clear sand, foamy ocean water and large rocks at the end of the shoreline at Lamai Beach in Koh Samui / Is Koh Samui worth visiting

Is Koh Samui Worth Visiting? 5 Pros & Cons

Is Koh Samui worth visiting? Are you planning a trip to Thailand and can’t decide whether you should add Koh Samui to your Thailand Itinerary?

You’ve come to the right spot! This guide covers 5 main pros & cons of Koh Samui that will help you decide if Koh Samui is worth visiting for you.

Koh Samui is quite a large island, the second largest island in Thailand. Walking or driving around in Koh Samui, you’ll sometimes feel like you’re in a city, not an island.

Located in the Gulf Of Thailand, Koh Samui is very popular amongst tourists due to the island’s many conveniences, there’s plenty to do here, great accommodations and restaurants, and an airport, yet it’s still a tropical paradise with stunning beaches!

However, Koh Samui does have a few cons that should be noted before considering a visit to the island; it’s not for everyone. By the end of this guide, you should know whether Koh Samui would be a destination you’d like to visit!

large rocks along the Lamai Beach shorelines in Koh Samui / is Koh Samui expensive to visit

How to Get to Koh Samui

One of the best things about Koh Samui is how easily you can get to the island.

Ferries come to Koh Samui often daily from Donsak Pier on the mainland and travel time is just under 2 hours.

Another way to get to Koh Samui is by flying to the island. There’s an airport on the island.

Regular flights from all over Thailand fly into Samui International Airport (USM), including Bangkok, Phuket, and many other spots — Cheap Thailand Domestic Flights.

If you’re flying into Samui International Airport, you can get an airport transfer to your hotel.

5 Pros for Koh Samui

Developed Island: Koh Samui is one of the most developed islands in Thailand. The large island has many charming beach towns to stay in full of restaurants, markets, and lots of shopping. With that comes all the conveniences of a large city despite being on an island.

Many Things To Do: There are many things to do on the island, including jungle safaris, island hopping, visiting provincial parks, and many other unique tours. Another great thing about Koh Samui is that the island offers plenty of activities to do indoors, in case it rains!

Best Hotels: There’s a large selection of hotels, resorts, and hostels in Koh Samui. Additionally, Koh Samui is also known for its many luxurious 5 Star Hotels. Families or travelers who enjoy resorts or luxury accommodations will find plenty of options in Samui!

First Time Visitors to Thailand: Koh Samui is an excellent destination for those visiting Thailand for the first time. Firstly, It’s easy to get to Koh Samui because of the island’s airport.

Secondly, you’ll get to visit an island in Thailand, and there are neighboring islands to experience from here unique in their own ways, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao

Lastly, the island is well-developed, so visiting won’t require any adjustment for foreign travelers. There’s everything one may need here, the food options are very accommodating for all eaters. Koh Samui has the best of both worlds: city conveniences on a tropical island.

Family Friendly: Koh Samui is an excellent island for families. There are plenty of activities here for the kids. Pig Island is a highlight that’s popular amongst many families, and the resorts in Koh Samui have excellent amenities for those visiting with families!

ocean views from the second floor at Coco Tams in Koh Samui
Coco Tam’s Beach Bar

5 Cons for Koh Samui

Developed Island: While this may be convenient to many, some travelers may find this a negative aspect of Koh Samui. Due to the island being so developed, it takes away from a more traditional Thai island experience—the feeling of a remote location, quiet beaches, and not being as touristy.

Koh Samui is quite touristy, there aren’t areas on the island that are less touristy. Phuket, for example, is also touristy, but it has areas where it’s not as touristy. Koh Samui doesn’t.

Westernized Island: It was unfortunate to find out about Koh Samui. You’ll regularly see burger spots, pizza, and British pubs around Koh Samui. I mean, I even spotted a Hooters on the island as well.

Finding local Thai restaurants was sometimes challenging in some areas of the island, which is surprising considering you’re visiting Thailand.

Expensive: Koh Samui is one of the most expensive places to visit in Thailand. As mentioned above, all the areas in Koh Samui are quite touristy, so it’s not like there’s an area you can stay in where you’ll find affordable prices.

That said, you can find cheap food and affordable accommodations, but in general, it’s not a cheap place, especially when compared to the rest of Thailand.

Lack of Nightlife: Some people claim Koh Samui has a lively nightlife, but it doesn’t really. Koh Samui has a lackluster nightlife besides its beach bars at Bo Phut Beach, Muay Thai fights, and bars in Chaweng Beach or Lamai.

