Looking for an updated 2021 travel guide to Samui? The Luxe Nomad’s got you covered!
Koh Samui is situated in the Gulf of Thailand and is the largest island in an archipelago of more than 80 beautiful, smaller isles. Don’t be fooled by Samui’s modest landmass—it may be small enough to be circumnavigated in just a few hours by car, but the adventures are endless. Here, paradise pastimes can range from the obvious (soaking up #ThatVillaLife) to the daring (parasailing, anyone?)—but of course, the choice is yours.
These islands sparkle with some of the most gorgeous beaches out there, and every spot is teeming with culture—we don’t blame you if you’re already daydreaming about it!
Before you get ready to dive into Samui’s crystal blue waters, here’s what you need to know:
Photo by Unsplash (Samule Sun)
When to Go to Samui
With a tropical climate, Samui generally enjoys a lot of sun and has three seasons throughout the year: Dry, Hot, and Rainy. Firstly, Dry Season runs between December until February, when rain is sparse and the waters remain calm—perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking.
Meanwhile, Hot Season is from March until August, with April as its peak, and you can expect high humidity with temperatures reaching 30℃ and up. The long hours of sunshine give you a great excuse to spend more time in the water, work on your tan, and enjoy other outdoor activities.
Lastly, Rainy or Monsoon Season falls from September to November and is also known as the island’s off-peak season. Though the sun comes out every now and then, the island is usually on alert for strong tropical storms that may be in the area. Because of this, many kayaking and snorkeling companies may close during these months as the waters get choppy. (FYI: Ang Thong National Marine Park does not allow visitors between November to December for this reason.)
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Getting to Samui
The intricately designed Samui Airport is privately owned and operated by Bangkok Airways, though plenty of flight options, both domestic and international, are available.
The easiest route to take would be to fly to Thailand, and from there, take a domestic flight to Koh Samui. Bangkok has the most number of flights going into the island daily, but you can also book a direct domestic flight from four other cities: Phuket, Chang Mai, Pattaya, or Krabi.
If not by air, you can also reach Koh Samui by bus, ferry, or even an overnight train (though note that the train doesn’t stop right at the ferry, so you’ll have to make your way from the station via bus, car or taxi).
Another alternative is a private car rental. A convenient starting point is Bangkok—from there, you can easily drive down to Samui—but you can rent a car from anywhere else in Thailand and then make your way to the ferry. Once in Samui, you can simply drive off and tour the island!
Direct flights from Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore to Koh Samui may also be available, although subject to change. Make sure to plan ahead and stay updated with the travel guidelines of the destinations you’re flying to and from.
Baan Rattana Thep in Lipa Noi, Samui
Where to Stay in Samui
Trust us when we say you won’t run out of beautiful villas when in Koh Samui. Don’t know where to start? Check out The Luxe Nomad’s selection of luxury villas here!
Bringing the whole family? Child-friendly accommodations are available whether it’s for an intimate family gathering or the whole tribe (the whole estate sleeps up to 62 guests!). Find more family-friendly stays here.
If you’re planning a getaway with the squad, Ban Mekkala might just have the infinity pool of your dreams—overlooking the seascape and giving you amazing sunset views. If an in-house gym and library are more up your group’s alley, check out Baan Asan, which is right by a lot of other local attractions. These ones are all 5 minutes from the beach!
As for the honeymooning couple—or even just couples in their honeymoon stage—these romantic hideaways will definitely be to your liking. These beautiful ocean views and relaxing interiors (with front-row seats to a Samui sunrise!) will make you fall in love even more. Check out villas perfect for weddings and events!
Thinking of staying for a month or two (or more)?
We don’t blame you. Here’s why you definitely should!
Photo by Unsplash (Rebecca Cairns)
With over 80 islands to choose from, you definitely won’t run out of beaches to discover. Each one will wow you in its own way, but to narrow down the list, here are some of our top picks:
- Ang Thong National Marine Park – This nature reserve spans across 42 islands, and a must-try excursion if you’re up for colorful snorkeling sites, awesome rock formations, a kayaking paradise, and a stunning lagoon.
- Chaweng Beach – Often known as the most popular beach in Samui, it boasts of a 3km white sand shoreline that’s buzzing with activity. Drop by if you want to be where the people are: there’s a place to go if you want to enjoy live music, a taste of Chaweng’s nightlife, or just mingle with other travelers.
