Koh Samui was our second destination in Thailand and the third (and final) leg of our trip, which began in Singapore.
We found Koh Samui to have more of a relaxed and romantic atmosphere, compared to the more popular Phuket. We also found it to be less crowded. I really liked our stay here.
Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate and referral links (marked with ^^), which means, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission/reward if you click through the link and make a purchase or complete a booking.
TIP: Short on time? You can pick which parts of the article you wish to read and jump to those sections via the collapsible Table of Contents. 🙂
Koh Samui at a glance
Koh Samui is an island in the southern region of Thailand. It is part of the province of Surat Thani and lies in the country’s gulf coast. The island has a considerable amount of luxury resorts, but there are also places for those on a budget.
Climate is tropical, so pack some light clothes. And shorts! Lots of shorts. A portable umbrella or raincoat would also be useful to carry around for occasional showers.
Currency: Thai baht (฿/THB/Bht/Bt)
Power plugs with two-prong flat or round pins (types A and C) are commonly used. Those with two flat parallel pins and a round grounding pin (type B) and with three round pins are also used. The standard electrical current is 220 volts AC.
In Thailand, they drive on the left side of the road.
You can get to Koh Samui by plane, bus or train plus ferry. Let’s break this down a bit further, shall we?
There is a direct flight from Bangkok to Samui International Airport (USM), which is in the island of Koh Samui itself. Bangkok Airways, which privately owns the airport, and Thai Airways offer such flights. The flight generally takes only about 1 hour and 30 minutes, or a few more minutes less. It’s very convenient but can be expensive.
Alternatively, you can catch a cheaper flight from Bangkok to Surat Thani Airport (URT), which also takes a little over 1 hour. But then you have to take a coach/bus to the pier and take a ferry to get to Koh Samui. Total travel time ranges from around 4 to 11 hours, depending on the timetable of your flight, coach and ferry services.
Of note, Nok Air offers a Fly n’ Ferry package—which includes flight, ferry and optional on-island transfer services—to Koh Samui. I think Air Asia also offers a package with coach and ferry services.
Lomprayah, Songserm, Raja Ferry and Seatran Discovery are among those that offer ferry services from Surat Thani to Koh Samui. They have ferry-only tickets as well as combo tickets with bus, ferry or van services.
There is also a train that departs from Bangkok to Surat Thani at Hualamphong Train Station. You can then take a shuttle bus to Donsak Pier, followed by a ferry to Koh Samui. Another option is taking a bus from Bangkok to Surat Thani and getting off at Donsak Pier, then taking a ferry to the island. Both options are likely to be cheaper but would take a huge chunk of your time. The train and bus ride to Surat Thani takes around 8 to 12 hours, plus a few more hours for the ferry ride to Samui.
Our experience traveling from Bangkok to Koh Samui
We flew to Koh Samui with a round-trip ticket from Bangkok to Surat Thani Airport. After weighing our options, we concluded that Nok Air offered the service that was most convenient for us. We selected Nok Air’s Fly n’ Ferry package, including an on-island transfer service, as we decided it was easier for us to book them all at once rather than separately. The coach and high-speed catamaran service was operated by Lomprayah. You can find a bit more information about Fly n’ Ferry here.
For some reason, silly me missed ticking the box for the land transfer service back to the pier! Thus, we had to book our transfer from the hotel to the airport separately. So should you also choose to book the Fly n’ Ferry from Nok Air, make sure you tick the box for “to town” for the initial flight and “to pier” for the return flight. I contacted their customer service via email to double-check whether we had the service for our return flight or not, and they responded promptly and clearly. They told us we had the option to add that service at least a day before our return flight. But in the end, we opted to just book a car service from our hotel.
Upon arrival at Surat Thani Airport, we went to Nok Air’s kiosk to add 5 kilograms to our baggage allowance for our return flight to Bangkok. We requested for the add-on and paid for it right there. The transaction went smoothly, and we got our extra baggage allowance in advance. ~Yay!
