It has an enjoyable and often unpredictable mix of tropical weather conditions,
the sunniest months falling between January and August, with occasional downpours.
More frequent rainstorms arrive in September/October, lasting through to December.
The hottest months are from March to June. The sea temperature averages 29 degrees
Celsius year round.
WHAT TO DO?
As hedonists gleefully point out, this exotic corner of Asia is a beach lover's
dream, for it has no historical or cultural 'must sees'. If you do nothing for your
entire stay than eat, sunbathe, and sleep, you are not likely to feel that your
indulgence has caused you to miss seeing some once-in-a-lifetime attraction. At
worst, you will deny yourself the pleasure of some stunningly beautiful natural
scenery, and a few interesting temples. If you decide to go sightseeing, a couple
of excursions and a hire car for a day or two will do nicely. There are also pleasant
boat trips to the Ang Thong Marine National Park, or to smaller neighbouring islands
such as Koh Tao, or the larger island of Pha Ngan, the latter a trendy pilgrimage
for the modern-day adventure traveler with a backpack. Numerous dive schools cater
for beginners, as well as conducting dives for skilled aficionados off deserted
The profound beauty of the area has attracted a number of artists, writers and retirees
who are living happily ever after in secluded island corners. Drawn also by the
idyllic environment, purveyors of alternative medicine and whole-body practices
enthusiastically offer their services, as do many teaching metaphysical and martial
arts. In contrast to the all night swinging discos, Samui is becoming a Mecca for
followers of physical and spiritual disciplines.
Several establishments on the island offer supervised "detoxification" and fasting
programmes, often coupled with yoga, meditation, or other mind-body
exercises. Other possibilities include a broad spectrum of treatments, or instruction,
including Thai Massage, Shiatsu, Craniosacral Therapy, Acupuncture, Reflexology,
Aromatherapy, Colonic Lavage, Ayurveda, Acupressure, Hydrotherapy, Qi Kung, Reiki
, Vortex Astrology, Taoist Health, Tarot studies, and others.
Although many of these might be bona-fide and beneficial, the line between holistic
hype and medical fact is often blurred, as is that between the spiritual and the
spurious. It is prudent therefore to check credibility and credentials carefully
before going ahead.
Apart from organised tours, the simplest, easiest, and arguably the most enjoyable
sightseeing option is a circumnavigation of the island with a hire car or jeep on
the 52 kilometres of paved road, which for the most part, follows the coast. It
is best conducted at a leisurely pace over two or three days, rather than a round-the-island-rush,
which can be "done" in just 2-3 hours. Taking your time enables the exploration
of smaller side roads, encourages local encounters, and opens a whole new window
on the island's immense appeal. Since the road completes a full circle, the
best way to appreciate the different perspectives is to travel in both a clockwise
and counter-clockwise direction on different days, and at different times of day.
Although not a tempting thought on a relaxing holiday, some of the loveliest images
happen at dawn, when most tourists are fast asleep, and setting out just before
sunrise can provide unforgettable combinations of natural beauty, human activities,
and stunning blends of illumination. Since distances are relatively short, you can
always return to your hotel and resume the magical tour after a hearty breakfast
born of a healthy appetite - a great way to start the day.
Mountains dominate almost two thirds of the island. The lower slopes comprise mainly
coconut plantations, an extension of the thousands of palms growing on the coastal
plains - two million coconuts they say are exported to Bangkok every month. The
higher altitudes are clothed in tropical forest, studded with impressive granite
boulders. Many of the dirt roads and tracks are accessible only by 4WD vehicles
or trail bikes, but it is wise to take advice before attempting to explore the hinterland.
Trekking and mountain bike tours can be arranged through some local travel companies,
and for the energetic, the scenic rewards are well worth the loss of perspiration.
Also available on tours are an Elephant Trek which in a half-day
tour also takes in an elephant ride, and a full day Jeep Safari
to the less well known spots in the interior.
The West coast: The island's main town of Nathon
on the upper west coast offers little in the way of sightseeing, but has
a reasonable selection of shops and restaurants. The back streets still hide some
old houses echoing a very different past, and a glimpse of island life before tourism
arrived. Nathon is also one of the island's passenger ferry ports, with a vehicle
ferry port located further south at Thong Yang. The south-western corner of the
island is quiet and picturesque, with smaller roads and villages which are pleasant
to explore. There are a number of small beaches here, but they do not compare with
those on the east coast.
The North coast has a series of smaller beaches, some of
which are good for swimming, snorkelling, and windsurfing when the northeast breezes
blow from December to February. Hat Phra Yai at Bangrak is best known as the Big
Buddha Beach named after the tall gold tiled sitting Buddha on a small island connected
to the beach by a causeway.