- Lamai Beach – For a more relaxing pick, head east. Lamai Beach is the second largest beach on the island, and it’s basically made for R&R. Find a comfortable spot to enjoy a Thai massage, pick out an artful henna tattoo, or dip your toes in exciting watersports.
- Bophut Beach – For great beachside views with a change of scenery, head to Bophut. It’s known as one of the few places on the island that retains its original Thai-Chinese culture, with traditional Chinese shophouses lined along the beach road. This Fisherman’s Village, with its calm waters and coconut-studded shoreline, is the perfect place to enjoy a laidback afternoon.
Things to Do
What kind of itinerary are you looking at? Whether you’re an adventurer, a wanderer, or a certified beach bum, Samui will not disappoint!
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1. For the adventure seeker – Head to the waters and get to know the island firsthand! Try snorkeling, paddleboarding, sailing—even yoga-sailing!—on a private yacht charter.
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2. For the shopaholic – Thailand is known for its vibrant shopping scene, and Samui is no exception. If you’re looking for a complete lifestyle shopping complex, head to Central Festival Samui, the island’s largest shopping and dining mall. Bophut’s Fisherman’s Village Walking Street makes for a great Friday night stop, with a dynamic atmosphere and lots of locally made goods to check out. And on Sundays, head to Lamai Walking Street for authentic delicacies, plus stalls filled with trinkets, souvenirs, clothes, and more!
Photo by Samui Elephant Haven
3. For the animal lover – Learn more about helping Samui’s elephants, and even get up close and personal at an ethical sanctuary like Samui Elephant Haven. Unlike other exploitative elephant parks, sanctuaries like these actually care for the animals and work to protect them—it’s an eye-opening experience like no other.
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4. For the foodie – When in Samui, the local flavors won’t disappoint whether you’re dining street-side or at a fancy restaurant. Dig into the island’s wide selection of seafood, crab, lobster, and shrimp. For contemporary Thai dining, Jahn is a must-try—it’s been awarded a Global Winner of the World Luxury Restaurant Awards for a reason. Make sure to call ahead as they have limited seating! If you’re hungry for authentic Thai cuisine, check out Supattra Thai Dining—they also have quite the selection of exceptional wine! For more options, Bophut is also a popular destination for food lovers, with plenty of dining choices that range from gourmet to casual.
Photo by Vikasa Yoga
5. For the chill traveler – Find your center in Samui, and focus on your personal wellness. With its relaxing views and distance from the city’s hustle and bustle, it’s a great place to try out a yoga retreat, or even a holistic spa retreat.
Photo by Unsplash (Kit Suman)
6. For the temple runner – No visit to Thailand is complete without a little temple appreciation! Samui has a lot of temples worth exploring, and among the highlights are the Big Buddha, which is considered a major landmark in the island; Wat Plai Laem, with the breathtaking 18-armed Guan Yin statue; and the Mummified Monk at Wat Khunaram for an unforgettable visit.
Photo by Unsplash (Yavor Punchev)
Other Tips for Traveling to Samui
Just a few things to keep in mind when you’re traversing through Samui:
- Dress appropriately – Proper attire must be worn, especially when visiting temples. Shoulders must be covered, trousers and skirts must fall over the knee, and no swimwear is allowed in the sacred areas. As for footwear, walking inside the temple must always be done barefoot. For beach etiquette, women shouldn’t go topless, while men should avoid being shirtless anywhere else other than the beach.
- Don’t forget the sun protection – Don’t underestimate Samui’s sunshine, especially if you’re used to cooler climates. Enjoying the beach is fun and all, but sunburns? Not so much! Make sure you pack a heavy-duty sunscreen, a sun hat, and even a rash guard so you can cover up when it counts.
- Eyes on the road – Some roads in Samui may be narrow and rocky, so always keep an eye out if you’re driving your own vehicle. Exercise caution and drive slowly, most especially at night, or if your villa is located up in the hills.
- Safety first! – Avoid accidents and mishaps by being careful every step of the way. Before you book any activities or tours, make sure it’s with a certified instructor or guide; when considering accommodations, double-check if the establishment has SHA certification (meaning they’ve gone through a strict inspection and pass the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s standards for safety). Many of The Luxe Nomad’s exclusively-managed properties have been granted the SHA certification, check them out here.