You can get right up close and personal with animals in a few facilities in Koh Samui. The Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo at Ban Harn beach hosts tropical fish, turtles, coral, and other aquatic life, and offers you the opportunity to take your photo with Bengal tigers and leopards. For a less intense animal experience, visit the Samui Butterfly Garden and Insect Museum in the southeast, with rare bugs including butterflies with foot-long wingspans!
Koh Samui is best known for its fantastic beach life, with full-service beach resorts and fantastic unspoiled stretches of sea and sand. Chaweng and Lamai are the most developed beaches, Cheongmon is among the quieter ones. Laem Set and Thong Takhian have attractive coral beds.
The major gay destinations are in Chaweng and most gay men converge on the beach nearest the Starbucks. Clubs and bars in this area offer ladyboy performances, massage, dancing, and music into the wee hours of the morning.
MaeNam Beach to the west of Bophut Beach, along the northern coast of the island, is a quieter area that recalls the island before the tourists arrived. Lined with palm trees, with a view of the neighboring Koh Pha-ngan island, it has seen some recent resort developments, such as the W Retreat Koh Samui set among nine miles of beachfront, with private-pool villas, and six restaurants, including the Namu Japanese Restaurant.
Buffalo Fighting Festival
Held on special occasions such as New Years Day and Songkran. Unlike the Spanish custom, fights are fairly harmless as buffalo bulls fight other bulls, each decorated with ribbons and gold-painted leaves on their horns. Before the contest of two rounds, morning and afternoon, monks spray them with holy water. Winning owners typically takes home millions of baht in prize money.
Ten Stars Samui Art Party
Brings together art lovers, and artists, both local Thai and international, with new, original works. Bi-monthly events are hosted at various resorts around the island, and aim to build a thriving arts community on Samui.
Fisherman's Village Festival
Five-day festival in late August, celebrated with music and food. Well-known local musicians perform and food tents provide inexpensive cuisine prepared by local hotels.
The Samui Regatta is a sailing tournament, held every year in May/June. The tournament is the final regatta of eight in the Asian Grand Prix series, internationally attended with competitors from Australia, Singapore, Japan and China. This event, for boats of all sizes and shapes, began in 2002.
Songkran (Thai New year)
Celebrated all over Thailand, when family members return home. A traditional time for throwing water (or using water guns, buckets, dippers, and hoses) on anyone and everyone in the streets. Takes place in April, during the hot season, so not a bad idea.
At the southern end of Lamai Beach are two rock formations that are shaped unmistakably like male and female genitalia. Ask a local to tell you the legends behind these two boulders, known as Grandfather and Grandmother. See photo above.
One of the world's oldest evergreen rain forests. Giant limestone mountains shoot straight up from deep valleys, caves, exotic animals plant life.
About an hour & a half from Surat Thani, about 645 square km, one of Thailand's best preserved tropical vegetation and wildlife habitats; virgin evergreen jungle, waterfalls, clear rivers and streams. Wildlife includes monkeys & wild gau, thousands of bird, insects, reptile and plant species. Rainbow Scuba can show you arround, & arrange overnights in a tree house.
Had Rin Beach was a fairly deserted destination for the backpacker crowd who came to these islands in the 1970s-80s to participate in the wild beach parties of the day. Today the area is well-developed, with resort bungalows, clubs, stores and restaurants, but the tradition continues each full moon. Over a dozen sound systems cover the length of the beach, for the thousands of visitors - especially busy at New Year's Eve when up to 30,000 may arrive. See the website for upcoming dates and travel information from Koh Samui, Bangkok or elsewhere in the region.
42 islands, 20 kilometres or two hours by boat northwest of Ko Samui. Limestone formations of up to 400 metres are fringed by beaches, rain forest, dry forest, and mangrove trees. Top attractions include: Tha-le Nai (Inland Sea) emerald salt-water lake on Ko Mae Ko -- the views are worth the climb; Ko Sam Sao coral reef, and giant rock arch.
Bungalow accommodations available on Ko Wua Ta Lap must be booked ahead with park offices or through Thai Tourism.
The most famous temple on the island is Wat Khunaram, known for its mummified monk. The mummy sits in a glass casket and worshippers bring it flowers and incense. Locals say that the mummy was a meditation master who was able to predict his own death.
Koh Samui’s picturesque waterfalls also make great basins for swimming. Namtok Hin Lat is easily accessible by car and has lots of small levels to swim at different heights. Namtok Na Mueang has two waterfalls – Number 1 is easily reached by car, but you’ll have to walk a further thirty minutes to reach the prettier Number 2. It’s surrounded by bright purple rocks and pours forth from a height of 250 feet!