Koh Samui things to do and see from a locals perspective
My sweet home Koh Samui. I used to love living on this island and I still love going back from time to time and this is why I think you should all visit it. The reason I can’t live here for longer than 6 months is because my business is based on the road and as much as we tried to be based here part time, it’s still not working out for us. So for now, I’ll write this blog for you while i keep dreaming until the day I get to be based here more often. Some of the things I recommend doing on the island might not be on your travel list and the reason for that is because I like to go off the beaten path and into the unknown. I’ll hook you up with some local pages where you can ask the locals any questions related to the island. Most of these activities are usually done with us and New Horizon Escapes, our fitness and adventure company.
One of my favourite places to go to and grab some cheap food are the night markets. You can find cheap food for as little as £1 and you get to taste the real local food made by locals. You can be as daring as you like with some foods like deep fried bugs or something a little more safe like a pad thai. We usually take our New Horizon customers there and dare them to try a bug while we film them for our Instagram stories (I know mean ha). Most people say they taste like soya, because they’re deep fried in soya sauce. Other than bugs you can find fresh fruit, juices, local foods, sushi, coconut ice cream, grilled corn (my fave) and more. There are various markets around the island which you can find on this link via TripAdvisor. The biggest and my most favourite one is on every single Friday in Fisherman Village from 18.00 onwards until late hours in the evening.
This is the best cafe on the island which is also located in Fisherman Village. All the locals come here to eat organic and quality food. The menu was originally designed by a Russian nutritionist Anastasia who spends all of her time travelling in between cafes and organising new menus for various restaurants around Thailand. Make sure to try one of their “build your own” bowls, they’re absolutely filling and delicious. If you’re a coffee lover you’ll love to hear that they also roast their own coffee on site. Take a little visit here and relax while you enjoy the tropical vibes Thailand has to offer. The beach is just opposite the cafe, so you can go and build up your tan while you allow your food to settle. The best dessert on their menu is the raw Tiramisu in this picture. Must try :)
The best thing about this cafe is their incredibly huge Green Salad. It comes with all sorts of rainbow colours and edible flowers and it’s the biggest salad I’ve ever had to this date. If you’re in the Central Festival mall, this cafe is right next to it, go check it out. You can get such things as brunchy breakfasts, pancakes, local thai dishes as well as the best gelato on the island. I recommend coming here if you like “ extra extra dark gelato”. I’m day dreaming of the day I get to go back to my sweet little island for some gelato, massages and a stroll on the beach (I’m in the gloomy UK as I’m writing this Blog and it’s almost making me cry)…
Vikasa is a resort centre that also has an onsite healthy cafe with one of the most incredible views of the island. I’d recommend this is at the top of your things to do. The food here isn’t cheap by any means, but I guess you pay a little extra just to get that incredible view. I’ll usually come and work here from time to time.
This one is a little bit further from Chaweng area. It’s worth a drive if you’re happy to get in a taxi to go and explore other beaches. You can also either hire a motorbike for 200 baht a day (please only drive if you’re capable, don’t try to learn in Thailand, people die), or you can also get a taxi bike which are usually a lot cheaper than a normal taxi (they usually drive and beep at you, you’ll see them wear a little taxi vest). Expect to be in the blaring sun for up to 45min to get here. The cafe is small and cosy and also has a wellness shop on site where you can buy various healthy superfoods. Try the local made raw chocolate.
I recommend Vitamin SEA more for the epic palm tree that’s piercing through the terrace upstairs. Once again, this is roughly 25 min away from Chaweng and requires you to take a taxi/taxi bike. The food is great and the view is even greater. Make sure to go upstairs and hang out on their little terrace overlooking the beach.
I recommend this mostly for sunset dinners. The reason I recommend dinner is because their dinner menu is much better than their breakfast/lunch. Make sure to go there before the sun sets to enjoy the most stunning views of the island. Jungle Club is set high high up on the side of the hills and have an incredible vibe. We always take our guests there on the last night of our New Horizon Escapes trips. You can of course also go and check them out in the morning (opens at 8am) or lunch time. The view is epic every hour of the day.
