This coconut-clad Gulf of Thailand beauty is one of Thailand’s largest and most developed islands, humming with tourists year-round and offering a huge range of activities and entertainment for every kind of visitor. Best of all, Koh Samui has some of Thailand’s best beaches, which are well and truly in the ‘tropical’ bracket and feature stunning holiday resorts.
While Samui is mostly about the beach and water, it also has a striking interior of high mountains and lush scenery. The entertainment factor is also appealing, with a hectic nightlife in Chaweng and Lamai and also a huge number of high quality hotels and resorts. These two friendly beach towns in particular have the pick of the accommodation, especially Lamai which has world class resorts right on the beach.
Activities are numerous and typically revolve around the beach, with some nice swimming and snorkelling potential and a host of traditional water sports options like jet-skiing and parasailing. The northern beaches are quieter, but also have fewer options, plus you can also head inland for elephant trekking or swimming at waterfalls and even enjoy a game of golf on a spectacular palm-clad course.
There are a couple of excellent golf courses here, including a nine-holer right in Lamai and an 18-hole course in the north of the island. Kids can also have lots of fun in Koh Samui away from the beach as it has a zoo, an aquarium and a water park in Lamai.
Daytrips are also hugely popular, especially boat trips to neighbouring islands like Koh Phangan or to Koh Tao which has world class scuba diving. There is also some class kayaking offshore at the world renowned Ang Thong Marine Park.
As to when to go to Koh Samui, most people visit during the dry season after February (which is opposite to much of the rest of Thailand), although it remains quite busy year-round. Just avoid the November to February wet season to miss most rain, though deals can often be had at hotels at this time—Christmas and New Years are the exceptions.
Koh Samui has an excellent little airport that receives a multitude of daily flights from Bangkok, as well as from Chiang Mai, Phuket and Singapore. Taxis and shuttles run to hotels and beaches, with main hotels often providing courtesy transport. The other option is by ferry to the terminal in the west of the island. Local transport is a combination of pick-up trucks, meter taxis and motorbikes.