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Koh Samui

Planning Your Trip

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Known for its stunning white-sand beaches and breathtaking views, there is so much to do on the Thai island of Koh Samui — from exploring the region’s myriad cultural attractions and dining on fresh fare to hiking through the jungle and sunning on pristine swaths of beach. Here are some tips on what to pack, what to reserve, and suggested itineraries.

Ritz Carlton Hotel image
Ritz Carlton Hotel image
What to Pack

Known for its stunning white-sand beaches and breathtaking views, there is so much to do on the Thai island of Koh Samui — from exploring the region’s myriad cultural attractions and dining on fresh fare to hiking through the jungle and sunning on pristine swaths of beach. Here’s what to pack to make the most of your stay.

Outdoor Adventure

There are seemingly endless adventures to be had and exploring to be done on the island of Koh Samui. Here’s what to bring to ensure your journeys into the wild go off without a hitch.

  • If you plan on chasing a few waterfalls during your time on the island, sensible water shoes are a smart choice. Opt for something sturdy enough to hike in but flexible enough to swim in.

  • Bring along a small backpack or fanny pack for toting along the essentials as you explore the great outdoors.

  • The tropical sun can pack a powerful punch in the middle of the day. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to stay protected.
Cultural Considerations

The island of Koh Samui has a distinct culture that is the product of its first immigrants, Chinese traders and Muslim fishermen, a Japanese occupation, and its current status as part of Thailand. Buddhism is the primary religion, which means there are a variety of stunning temples and shrines to explore.

  • Pack lightweight pants, long-sleeved shirts and wraps for visiting temples — beachwear is not acceptable for touring the sacred sites and you’ll need to have your shoulders covered.

  • Leave your finest fashions at home — the island’s vibe is decidedly casual, and most nightlife venues are relaxed beach bars.

  • Bring along some workout clothes if you plan on learning the art of Muay Thai (Thai boxing). It’s a revered skill-based sport that provides a total body workout.
Beach Vacation

Koh Samui’s best-known attraction is undoubtedly its beaches. Whether you want rest and relaxation or adventure on the water, you’ve come to the right place.

  • As with any tropical destination, you’ll definitely want more than one swimsuit. If you plan on trying watersports, bring an athletic one-piece that will stay in place.

  • A light sarong or cover-up will come in handy for making an easy transition from the beach to an alfresco lunch.

  • Consider bringing along a few pieces of clothing or swimwear with SPF built in — you’ll want reliable protection from the sun while snorkeling or sailing all day.

Don’t Forget

In a place like Koh Samui, you’ll want to capture the breathtaking beauty. Don’t risk ruining your phone at the beach or on a waterfall hike — bring along a waterproof camera instead.

Ritz Carlton Hotel image
Ritz Carlton Hotel image
What to Reserve

For the most part, a vacation on Koh Samui is relaxed and requires few reservations. But to truly make the most of your time on the island, there are a few things you should plan for.

While you won’t need a reservation for sampling the local street food, when you want to tuck into something a bit more upscale, it’s a good idea to plan ahead. For traditional Thai cuisine made with fresh seafood and locally sourced produce and ingredients, book a table at Pak Tai, then end your evening with a cocktail on the terrace at One Rai. For global cuisine, head to Barracuda, one of the island’s best restaurants. German chef Ferdinand Dienst serves up a menu built on local ingredients with a Mediterranean influence.

Spa Village Koh Samui at The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui is worth setting aside an entire day for. Schedule a signature treatment, like Samui’s Coconut Heritage, which uses the island’s most prominent ingredient to provide 120 minutes of pure relaxation. Your treatment starts with a deluxe Songkran Shower and a coconut scrub, which leads into a 90-minute coconut flow massage. Top it off, as the locals do, with a nourishing coconut hair masque.

Take advantage of the resort’s Ritz Kids program, where experiential moments await your young ones with a range of activities focused on four pillars as inspiration: Water, Land, Environmental Responsibility and Culture. Tapping into children’s innate curiosity, the natural wonders and rich, cultural traditions of southern Thailand are both immersive and adventurous with activities ranging from unique snorkeling discoveries in our swim reef to art and an introduction to Thai food.

