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After spending four nights in Phuket, we hopped on a plane to fly across Thailand to the east-coast island of Koh Samui. Samui is not as well-known as other tourist destinations in Thailand, so we hope to shed some light on this lovely place. We initially booked our stay on Koh Samui because we wanted to stay at the Conrad Koh Samui resort, but we found some other great things to see/do around the island. Read on for our top seven tips for your visit to Koh Samui, Thailand.
Tip #1 – Fly into USM
Technically, Koh Samui has two airport options. Samui International Airport (USM) is located on the island’s north-east corner, a few miles from the main city of Chaweng. The alternate airport option is Surat Thani (URT). This airport is located on the mainland, and many of the budget airlines fly into it. Spend the few extra dollars or points and fly into USM, and don’t waste a day trying to take buses and ferries to reach Koh Samui.
Tip #2 – Rent a Car (not a Scooter/Motorcycle)
To get around Koh Samui, you will need a vehicle. Rental cars are very inexpensive, and we were able to pick up a three-day rental for only 4,846 Chase Ultimate Rewards points! I definitely recommend renting a car, and not a 2-wheeled option, because the roads are pretty crazy. During our drive across the island, I constantly had motorcycles passing on either side of the car. The roads can be a bit confusing, especially in the urban areas. You will also be driving on the opposite side of the road (if you’re American), so be prepared for that!
Tip #3 – Visit the Big Buddha Near the Airport
Leaving the airport, head north for less than 3km, and you will find the Big Buddha. This ornate statue and surrounding temples are worth a quick stop. Head up the stairs, around the statue, and take a look out at the beautiful water.
Tip #4 – Check out Wat Plai Laem
Almost immediately next to the Big Buddha, you will find Wat Plai Laem, a small complex of Buddhist temples. Here, three separate islands showcase a laughing Buddha statue, an ornate ceremonial hall, and an 18-armed statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. We got some great pictures with these striking monuments, set over the water.
Tip #5 – Shop in Chaweng
If you’re into shopping, you may want to stop through Chaweng. We discovered a huge shopping mall, because I needed to replace my damaged GoPro Session camera. The mall is hard to miss if you are driving through the main section of Chaweng. If you find yourself here in the evening, you may also find some interesting night markets.
Tip #6 – Leonardo’s Ice Cream – Lamai Beach Location
Lamai Beach is one of the most picturesque beaches on the island. Here you can find the famous “HinTa and HinYai” rock formations (Google them yourself, I won’t elaborate here). We stopped in to see the rocks, but we stumbled upon Leonardo’s Ice Cream on our walk back to the car. It was VERY hot that day, so ice cream was a welcome treat!
At the store, we met Francesco, the store owner. I have never met anybody who is as passionate about ice cream as Francesco! He encouraged us to taste every flavor, even offering to mix a few flavors together in samples. He told us about how the ice cream is made, using only fresh, local ingredients. Brooke and I both agreed that this was some of the best ice cream we have ever tasted! Definitely stop in for a frozen treat here!
Tip #7 – Stay at the Conrad Koh Samui
This resort is simply incredible. The entire complex is built along the side of a cliff overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. Brooke and I spent three nights at the Conrad, in a hillside suite with its own infinity pool. Every night, you can sip cocktails at the open-air bar, while listening to live music. You can enjoy a multi-course, fine dining experience and visit the world-class spa. They even offer 1, 3, and 5-hour getaways to explore some of the local areas. For a full review, check out our upcoming feature article.
Koh Samui is a great place to visit, surrounded by beautiful blue water. Rent a car and explore the sites, but please drive carefully! Once you’ve gotten a feel for the island and the culture, head over to the Conrad for a few days of absolute luxury. Enjoy your time in this island paradise. Let us know your favorite parts of the island in the comments below.