Why Koh Samui? Why are we travelling to the island that is so famous for mass ‘packaged’ tourism, large hotel bunkers and long nights? Well, basically, it all boils down to the weather. In June, rainy season is on Thailand’s west coast, so the choice fell on the east coast. The truth is, we just wanted to get a picture of Koh Samui for ourselves. We wanted to see if we could dispel those myths so many backpackers seem to have when contemplating Koh Samui.
Our conclusion? Koh Samui is a giant mix of everything Thailand has to offer: there are crowded sun-bathing beaches as well as deserted bays. There are run-down, dodgy bars and bars that are so great that you want to stay forever. There are mediocre tourist restaurants in one corner and street food at the next.
In short, there is something for everyone and no matter what you are looking for, you can find it on Koh Samui. You just need to know where! Here, we reveal our insider tips for Koh Samui.
Our Hotel Tip: Amari Koh Samui
We spent the first four nights in the hotel Amari Koh Samui. The hotel is located on the east coast on the beach of Chaweng Yai in the very quiet northern section. Compared to the centre of Chaweng, there are no party noises here, in fact it’s very tranquil.
The location of the hotel is perfect for exploring the island: you can get to the Fisherman’s Village in the north and to the Big Buddha fairly fast with the scooter, on the other hand, heading south for example to Lamai Beach, is also not so far.
We have seen many beaches on Koh Samui, but the beach in front of the Amari Hotel was actually, up till very recently, one of our favourites! The sand is so fine and white, like nowhere else on the island. The downside: at low tide (especially in May and June) the beaches on the east coast aren’t very suitable for swimming. That didn’t bother us too much personally, but you should just be aware of that.
The rooms were newly renovated in 2016. Although modern in style, they still kept a certain traditional charm, which we thought was great and we felt very comfortable from the first moment. We found the bed to be incredibly comfortable, the bathroom was very spacious and we even had a coffee machine in the room.
The breakfast is above average for Asian standards, with a rather large selection, but not too much, and the quality is just right. We were always looking forward to the delicious fresh fruit and the “bread pudding” the night before. We also found the lovely Amaya Café, which also belongs to the hotel. They do really good coffee!
You can check out the hotel here: Amari Koh Samui
The Best Spots and Insider Tips on Koh Samui
This is somewhere you absolutely must visit. The Jungle Club is tucked away in the hilly backcountry of Koh Samui so if you’re going by scooter, it’s going to be one very adventurous ride! You should definitely be well versed and rather confident in your scootering abilities – however, 100% worth the effort and stress of getting there!
At the top you have a great view of the Chaweng bay. The coconut tastes twice as good, no, three times as good! On a side note, you can also stay at the Jungle Club, but most just come for a drink.
Information about the Jungle Club
Getting there: we recommend going by scooter. Along the ring road, coming from the north, turn right (just after the Sheraton Hotel sign). Then you just keep following the signposts. Tip: you should be rather experienced with scooters, because the road is pretty steep towards the end.
Prices: 350 baht for a fresh coconut, an iced tea and a portion of Thai spring rolls
Probably the coolest sunset bar in Koh Samui is located on the northwestern tip. The owners of Beryl Bar are extremely relaxed – hectic is a foreign word here. We only got two Chang-beers at the bar and sat down on the stones – this moment alone, made the journey worthwhile.
Information about the Beryl Bar
Getting there: From the ring road, coming from the east (Chaweng), take a right turn to reach the Beryl Bar. The short path is bumpy and sandy, but easily accessible by scooter. Altogether you need about 40 minutes by scooter from Chaweng.
Prices: 80 baht for a small beer
Excursion to the Ang Thong Marine National Park
Our day trip to the Ang Thong Marine National Park was one of the highlights during our time on Koh Samui. The archipelago lies to the west of Koh Samui and consists of a total of 42 islands, of which only one is inhabited.
You can explore the pristine beaches of Ang Thong Marine National Park as part of a boat tour. We went with the crew from Boutique Yachting and we would highly recommend them.