So if you’re visiting Koh Samui expecting a great nightlife, you might be let down, unless you’re going to Koh Phangan for the full moon party!

Not the Best Beaches: On average, the beaches in Koh Samui could be better for swimming, especially compared to other islands in Thailand.

Lamai is one of the best beaches in Koh Samui, and even there, the sand is quite rough, and the water gets deep fast. Phuket’s beaches are far better than Koh Samui’s.

the famous golden Big Buddha in Koh Samui along with the many colourful steps to climb up to it

Things to Do in Koh Samui

There are many things to do in Koh Samui, as well as several day trips to consider when visiting Koh Samui. Below is a list of the best things to do when visiting!

Day Trip to Ang Marine Park: Ang Thong is one of Thailand’s best national parks; Ang Thong Marine Park is a collection of 42 unique islands to explore. Located near Koh Samui, visiting Ang Thong Park is a must when in Koh Samui!

Visit the Big Buddha: The Big Buddha in Koh Samui is the most famous landmark on the island. As you climb the steps and see the Buddha up close, you’ll also see excellent views of Koh Samui!

Safari Tour: The most popular thing to do in Koh Samui is the safari tour, where you’ll go deep into the jungles of Koh Samui and visit waterfalls/viewpoints!

Beach Day: Some of the best beaches to visit in Koh Samui are Lamai Beach and Chaweng Beach, the two most popular beaches on the island. In the evening, Bo Phut Beach is popular for its many beach bars. For those who prefer a quieter secluded beach consider Nathon Beach or Lipa Noi Beach.

Visit the Fishermen’s Village: Located next to Bo Phut Beach, the Fishermen’s Village is a walkable area full of many great restaurants with excellent sea views, boutique shops, markets, and beach bars.

large sign and the entrance of the popular Fisherman's Village in Koh Samui, Thailand

Night Markets: There are many night markets all over the island to check out. Here are a few to put on your itinerary: Lamai Night Market, Chaweng Walking Street, and the Night Market Fisherman’s Village.

Go to Pig Island: One of the best day trips from Koh Samui is to visit Pig Island. Explore the island, snorkel the shores, enjoy lunch here, and see these friendly pigs who inhabit the island. Pig Island is only 20 minutes away from Koh Samui.

Visit Koh Phangan: The neighboring island to Koh Samui is Koh Phangan, an island famous for its Full Moon Parties and laidback atmosphere. The island is popular amongst yogis and backpackers, and there are plenty of parks, waterfalls, and beaches to explore on Koh Phangan.

Visit Koh Tao: Head over to Koh Tao, and explore the island’s many beaches/reefs, waterfalls, and viewpoints. The island of Koh Tao is one of the three islands that is located in the Gulf of Thailand, along with Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.

several pigs walking on the beach shoreline along with a long tail boats on the water and a sunset at Koh Samui Pig Island

Where To Stay On Koh Samui

There are plenty of hotels, resorts, and hostels in Koh Samui scattered all over the island.

But before you consider the type of accommodation you’d prefer, it’s best to consider which area of Koh Samui you’d prefer to stay in first.

Due to the island’s large size, where you stay makes a difference, it’s best to stay near the beach you’d prefer or an area more suitable for you.

Best Areas to Stay in Koh Samui

Chaweng Beach: This is the most popular area in Koh Samui. Countless bars, restaurants, shopping, hotels, and hostels are nearby. On the extensive long beach shoreline of Chaweng, you will find several restaurants and beach bars.

Lamai Beach: A Calmer beach area with several restaurants, shops, and hotels nearby. The area is full of expats and, on average, has a more mature crowd.

Bo Phut Beach: Also, the area of the Fisherman’s Village, Bo Phut Beach is a calmer area full of couples and families visiting. It’s only 15 minutes from Chaweng Beach and Central Samui, the island’s main shopping mall.

Bangrak Beach: The downside here is there’s no actual beach. But the location is excellent. Staying here means easy access to a ferry dock to visit other islands. Also, the Fisherman’s Village and Samui Airport are only 5 minutes away.

Choeng Mon: A northern area on the island full of large resorts and 5 Star hotels, Choeng Mon is an ideal area. You will be 5 minutes away from all the shopping and Chaweng Beach.

