Destinations Thailand

The Best Things to do in Koh Samui

Whether you choose to sip cocktails at a cool beach bar, swim under a waterfall or feast on street food, this tiny Thai island sure packs a punch.

Known for its ultra-luxe beachfront resorts, seductive sands, tranquil greenery, gentle warm waves and Thai cuisine that’s big on flavour yet low in price, Koh Samui is a bona fide island paradise. Whether you’re a foodie or culture vulture, this one-time fishing community has something for everyone: local markets, hilltop temples and a rainbow reef for keen snorkellers, just to name a few. If you’re in need of a refresh on how to make the most of your time on Thailand’s second largest island, you’ve come to the right place. This is our list of the best things to do in Koh Samui.

Ready to dive in? Indulge in a five-star stay at the cliffside Silavadee Pool Spa Resort.

Spend a day at Maenam Beach

Icing-sugar sand, dense thickets of palm trees, refreshing breezes and a smattering of bars and open-air restaurants… this ticks all the boxes for what makes a heavenly beach. A favourite spot among surfers, bodyboarders and families by day, by night it’s abuzz with patrons who flock to the beach bars, which boast some of the best places in town for sundowners – including La Playa. After your daily dose of vitamin sea, you may find it hard to tear yourself away.

Go for a dip at Na Muang Waterfall

Koh Samui has no shortage of gorgeous natural scenery and bountiful waterfalls, including the likes of this gem. Nestled within lush jungle surrounds and easily accessible by foot, it’s renowned as one of the most dramatic and scenic waterfalls on Koh Samui. What’s more, the waterfall consists of two separate cascades that flow into a natural pool, which invites a cooling afternoon dip. En route to the falls, stock up on snacks and souvenirs at the entrance.

Hike to Wat Khao Hua Jook

It’s a short climb up the hilly terrain that overlooks Chaweng Lake and Koh Samui. Hikers who reach the summit are rewarded with access to the ornately decorated Wat Khao Hua Jook, along with spectacular coastline views. However, it’s not just the views that attract visitors: the temple is also known for its traditional architecture, intricate artwork and mythical sculptures that Thai temples are renowned for. More importantly, Wat Khao Hua Jook is known for its replica of Buddha’s footprint. Whether Buddhist or not, this temple provides a perfect escape for those seeking reflection.

Enjoy a feast at Chaweng Night Market

Feast your eyes and tastebuds on a celebration of Thai street food at Chaweng Night Market. Though Koh Samui has many fantastic foodie attractions, Chaweng consistently draws local visitors daily – a great sign that you’re in for some authentic eats. Located in the centre of the city, the market also offers beautiful sights of Chaweng Lake and Phru Chaweng Park.

Presented as a large outside food court on the banks of Chaweng Lake, the market features both traditional Thai delicacies and mouthwatering mainstream dishes. Plus, it stays open past 10pm — perfect for a late-night snack.

Explore Fisherman’s Village

What was once the centre of fisherman life in Bophut, today’s Fisherman’s Village is the resort island’s heartbeat, where you’ll find streets teeming with cuisine and handicrafts that Thailand is world famous for. Here, wooden shophouses boast boutique stores, trendy eateries and popular drinking posts, while a small selection of hotels lines the narrow yet photogenic Beach Road. Its weekly market draws shoppers from across the island for its stalls of unique wares and sizzling street food — perfect for a leisurely Friday evening exploration.

Visit the Big Buddha

Cast in gold and set on a small rocky island overlooking neighbouring island Koh Phangan, the 12-metre-tall Big Buddha is one of the first landmarks people witness when flying into Koh Samui. Built in 1972, the statue’s iconic Mara posture, with its left upward-facing palm resting on its lap and the right hand facing down, signifies a time of enlightenment and protection from temptation, dangers and purity. Flanked by terracotta-coloured temples and a vivid dragon staircase, Big Buddha is at its dramatic best when it’s illuminated at night, emphasising its mystical lustre.

Dive into Koh Samui’s marine wonderland

Whether you are a novice or an experienced master, the diving experiences that await in the tropical waters surrounding Koh Samui are irresistible. Here, the ocean is calm, the waters are crystal clear, and awe-inspiring wide bays are lined with gorgeous white sand and swaying palm trees.

Now’s the time to dive into the region’s sheltered underwater world, a colourful marine playground where perennially warm water (around 29 degrees Celsius year-round) is home to one of the world’s densest populations of marine life, striking coral structures and submerged pinnacles.

Looking for more Thailand island inspiration? Read A Guide to Thailand’s Best Islands.