Since Samui is our second destination in Thailand, we already had a local SIM that we purchased when we arrived in Bangkok. We got a 15-day AIS Traveller SIM for 599 baht, and we were happy with AIS because we had good connection wherever we went. Even up a mountain!
From the airport to accommodations (and the other way around)
We proceeded to get our bags from the carousel and looked for the airline staff to inform them that our flight booking includes a ferry, coach and on-island transfer services. They pointed us to the right direction and gave us stickers to put on our shirts, indicating our additional services.
We took the coach to head to the pier then took the high-speed catamaran to Koh Samui. Thereafter, a van picked us up, along with other passengers, and dropped us off at our respective hotels.
To sum it up, our itinerary looked like this
Don Mueang Airport (Bangkok) to Surat Thani Airport —► coach to Surat Thani’s Tapee Pier —► high-speed catamaran to Koh Samui’s Nar Ton/Nathon Pier —► van to hotel. And vice versa.
I know it sounds like a lot of work, but it was actually not much of a hassle at all. Everything was handled by Nok Air and Lomprayah, and we didn’t have to worry about anything else. That’s something positive in our book! We just had to show up on time and make sure to get on the right coach/ferry/van. Our total travel time took around 4.5 to 5 hours.
Based on our experience, we were quite satisfied with Nok Air and Lomprayah. Nok Air’s customer service was prompt in responding to our e-mail queries, and the staff were accommodating and courteous. They also sent email notifications in case of any changes to the flight and transfer itineraries. The staff also made sure we got to our ferry and transfer services in time.
Exploring Koh Samui, day by day
We spent 7 days in Koh Samui. The weather is still generally warm in June. While we were there it was mostly cloudy with occasional rain.
After checking in at the Briza Beach Resort along Chaweng Beach, we rested for a bit then went for a late lunch. We decided to rent a scooter so we can drive around town any time we wanted. Scooter rentals generally range from 150 to 300 baht per day for something basic like a Honda Click (which we usually choose) or Scoopy. Other types of scooters/motorbike are usually worth more. Sometimes you can also get a bit of discount if you’re renting it for a couple of days or more, so don’t forget to ask!
Should you decide to rent a scooter/motorbike, it’s best to have an insurance and an international driver’s license. That being said, we only had a regular European driver’s license but they rented us a scooter anyway. And we fortunately had no problems driving around Samui. Remember: They drive on the left side of the road.
While researching for things we can do in Koh Samui, we found a tour company — Koh Samui Tours — that was in the vicinity of our hotel, so we decided to drive over and see our options. We were interested in going to Mu Koh Ang Thong National Marine Park and had a productive chat with the travel person present. We ended up booking a big boat tour to the park and an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) tour for two separate days.
In the evening, we checked out ArkBar and a few other restaurant/bars in the Chaweng area. We opted for a quieter place for dinner and to just come back for drinks later.
Our plans for the day included a visit to the Secret Buddha Garden and the Hin Ta and Hin Yai rocks near Lamai Beach.
Secret Buddha Garden
The Secret Buddha Garden, also known as Magic Garden, is a private attraction created by an old durian farmer in his family’s land. He began working on it in 1976 until his death. It comprises numerous statues related to Buddhism, animals and humans, among others. There is also a waterfall, stream and tons of flora within in the gardens. We paid around 80 baht for admission.
We had lunch at Mountain Grand View Seaview Restaurant, where we had some spring rolls and pad Thai. The restaurant is nothing special but it does have a grand view, so all is good!
Hin Ta and Hin Yai rocks
We then made our way to Hin Ta and Hin Yai rocks, also known as Grandfather and Grandmother rocks, which are rock formations overlooking the beaches of Lamai and Hua Thuanon that got their cheeky names from locals for resembling male and female genital organs. And when you see the tall “grandfather” rock as you get closer to the site, I think you’d agree that it does resemble a penis. Kidding aside, there’s also another (more wholesome) story from Samui folklore regarding the name’s origin, involving an old couple who died at sea and turned into rocks after encountering a terrible storm.