Small local restaurants
You really can’t go wrong with going for a little shack that sells cheap and local food. They know how to cook the best food and you won’t get charged a fortune for it. Have no fear, go explore a little.
Other cafes - there are a ton of other cafes you may wish to explore that I haven’t been to. They won’t be as cheap as local thai food but they’re still worth exploring.
Fisherman Village is my favourite place on the island. You get everything you need on one long street; cafes, bars, massage parlous, shops, fire shows, beach etc. Fisherman Village has it all. My fave go to places here are - Greenlight Cafe for food (which I mentioned previously)/ Fisherman Cafe for coffee (their food is great but small portions), Cocotams for drinks and fire show (9pm), Massage places with a sea view (Cyan Spa or D spa), get the foot massage to get the most incredible sea view. I also go there sometimes to just sunbathe and walk on the beach.
Night markets in general are one of the coolest things to do in Thailand. Other than incredible local food you can also find loads of cheap souvenirs for your family, clothes, knock off brands and loads of other things. The vibe on night markets in incredible and if you end up visiting the one in Fisherman Village every friday night, make sure to end the evening with a drink at Cocotams bar. Enjoy their fire show from 9pm onwards every night. Here’s Adam and Malia munching on some chicken satay.
There are loads of temples to be seen around the island and my only advise for those is this, go as early as they open to avoid crowds and sweating (make sure to wear something that covers your knees and shoulders). Try Big Budha, Was Plai Laem, Wat Ratchathammaram. Mummified Monk is ok ish, I’d recommend stopping there only if you’re going that way anyway. Other than the actual monk, there isn’t much else to see.
The reason I added this to the experience is because of the gorgeous day you could have there. Mantra Samui Resort allow outside guests for dining experiences. They also allow you to come and hang by their infinity pool throughout the day as long as you grab some lunch and drinks. You can go there any time, they serve buffet breakfast which is very affordable, then you can hang by the pool and chill for the next few hours.
Ladyboy Cabaret Show
You must must experience this. We usually go to Starz Cabaret. This is a huge part of the Thai culture so you’ll get fully entertained for 45 minutes. After the show you can then walk the Chaweng centre and experience it at night too. It’s totally different to the day time there. Last time we were there with our group, 7 girls got their nipples pierced, I will never forget this night ahahah… It’s still the most talked thing about on our escapes with New Horizon Escapes.
There are a few different hiking trails but I’d recommend doing them guided so you don’t end up lost. I met Paul, one of the locals on the local community Facebook page who kindly took me out on a 3 hour hike all the way to the highest point on the island with a temple and back down. I then took our guests there for an epic and sweaty hike. Everyone really loved it. Here is the walking Facebook page where you can reach Paul and see if you can join their hiking group that week. Ask him a week in advance if you can so he can have it organised.
My fave box in the whole world. While there are a few crossfit spots on the island I love SuperPro Crossfit. I’ve made many friends there and I always go and sweat it out Mon-Fri whenever I’m back on the island. The locals train there and they’re usually very welcoming to new people. Try it out, you might get hooked and want to never leave the island. It happened to me ;)
At SuperPro crossfit you can also find the MuayThai camp. I like it, however I find it a little too busy and the sessions too long here. I like to go to a quiet one called V Win gym. The trainers there are really good and you usually get only a few people per class, meaning you get more 1:1 time with them. I always get my butt kicked in there, they train me well. If this is too far from you, just Google “MuayThai on Koh Samui” and you’ll be inundated with options.
I don’t do that much yoga on the island because every single activity costs money. So between crossfit, gym and muay thai i spend a lot of money already. I’d recommend going to Yogarden in Fisherman Village, Elysia also in Fisherman Village or Vikasa (they have one of the best cafe views too). Once again, yoga is very widely practiced on the island, so if you need something closer to you, just use Google.