Plan a seafaring trip to remember with a sailing excursion through the Gulf of Thailand. Explore the natural beauty of the surrounding bays and dive into crystal-clear waters or drop anchor off of one of the remote white-sand beaches for a day of total relaxation. Ask the concierge at The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui for assistance with booking a trip.

Ritz Carlton Hotel image
Ritz Carlton Hotel image

Over the years, Koh Samui has grown from a small fishing community into a lavish island retreat that beckons beach-lovers from around the world. Savor the powder-soft sand, sea and perfect weather as you reach the ultimate state of relaxation. With such pleasing surroundings, the toughest decision you’ll have to make here is whether to spend your day seeking out the beautiful golden Buddhist temples or sampling native delicacies at the local market. Soak up the sun and local Thai culture with The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui as your luxe home base.


Breakfast on the Beach. Go for an early stroll to the powdery white-sand beach, Choeng Mon, and enjoy the solitude of a nearly empty beach. Breathe in the ocean air as you watch local fishermen head out to sea.

Massage for Two. Book the Thai for Two treatment at Spa Village Koh Samui. It begins with the signature Songkran Shower, followed by a Custom Thai Massage and ends with a traditional Thai Herbal Facial that uses tamarind and turmeric, along with rice, honey, yogurt, coconut oil and din saw pong (Thai white mud).


A Stroll Through Town. Head to Fisherman’s Village, a historic district near Bophut Beach. What used to be the epicenter of a lively fishing community is now a bustling area of shops, restaurants, cafés and hotels. Spend a couple of hours leisurely exploring its narrow streets and experience the local culture of Koh Samui.


Take a Cooking Class Together. Since 1999, the Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts has been teaching amateur and professional cooks the secrets of Thai cuisine. Prepare, cook and eat your food, then make it again when you return home from your visit. People with dietary restrictions need not worry — most of the recipes can be adjusted and adapted.

A Piece of Paradise. Though you’ll be right next to Chaweng, Koh Samui’s most popular beach, skip the crowds and head south to Coral Cove, a secluded stretch of sea that’s great for snorkeling or lying in the sun, admiring the gently swaying coconut trees.


The Greatest Show on Earth. Koh Samui is known for its stunning sunsets, and there may be no better place to catch the show than on Bophut Beach. Grab a pre-dinner drink at one of the bars that scatter the shoreline and watch as the sun slowly dips behind the horizon over the Gulf of Thailand.

Bon Appétit. For dinner, head to one of the island’s top restaurants, Chez François, on a small street near Fisherman’s Village. Spot the neon sign and walk through its ornate wooden doors for a delicious French meal. There is no menu — just a four-course meal prepared by Chef François Porté-Garcia that changes daily. Reservations are a must.


Island Hop. Take to the seas with a jaunt to Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park, northwest of Koh Samui. You’ll take a boat to this cluster of 42 pristine islands in the Gulf of Thailand. Once there, you can take your pick of activities: snorkeling, hiking or kayaking through the islands’ many magical coves, lakes, mangroves and waterfalls. 


A Quick Respite. After a busy morning of exploring, head back to the hotel for a little rest and relaxation. Grab an early lunch at Sea Salt and enjoy lying out by the pool. 


A Peaceful Place. While Namuang 1 and 2 are the better-known waterfalls on Koh Samui, Hin Lad is perfect for a less crowded and more secluded experience. After an easy hike, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view and a swimmable pool at the base of the fall. On your way back, have a serene moment together at the nearby temple gardens and meditation area.

Another Day, Another Spa. Koh Samui is known worldwide for its abundance of spas, so go ahead and indulge a little — or a lot. Set in the middle of the jungle, Tamarind Springs Forest Spa offers a plethora of treatments, from steam caves and hot stone massages to foot reflexology and outdoor plunge pools.


