yoga at Future Hippie

Visit the breathtaking 42 islands of Angthong National Park

Angthong National Park is comprised of 42 islands and is home to some incredible sea creatures and beautiful reefs. Spend a day in the water snorkeling or simply cruise and enjoy the white sandy beaches and hidden lagoons of Angthong National Park. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the famous pink dolphins.

Book your snorkeling tour here. Don’t miss the optional kayaking add-on! 
Book your luxury yacht tour through Angthong National Park here.
Book your Red Baron Chinese Sailboat Tour on a twin-masted, red-sailed icon here.

Snorkeling

Go snorkeling in Koh Samui

Get cooking!

Have you even been to Thailand if you don’t take a Thai cooking class? I don’t think so. Learn to make authentic pad thai, papaya salad and mango sticky rice so you can bring a little bit of Koh Samui home with you.

Papaya salad cooking lesson

Book your half-day cooking class here. Visit a local market and learn to prepare four different dishes with a local chef. 
Book your half-day cooking class here. Learn about Southern Thai food traditions, visit, a local market, select your menu and prepare a 3-course meal with a local chef.
Book your 2.5 hour Thai cooking class here. Short on time? Book this 2.5 hour cooking class and learn to make two Thai dishes with a local chef.

Sneak into a fancy hotel

Ok, so it’s not technically “sneaking.” Many hotels on Koh Samui allow you to use their pool if you purchase drinks or food. I loved visiting Shiva Samui  for a nice pool with a swim-up bar, affordable drinks, and a sand volleyball court on the beach!

Poolside cocktails at Shiva Beach Club

Don’t miss the super Instagrammable swing just down the beach from Shiva!

Koh Samui beach swing

For a fancier vibe, check out Rocky’s Beach Resort . Prices are a bit steeper, but they have a great daily happy hour, and their views are fantastic! 

Rocky’s Resort pool

Have an American experience at Pop’s Diner

With all the cheap local dishes, a foodie can eat and eat and eat for days on Koh Samui. But eventually, even the savviest traveler will miss comfort food from home. If the thought of a root beer float makes happiness bubble up inside of you… get to Pop’s Diner Samui now!

Root beer float at Pop’s diner

Send noods

When it comes to food, they say you can’t have it all. You want good, local food at a cheap price with fast service. But often we have to settle for two of the three. But at the little soup shop on the corner of Thanon Bond Kai and 4171 in Bangrak (down the street next to 7-Eleven), they serve a ฿50 noodle soup with wontons and pork slices that will leave you full and happy! It’s one of my favorite cheap Koh Samui restaurants!

Cheap eats in Koh Samui: 50 baht noodle soup

Visit neighboring Koh Phangan

After experiencing all the amazing things to do on Koh Samui, it’s time to keep exploring Thailand! Catch a ferry to Koh Phangan and let the adventures continue! Book your ferry here!

Stay covered in Koh Samui
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Graeme

Tuesday 18th of June 2024

Hi. How can I find the swing in your photo?

Brittany

Saturday 22nd of June 2024

Hi Graeme! It's just down the beach from Shiva Samui! You can ask the team there to point you in the right direction :)