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Things to Do in Koh Samui

With its white-sand beaches hemmed in by coconut palms, private beach resorts reachable only by boat, and swathes of lush rainforest; Koh Samui comes as close to paradise as anywhere in Thailand. Marooned off the Gulf of Thailand coast and reachable by ferry from Chumphon and Surat Thani, Samui island is the largest of the Chumphon archipelago, and ranks second only to Phuket for the title of Thailand’s most visited island. On the east coast, Chaweng beach is the island’s party hub, lined with beach bars, nightclubs, and 5-star resorts, while Lamai Beach, Choeng Mon Beach, and Bophut offer more laid-back alternatives. Away from the beach, dramatic viewpoints abound, with highlights including Na Muang Waterfall, the Hin Ta and Hin Yai rocks, and the dazzling gold façade of Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai). The island also makes a popular basecamp for exploring the surrounding islands and speedboats plow the route between Koh Phangan, host of Thailand’s notorious Full Moon parties, and Koh Tao, a popular scuba diving and snorkeling spot. Off the west coast, a sea kayaking or snorkeling tour of Ang Thong National Marine Park—a cluster of jungle-clad islands, ringed by jagged rocks, sandy coves, and a rainbow of coral—is perhaps the most enchanting option for a day trip.
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Koh Tan (Koh Taen)
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In stark contrast to its famed northerly neighbor, tiny and sleepy Koh Tan tempts visitors with empty beaches and vehicle-less roads just three miles and a 15-minute boat ride south of Koh Samui’s southern tip. Koh Tan (also spelled Koh Taen, Ko Taen, and Ko Tan) is sometimes also called Coral Island for its diversity of colorful hard and soft corals, and it often serves as a popular day-long escape for snorkel or kayak excursions through its clear inshore waters. Though the island doesn’t have quite the aquatic diversity of other more remote locations, it still affords excellent snorkeling, relatively empty beaches and navigable mangrove swamps all very close to a major tourist hub. Longboats make the crossing daily and usually stop at several unique coral spots around the island.

On land, Koh Tan spans only three square miles, and its population barely tops 30 people; their rustic lifestyle with limited electricity affords a glimpse of what much of Thai Island-living was like decades ago. Koh Tan also has a thriving population of monitor lizards, a boardwalk through a mangrove forest, a quaint local temple, a handful of local restaurants and a cluster of bungalow-style accommodations.

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Na Muang Waterfall
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Nestled among Koh Samui’s central mountains, the Na Muang Waterfall has two tiers: a lower stretch that’s easily reachable and falls into a lovely natural pool, and a higher tier that requires a 30-minute hike. The falls are set among lush jungle surroundings, and access to the site is free.

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Ang Thong National Marine Park
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The 42 karst islets of Ang Thong National Marine Park (Mu Koh Ang Thong) in southern Thailand comprise a picturesque seascape spanning more than 95 square miles (246 square kilometers). These limestone pinnacles harbor secluded powdery beaches, sheer cliffs, and caves, and are home to myriad birds, monkeys, dolphins, and other wildlife.

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Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks (Hin Yai/Hin Ta)
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Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks - or Hin Yai/Hin Ta - are rocky outcrops on Lamai Beach. Often photographed and commented on, the rocks bear an uncanny resemblance to male and female genitalia.

The rocks are set on a lovely stretch of beach, and create tranquil rock pools when the tide is in.

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Wat Khunaram (Mummified Monk)
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Koh Samui is known for its incredible beaches, turquoise waters and sandy shores. But hidden away from the coastal wonder lies one of the most unique temples in the nation—Wat Khunaram.

While this gilded red and white temple may look typical to travelers who climb the dozen or so stairs that lead to its entryway, once inside, visitors will find a site unlike anywhere else. That’s because a vertical glass casket holds the mummified body of Loung Pordaeng—a famous monk—in his most meditative state. Locals say his meditation techniques, which required less oxygen than his peers—are responsible for his still well-preserved state. Visitors can come tour the site, learn about the life of this religious icon, and bear witness to local Buddhists praying at wat shrines.

