Koh Samui is an under-utilised destination in Thailand. This idyllic, yet still populous island is often forgotten amongst the country's better-known destinations.
Despite being only an hour from the capital, Koh Samui is in reality a world away. It is quieter, prettier and much more relaxing than other areas, while still possessing enough action, sights and activities to keep travellers occupied.
When it comes to experiences on Koh Samui, traveller Brian Crisp has six favourite things he loves to do when visiting.
The Big Buddha Temple
Set on a small rocky outcrop on the north coast of Samui is the island’s largest Buddha attraction, the Big Buddha Temple. The temple’s most impressive feature is a 12-metre golden Buddha statute seated in the Mara position (similar to lotus style).
Stalls selling religious artefacts, clothes, souvenirs and food can been found in the bustling courtyard under the statue. Be sure to dress modestly at this religious shrine so you don’t offend the Thai locals that pay their respects daily.
While in Samui take a Thai cooking class and dazzle your friends with your new-found skills when you get home. I participated in a cooking class at the hotel where I was staying and it was great, so check with your hotel first as some are now running classes by their elite Thai chefs.
There are also cooking classes that encourage the kids to get involved. Most classes start with an interesting tour of the local food markets where you will find plenty of weird and wonderful things to keep your kids enthralled. Browse a range of local companies for a comprehensive list of cooking classes for couples, teens and children. Prices range from around $75 to $120.
Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park
Spend a day touring the spectacular scenery in the Ang Thong Marine Park. There are 42 islands in this archipelago with palm-fringed pristine white beaches, towering limestone cliffs and lush green vegetation to explore.
Breathtaking scenes from Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie, The Beach, were filmed in this stunning park. Most day tours include lunch and speed boats are the best choice as they will allow you more time at your destination stops to snorkel, canoe or just soak up the sun on a deserted beach.
Before booking, check whether they supply snorkelling equipment and if they have child life jackets and equipment for all ages.
Koh Samui Beaches
Chawenga is one of the most popular beaches on Koh Samui. Here you will find a busy enclave with the longest beach on the island and the sand is powder soft and the water sports plentiful. There is also an abundance of bars, restaurants and clubs to sample and the shopping is the best on the island.
If you are looking for a beautiful beach with a more laid-back atmosphere, but still want good dining options, try Lamai Beach. Or, if you are keen to escape the hustle and bustle, head to Bophut Beach and Maenam Beach.
Scooter Or Moped
A great way to see this small island is by moped or scooter. The roads are not too bad by Asian standards and there are some spectacular beaches, hilltop bars and restaurants with great views dotted along the coast.
There are plenty of bike shops where you can hire them or simply hire it through your hotel. You will need an international driver’s licence and make sure you are fully covered by your insurance and always wear a helmet. Scooter/moped hire starts around $6 per day.
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Paradise Park Farm
This animal park is a great place to take your kids. Perched atop of Pom Mountain with stunning hinterland views that stretch to the Gulf of Thailand this property is more than eight hectares. Home to an abundance of bird life, guests can feed the birds at leisure and have their photographs taken with some of the talented talking parrots.
There’s also a lovely infinitely pool with great views where you can happily bob around for an hour or so. The park has a children’s playground, restaurant, bar and plenty of friendly furry friends to pet.
Paradise Park has a shuttle bus service that will pick you up from your hotel. Entry fee, including hotel transfers, starts at around $43 for adults and $35 for kids (aged three to 10 years).