Koh Samui holidaymakers can indulge at a spa or yoga retreat, before sunbathing on the breathtaking Chaweng Beach or speed boating across dolphin-inhabited waters to the stunning archipelago of Ang Thong Marine Park. Adrenaline junkies can get their fix from water-sports such as kite boarding, kayaking and snorkelling while culture vultures head to the island's Buddhist temples, most notably, Wat Phra Yai, whose 15-metre Buddha creates a dramatic silhouette against the exotic landscape.
As one of Koh Samui’s most famous sites, the Big Buddha Temple, also known as Wat Phra Yai, is a top attraction. Built in 1972, this popular landmark is hard to miss, with its 12-metre Buddha statue visible even from kilometres away. You’ll also find two other Buddha images inside the temple area, as well as a number of shops in the courtyard that sell a variety of souvenirs and artefacts. All visitors are welcome, but keep in mind to dress politely while here since it’s considered a sacred place. For the best cultural experience in the temple, come in the early mornings when locals offer food and monks do their morning chants inside.
As one of the oldest communities in the island, the Bophut Fisherman’s Village is one of Koh Samui’s most interesting attractions. The village is home to many traditional buildings and structures, with wooden shops and rustic houses a constant sight throughout the area. Due to its reputation as a tourist hub, several resorts, restaurants, and even dive shops can now be found within the village. It’s also a reliable place for buying a variety of clothing, jewellery, and souvenirs. For those who want some beach action while visiting, Bophut Beach is conveniently located just outside the village.
Completed in 2004, the Wat Plai Laem temple is one of Koh Samui’s newest and most colourful Buddhist temples. Its structures reflect both Chinese and Thai traditions, with two of its biggest statues featuring famous figures from both cultures. The first is a gigantic statue of Guanyin, the goddess of mercy, who is depicted here with 18 arms. The second is an enormous statue of a Buddha that’s almost 30 metres high. Other highlights include intricate Buddhist designs throughout the temple and the tranquillity of its surrounding lake. The temple is open to all and entry is free, but be aware that a dress code is implemented, so avoid beach wear and revealing clothing.
If you're seeking a cruise of Koh Samui that’s truly out of the ordinary, hire the unique Chantara Junk Boat to take you around. This traditional teak junk boat is a beautifully restored sea vessel that makes exploring Koh Samui even more memorable. Group tours are available for those who want to spend the day visiting some of the island’s best attractions, while private cruises will be perfect for those who a more intimate and customised journey for their trip. Though it may look antique on the outside, the Chantara Junk Boat is fitted with a host of modern comforts inside. Popular attractions you can visit with the Chantara Junk Boat include the Koh Phangan waterfalls, the Koh Tao Island, and the Ang Thong Marine Park.
Located on a hilltop on the inner part of the main island (northwest of Lamai Beach), the Secret Buddha Garden is a hidden getaway that regularly enchants those who visit it. The garden is home to a wide range of sculptures and stone statues scattered throughout a serene forest environment. These sculptures were the work of renowned local farmer Nim Thongsuk, who started building them in 1976 at age 77 and continued to do so until his death. Most of the sculptures relate to Buddhist folklore and local mythologies, offering visitors a unique look at the island’s local culture. A number of scenic views and lookouts can also be found on the way here, making a trip to these gardens even more worthwhile.