After breakfast, we rode the scooter and went north to Wat Plai Laem and Wat Phra Yai Buddhist temples, which are near each other, east of Bophut Beach.
Wat Plai Laem and Wat Phra Yai
Wat Plai Laem features a very large and colorful 18-armed statue of Guanyin, the goddess of compassion and mercy. Her many arms depict her ability to reach out and provide help to those in need. A large white laughing Buddha statue is also present in the area.
About a 5-minute drive away is Wat Phra Yai, also known as Big Buddha temple, where you will find a large seated Buddha statue painted in gold. The Buddha is said to be in the “subduing Mara” pose, which depicts Buddha meditating and in a state of calm after overcoming the temptations thrown his way by Mara, a demon god of illusion.
At night, we went to Fisherman’s Village, a popular attraction located at Bophut Beach road. The place has lots of shops and restaurants that remain open until late at night. Here we found what would become one of our favorite restaurants in Thailand: Coco Tam’s X Peppina.
Coco Tam’s serves cocktails and has a relaxed vibe with tables and chairs peppered along the shore, while Peppina serves delicious Neapolitan pizza—the best we’ve had in Thailand. Even Massimo, who is Italian, thinks their pizza is pretty tasty! I know, I know… pizza in Thailand, eh? Well, we’ve had plenty of Thai cuisine during our stay, and frankly, I like Italian food so much I can eat it anytime, anywhere, any day!
Coco Tam’s also has a nightly show with awesome fire dancers, beginning 9:30 pm. Peppina is not a budget restaurant, but it’s also not too pricey. You can sit inside the beachfront restaurant or along the shore, where there are a bunch of tables and various kinds of chairs. We picked a table along the shore, but not the beanie chair as we wanted to sit and eat a proper dinner. We liked the atmosphere of the restaurant and how it was set up. It had a relaxed vibe with a bit of romantic touch because of the lights and candles.
After a satisfying dinner and amazing fire show, we headed home for some shut eye.
We woke up early, had breakfast, and got ready for our much-awaited ATV jungle adventure tour. Massimo rode the quad bike, while I played the part of passenger. A staff from the tour company picked us up from our hotel and drove us to the ATV site. They explained how to ride a quad and discussed safety guidelines.
It was a very sunny morning, perfect for a ride up a mountain and through the jungle tracks. Part of the journey was riding up to Teepangkorn temple. Along the way, we stopped by a spot where we descended some steps to see a stream and waterfall. The ride up was bumpier than usual at certain areas, but we had fun.
At Teepangkorn temple, which they said is at the highest point of Koh Samui, you’ll find a large golden statue of a standing Buddha. There you have a panoramic view over the island where you can see Lamai Beach, among others. We rested for a bit, took photos and enjoyed the view before driving back down to base. They then dropped us off at our hotel around midday.
The Jungle Club
We had some lunch and then drove our scooter up a hill to the Jungle Club Restaurant, where we had a cool drink of coconut and watermelon shakes while looking over a great view of the Gulf of Siam. We agreed to book a dinner reservation for the evening, and we were really looking forward to it. But alas, it rained heavily in the afternoon all through the night, so we weren’t able to push through with our dinner plans. We settled for a quiet night, ordered room service and watched a movie.
It was cloudy, but hey, that’s better than a rainy day!
After breakfast, we just rested a bit then headed to Fisherman’s Village. We hung out at Bophut Beach and had lunch at Smile House Samui’s beachfront restaurant. We had some green curry with tofu and Thai basil chicken. The food was okay, though it was nothing to write home about. I think the location was the best part, as you get to enjoy your lunch with a nice view of Bophut Beach.
Mu Koh Ang Thong National Marine Park
We went to Mu Koh Ang Thong National Marine Park by big boat/slow boat, with light breakfast, lunch as well as snorkeling and kayaking activities included. Being a slow boat, the ride took a while but we got a bit of some tan while on the roof deck. It was a full day tour. We paid a 300 baht entry fee for the park.
