Ahhh, Koh Samui. The magical Thai island that effortlessly exudes a tropical beauty which attracts visitors from all over the world. She boasts stunning blonde beaches, a lush-green jungle-clad interior, and mountainous terrain. Yet, she somehow manages to radiate a modern ambience with numerous high-end resorts, upscale hotels, and world-class restaurants, not to mention the luxury spas and fashionable shopping malls. But there’s more to this popular island than what first meets the eye. Yes there are the beach parties that begin at noon for the bikini-clad 20-somethings, and relaxing on a sun-lounger on the beach with a cocktail in hand seems to be part and parcel of most holiday-goer’s itineraries. However, there’s much more to this tropical treat than what features on the typical tourist route.
The Secret Buddha Garden
If you didn’t guess by its name, this is one of the island’s best-kept secrets. A trip to the Secret Buddha Garden is something special. Slip into your trainers, slap on the sunscreen, and go wild with the mosquito spray and you are ready to follow a hiking trail that leads up to a viewpoint. But the idyllic vistas aren’t the most exciting part, as this pretty, tropical garden is home to four footprints rumored to belong to Lord Buddha. If only for one day – forget about the markets, the beautiful beaches and the comforts of your resort because seeing Buddha’s footprints is a true-Thai experience that is arguably unique than anything else. Where: Off Route 4169, between Hua Thanon and Na Muang
Lunch with a View: Peak Eye View Restaurant
If it’s a good view you are after, then you are in for a treat as the mountainous interior of Koh Samui sets visitors up to take in some breathtaking views from the Peak Eye View Restaurant. And this eatery doesn’t just have a pretty observation point – it is the epitome of all views. It stands 600 meters above sea level and looks out across the Samui coastline, and the Thai food isn’t bad either. Where: Off the Ring Road between Lamai and Nathon
Experience Life as a Monkey: Canopy Adventures
Not everyone gets to enjoy seeing the island from a bird’s eye view. And what a fun way to explore the island it is! The aptly named Canopy Adventures takes zippers from as young as seven through the rainforest, flying from platform to platform on a unique journey through the trees that, usually, only the local birds and monkeys get to experience. Zipping around the trees attached by a cable at speeds of up to 50 MPH, flying will soon feel like second nature and finding your walking-feet back on the ground can take some time!
Where: Inland from Mae Nam, just off the main Ring Road
Water, Water Everywhere: Na Muang Waterfalls
From the glistening blue waters of the Gulf of Thailand to the manmade lakes and natural rivers, Koh Samui is undeniably a water-lovers’ paradise. Yet, one of its best watery features is somewhat of a secret that just a handful of people get to enjoy – Koh Samui’s waterfalls. There’s something really refreshing about cooling off from the balmy Thai heat in a waterfall. Far more exhilarating than bobbing around in the sea and heaps more fun than lounging on a lilo in a chlorine-filled swimming pool; a waterfall has an organic stimulating effect that is just as effective at reviving a tired soul as any luxury spa.
Na Muang waterfall proves that Samui’s splendor is not rationed to its beaches. Na Muang features not one, but two amazing waterfalls that provide a cooling escape from the grueling heat. For those feeling adventurous, the second waterfall can be reached with an additional 30-minute walk and a cooling pool awaits anyone who wants to take the plunge. And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t in 30-degree heat?
Where: Off Route 4169, between Hua Thanon and Nathon, 12km inland
The ‘Four S’ on Koh Taen
Sun, sea, sightseeing and … snorkeling! While Chaweng might be home to fantastic shops and world-class restaurants and Lamai boasts a wonderful beach and a plethora of luxury resorts, there’s something amazing about taking a daytrip to nearby Koh Taen that can’t be matched elsewhere on the island. This is a great trip to do with all the family and activities are a-plenty, from snorkeling and monitor lizard watching to watersports and mangrove trekking. A smaller island called Koh Mudsum often features on a trip to Koh Taen and a daytrip to these nearby islands offers postcard-perfect sightseeing opportunities.Where: 5km off Samui’s south coast
The Jungle Club
The road leading up to The Jungle Club is steep in places but what do you expect when you want to enjoy an amazing view?
The restaurant itself overlooks Chaweng Bay from high above and diners are free to swim in the pool but it’s worth pointing out that you will need to have a head for heights. Where: Chaweng Noi
A Sunset to Beat all Sunsets
If it’s a sunset, or indeed a sunrise, view you are after, then the often-dramatic orange, red and yellow-hued skies of Samui are best seen from the mother of all viewpoints at Lat Ko.
A panoramic view over the ocean as the blood-red sun drops into the horizon of the water may sound like a picture only seen on postcards but this is exactly what Lat Ko offers its lucky visitors. Where: Drive toward Lamai from Chaweng and past Dr. Frogs (which incidentally also has great views) and turn left at the sign
Go Extreme or Go Home
And if all that isn’t enough to whet your appetite for Koh Samui, then you might want to get your adrenaline pumping with some extreme sports.
Forget about lazing by the pool or spending the day soaking up the rays from your sun lounger and take Samui by the horns. Paint balling, ATV driving, bungee jumping, white water rafting, jungle safaris, quad biking and water balling are all on offer but not even these sports are as extreme as the Jetlev flyer.
Asia’s only commercial Jetlev flyer just so happens to be in Koh Samui and this personal water-powered jetpack is a thrilling way to see the island, as it propels you 10 meters above the water and is not for the faint of heart.
All in all, Koh Samui may be famed for its stylish resorts in Chaweng, the peace and quiet of Bophut and the energy of Lamai but it’s the lesser-known attractions that will make a holiday here one to really remember, making it a true Thai treasure of an island.