There are quite a few gyms on the island and they’re all pretty decent, but you won’t find any aircon in most of them. Elite Gym and Success gym are the 2 only gyms in Chaweng area, right next to the Central Festival shopping mall (also the only mall on the island). Elite Gym is very well equipped and you can even grab a protein shake on the way out. Feel free to explore other gyms that will be a lot cheaper. There are a lot of options on the island, so hit Google again to find them.
I absolutely love beach walks and to be honest, I don’t need to recommend any beaches because they’re all absolutely stunning. All I’d say is, wake up at sunrise, so you can experience the peace and serenity of the island. It’s truly magical and unique. Sometimes, you may even be the only person there. Enjoy…
Of course when in Thailand you get daily massages because they’re just so damn cheap. My fave places are Dspa & Syan Spa in Fisherman village. I usually get foot massages with a view of the beautiful sea and Koh Phangan (the neighbouring island) in the distance. You can also get full body massages, however you may not have a sea view, as you get taken upstairs for that. Either way, I’m about to cry because of how much I miss them.
Namuang Waterfall 1 & 2 is what you’re after. It doesn’t matter how many times I go there, I can never get enough. Make sure to go all the way up to the top of the waterfalls and get a little hike in. You can even swim in both waterfalls. Once again, I recommend doing so early hours in the morning. We usually go there at 7am and beat all the tourists that are still in bed. Make sure to wear mosquito repellent as they’re all out and about.
Secret Buddha Garden is hidden away high in the hills of Koh Samui, offering majestic views and an unusual collection of statues amid lush jungle surrounds. The gardens are a creation of an old Samui fruit farmer, Nim Thongsuk, who in 1976 began erecting several statues and temples around his family's land.
Don’t worry about the name of the beaches, just go to them and walk them, you’ll find loads of little hidden gems. Don’t be afraid to get lost. If you want a beach to relax on that super blue water you should check out Crystal Bay beach. This does usually get full with loads of tourists, so I’d recommend going there early. We used to our daily swim sessions here. The sea doesn’t have any coral so you can easily go for a swim and then hang on the beach until 10/11am when everyone starts rolling out of bed and onto the beach. Always beat the tourists and go to places early, trust me it’s worth it.
There are loads of trails you can hike on. Check out this page (coming soon) and get in touch to see what local hikes are happening on the island. If you want to see the island from high above, this is your opportunity.
We once rescued a dog which we called Hope. She’s currently with one of the island dog foundations called Pariah Dog Foundation. If you love dogs and puppies this will be heaven for you. You can ask to go visit and perhaps donate some money, or ask to work a few hours to support them. They’re happy with any option you give them. We always go there for our doggy cuddles. Check out their video story we helped them film on one of our trips there. The owners really care for the animals and you can see the love they have for them in these videos.
Samui Elephant Sanctuary is set on 10 acres of forest land and offer a retirement home for elephants who have worked exhausting hours in the logging and tourism industries. You can feed, walk with, and observe these gentle giants as they roam, socialise, bathe and enjoy a peaceful life that they so deserve. Join their morning or afternoon program knowing you are supporting ethical elephant tourism and helping to make a difference.
Other things I recommend knowing about the island or needing while there.
Local Sim card - you can grab one of these at Central Festival shopping mall from the AIS shop which is upstairs. You need a passport for this. Once they help you set up your sim, you’ll be able to make local phone calls and use data.
NaviGo - is a local Uber like company. You can download their app and order a taxi no matter where you are on the island. This is also the cheapest option. Alternatively if you want a good and safe driver, you can use Vichak our personal taxi driver. Call him and tell him you are Ina’s friend, he will take very good care of you. In fact if you tell him your arrival time on the island he will make sure he’s there with a cold bottle of water in the back seat. His what’s app - you’ll need to look for the thai country code - 0905812442.