The North East coast provides a series of smaller capes and picturesque
coves, some difficult to reach by road. From here there are excellent views over
to Ko Pha Ngan.
The East coast: Samui’s longest and most beautiful
beach of Chaweng is located here. Fringed with swaying picture postcard palms, it
extends for 5km and makes for wonderful walks, particularly at dawn or sunset. Chaweng
also has the largest variety of water sports, and a good selection of shops and
The South East coast: Samui’s second longest beach
of Lamai is here, again with good tourism infrastructure, but with less sand and
generally lacking the tropical beauty and exotic feel of Chaweng.
Some sightseeing options include: The Butterfly Farm built into
a hillside in the southeast corner, and the nearby Samui Aquarium
which features live specimens of local marine life. The Samui
Snake Farm located in the soutwest on the 4170 ring road houses several
species of venomous snakes, including a King Cobra (reputedly the largest
captive specimen in Thailand) plus scorpions and centipedes, and has a daily
show. The Samui Crocodile Farm, near the airport, also has daily
shows. There is an interesting 150 year old Ancient House
made of teakwood without using nails at Ban Thale, said to be the oldest house on
the island and home to some impressive woodcarvings. Heaven's Garden
is an open air art gallery in the central highlands, the creation of a local man
who sculpted dozens of figures inspired by Buddhist scriptures. Monkey Shows
demonstrate the useful ability of monkeys to pick ripe nuts, as well as performing
other tricks. For more aesthetic pursuits, you may wish to see the two mummified
monks at Wat Kiri Wongkaram and Wat Khunaram
in the south of the island. Another revered site is the Coral Buddha
a small statue visited by Buddhist devotees. Although in disrepair, it is a place
of worship for the monks from nearby Wat Sumret, on the 4169 ring-road
which houses contains numerous Buddha images, the tallest three metres high brought
from India. Wat Sila Ngu on the 4169 ring-road, one kilometer South
of Hin-Ta Hin-Yai is said to contain a relic of the Lord Buddha,
and the temple is often used for travelling shows. Thai boxing
performances can be seen most days at the Samui stadium. At Living Thailand
in the south of the island there is a show reflecting traditional lifestyles a buffalo
theatre and a Thai farming museum. For the more adventurous, there is also place
to Bungy Jump on the island. Samui's delightful
Airport opened in 1989, and now handles more than 40 flights a
day on services to place such as Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya (U-Tapao), Krabi and Singapore...
More like a botanic garden than an airport, it has won a number of awards for design
and environmental compatibility. It is worth a visit just to admire the care and
attention, which went into its creation.
Ang Thong Marine National Park
This popular day excursion takes you to some 40 protected limestone islands about
30km northwest of Koh Samui, the tallest reaching up to 400m and mostly covered
in tropical rain forest, beautiful sanctuaries to dozens of bird species.
The park headquarters where most boats stop is on Ko Wua Talab and a 400m climb
to the peak offers superb panoramic views. Other islands have impressive spectacular
stalactite and stalagmite formations, and there is a spectacular saltwater lake
Ko Mae Ko which is the park’s major attraction, but requires a fairly strenuous
climb. A better way and more adventurous way to explore this area is to book a one
day Kayaking Tour around the marine park to see
the attractions close up, explore rock formations, limestone cliffs, caves and grottoes.
Big Game Fishing day trips are also on offer.
If time permits, visitors might want to visit the island of Pha Ngan,
15km to the north, which is almost as large as Samui, and easily accessed by daily
ferry and speedboats. This island is high and rugged, with rocky granite headlands
separating many palm-fringed beaches hiding in secluded coves. Another option is
Koh Tao, the smallest and remotest of the three major islands,
but sharing the same geological structure, with spectacular beaches and rocky headlands
dominated by huge granite boulders.
The beaches of Chaweng and Lamai offer a wide range of enjoyable entertainment catering
to many tastes, ranging from quiet bars to high-decibel discos, which extinguish
their sounds at dawn. Arguably the most pleasant activity to begin the evening is
dinner, with a whole host of tempting options available on the island, both on and
near the beach.
For those seeking an exotic island idyll with the emphasis on pure relaxation and
indulgent inactivity, Samui is ideal. It is equally suitable for those who want
a bit of both. However, since Phuket has much more to offer in the way of general
activities, it is worth remembering that there is a daily 45-minute air connection
between the two islands, allowing for the best of both worlds: a two-centre Samui/Phuket
The Amari Palm Reef Resort is situated at the quieter north end of Chaweng, nicely
removed from the busier pace of the bustling areas, but strolling distance away,
along the superb beach. In Phuket, the same perfect formula applies to the Amari
Coral Beach Resort, south of Patong.