Ko Samui is certainly one of Thailand’s favorite islands among foreign visitors. All enjoy Ko Samui’s atmosphere and sandy beaches, all activities on offer, the quality and variety of restaurants, bakery shops, and a wide range of accommodation from budget hotels or guesthouses to some of the best five-star luxury resorts in the world.
Let’s go discover some of them, but first let’s head to the nearby Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park, which is the second largest national marine park in Thailand. The archipelago is a one-hour speedboat trip away from Nathon Pier on the west coast and offers beautiful landscapes and paradise beaches.
There are one-day boat tours which are better if they leave in the early morning when the weather is cooler and less tourists, or it is possible to spend the night in a bungalow or tent at the Visitors Centre on Ko Wuatalap, or stay in one of the resorts on Ko Phaluai (advance booking recommended for both).
Coming for the day or several days, there are two unmissable spots. First, the amazing viewpoint on the top of Ko Wuatalap. The 500-metre climb to get up there is quite harsh, count at least 30 minutes to reach the summit, but you will be rewarded with a spectacular panoramic viewpoint of most of the 42 islands.
Then, Thale Nai which means the “inside sea” on Ko Mae Ko. Walking up the steep stairs leading to the highest point offering a view over the turquoise saltwater of this large lagoon encircled in limestone cliffs takes approximately 15 minutes. Then, you can go down to this natural pool but swimming is forbidden.
Another highly recommended and a little more secret even if it becomes a more and more popular boat trip from Ko Samui is the one that departs from Thongkrut Beach on a traditional Thai longtail boat and goes to Ko Taen 3 kilometres away.
The boat stops first at the coral reef facing the island to let its passengers dive in the water for a nice time snorkelling surrounded by many types of multi-coloured fish. Then, it lands on the long white sands of the east coast for some beach time, and for those who want something different, they can walk through the mangrove and up to the white Big Buddha. After this, the longtail heads to Ko Madsum, just a few hundred metres further. The island became very popular thanks to the wild pigs chilling on the beach that are in great demand to take selfies. Once the epic picture is saved in the smartphone, it is a nice place for relaxing, swimming, renting a kayak, or just having a drink or a snack.
Some tours go to Ko Madsum first then move to Ko Taen just before sunset to watch hundreds of fruit bats flying out a cave every night to hunt for food on Ko Samui.
The interior of the island has many fruit orchards and plantations. Discovering it by driving on the small and dirt roads is quite an adventure. It will take you wandering between the coconut groves, durian and rubber plantations, the hills, viewpoints and hidden waterfalls.
Open the inland tour by reaching Wat Theepangkorn built on the highest point of the island. The standing Big Buddha’s platform or the top of the pagoda offers a unique view over Lamai and Chaweng Beaches.
Walk along a little trail in the forest to one of the waterfalls hidden in the jungle and jump in to freshen up. Visit the Secret Buddha Garden that is also sometimes called the Tarnim Magic Garden, a lovely private little park with many statues of Buddha and other religious or legendary characters before having lunch sitting on the nearby Giant Summit Restaurant’s terrace, while enjoying the stunning view over Bang Kao beach. Stop at the Overlap Stone for another nice viewpoint. Meet coconut and rubber producers working on your way down to the main road. Pay homage to Wat Khunaram’s mummified monk wearing sunglasses then visit the atypical Wat Sila Ngu nicknamed the red temple and finish your day sipping a cocktail at the Jungle House bar, which probably offers the best panorama in Ko Samui.
For the inside tour of the island, the first part from the top viewpoint with the standing Buddha to the Overlap Stone, the roads are dirt roads that are often bumpy and is only recommended for skilled scooter drivers or go with a 4×4 vehicle. Alternatively, and for safety, several tour agencies offer trips to those places and more.