First time tourists to Thailand often blindly opt for Phuket as the destination for their beach holiday, since it has established itself as the leader of the ultimate tropical getaway in Asia. However, many do not know that Koh Samui, the largest island in the Chumphon Archipelago, has almost everything Phuket has to offer, while maintaining spotless white beaches, non-existent traffic and a far more unique nightlife experience. With outstanding local and international cuisine offerings, sublime diving spots and several peaceful religious and cultural sites to explore, Koh Samui welcomes all kinds of traveler.
Which beach you go to in Koh Samui depends on what you’re looking to do; Chewang Beach is the party hotspot on the island, with dozens of beach bars and clubs as well as resorts, restaurants and water sport operators, and Lamai Beach has a similar offering, but with a much more chilled-out vibe. However, if you are looking for something a little more peaceful, go up to the north of the island, where you can find Mae Nam Beach, dotted with coconut trees and known for its tranquility, or Bophut Beach, home to a fishers’ village.
Another great bonus of Koh Samui is the easily accessible surrounding islands. Koh Tao and Koh Nangyuan are famous for their gorgeous corals and clear, shallow waters, allowing for a tantalizing snorkelling experience. Tip: Why not explore the islands for a day? Take a speed boat trip to Koh Tao and Koh Nangyuan, and enjoy a day of snorkelling and beach exploration!
Over the years, the Thai islands have built up quite a reputation for being the place for a hedonistic adventure, with many beach bars operating from noon onwards, raging night clubs that never quite seem to lose energy and the legendary Full Moon Party. Chewang Beach plays host to some of the most sought-after dance clubs on Koh Samui, such as Soi Green Mango and Soi Reggae, while Bophut Beach contains quaint, cozy dive bars, such as the Emerald Irish Pub.
If you arrive in time for the full moon, there’s no better place to be than Koh Phangan; this next door neighbor of Koh Samui hosts the main Full Moon Party, which has grown to become the largest beach party in the world! With fire sticks and buckets filled with booze, the place tends to get rather rowdy, so make sure you’re careful with your belongings! Even if you don’t want to be part of the Full Moon Party experience, Koh Phangan also has tons of chilled-out bars and cafes, as well as beautiful cultural sites to visit too.
Home to several venerated sites, Koh Samui is also ideal for travellers looking for a touch of island culture; since tourists often go to Koh Samui for the beach or party experience, these sites are usually stumbled upon rather than part of a planned visit – but it’s always good to break the mold, right? Wat Khunaram is perhaps the most famous temple on the island, with the main attraction here being a mummified monkey that rests inside. Near to Bophut Beach you’ll find the island’s Big Buddha, a 15m long gold statue, that sits upon a hill overlooking the sea. The rather phallic Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks are also amongst the island’s most iconic attractions, with mysterious legends surrounding the rocks (which any nearby local is usually willing to divulge!) For a more offbeat experience, be sure to visit the Secret Buddha Garden; dotted with Buddha statues and lush greenery, the garden has a sense of mystique. Topped with the fact that it is the highest point on the island, the garden makes a perfect vantage point for panoramic views of the island and surrounding ocean.