Koh Samui is only behind Phuket in terms of popularity and number of visitors to Thai resorts. And there are good reasons for this, despite years of chronic overdevelopment, the island retains much of its natural beauty and postcard beaches. Traveling to and from the island is easy with regular international and national flights direct to the island, as well as regular ferry crossings from Surat Thani.
There is a wide variety of accommodation on the island to adapt to different budgets, although the tendency is to develop more and more luxury complexes. The main beach is Chaweng, which is a long stretch of beautiful white sand. The city of Chaweng is very urbanized with tourist complexes that extend along the beach and shops, bars and restaurants line the streets. You can find quieter beaches along the north of the island. Bophut has a more rustic and familiar atmosphere, although the beaches are not so good.
There is much to do to get busy in Samui, whether you choose to rent a car, bike or use local transportation. (WARNING: If you choose to hire any equipment, be it a car, a motorcycle, a jet ski, etc., investigate beforehand and only use accredited contractors. It is known that there are many scams operating in Thailand, where the tenant will attempt to charge you Extortion is equivalent to repairing small scratches that you probably have not placed there. It is known that these situations become unpleasant. Search Google to read more about this.)
Here is a summary of the main activities:
Visiting temples: One of the highlights of most people's visits to Thailand is visiting some temples, and Samui is no exception. The most famous is the Big Buddha on the beach of the Big Buddha. A short climb to the top of the temple offers some good views of the sea. There are also some quite ingenious divination machines and you can buy a brick to contribute to the construction of new temple buildings. Another well-known temple is Wat Khunaram, which contains the mummified body of a local monk. Located along the southern section of the ring road, it is worth stopping quickly.
Hin Ta – Hin Yai – This is a rather peculiar stop, a few kilometers south of Chaweng Beach. The ring road runs along the edge of a rocky cliff and you reach a small detour that is signposted. This takes you to a small town and parking, with some tourist souvenir shops. Then, follow a short path to some rocks and some beach. Standing out as a sore thumb there are two rocks (Hin Ta and Hin Yai, literally Grandfather's Rock and Grandmother's Rock) that are shaped like male and female "private parts"!
Animal attractions: at the southeast end of the island are the Tiger Zoo and aquarium, which are a good way to spend a few hours, especially if you have children. Both are quite interesting and have some shows throughout the day. These are part of the Samui Orchid Resort. The Na Tian butterfly garden offers good photo opportunities for butterfly and orchid lovers, however, it is not everyone's cup of tea! There is also a crocodile farm near the airport.
There are regular shows of monkeys in the monkey theater, on the other side of the ring road of Bophut beach. The monkeys give demonstrations of how they are used to collect coconuts and there is also an elephant show. Monkeys are also a common sight in the constant flow of motorcycles that travel on Samui roads (fortunately only as passengers!). Elephant rides are available in several places around the island, usually in the interior, as this offers an ideal trekking terrain.
Attractions and natural tours: the most popular waterfalls on the island are Na Muang 1 and 2. These are easily accessible, if not the most spectacular. Na Muang 1 is the lowest of the two and is located next to a small parking lot, there is no need to walk. Na Muang 2 is a little higher and requires a walk. There are many natural viewpoints around the island that offer good opportunities to take photos offshore, especially at sunset. One of the best known is a stop just north of Hin Ta – Hin Yai, around the Lamai beach area. The interior of Samui offers some good trekking routes if that is your thing.
The beaches are, of course, the main attraction of Samui. As I said before, Chaweng is the main beach, it is the longest and the sand and the sea are superior to the rest of the island. It is also the most developed with many shops, pharmacies, food and noisy nightclubs. Lamai is a neighbor of Chaweng and is somewhat quieter. A popular and more relaxed place in the north of the island is Bophut Beach. It is a more familiar beach with a more rustic town with some shops and restaurants. Off the island: there is the usual option of water sports activities, including jetskis, banana boats, etc., mainly outside Chaweng.
Ferries operate from Bophut Pier to nearby Koh Pha Ngan. This is the island famous for full moon parties and you can organize a night of stay in Koh Pha Ngan through the Samui agencies. You can also reach Koh Tao, known as the paradise of divers. You can access the beautiful Ang Thong National Marine Park from here and it is worth a day trip. You can also camp overnight, but there is no accommodation in the park. I have some photos of this spectacular location on my website.
Miscellaneous: there is a Muay Thai stadium in Chaweng City, if that is your thing. There are also some sports activities such as go-karting and shooting ranges. If you are brave enough to rent a car, driving on the island's ring road is an interesting way to spend the day.
All in all, Samui has a lot to offer all tastes and budgets. Although remember that this is now an international destination and prices are generally higher than the rest of Thailand and it is too developed in some parts. Despite this, it retains much of its natural beauty that causes people to return again and again.