Lipa Noi: Located on the island’s Western side, Lipa Noi Beach is a calm area with far less foot traffic but far from all the main attractions in Koh Samui.

visitor parasailing high above the sea on a beautiful clear sunny day in Koh Samui, Thailand

Best Hotels in Koh Samui

There are many hotels in Koh Samui to consider for all budgets. I’ve included the best hotels in Koh Samui for each budget!

Kimpton Kitalay – 5 Star / Famous for its spacious rooms, many restaurants, a luxurious spa, and much more. The Kimpton Samui is in an excellent location on the island.

InterContinental Samui5 Star / #1 hotel in Koh Samui, InterContinental is an award-winning hotel. The resort has a private beach and plenty of amenities for guests.

Ibis Samui 4 Star / Located right along Bo Phut Beach, the Ibis is an excellent location ideal for families, with a beautiful pool overlooking the ocean.

Lub d Koh Samui – 3 Star / A perfect hotel for a younger crowd, located right on the popular Chaweng Beach, Lub D Samui is close to the central part of Koh Samui.

P&T Hostel / Those visiting on a budget, look no further. This is the cheapest and highest-ranked hostel on the island. They’ve got everything you need and even a restaurant!

calm shallow beach with mountainous views in the distance Island in Samui District

How to Get Around Koh Samui

Getting around Koh Samui is also easy and convenient. There are several ways to do so, even if you don’t decide to rent a scooter. However that is the easiest way to get around Koh Samui.

Alternatives are either taking a Grab, a popular ridesharing app, a taxi, or using the local songthaew.

A songthaew is a passenger vehicle that operates as public transportation around the island. Flag one down, tell the driver where you’d like to go, agree on a price, and hop on!

Songthaew pick up trucks drive in a circle along the main island road in Koh Samui, as they pickup passengers along the way. Sometimes they operate as a private taxi, but if used that way, you will have to pay more.

Using a songthaew is the cheapest way to get around Koh Samui because you share the ride with others, they’re far more affordable than a taxi.

song taew, a pubic transportation taxi van driving throughout the island / how to get around Koh Samui, Thailand

What Is Koh Samui Known For?

Koh Samui is known for its many beaches, mass jungle in the middle of the island, waterfalls, and many luxury hotel options.

It’s also well known for being the second largest island in Thailand and one of the most liveable places in Thailand for foreigners because of how well-developed the island is.

While it is still a tropical island in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui has all the conveniences you’ll find in a big city; it has an airport and plenty of shopping malls, movie theatres, many restaurants serving a wide variety of international cuisines, and bars.

Today, many ex-pats and digital nomads call Koh Samui home because of all the island’s conveniences and tropical lifestyle.

a few tourist walking on a long shore of Lamai Beach complete with palm trees on the side in Koh Samui

Is Koh Samui Worth Visiting? — Final Thoughts

Well, it depends on what type of vacation you’re expecting to have in Koh Samui. Koh Samui has many benefits for those traveling to Thailand for the first time or families visiting the island.

Being a well-developed island, there are many activities to do outside and inside, many beaches to consider visiting around the island, and it’s easy to get to.

However, Koh Samui is quite touristy and lacks the authentic Thai island feel. If you’ve read the pros/cons and still can’t decide, what you can do is visit Koh Samui for a day or two, and if it’s too touristy for you, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao are islands only 30 to 60 minutes away by boat.

Both Koh Phangan and Koh Tao are very different islands from Koh Samui, and conveniently, they’re both nearby.

I enjoyed Koh Samui for its conveniences of getting around, and international choices of cuisine but found it too touristy overall, without any areas on the islands offering a local side.

I still have plans to return to Koh Samui in the near future. But I will say I even prefer Phuket over Koh Samui because Phuket offers both modern areas as well as local ones.

sunset overcasting over the Chaweng Lake on Koh Samui Island in Thailand
Chaweng Lake

Is Koh Samui better than Phuket?

Both are fantastic islands to visit and share many of the same characteristics.

But Phuket is more famous due to its larger size and better beaches.

Is Koh Samui too touristy?

Koh Samui is very touristy and Westernized for the most part, especially when you compare it to other islands in Thailand.

Overall, the island lacks the touch of the typical Thai island experience.

How many days do you need in Koh Samui?

Three to four days is an ideal time to spend in Koh Samui. With at least three days, you’ll have enough time to see the main attractions, have a beach day, and do a day tour!

Koh Samui is popular because of its many island conveniences, and it’s easy to get to. The island is home to plenty of luxury hotels, offering many things to do, and is well-developed!

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