Alyssa Hiller: 3 Things To Do In Koh Samui
Koh Samui is Thailand’s second-largest island after Phuket, known for its palm-fringed beaches, coconut groves and dense, mountainous rainforest. And, some of the most colorful sunsets we ever did see (purples and pinks and golds – oh my!).
The most popular areas to stay in Koh Samui are Chaweng and Lamai in the east of the island. On the upside, they offer the most nightlife; on the downside, the respective beaches can get quite crowded with tourists. If you’re looking for calmer, quieter environments, look into Bophut or Maenam. We stayed at a stunning beachside resort in Chaweng.
While the nightlife is not as crazy as Phuket’s, there are three major hot spots in Chaweng Beach: Green Mango strip, Soi Reggae and ARK Bar. Even if you’re not looking to party, they’re at least worth the people watching. But, be advised, ladies: Hold onto your men…
The famous (or infamous) Green Mango strip comes alive at night with pubs, dance bars and go-go bars. For the latter, you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into at the onset by way of the minimally dressed girls outside, who have absolutely no shame trying to lure your men inside! At the very end of the road is the aptly named Green Mango Club, famed for its iconic tree house design, and huge open-air space with multiple bars and dance floors.
Soi Reggae, as you can guess, houses the popular Reggae Pub at the very end of the street. Similarly, here you’ll find several cheap bars and dance clubs along a 200-meter stretch, with even more aggressive, scantily clad women enticing men to enter. ARK Bar Beach Resort is newer to the scene but incredibly popular. The hotel boasts two beachfront restaurants, three swimming pools and two swim-up bars, with DJs, live music and parties daily. We didn’t personally get a chance to visit this spot, but based on feedback, we don’t recommend staying here if you’re looking for peace and quiet.
Now, if nightlife is your thing, you won’t want to miss a Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan. Tens of thousands of tourists flock to the neighboring island monthly, in which the beach explodes into an all-night, epic rager, lasting from dawn till late afternoon the next day. There’s no airport on Koh Phangan (yet, at least), so travelers typically take the ferry to/from Koh Samui. We strategically avoided a Full Moon Party, as getting ‘trapped’ on an island with 30,000 others isn’t really for us.
Aside from drinking and partying, Koh Samui offers some wonderful adventures and activities. Here our top three recommendations:
1) EXPLORE ANG THONG NATIONAL MARINE PARK
This is a pristine archipelago of 42 islands, boasting more than 100 sq. km. of protected land and sea (mountains, jungle, beaches, mangroves, waterfalls, lakes, coves – the works). With that, there are hundreds of activities, from snorkeling and diving, to hiking, sea kayaking and sailing. We took an afternoon trip and opted to snorkel. Although the park is known for its exotic wildlife and sea creatures, we unfortunately didn’t see too much, as the previous day’s intense rains churned up the water. Still a great day!
2) VISIT HIN TA HIN YAI ROCKS
I’m extremely immature, so I’m ashamed to admit we missed these formations in person. Located on the rocky coastline between Lamai and Hua Thanon, the two rocks, known as Grandpa (Ta) and Grandma (Yai), strangely mirror…well, take a look for yourselves here.
3) BOOK THE THAI EXPERIENCE
This activity was recommended to us by a couple we met in Chiang Mai, and we must pass along the favor. The experience brings together tourists from all over the world for an intimate dinner party at a private residence – one in which the unlimited drinks are steadily flowing. The evening begins with a cocktail-making introduction (and shots – seriously, what better way to break the ice), using unique tropical fruits, and the drinks continuously flow from that point forward. Even if you don’t drink alcohol, the environment, crowd and hosts make the experience highly entertaining and enjoyable. Do not eat too much throughout the day, as you’ll be partaking in a three-course, 15-dish meal through the four-hour dinner party. Spoil yourself for an evening and don’t miss out on this activity. Book in advance!