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Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai)
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Apart from the beaches, Koh Samui’s most distinctive attraction is the golden Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai) visible above the red-tiled rooftops on the island’s north coast. The 40-foot (12-meter) Buddha statue can be seen from several miles away—even from a plane—and the site is an active place of worship.

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Secret Buddha Garden (Magic Garden)
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Deep in Koh Samui’s jungle-clad hills is the Secret Buddha Garden (Magic Garden), where a waterfall tumbles past stone sculptures of the Buddha. The oasis was created by local durian farmer Nim Thongsuk, whose tomb sits among the carvings of Buddhist spirits, musicians, and animals.

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Aow Leuk Beach
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Travelers looking for seclusion and solitude on Koh Tao, one of Thailand’s most popular islands don’t have it easy. But on the southeastern side of the island, between the Sai Daeng Beach to the north and the Tanote Beach to the south lies the 200 meter long Aow Leuk beach. This stretch of sand is difficult to reach, and because of that, the tourist crowds stay away. Aow Leuk offers crystal clear waters and the peace and serenity necessary to forget everyday life and recover from stress. The bay is shallow, surrounded by the islands typical, fine white sand and big boulders and due to the low depths, is a protected site and a great place for snorkeling and training dives to see luminous butterflyfish, blue angelfish and parrotfish among the corals.

The beach prides itself on being very clean and it is accordingly not allowed to bring your own picnic. But there are a few small, family-run bungalows and a restaurant, so you won’t have to worry about basic necessities, such as food, drinks or snorkel-rentals while still being well away from the crowds.

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Chaweng Beach
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Chaweng Beach - or Hat Chaweng - is Koh Samui’s most popular, longest and perhaps most lovely beach.

Clear blue-green sea, palm trees, coral reefs and lively nightlife come together to create a laid-back party atmosphere at Chaweng, the second biggest resort hub on the island.

Drinks are sold on the beach by passing vendors and there are water sports for every taste, from windsurfing to water skiing.

Dive operators run tours from Chaweng Beach, and this is where you’ll find most of the island’s nightclubs and bars. At beachfront restaurants you can dine right on the sand as the sun sets over the sea.

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Lamai Beach
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Lamai Beach vies with Chaweng for title of Koh Samui’s prettiest beach, especially along its less coral-strewn southern stretches.

Less developed than Chaweng, and therefore more tranquil and relaxed, Lamai offers year-round swimming and the interesting formations of the granite Grandmother and Grandfather rocks.

It’s a good spot to look for resort accommodation and tasty restaurants on Koh Samui.

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More Things to Do in Koh Samui

High Park Samui

High Park Samui

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Set on a hill in Chaweng, High Park Samui is a small water park with an adventure zone that also hosts regular pool parties and foam parties. Besides several pools, two large slides, two climbing walls, a zipline, a freefall vertical drop, and bumper-car drift racing, enjoy massages, sunset views, DJs, and food and drink.

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Butterfly Hill Samui

Butterfly Hill Samui

The tropically landscaped hillside grounds at the Butterfly Hill @ Samui are home to hundreds of colorful butterflies, as well as insects, moths and bees.

Tropical flowers add to the exotic Garden of Eden setting, and views from this hilltop position take in the island and the sea.

Take a walk to a trickling waterfall, and have your camera ready to snap pictures of the butterflies you’ll see.

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Samui Water Park Pink Elephant

Samui Water Park Pink Elephant

Samui Water Park Pink Elephant boasts an impressive 15 slides, including the Twister and Superbowl high slides. With a wave pool, lazy river, food and drink outlets, and Jacuzzis, it’s the island’s dominant water park. This family-friendly venue has plenty to offer younger children in particular.

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