Although the main reason for coming to Koh Samui is to kick back at the villa, sink into the beach life, relax and soak up the sun, there is much more to a holiday here. There are plenty of land and sea-based activities and tours to keep you busy and give you the chance to explore the island, try something new or just have some awesome fun.
Planning and booking
- It’s always useful to plan and book the tours or transport in advance with the villa concierge to make sure you choose a reputable company and avoid disappointment as the tours book up quickly.
- With most tours having a pickup and drop off service you don’t have to worry about finding your way there.
We have picked our top five activities to help you research and plan your island itinerary.
Ang Thong Marine Park
One of the best days’ out from Koh Samui is undoubtedly a tour to Ang Thong Marine Park – a stunning archipelago consisting of 42 islands. The islands, interspersed with limestone rock formations create an extraordinarily beautiful panorama. A tour takes you to caves, hidden lagoons, and white sand beaches with plenty of opportunities for snorkelling in glassy waters over shallow coral gardens.
Make sure your tour includes a trip to Ko Mae Ko (Mother Island) where a tough but rewarding climb affords you an amazing view across the marine park. There are many different tour companies to who offers the tour from large catamarans which ferry hundreds of people backwards and forwards to small intimate privately owned sailboats for rent. The one you choose depends on your budget, time available and the number of people in your group.
- Sea gypsies still inhabit one of the islands earning their living from fishing.
- Mammals like langurs, crab-eating monkeys, hogs, silver haired bats, dolphins, and whales and around 54 species of birds, including little herons, Brahminy kites, common sandpipers, oriental pied hornbills are found on the islands
- If there’s a group of you the best way to go to the marine park is by chartering a private speedboat. This means you can go at your own pace, avoid the crowds and enjoy a picnic on a quiet stretch of beach.
- The busiest times are from 10 – 4 pm so you can arrange to arrive a little earlier or stay later to enjoy the park to yourself.
- During the rainy season from October to November the marine park closes so take this into account when planning your trip.
Stand up Paddle Boarding Day or Night
Paddleboarding has fast become a popular new water sport. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it’s a surfboard shape board which you stand up on, or kneel of course, and paddle your way around. It sounds simple, and it is, once you have mastered how to balance! It’s a peaceful way to gently explore Samui’s coastline. As the sun sets you’ll often see people serenely paddling themselves around or even having a yoga class aboard. Paddleboarders in Koh Samui have taken it one step further and now offer guided tours at night. With LED lights and an experienced instructor to guide you, you set off just after sunset to witness the transformation of Samui’s beaches from the day to night time, light and sound show. The LED lights light up 20 m in front and 5 m below so the curious marine life will swim around you to see what’s going on!
- Due to their catamaran shaped hull which makes them super stable, you sit, stand, kneel or even lie down.
- Suitable for children above 10.
- Rescue certified guides.
For the thrill junkies, why not try the zip line cable ride through the tree canopies of the mountains of Koh Samui. A short ride in a four by four jeep takes you up the steep winding roads behind Maenam into the lush jungle where your adventure begins. Your instructor will brief you on the harness and ropes and how they work and accompany you on your treetop journey so you are always in safe hands. The zip lines take you between trees and up and down their trunks and with 2000 metres of line to experience you’ll get the closest experience to being an arboreal creature as possible! The view of the Secret falls below you as glide across is gorgeous and provides a welcome dip after the humidity of the forest.
- You can get to the zip line by hire car but the road is steep and narrow in places so better to organise a pick up from the villa. During high season they are very busy so better to book in advance too.
- Shorts and T’shirts are fine but it can be muddy so trainers or walking boots are advisable. Pack your mossie spray and swimwear too.
- Give your cameras to your guides to take the pics as you fly through the trees.
Wrap up and scrub up!
