Koh Samui is an idyllic island situated in the Southern Gulf of Thailand just off the coast of Surrat-Thani. The beautiful destination has seen huge amounts of development in the last decade developments are located around the tourist hotspots but there are some great ones dotted around the isl and this tourism boom has transformed several areas from rustic seaside villages into bustling beach towns thriving with tourists.
Attracting almost 1 million international tourists each year, as well as thousands of Thais, Samui island is a vacation hotspot for people from all over the globe. While some of the island is heavily populated and bustling with life, there are still several beaches and many other places lining the cliffs, and further inland, that are away from the crowds.
Undoubtedly, the beaches on Samui are one of the island's main attractions. With over 12 beaches and several more rocky points and bays, you'll find accommodation set in paradise around every corner.
Those looking for non-stop action and nightlife during their stay typically head to the tourist hotspot of Chaweng, located on the island's east cost. Just south of Chewang is the slightly less populated, but also popular, Lamai beach.
Situated on the northern coast is the fishing village of Boh Phut, where Bang Rak (Big Buddha) Beach is located, whilst the less populated beaches of Leam Yai, Mea Nam and Choeng Mong, make up the rest of the northern shores.
The southern coast is home to several quieter bays including Thong Krut, Bang Kao, Ban Hua Thanon, Lean Set and Na Kahi, while the town of Nathorn and the bay of Taling Nam make up the island's west coast - where Samui's main ports and piers are located.
Roads run around the perimeter of the island, with taxi rides (songteaw in Thai) starting around 50 baht person, up to 100-150 depending on how far you'd like to travel. These public songteaws can be chartered for personal trips, however you'll have to bargain with the drivers to get a good price. Note that this type of transport can be more expensive for runs to and from the airport or pier.
Inland roads connect the perimeter, but be warned, some can be rather treacherous and shouldn't be tackled by anyone who hasn't had experience driving on such terrain.
Boasting tourist facilities and amenities available all over the island, the palm fringes coastlines, lush inland coconut fields and stunning mountain peaks make Samui an idyllic island for couples, familiesï¿½, natural lovers, backpackers and partygoers.
With the ever-growing tourist industry, Samui hotels cater to travellers from all walks of life. From 5 star beach or mountain resorts, to guesthouses and bungalows, the island has wide range of accommodation to choose from.
Samui has seen a huge increase in the number of high-end hotels, resorts and villas that have been built on the island. There are also a number luxury condos and serviced apartments catering to those staying long term.
4-5 start hotels and private villas can be found on almost all beaches. Mountainside lodgings with breathtaking views are also extremely popular accommodations for those who seeking nothing but peace during their stay.
Samui's high-end hotels provide all modern facilities including pools, Jacuzzis, spas and Thai massages. Some also have sporting facilities such as gyms, tennis courts, and volleyball courts. Many places also offer wedding packages for an unforgettable ceremony on the beach.
Cheaper guesthouse and hotels can be found off the main streets of Chaweng and Lamai, since there's lots of competition around these parts. Other budget accommodations are typically located further inland, although it is still possible to find cheaper rooms with a sea view in the quieter areas of the island.
Whilst there is certainly no shortage of places to stay, advanced booking is always recommended to avoid disappointment, especially around in the peak holiday season.
The beaches are not the only areas that attract holidaymakers to the island. Located throughout the island there are many exclusive mountain resorts and secluded retreats, guesthouses and bungalows that specialize in providing a more private experience for guests.
With hotels, beach bungalows, and guesthouses to suit everyone's budget, Samui truly has something to offer for everyone.
Since Koh Samui is the third largest island in the country it's no wonder that there's an abundance of activities to part take in.
With so many beaches, watersports are on offer at almost everywhere. Most seaside resorts and hotels offer canoes and kayaks for rent, as well as snorkeling gear. Some places rent out jet skis, offer banana boating and parasailing rides.
Scuba diving is another activity that's extremely popular with tourists. With so many neighboring islands all with great spots to dive, Samui is a great place to experienced divers and for those who want to learn and earn a PADI certificate.