One Last Sunset. Make your last island sunset your best by viewing it from the sea. Charter a yacht, catamaran or sailboat for a special — and private — experience that you’ll remember for ages. As you glide around the coastline, you’ll stop for a snorkel before you sail into the pink and orange sky.

Private Dining. The personal dining spaces at Pak Tai make for a cozy, intimate atmosphere. Enjoy Thai cuisine that uses the finest ingredients sourced daily from local markets, and toast to a great trip.


A Leisurely Start. Wake up and head to one of The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui’s secluded beaches or sit poolside while enjoying a cup of coffee or tea. If you’re an early riser, you’ll likely be treated to a stunning sunrise.


The Big Buddha. Wat Phra Yai is a massive statue of Buddha that sits in the Mara pose, a symbol of wisdom and enlightenment. For an up-close look, climb the stairs that lead to the base of the statue and admire the colorful flowers and fruits that Buddhist devotees leave as offerings.

The Goodness of Guanyin. Just west of Big Buddha, you’ll encounter another striking Buddhist temple, Wat Plai Laem. The centerpiece is a giant statue of Guanyin, the goddess of mercy and compassion, who is depicted as having 18 arms. Explore the stunning space but keep in mind that it is sacred, so modest dress is a must.


Look Out for the Lookout. While driving south, keep an eye out for Lad Koh Viewpoint right off highway 4169. Park and take the short walk out for a panoramic view of Changweh Bay and its sparkling turquoise waters. It might just be the prettiest 10 minutes you’ve ever spent.

Paradise Found. This is, perhaps, the reason you came to Koh Samui: a beach with the softest white sand, the clearest blue water and a not-too-crowded shoreline. Explore the coral reef with a snorkel or just sit and enjoy the view.


Head to the Local Night Market. Every Friday from 5 to 11 p.m., Fisherman’s Village comes alive with its weekly night market, transforming Beach Road into a lively atmosphere of both locals and visitors. Peruse handicrafts, jewelry and spices and nibble on some classic Thai street food, like banana pancakes and fresh spring rolls.

Back for Dinner. After whetting your appetite at the night market, return to The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui for dinner. Using fresh seafood and locally sourced produce and ingredients, Pak Tai serves up a traditional southern interpretation of Thai cuisine. Finally, end your evening on the outdoor terrace at One Rai with a signature cocktail from the bar.


Rise and Snorkel. Don a mask and explore the Swim Reef right on the grounds of The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui. With over 50 species of marine fish, and no jellyfish allowed, guests can enjoy swimming in a safe and clean environment. Join for a scheduled feeding to witness a fish frenzy.


Chaweng Beach. Head south toward Chaweng, Koh Samui’s biggest city, where you’ll find a plethora of restaurants and bars. Grab a late breakfast, or early lunch, at The Larder, an elevated but down-to-earth gastropub that offers everything from fish and chips to croque madames. 


Catch a Waterfall (or Two). The Namuang waterfalls are a set of stunning cascades that are definitely worth chasing. The first one is easily accessible through a short walk into the jungle and makes for an awe-inspiring view. Nearby Namuang 2 is much taller at 262 feet. If you’re up for the longer hike, follow the signs to the top and revel in the natural beauty.

The Secret Buddha Garden. Tucked into the hills, high atop Khao Pom Mountain, is a private sculpture park that beckons explorers. At the age of 77, retired durian farmer Kjun Nim Thongsuck started to collect statues of animals and deities and continued until he died at 91. Explore the collection and enjoy the serene setting.


Soul Soothing. After a long day on your feet, take advantage of the luxurious spa at The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui. Inspired by the therapeutic properties of natural local ingredients like fresh flowers, coconut water and healing herbs, The Spa Village Koh Samui offers several treatments to relax and rejuvenate.

Last Supper. End your stay in Koh Samui at one of the island’s best restaurants, Barracuda. German chef Ferdinand Dienst serves up a menu built around fresh, local ingredients and seafood with a Mediterranean influence. After paying the check, take a walk along Bophut Beach and stop by Coco Tam for a seaside nightcap.