5 Essential Experiences in Koh Samui



With its breathtaking white-sand beaches and lush green hills, Koh Samui well deserves its moniker, Pearl of the Gulf. Beautiful nature aside, there’s plenty of other things to see and experience around the island. Here are five that should be on every visitor's itinerary.



Aerial Garrya Tongsai Bay Samui

Visit temples



For those seeking cultural immersion, Koh Samui’s gorgeous temples are a good place to start. Wat Plai Laem, a colourful Buddhist temple, is just six minutes by car from Garrya Tongsai Bay. Exquisite paintings decorate the walls of its many shrines and buildings, which incorporate both Thai and Chinese influences. There are also large and elaborate statues built around the temple’s lake, including an 18-armed Avalokitesvara (Goddess of Mercy) robed in glittering white and gold, which sits on a raised platform above the water.


Alternatively, visit another iconic destination – Wat Phra Yai. Also called Big Buddha Temple, the complex sits on a rocky outcropping just off the coast, reachable by a three-kilometre causeway. Marvel at the impressive 12-metre-tall Buddha, its golden coat sparkling in the sun. Then, climb up to the top of the platform for fantastic views of the island’s northern coast and Koh Phangan. The best time to visit is in the morning, when locals come bearing offerings of flowers and incense, while monks chant daily prayers.

Wat Phra Yai
Local Night Market

Indulge in shopping and food



Don a comfortable pair of walking shoes and explore Fisherman’s Village, tucked within the historic Bophut district. Once home to a thriving fishing community, the area still boasts rustic wooden houses and shops, now interspersed with beachfront cafes, restaurants, and boutique hotels. Friday nights are a lively affair as the local market comes to town selling souvenirs, clothing, street snacks and seafood fresh off the grill.


A short ride away is Chaweng, Samui’s largest and busiest town. Most of the action happens along Chaweng Beach, where there are a variety of retail shops, as well as fashion boutiques, spas, massage parlours, and bars. Dining options run the gamut from budget-friendly street-side eats to fancy establishments. There’s also a modern shopping mall, Central Festival Samui, which houses a movie theatre and a gaming arcade–perfect for families with children.

Go island hopping



Embark on an island-hopping adventure to Koh Samui’s nearby islands, all of which are on equal footing in terms of beauty and charm. Koh Phangan is popular as party central, thanks to its monthly Full Moon Parties which draw revellers from around the world to its beautiful beaches. A quieter alternative is Koh Tao, a diving haven with waters that teem with aquatic life. Some regulars in the area include bluespotted ribbontail rays, barracudas, turtles, and blacktip reef sharks. For a true escape into nature, hop over to the stunning Ang Thong Marine Park, an archipelago of 42 small islands, each blanketed in lush rainforest and surrounded by emerald-green waters. Here, visitors can snorkel amongst the coral reefs, go kayaking, and enjoy a quiet stroll on warm, white stretches of sand lined with swaying palm trees, away from the crowds.

Island Hoping
Meets the elephant

Meet and greet elephants



Elephant Kingdom Sanctuary provides a safe space where rescued and retired elephants can roam freely in a spacious and verdant habitat. It also doubles as a conservation centre. highlighting the plight of these majestic animals and their oft mistreatment and abuse in the tourism industry.


Tours start off with refreshments and an introduction to the world of elephants. Visitors will also get a chance to prepare food and feed the elephants. The sanctuary’s 400-metre-long Skywalk, an elevated walkway built around the enclosures, offers a way to observe these regal creatures from above. Get up close to the sanctuary’s residents and get to know their unique personalities: like 23-year-old Thong Dang, who loves watermelon, and one-year-old Thong Ngien, who was rescued during the pandemic and now enjoys frolicking in mud baths.

Enjoy a sunset cruise



Experience another side of Tongsai Bay’s beauty aboard a sunset cruise, available from 5pm to 6pm daily for Garrya Tongsai Bay guests. Hop aboard the resort’s Hobie Cat, which awaits at Garrya’s private beach. As the boat glides out onto the water, bask in the orange glow of the setting sun–refreshing drink of coconut and seasonal fruit skewers in hand–and soak in the glorious scenery.

Sunset Cruise