When it comes to nature, the island Samui has plenty. The island is home to five waterfalls. These can be reached by taxi, day tour, or by renting a van or motorbike (if you're competent enough to drive). The most impressive waterfalls are Na Muang 1 and 2, and Hin Laad. There are also many stunning view-points that can be found at Yaod Khao, View Top, Samui Everest, Samui Bayview, Best Mountain View, Beverly Hills and Woodland Park View.
Visitor wishing to witness the islands wildlife first hand can enjoy a day out elephant trekking, at the snake farm, butterfly garden and/or safari park.
Samui is home to several temples and cultural sites such as the impressive golden Buddha statue on the coast of Bang Rak beach (a.k.a Big Buddha Beach). One of the island's most important shrines is the glistening chedi at Leam Sor Pagoda. Wat Khunaram and Wat Kiri Wongkaram both house mummified bodies of Thailand's most revered monks and Wat Sumret is an ancient temple that houses a large and valuable collection of Buddha images.
Those looking for a relaxing experience can enjoy numerous mind and body therapies such as traditional massages, herbal spa treatments, yoga, as well as other beauty and fitness treatments.
More adventurous travellers will find a haven of activities including paint balling, go karting, ATV off-roading driving courses and rock climbing. Car, 4x4's, motorbike and ATV are available to rent by the day, and many of the roads of Samui are reasonably well built, so it's a great place to do some exploring, on or off the beaten path.
Koh Samui hosts great Muay Thai fight nights and has numerous places offering Muay Thai courses for those who want to learn.
Those visiting the island will also find a number of other creative learning centers on the island offering courses in Thai cooking, Thai language and yoga.
The Ang Thong National Marine Park is another major attraction for those visiting Samui. The nearby archipelago of 42 islands, lays almost untouched and is home to an abundance of wildlife such as dolphins and whales, Blacktip reef sharks, Parrot fish, Butterfly fish and Angel fish.
The beaches and surround seas of the Ang Thong Islands are arguable some of the most beautiful in Thailand. The island of Koh Mae is home to a majestic emerald lagoon, the beautiful Thale Nai beach and an excellent viewpoint. Day trips to these islands come in varying packages, some include diving and snorkeling, others that simply head to beaches to eat drink and relax.
Much closer to Samui is the island of Koh Pha-ngan - home to the world famous Full Moon Parties, Koh Tao - one of the best places for diving in Thailand, and Nang Yuan, a beautiful little island made up of three points connected by sand banks.
Much of Samui's nightlife is located in the bustling beach town of Chaweng. Here you'll find endless restaurants, bars and club catering to Thai's and tourists alike.
Some places focus more on eating and drinking together with live music, whilst other pump out the latest pop songs or dance tracks to get party goers moving. Samui is a popular stop on the South East Asian tour for many international DJs, and for that reason there can be some great club nights on the island when superstars grace the turntables.
Further south of Chewang is the slightly less busy, but equally attractive beach of Lamai. Once geared more toward the backpacker crowd, there are now a number of upmarket resorts and restaurants popping up year by year. There are also several good bars and restaurants around here and it's close proximity to Chaweng makes it a popular location for those wanting to enjoy the island's nightlife.
With so many visitors from all over the world, Koh Samui restaurants cater to all tastes. Fresh seafood and Thai cuisine can be found all over the island, and is as good as anywhere in the country, but most places generally serve a mix of western and Thai dishes.
In order to cater to the wide variety of the people who visit the island there are restaurants serving almost any type of cuisine imaginable.
All hotels and resorts have onsite eateries, some of which are extremely delicious, and there are hundreds of equally impressive restaurants as you begin to look around.
Expect to find all types of food including British, German, Italian, French, Mexican, Indian, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and vegetarian. While many of these western establishments are located around the tourist hotspots, there are some fantastic places dotted around the island.
The tourist boom has also seen an increase in the amount of fast food available on the island. There are now several large franchises and other small companies providing a similar service for those who don't want sit and dine for hours.