Home Visit Koh Samui Koh Samui Island in the Gulf of Thailand: the guide

Koh Samui Island in the Gulf of Thailand: the guide

by Pierre To
12 minutes to read
Lamai Beach Koh Samui

Koh Samui has many attractions white sandy beaches, beautiful seabed and a lively nightlife that makes it a very popular island.


Koh Samui is the 2nd largest island in Thailand after PhuketIt has an area of 228 km² and a population of 63,000.

The main town is Nathon, a fishing and inter-island transport port on the southwest coast.

It is also the seat of the local administration, and the economic heart of the island.

Koh Samui, Lipa Noi

Lipa Noi Beach, Koh Samui

Geography of Koh Samui

Surat Thani Province

Surat Thani Province

The island is located in the Gulf of Thailand, about 35km northeast of the city of Surat Thani, at the centre of a small archipelago of 85 islets, 6 of which are inhabited and which make up the Mu Ko Ang Thong (Bowl Islands) National Park.

The island of Koh Pha Ngan is just a few kilometres further north.

Ko Samui has a massive (25 km x 21 km), rather circular shape.

Its centre, located at 656 metres above sea level, is covered in jungle.

The plains are linked by a single 51km road that follows the coast.

Climate in Koh Samui

Samui has essentially two seasons, a hot tropical one and a short rainy season.

The climate of the island is relatively dry during the year, and the rainy season lasts only one month, in November.

The rest of the year there are only short showers.

See also : When to go to Koh Samui

Panoramic photo of Koh Samui

Panoramic photo of Koh Samui


The island was probably uninhabited until the 6th century before being settled by fishermen from Malaysia and southern China.

It is found on Chinese maps from 1687 under the name Pulo Cornam.

The origin of the current name, Samui, is not known.

It may come from the name of one of the local trees, the "mui", or from the Chinese word saboei, which means "safe harbour".

Before the arrival of the first tourists in the 1980s, the island was occupied by a self-sufficient and isolated fishing community with little contact with Thailand.

There were only dirt roads and to cross the 15km of the island required a day's walk through the jungle and mountains.

Koh Samui Choeng Mon beach

Koh Samui Choeng Mon beach


The "Chao Samui", as the islanders are called, are predominantly Buddhist.

In the past, they lived mainly from fishing and coconut harvesting, but nowadays most of them work in tourism.

The economic development of Samui then attracted wealthy Sino-Thai from Bangkok. and workers in Isan, a region in north-eastern Thailand.

Koh Samui is a popular destination for the elderly and many retirees have moved there because of the cost of living, the climate and the beauty of the place.

Bo Phut Beach

Bo Phut Beach

Local cuisine

The local cuisine is a mixture of Malay, Indonesian and Indian cuisines.

The most popular dishes are Indian curry (Massaman), rice noodles in fish curry sauce (khanom jeen) and chicken biryani.

See : Massaman curry: the recipe for one of the best Thai curries

Massaman Curry

Massaman Curry

Things to see and do on Koh Samui

Chaweng Beach

Koh Samui's most popular beach is a large white sandy beach over 7km long, and is also the safest on the island due to the shallow water.

Chaweng is lined with hotels directly on the beach, shops, stalls and restaurants.

Lamai Beach

This is the second most popular beach on Koh Samui, with the beaches being wilder and quieter than Chaweng, ideal for more tranquillity.


This is the port of embarkation from Koh Samui to Surat Thani.

Nathon is just a place of passage, it is not very lively.

NaThon Beach from the jungle

NaThon beach from the jungle of Koh Samui

Green Mango

This is the soi of Chaweng lined with numerous bars that come alive at nightfall

Big Buddha (Wat Phra Yai)

It is a seated Buddha statue which is 12 metres high and is located in a temple in the north of the island, Wat Phra Yai.

Grandfather and Grandmother's Rocks (Hin Ta and Hin Yai)

These are rocks in the shape of male and female genitalia, symbols of fertility.

Hin Ta and Hin Yai

Hin Ta and Hin Yai

Video : Top 5 things to do in Koh Samui

A video that also allows you to discover the most beautiful places on the island.

Events and festivals in Koh Samui

The Bullfighting Festival is one of the most famous festivals on the island, held on special occasions such as Christmas and New Year's Eve or Songkran.

The season differs according to ancient customs and ceremonies.

The bull is richly decorated. Before the fight, which lasts two rounds, the monks sprinkle it with holy water.

Traditionally, the owner of the winner wins a sum of money.

The Fishing Village Festival is a five-day festival of music, festivities and local food.

Music is played by famous artists and tents sell specialities from nearby hotels at affordable prices.

The Samui Regatta has been organised every year since 2002.

It is internationally known and competitors come from Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Japan and China.

Find a hotel in Koh Samui

You'll have no trouble finding hotel accommodation, but if you're coming between November and February, Thailand's peak season, it's best to book in advance.

You can find the best hotel deals in Koh Samui with Booking.com

Transport to Koh Samui

To get an idea of transport prices, consult timetables or book a plane, bus, train or boat ticket, see our partner : 12go.asia.

Powered by 12GB system


You can find the cheapest long haul flights to Koh Samui by comparing prices with Skyscanner.

L'Ko Samui International Airport (USM) is a private airport built by Bangkok Airways, which is still the main operator and for a long time was the only one to offer the connection between the island and Thailand.

The airport is also served by Thai Airways International.

It has no real buildings for passengers to use, apart from the souvenir shop.

It has two terminals: one for domestic flights, the other for international routes.

The airport is located near the Big Buddha pier from where ferries depart for Ko Pha Ngan.

Fast ferries to Koh Tao and Chumphon depart from Maenam pier, about 6km northwest of the airport.

Koh Samui Airport

Koh Samui Airport

Other means of transport on and to the island

Several ferries connect Samui to the mainland.

Public buses serve the island.

Songthaew (pick-up taxis) operate on the coastal road, and private taxis are available throughout the island although these are criticised for being unreliable (odometers and overloading).

See also :
Transport in Thailand, getting around in the land of smiles.

Practical information

Koh Samui Hospitals

There are four private international hospitals in Samui:

  •     Samui International Hospital on the Beach Road north of Chaweng
  •     Thai International on Lake Road in Chaweng
  •     Bandon Hospital on the coastal road
  •     Bangkok Samui Hospital in Chaweng Noi

The public hospital is located in Nathon. There are also many clinics and pharmacies, especially in Chaweng.

Map of Koh Samui

Map of Koh Samui

Source: wikipedia.org ; wikitravel.org ; Photos : Bophut beach : Ssuri ; Lipa Noi Beach: Manfred Werner ; Koh Samui Airport: Per Meistrup; Boarding from Koh Samui airport: Binderdonedat ; Koh Samui airport runway: Binderdonedat ; The rocks of Grandfather and Grandmother (Hin Ta Hin Yai): Ahoerstemeier ; Choeng Mon Beach: Rich Daley; Na Thon from the Jungle: Rich Daley; Massaman curry: Thanthan

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