No room for mediocrity inside precious holiday time – I’ve done the guinea pigging for you. Below you’ll find a long list of 35 places, ideas, tips, activities, books, beaches and experiences – all of which I’m declaring Koh Samui’s best.
1. Best beach on Koh Samui
I like Choeng Mon best (for these 12 reasons), but you’ll have a favourite soon enough – Samui manages to be all things to all sorts of people. How so? Use The Koh Samui Guide to choose where you’ll be happiest staying; learn the pros/cons, demographics and highlights of every corner of the island (plus each area’s most notable private hotels, bungalows & tips for villa rental).
2. Best early morning walk
For its length (approx. 3 miles/5 km), seclusion and views of Koh Phangan – you can’t do than better Maenam Beach.
3. Best beach restaurant on earth
Travel+Leisure magazine included the very tiny (very delicious) Had Bang Po seafood restaurant on this impressive list. Catch it now before it gets trendy!
4. Best place to stay on Koh Samui
My readers’ most-booked Koh Samui hotel is Escape Beach Resort on Maenam Beach. Me? I could never choose just one.
5. Best way not to die
Scooter rental is one of a few island transport options, but perhaps the most popular. Plan to rent one? Add a helmet. Hot, sunny weather makes many Samui visitors forget their physics (oh please avoid holiday lobotomies). The shirt? A non-negotiable part of the Thai dress code – and no sunburn. Easiest A+ of your life.
6. Best things to bring from home
The most random packing suggestion you’ve received? I’ve used myself (and my family) as an ongoing mosquito science project for 14 years now and this little beauty – Incognito’s luxury loofah soap – is next-level genius. Apparently, some chemical result of dead skin cells + sweat = mosquito heroin.
While Thailand’s heat makes the latter unavoidable, we can exfoliate our little hearts out and totally win the mosquito war. Start using one of these a week or so before leaving for Thailand, then pop it in your toiletry bag to continue the victory. There’s a citronella soap inside so it’s your entire shower kit in one tidy package. More on why I love Incognito’s products and its totally ethical business.
For enjoying Samui with kids, I definitely recommend bringing some beach games and pool toys – selection is fairly limited on the island and your beach book wants them occupied. The very most popular of all? Toypedo Bandits rank as all-time favourite pool toy.
7. Best way to cool off quickly
That would be a bucket of water (iced, probably) thrown down your back during Koh Samui’s Songkran – celebrated annually in April.
8. Best street food on Koh Samui
Stop by a walking street (farmer’s market/night market) in one of Samui’s towns for a moveable feast – dinner, drinks and dessert. Fishermen’s Village (on Fridays) is one of my favourite nights out on Samui.
9. Best day ever
It might be your wedding day, blah blah blah, but a day-trip by boat to Angthong Marine Park will be a very close second.
10. Best way to spend a rainy day
I’ve got 13 ideas for rainy day activities. Some will make you fat, but they’ll all keep you dry.
11. Best Koh Samui guide book
See what The Koh Samui Guide has to offer your vacation. I’m just getting started!
12. Best way to avoid embarrassing yourself
Without a little research it’s easy to embarrass yourself in a new country. Simply remember these brief Thailand do’s and don’ts (5 do’s, 5 don’ts + 1 bonus don’t) and you’re golden.
13. Best way to terrify your wife/girlfriend
Don’t tell her there’s a gecko in the bathroom.
14. Best romantic dinner on Koh Samui
I offer a few smushy romantic ideas, plus nice spots for sunset cocktails. After the gecko thing, you’ll owe her.
15. Best-dressed list
Make sure you feature. On the beach and off – it’s easy to figure out what to wear in Thailand.
16. Best friends for life
Use free holiday Thai language podcasts to learn a few words of Thai, and you’ll have never made people so happy.
17. Best guess
Which is bigger – Koh Samui or Fiji? Find out how big Koh Samui is, compared to Bermuda, Greenland and beyond
18. The best of what, exactly?
I like to keep tabs on Samui’s victories – it regularly scoops up armfuls of prizes in TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards. Make that best for romance, best for food and wine… and plenty more.
19. Best beach books
These are my top ten – what are you loading on your Kindle?
20. Best face forward
You’ll probably meet him as you fly into Koh Samui, so why not get to know Koh Samui’s Big Buddha?
21. Best rude photo-op
So this is awkward. There are a few unusual Koh Samui attractions, but ‘Hin Ta Hin Yai’ takes just 5 minutes to bring out the inner 12-year-old in all of us. There’s a boy-version, too.
22. Best sales pitch
It goes like this… “Hello, massaaaaaaage“, and it works. Thai massage huts are found all along Samui’s many beaches, (with dozens of resort spas available too) – you’ll need very little convincing to succumb to an hour a day.
23. Best year yet
Lots to look forward to for Koh Samui’s 2017 events.
24. Best way to have your cake and eat it too
Spend Christmas on Koh Samui – eating your mince pies on a beach.
25. Best books about Thailand
I’ve read almost all of these books about Thailand myself and loved them. I now I know a lot of random Thai trivia with which I annoy my family. (They don’t ask, but I like to tell them anyway). Cultural norms, birds, lady-boys, coconut milk, murder, mystery – it’s all there.
26. Best mosquito repellent for Koh Samui
Mosquitoes in Thailand are worthy adversaries, but won’t be any kind of problem if you’re in the habit of using mozzie repellent. For totally natural and extremely effective protection, try Incognito mosquito repellant (a UK product) or Beat-It All-Natural repellent as a U.S. alternative.
27. Best foot forward
You’ll live in your Havaianas Flip-Flops. At most, you’ll want to pack just 5 kinds of shoes for Thailand but, for 99% of your time on Koh Samui, flip-flops are the most convenient. Why Havaianas? They last for-ev-er and don’t get hot when left in the sun.
28. Best sausage rolls
They’re waiting for you at Angela’s Diner and Bakery, in Maenam.
29. Best local food treat
Fresh fruit and veggies (like Thai bananas – fresh off the tree, bought from the granny who grew them).
30. Best Thai beer
I’ve done the research on Thai beer (I fully committed, in fact) – but the judgment is yours.
31. Best attempt at “Slow Food”
33. Best Discovery Channel moment
A near-collision with a metre-long monitor lizard – with updates from many readers’ monitor lizard stories, too.
34. Best time to have the island to yourself
35. Best way to say thank you
How to the person looking after your dog/cat/goldfish/plants? Choose a nice Thai silk cushion, local Samui rum or a selection of soaps/candles/essential oils – spend a few hours doing some Thai souvenir shopping and you’ll easily find the perfect gift.
And the rest of the best?
I’ve saved the even better-best (like where to find bacon) for The Koh Samui Guide. Download it now and the island awaits. Enjoy!
Photos used under license from Shutterstock and via Flickr Creative Commons. Post contains affiliate links.