We spent a little over a month living on Koh Samui island in Thailand. We may not have taken advantage of everything the island has to offer but we did get to experience many of the popular sites. If you’re interested in our other Thailand travels, check out Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Where to Stay
This topic comes up quite frequently when living on Koh Samui. Different parts of the area offer slightly different options. We stayed in Lamai. Considered a bit quieter than the most popular Chaweng, Lamai has some beautiful beaches. If you’re looking for more of a party scene, definitely check out Chaweng or Bo Phut. Another popular area is Fisherman’s Village. To be away from the touristy areas and a bit quieter, check out Mae Nam or Lipa Noi.
What to do on Koh Samui
Living on Koh Samui can be very laid back and relaxed. But there can be several things to see and do. As I mentioned, we didn’t see everything because we mainly focused on work and relaxed. So this will include some activities we did and some that we skipped but are still recommended.
1. Visit the beaches
Koh Samui has some gorgeous beaches. Word of warning though, depending on the time of year you arrive, you may experience a lot of trash washed up on shore. This is what happened to us when we arrived. We arrived December 10th which still happened to be part of the rainy season. The island had been getting a lot of rain and wind around the time we arrived which contributed to there being an unfortunate amount of trash washed ashore.
But a week or so after we arrived, the weather turned beautiful and the trash was mostly gone. So don’t let it deter you, but be aware. Anyway, the beaches are beautiful for most of the year (from my understanding). We loved Lamai Beach. Crystal Bay also has a reputation for its beauty.
2. Check out the night markets
Not as large as night markets in Chiang Mai or Bangkok, Koh Samui still has some good markets to explore. One of the largest is the night market in Fisherman’s Village. As of writing this (March 2023), the night market is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 5 PM. There is also a night market in Chaweng near Central Samui mall but we never got there so don’t know how good it is. Unfortunately, the night market in Lamai was impacted by the pandemic resulting in it being much smaller in size. However, by the time we were leaving in January 2023, they were relocating and hoping to rebuild it. Let us know if that happened!
3. Take a jungle safari
A fun experience is riding through the jungle on top of a jeep! We went with Mr. Ung’s Magical Safari and has a blast. This is a great way to knock out several local sites on Samui. We booked through Viator and it cost us around $50 USD per person. It was a 7 hour tour that included lunch.
The tour takes you to:
- Hin Ta Hin Yai (Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks)
- Wat Khunaram (the mummified monk)
- Na Muang Waterfall where you can swim
- Tarnim Magic Garden. After the gardens you will engage in a water fight with the other vehicles while driving through the jungle. It was so much fun but be prepared to get soaked.
- Pra Buddha Dīpankara (the highest point on the mountain)
- Wat Phra Yai (The big Buddha statue)
- Finally ending at Wat Plai Laem
After Wat Plai Laem you are returned back to your accommodations.
4. Boat trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park
On New Year’s Day we took an all day cruise to Ang Thong National Marine Park. We booked with Get Your Guide (not sponsored) for a semi-private tour. The price was about $116 USD per person. However it did not include price for entry into the marine park, which was 300 Baht (~$9 USD) per person. Also, kayaking was a separate price of 250 Baht (~$7 USD) per person.
From Koh Samui they take you out to several different locations in the marine park. They provided both a light breakfast and lunch. Thankfully they offered sea-sickness medication as the morning was very choppy. We got pretty nauseous, especially when trying to eat breakfast. Next you can kayak to a smaller island for some swimming. Again, due to lots of garbage, this was a bit of a let down. We even found broken glass bottles in the water. So neither of us felt comfortable walking in or swimming around. This may not be everyone’s experience, but something to keep in mind.
Next we arrived at Ko Mae Ko island for a beautiful viewpoint of the emerald lagoon. Finally we ended at a location for snorkeling. Again, a bit of a disappointment to be honest. Overall, I’m not sure the trip was worth it. Aside from the initial morning choppy waters and nausea, the boat ride itself was enjoyable and we got a beautiful sunset. But, other than the emerald lagoon, the rest was disappointing and sad because of the trash.
My suggestion is to do your research before booking. Or instead, research taking a trip to another island like Koh Tao, Koh Madsum (pig island) or Koh Nang Yuan.
5. Get a massage
One of the must do things in Thailand is to get a massage. You can find places all over the island but one of our favorite places was Riverside. Very relaxing atmosphere and professional staff.
Places to Eat on Koh Samui
Thailand is known for its delicious food. While living on Koh Samui you can indulge in western-style food or enjoy delicious local meals. There are many choices on the island. Our absolute favorite place to go was Thai Kitchen located on Had Lamai Rd. Great prices for amazing quality. Lots of fresh veggies and large portions. The woman who runs it, Tat, is the sweetest. Just keep in mind if it is busy you may have to wait awhile. Tat runs the place by herself. My favorite meal there was the cashew chicken!
Another favorite of ours was a place called Pad Thai. Strangely enough it was their chicken and rice that had us coming back. Located on Lamai Road next to La Fabrique Bakery. We originally went as a recommendation for the pad Thai but they happened to be out when we went. So we got the chicken and rice. I’m so glad we did because it was THE best! Though the chicken and rice were delicious on their own, it was the homemade chili sauce that makes this place special. Anyway, you can enjoy a plate of their chicken and rice for 50-55 Baht (~$1.45 to $1.60 USD) per person.
Next up, for some western food definitely check out Emporio Caffe. The owner is originally from Rome and the pasta is incredible. The carbonara and bolognese were amazing. If you’re looking for a good burger, check out Let’s Eat. Fresh burgers and friendly staff.
For some healthier options, check out Lamphu Kitchen and Punch it Healthy Cafe. However, these places tend to be on the higher price side but offer delicious healthy options. For breakfast/brunch, you can head over to The Hub. This is also a good option for working. Sean also said that Codwhoppa – English Restaurant had good breakfast. I wouldn’t know, I never ate there. Finally, our favorite cafe by the beach was SIWA cafe. They also put on a fire show every Tuesday and Friday night. Definitely not the best food but the drinks were good and the view even better.