One of the delightful aspects of Thailand is the variety of herbs of spices that make up their delicious cuisine. However, it’s not just food they go into. Visit any spa and you’ll be faced with an array of oils, creams and scrubs made locally and nationally with tropical fruits, honey and sesame, or coffee and spice – good enough to eat! As part of a pamper day, try a wrap or a scrub to return a youthful glow to your skin, soothe sunburn and revitalise blood circulation. They usually last about 45 minutes and the choice of scrubs and creams depends on the treatment you feel your skin needs. First, body wraps should start with some kind of exfoliation or dry body brushing. The cream body mask is then applied and you are wrapped in plastic and covered with a blanket while the products work their magic. Afterwards, the body mask is washed off and your soft smooth skin admired. On the other hand, a body scrub lotion is an abrasive mineral, for example, sea salt or sugar, mixed with essential oils which the therapist gently rubs all over your body to exfoliate the skin. Once the scrub is washed off, the therapist will apply moisturiser to rehydrate the skin. Combining the scrub and wrap in a package is common and makes your body feel shiny and new. Unsurprisingly, one of the most common ingredients is the coconut as it’s a great natural moisturiser.
Another favourite in Samui is papaya which is renowned for its skin-exfoliating properties and is packed with vitamins. With a range of spas available in Koh Samui, there is always one to suit your budget from five-star hotel wellness spas to the small local day spas that dot the streets of Chaweng and Lamai. If you opt for the higher end, there are an array of packages to choose from with tempting names like The Romance Package, Chocoholic Delight and Stress Relief. The spa packages include a choice of massage with the wrap or scrub and often a facial or foot massage with a visit to the steam or sauna room.
- Ask the villa concierge for their spa recommendations
- Disposable underwear is often supplied or you can wear your swimwear.
- Drink lots of water before and after to help flush the toxins
- Avoid caffeine, sugar and alcohol for at least 48 hours before
- Exfoliants are abrasive by their nature, but some therapists have a heavier hand than others. If it feels too much, ask them to be softer
- Check with your GP before you leave home if you have a pre-existing medical condition.
Samui’s beach cultures
The main reason tourists flock to Koh Samui is due to its well-deserved reputation for stunning, white, sandy beaches lined with coconut palms and clear shallow waters. The beaches vary in terms of the colour of the sand, the local feel, the colour of the sea and the style of restaurants and bars so you can have a fun-filled day circling the island and discovering the different beach cultures. Starting with Lamai, which like Chaweng is one of the most developed beaches, retains a more relaxed laid back feel with its wide sandy beach and deeper swimming opportunities than Chaweng. You can pull up a deck chair and with friendly vendors offering freshly prepared barbeque corn on the cob, chicken, fish, egg rolls, fresh fruit you’ll never have to move.
Between Lamai and Chaweng, take the less trodden road and visit Thongtakian Beach, also known as Silver Beach, a small, idyllic, beach. It can’t be spotted from the road look out for signs or ask a local for directions. With soft, white powdery sand and crystal-clear shallow waters perfect for snorkelling and feels secluded and unspoiled. Moving north up to the east coast corner, the next must-visit beach is Choeng Mon, a smaller quiet bay which attracts families. Its shallow, calm waters, friendly locals and soft, white sand circled by huge granite rocks make it a very picturesque stop. Along the north coast is the long, yellow sand bay of Maenam. It started off as the back backers’ haven and although it still has old style beach bars and restaurants, more contemporary, upmarket places have moved in. With deeper sea all year round and at times a few rolling waves it’s a great option for those who love a good swim and some gentle body surfing.
Moving round to the less developed south-west coast is the quiet, secluded bay of Baan Taling Ngam. The perfect time to arrive here is sunset when the sun creates a stunning backdrop to the famous Five islands. There are a few beach bars to sit and drink in the glorious red and orange hues of the sunset and reflect on what a fabulous beach day you’ve had.
How to travel
It’s possible to get between the beaches by taxi or songtaew but they work out quite pricey. If there’s a group of you, hire a car or a minivan and driver to save time and money. Be aware that, especially during high season, parking at the popular beaches can be very difficult, whereas a driver will drop you off and pick you up when you are ready!
- The local vendor food is safe and clean so give it a go and help keep these hardworking characters in jobs.
- Although Thai people are very modest they are used to swimwear-clad tourists on Koh Samui but be respectful and put bottoms and tops on when shopping or eating in restaurants. Ladies, keep your bikini top on.
- Don’t be surprised to see Thai people swimming fully clothed. As well as modesty, they don’t like to get tanned so they cover up.