Big Buddha and Wat Plai Laem
Of course, the Big Buddha is not an insider tip, as it is one of the most important and main sights on Koh Samui. Our verdict: we would definitely recommend a visit. Once you have made it past the 70+ steps, you will be rewarded with a beautiful view of the Bo Phut beach.
In the evening, when the sun is not burning so strongly, a visit is especially worthwhile. Another tip: If you are already in the area, then take a look at the nearby Wat Plai Laem.
Information about the visit of the Big Buddha
How to get there: The Big Buddha is located on a small offshore island in northeastern Koh Samui. As it’s joined by roads, you can easily reach the Big Buddha with the scooter, otherwise you can also take a shared taxi (= “Songthaew”).
Fisherman’s Village Walking Street
The very touristic weekly Walking Street at the Fisherman’s Village, is still very much well worth a visit. It takes place every Friday evening from about 5pm to 11pm.
They sell mostly souvenirs, clothes and accessories. The Walking Street is not a classic food market, but there are also a few booths that offer Pad Thai, Pancakes or Thai sweets.
More tips for your trip to Koh Samui
If you travel primarily to the south of Thailand, then we can highly recommend the Rough Guide to “Thailand’s Beaches and Islands“. We brought the guide along on this trip and we were very satisfied. The focus is primarily on the south of Thailand, but there is also a very detailed chapter about Bangkok.
The most comfortable but also the most expensive is getting there by plane. The airport is located in the east of the island and is truly the most idyllic we have ever seen. Note: the taxi prices from the airport are really over the top. For the 10-minute drive to our hotel in Chaweng, we would have had to pay 500 baht, which we negotiated down to 400 cash.
Alternatively, you can also travel by boat from the mainland (Chumpon or Surat Thani). The Lomprayah boats are what we usually go with and we haven’t encountered any problems so far.
We ate so well on Koh Samui! One place we would highly recommended is the small Thai restaurant Khaw Glong, which is within walking distance to Amari Hotel.
Anyone who longs for healthy “hipster” dishes is in good hands at the Vikasa Life Café. It belongs to the yoga studio of the same name and offers a wonderful view of the coast and very tasty vegetarian and vegan food.
Renting a scooter on Koh Samui: Our tips
To be honest, we’ve explored countless places in Thailand by scooter. However, Koh Samui is one of the most dangerous places in our opinion. Above all, the ring road, which leads around the island, is quite unpleasant to drive, especially in certain sections where you are constantly being overtaken by trucks. Traffic on the roads is generally very busy.
On one of our last days, we talked to an expat who confirmed our fears. In his five years on Koh Samui, he has lost a total of three friends on the roads here. He recommended that we rent a car in the future. Yes that would be a bit more expensive, but also much safer. If you rent a scooter, just know that while it is super nice riding around in the evenings, this is also the time many tourists and locals drive drunk. So just be careful!
On the other hand, it is also a legal requirement to wear a helmet, which the majority of tourists and locals ignore. Since the helmets given out by scooter rentals are usually a joke. This time we bought some from the big Tesco/Lotus supermarket (near Chaweng). We consider the 300 and 500 baht well invested.
For 24 hours, you can expect to pay anywhere between 250 and 300 Baht. It also requires a deposit of some sort (we always leave Kathi’s driver’s license there – she does not need it as Romeo drives most of the time). Remember that in Thailand, people drive on the LEFT side, so it does take a while to get used to. Topping up the petrol is also very convenient at the gas stations (which cost about 28 baht/litre) or there are many small shops that also offer gasoline in litre bottles at 50 baht.
Transparency: Affiliate Links
We were invited by the wonderful Hotel Amari Koh Samui for a four night stay, which we are very thankful for. We would definitely come back again! Thank you also to Boutique Yachting for inviting us out for an amazing day trip to the Marine National Park. This blog article contains affiliate links, so if you buy or book through these link, we will get a small commission. This does not change the price for you at all.
Has anyone ever been to Koh Samui? We would love to hear about your experience and/or more tips about this place!