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An archipelago of limestone cliffs and evergreen forests, swooning coconut palms and endless honeyed beaches rise from Thailand’s blue-green waters.

Shady swing in Angthong National Marine ParkJust off the east coast of Thailand, Koh Samui is a jungle-capped island rising from the warm turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand. Around the island’s perimeter, you’ll find seemingly endless beaches shaded by a fringe of tall coconut palms. The shoreline combines hidden coves and long sandy stretches dotted with fishing villages and a plethora of hotels, while the interior is unspoiled mountainous jungle.

This was one of the first places in Thailand that became popular with backpackers in the 1970s. Since those early days, it has developed a robust infrastructure for visitors, catering to a wide range of tastes and styles. The island is also very accessible, thanks to direct flights from Bangkok, Hong Kong and Singapore. It’s a good place to rest at the end of a busy tour of Thailand.

All of this makes Koh Samui a good beach destination for relaxation, with options for activities both on and off the island, even in the off season. You can take advantage of the island’s varied selection of restaurants, ranging from purveyors of elegant international fare to small, anonymous shacks serving excellent renditions of classic Thai and Western dishes.

Relax on Koh Samui’s beaches

The island’s beaches are often lively, but there are still quiet stretches. Lipa Noi, on the western shore of Koh Samui, is particularly quiet, especially during the week. A good spot for families, the water here is shallow for a long way offshore, and the seafloor is coated in smooth sand, without sharp coral or toe-bruising rocks. Lipa Noi also offers some of the finest sunset views on the island.

There’s a wide range of hotel options, from simple to sumptuous. Many properties have attached spas, which offer standard beauty treatments as well as services like yoga and t’ai chi classes.

Most of the hotels are happy to help you indulge in water sports and offer equipment to guests, including kayaks and jet skis.

Snorkeling around Koh Samui

Angthong National Marine Park, Gulf of ThailandSome of the best snorkeling locally can be found at the nearby Ang Thong National Marine Park. The park first came to international attention when it appeared in Alex Garland’s 1996 cult hit The Beach and, later, the movie adaptation with Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s easy to understand why he chose to set his story here.

Thanks to the marine park status, the archipelago remains a playground of limestone cliffs, weirdly shaped grottoes and unspoiled peachy-sand beaches. Translated as ‘golden basin’, the park encompasses 42 rocky islands topped with evergreen forests and surrounded by crystalline blue-green waters.

Explore the nearby islands

Koh Samui isn’t known for its diving and snorkeling, however. If you’re interested in seeing underwater life, we suggest taking a trip to one of the nearby islands. You’ll find good snorkeling, especially in the waters off the northern islands, where there are coral gardens populated with green turtles and yellow-spotted trevallies. The visibility can be somewhat limited, due to sediment in the water.

Some of the area’s best diving is north of Koh Samui at Koh Tao (or Turtle Island, as it translates) — we can arrange a trip for you. The shallow waters and bright corals here teem with schools of fish, as well as large sea animals like sharks, barracuda and turtles, as well as whale sharks at certain times of the year.

We can arrange for you to visit Ang Thong to see Koh Wao (Dragon Island). Here, you can hike through the rugged interior, explore the twisted rock formations and swim in one of the warm emerald-green marine lakes that dot the archipelago.

Best time to visit Koh Samui

Its location in the Gulf of Thailand means that Koh Samui avoids the full brunt of the annual monsoon. You’ll only encounter heavy rainfall from October to mid-December. It’s a good destination any time outside of these months, particularly good during June, July and August, when the rest of the country is dealing with monsoon rains. However, crowds are thickest then.

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Matt, an Audley Travel specialist

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Suggested itineraries featuring Koh Samui

Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Koh Samui, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of Koh Samui

Places & hotels on the map

    Places near Koh Samui

    Accommodation choices for Koh Samui

    We've selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Koh Samui. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    Ideas for experiencing Koh Samui

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Koh Samui, and which use the best local guides.

    • Try a boat tour of Ang Thong National Marine Park
      Angthong National Marine Park, Gulf of Thailand

      Try a boat tour of Ang Thong National Marine Park

      Try a boat tour of Ang Thong National Marine Park

      Departing Koh Samui you head to Dragon Island, where you can explore the bizarre rock formations, sheer limestone cliffs, magic caves, hidden grottoes and untouched beaches.

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