You can opt to go to Mu Koh Ang Thong Marine Park by speedboat^^ too.
There was a viewpoint at the park but you have to climb a number of steep steps. We didn’t go all the way up as I got tired halfway through, and I didn’t like that the stairs were a bit narrow and steep. Nonetheless, there was also a very good view halfway up. I did enjoy kayaking.
We had lunch at the boat, buffet style. They served rice, two types of chicken dish (one was spicy) and fruits. I think there were some vegetarian options too.
TIP: You can also use the Klook^^ app to book tours, sightseeing and other activities. It’s very convenient and usually has instant confirmation.
After breakfast, we just rested a bit then headed to Lamai Beach. For our last day in Koh Samui, we decided to just kick back and relax. We soaked up some sun and just lay there on the shore, occasionally taking several dips and swimming in the cool water of Lamai Beach.
In the evening, we went to Fisherman’s Village again in Bophut to have a nice dinner at Coco Tam’s X Peppina. We really like Peppina’s pizza! A great way to cap our stay in Samui.
We then headed home to get ready and pack for our flights back home the next day.
Some parting thoughts
How we got there
After weighing our options, we flew to Koh Samui from Bangkok with Nok Air’s Fly n’ Ferry package, including an on-island transfer service. The coach and high-speed catamaran service was operated by Lomprayah, but we booked everything through Nok Air and they took care of it.
Based on our experience, we were quite satisfied with Nok Air and Lomprayah. Nok Air’s customer service was prompt in responding to our e-mail queries, and their staff were accommodating and courteous. They also sent email notifications in case of any changes to the flight and transfer itineraries. The staff also made sure we got to our ferry and transfer services in time.
Where to stay
After saving some money from the budget hotel we stayed at in Singapore, we decided to spend a bit more for our accommodation in Koh Samui since we would be here for a week. We agreed on the Briza Beach Resort, where we had a lovely and comfortable stay. We booked it through Booking.com*. The deluxe room was clean, spacious, had a balcony, private bath and shower. We found the place quiet and relaxing. The staff were very nice and accommodating as well. If you’re coming from Samui International airport, the hotel is just around 1.7 km away.
Our booking included a buffet breakfast, and they had a variety of food choices. Our room was just a very short walk from the restaurant, so that was a plus for us! If we walked a bit more past the restaurant and bar, we would be in Chaweng Beach.
There were also several restaurants around the area, as well as laundry shops and motorbike rental places.
* At no extra cost to you, you can book a room through Booking.com using my special referral link^^ to get 10% of your trip back after completing your stay!
Go and explore
Samui has lots of interesting places to explore and activities to do, with plenty of viewpoints, beaches and temples.
Should you visit one of the temples, remember to wear modest attire such as pants or shorts/skirts that are at least knee-length and tops that do not reveal your bare shoulders. If you’re wearing something other than what is allowed, you can bring a cardigan, shawl or blanket with you to cover yourself up. Sometimes you can borrow or rent covers/cloths from the temple’s visitor center.
There are tons of bars, pubs, restaurants and beach clubs in the Chaweng area. If you’re looking to party, have a fancy dinner or have some drinks, we reckon you won’t run out of choices! Some of the popular ones are ArkBar, Elephant Beach Club and Coast Beach Club and Bistro.
There are more bars, restaurants and the like in other nearby areas, such as Lamai and Bophut.
Fisherman’s Village is along Bophut Beach — and of course, Coco Tam’s X Peppina is there. We highly recommend it!
A few more words
We really like Koh Samui because it isn’t too crowded with tourists. We also thought it had a romantic vibe to it, compared to the more popular Phuket. It just takes a bit effort to go to Samui, more so if you’re landing in Surat Thani Airport (which most budget travelers do), but we think it’s worth it!
A little something for you!
We created a printable PDF document of our travel itinerary in Koh Samui. We shall post it soon, so stay tuned!
Have you been to Koh Samui or wish to go there? We’d love to hear about it! Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
~ Safe travels, everyone!