First-time Koh Samui: Must-Sees (and Off-The-Beaten-Path)

I’ve been busy planning my trip to Thailand. Unfortunately, I have to skip Koh Phi Phi and other beaches on the Andaman Sea due to the rainy season, already in swing in July. In turn, I’m heading to the Gulf of Thailand, which has the best weather then! Below, my first-time Koh Samui picks:

First-time Koh Samui: Where Should I Stay?

first-time Koh Samui, coral Cove Beach

Photo by Fabio Achilli, Flickr

Chaweng Beach

Being Koh Samui’s longest beach, this is where most tourists go. While not exactly my cup of tea, I’m told Chaweng is where I’ll find the best activities and nightlife. Namely, there are several zip lines over the jungle; water sports such as jet skiing, canoeing, and windsurfing; and even a monthly Full Moon Party that rivals Koh Phangan’s maybe not in size, but certainly in raucousness.

Lamai Beach

Albeit the second most popular beach, Koh Samui hotels on Lamai are more my style. They are close to several must-see sites, while still having a good selection of restaurants, clubs, and bars next door. Better yet? I won’t be bothered by troves of vendors as I would in Chaweng.

First-time Koh Samui: Must-Sees

first-time Koh Samui, big Buddha

Photo by Joy Sheehan via

Bophut’s Market

Every Friday night, this fisherman’s village turns into a pedestrian-only market. Anything from clothing, souvenirs, local artwork, and a variety of street food is on offer. It’s certainly the best venue to experience the island’s local flair.

Wat Plai Laem

Between Choeng Mon Beach and Bophut is an ornate complex, encompassing three one-of-a-kind temples. Guanyin statues, a smiling Buddha, and 18 Chinese-style armed Goddesses will sprinkle my beach break with history and culture.

Wat Khunaram

A well-preserved mummified monk, donning Ray Bans, is not something you see every day. Lovingly known as “The Eternal Monk,” rumor has it that no preservatives were used on his body. This temple is worth a visit as well since I can receive the blessing of a real monk.

Magic Garden

A jungle oasis on the northeast of the island, enclosing an impressive 12-meter golden Buddha. Also known as the Secret Buddha Garden, its walking trails, hidden statues, and waterfall make it a perfect half-day trip.

Koh Tao

Some of the most spectacular, cheapest diving in the world is a short one-hour ferry ride from Koh Samui. Koh Tao’s trails and awe-inspiring viewpoints are also a draw. Given that I can’t visit Koh Phi Phi, I’m happy to see this island is a superb (and likely less crowded) alternative. Heck, I’m debating whether to make it my trip’s base!

First-time Koh Samui: Off-The-Beaten-Path

Koh Tan, first-time Koh Samui

Photo via, CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 NL

Buddha’s Footprints

Nearby Butterfly Garden lies another relaxing spot: a hilltop shrine that features four layered, beautifully-detailed Buddha footprints. It’s a heart-pumping hike, due to the amount of stairs to climb, and a stunning lookout once on top.

Koh Taen

Net fishing and crowds pushed me away from well-known Angthong National Park. Instead, I’ll rent a traditional long-tail boat and spend a quiet day snorkeling at Koh Taen. Said to be the last unspoiled island near Koh Samui, I’ll enjoy its seclusion and teeming marine life.

This post is part of the #HipmunkCityLove series

This entry was posted in Thailand by Maria Alexandra. Bookmark the permalink.

About Maria Alexandra

Maria Laborde, aka latinAbroad, is an open-minded, highly-energetic woman with the spirit of a child. A world citizen, Puerto Rican at heart, carrier of an American passport. A passionate translator and writer, sprinkling Latin spice around the world!

One thought on “First-time Koh Samui: Must-Sees (and Off-The-Beaten-Path)

  1. Hi Maria,

    I’ve only heard awesome things about Koh Tao. We lived beside an ex-pat couple in Pak Nam Pran for months. They’ve been everywhere in Thailand, multiple times, and say that Koh Tao is about their favorite place in Thailand, and on earth! We’re visiting on our next Thai trip.

    Tweeting and Pinning from Bali.


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