Na Muang Waterfall
Na Muang, Moo 3
Don’t leave Koh Samui without making the pilgrimage to Na Muang. Try to visit during rainy season, which runs from late October to the middle of December. This is when the water creates a rushing, visually stunning cascade into the rock pools below. These pools fill up and transform into the most idyllic spot for a swim surrounded by beautiful, untamed jungle.
64/12-15 Bophut, Moo 2
It's impossible to see all of the temples in Thailand, so choose wisely. On Samui, the Lamai temple, just a five-minute drive from popular Lamai Beach on the island's east coast, should be a priority. It’s a striking example of the ornate gold structures in the country that seem to transcend time. Locals come to pray and offer gifts to the Buddha. A nearby museum store sells artifacts and offers an impressive history of the city and island. Wear respectful, conservative clothes—no bare arms or legs—and comfortable shoes to allow for plenty of walking around the grounds.
Secret Buddha Garden
Na Mueang, Moo 3
From 1976 until his death, durian farmer Nim Thongsuk placed sculptures around his family’s expansive jungle garden, making it one of the most gorgeous landmarks on all of Samui. High on a hilltop and surrounded by greenery, the Secret Buddha Garden sits beside a serene waterfall that trickles into a stream. Some of the statues are of Nim Thongsuk himself and his parents, seated beside characters of Buddhist folklore and a band of musicians. Get an experienced taxi driver with a four-wheel drive to take you to this mountainous getaway (the country road can be a little bumpy—heads up).
Fisherman’s Village Walking Street
Bo Put, Moo 4
Thailand's bustling markets are famous around the world—and for good reason. These are where you can score locally made silk shawls next to handmade baskets, colorful souvenirs, dried herbs, and so much more. One of these cultural bazaars can be found in nearly every city, island, and village. On Samui, you'll find it on Friday nights at the Fisherman's Village Walking Street in Bophut, a beach village on the northern end of the island. This is a fun stop for an evening out. Bring cash, as most vendors won't take credit cards. Afterward, grab dinner at one of the local beachside cafés.
Ang Thong National Marine Park
45/1-2 Moo 1
You know those photos of dense jungle and white sand next to gigantic mountains jutting out of crystalline water? That’s the Ang Thong National Marine Park. This archipelago, made up of more than forty islands, is so bright and vivid, it looks Photoshopped. It's about an hour or two from Koh Samui (depending on the type of boat you choose; you can take a touristy slow boat, like the Red Baron, or a speedboat for the day). Depending on whether you take a private charter or a group tour, the local companies will tailor the day to what you're looking for, which will likely include some type of snorkeling, swimming, and trekking along the trails of a few of the inhabited islands (most are uninhabited).
Boulangerie Patisserie de Samui
5/17 Moo 3
This is everything you might imagine a tropical island café to be: open, full of island plants, and anchored by lots of bamboo furniture. It's a French café, so come in the mood for buttery, flaky croissants and strong coffee. Or if you're looking for more substance, order one of the custardy omelets at an outside table before heading to a morning yoga class. Then again, maybe wait until after your sun salutations.
Big Buddha Coffee
Wat Phra Yai Ko, Moo 5
All the morning (or afternoon) coffee you want is here—foamy lattes, creamy cappuccinos, and strong cold brew over ice, along with an incredible view of the Gulf of Thailand. It's a tiny but mighty little café with a strong following (you'll find a mix of locals and tourists in the morning) and a few cozy seats in the back perfect for people-watching, reading a book, or looking out over the ocean.
Sweet Sisters Cafe
4170, Tambon Na Mueang, Moo 1
It's a charming, totally unassuming little café that serves up some of the island's best fish cakes, handmade spring rolls, and papaya salad. There's also a variety of freshly squeezed juices and green smoothies with coconut milk. But if you're going to have one thing, make it a piece of the spongy, buttery, vanilla-y macadamia nut cake. It’s that good.
99/9 Moo 4
A terrace seat and a drink at dusk make for a magnificent start to dinner here, as the sun dips over the sea and behind the jungle-covered mountains. But you’re here for the food, not just the view. Chef Renu Homsombat refined her craft in kitchens across Europe—including Germany’s three-Michelin-star Schwarzwaldstube in Baiersbronn—before taking the helm at Saffron. Homsombat’s menu has all the classics, like pad Thai, but also highlights regional flavors by incorporating ingredients like banana blossom, prawns, and jasmine-scented water chestnuts in rich coconut milk.
62/1 Moo 1
It's a little touristy, a little loud, and totally worth it: Get a daiquiri made with island fruit and sit on one of the massive beanbags on the beach. Once you’ve settled in, you'll probably want to get another daiquiri and stay for the beachside fire dancers who perform every night. And if you spend at least $30 (about 1,000 Thai baht), you’re free to lounge in one of the hammocks. The food (mostly fried) isn't exactly healthy, but it hits the spot when you're craving a late-night snack.