On a Koh Samui cruise, you might feel like you’ve discovered a hidden slice of heaven. The island is full of endless stretches of powdery sand and warm waters that shimmer in shades of turquoise, sapphire, and aquamarine hues.
Aside from its blissful beaches, you’ll also discover charming fishing villages and impressive golden Buddhist temples when you visit on a cruise to Thailand. The local food scene is another highlight, with plenty of restaurants offering inventive takes on spicy Southeast Asian cuisine using fresh tropical ingredients.
Stare up at the impressive size and golden hue of Koh Samui’s Big Buddha, known locally as Wat Phra Yai. Towering 39 feet above the ground, this golden statue shows the Buddha sitting peacefully in a Mara posture (left palm up, right hand facing down) after having achieved enlightenment when he resisted the temptations brought on by the devil Mara. At the base of the statue, there’s a courtyard where you can buy souvenirs and amulets. Keep in mind that you’re required to cover your shoulders and knees when visiting, so plan accordingly.
Near the Big Buddha temple, you’ll find Wat Plai Laem, a Buddhist temple featuring both Chinese and Thai traditions and art techniques. The star attraction here is the giant 18-armed sculpture of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion, who has historically been revered as a protector of all beings. Every year, Guanyin attracts thousands of worshipers, who pray to her for healthy offspring and protection for sailors at sea.
At Bophut Beach, stroll around one of the most well-preserved areas of the island at Fisherman’s Village, a quaint stretch by the water where restaurants, bars, and boutiques are housed within old wooden shophouses. Walk down Fisherman’s Village alleys, where you can sample street food and shop in trendy stores, before heading back to the beach and admiring the sunset with a refreshing cocktail in hand.
Visit Chaweng Beach, a popular destination known for its pristine sand and bustling nightlife. At this wide bay that stretches for over four miles, you can spend the day lounging under the sun and swimming in the crystal-clear ocean. Take a break from the sand and browse the restaurants and shops next to the shore.
Board a speedboat and explore Angthong National Marine Park, a gorgeous jungle and ocean paradise. Make your way around this national treasure and discover 42 limestone islands, hidden lagoons, waterfalls, and the Emerald Lake. Jump in the water and go kayaking or snorkeling around the shallow reefs, or stop on one of the islands and take a hike around its rich ecosystem.
Visit the towering Na Muang Waterfalls in Nathon Bay, two gorgeous cascades that plunge into natural pools. Take a refreshing dip in one of the cool swimming holes and admire the unusual purple-hued rocks and lush jungle foliage that surround the waterfalls.
During your Koh Samui cruise, you’ll find all of the specialties that Thailand is famous for, like spicy tom yum soup and pad Thai. For a more authentic food experience, stop by one of the family-owned seafood restaurants by the beach, where you’ll savor traditional meals made with freshly-caught shellfish, crab, lobster, and squid. Finish off your meal with a kalamae treat, a local sticky candy made from rice flour, palm sugar, and coconut cream.
Koh Samui is Thailand’s second-largest island after Phuket. While “Ko” is Thai for “island,” the meaning of “Samui” remains a mystery to this day. Some believe it comes from the Sanskrit-Tamil word for “sea weather,” while some think it may originate from the Hainanese Chinese word that means “first island.” Others believe it’s named after a mui tree, which is common in Thailand.
Before the 20th century, Koh Samui was largely isolated from the rest of the world. The island didn’t even have roads until the early 1970s. Around the same time, tourists started to discover the island, and after the Koh Samui airport was built in 1989, the tourism industry took off and became one of the dominant sectors of the island’s economy.
On a cruise to Koh Samui, you’ll dock in Nathon Pier in the city of Nathon Town. You’ll be tendered to shore once you arrive. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to walk to the city center. Restaurants, shops, and taxis are available near the port.
Taxis are available at the port for visitors. You can visit neighboring islands via one of the ferries that leave from the port. If you want to navigate the island on your own, you can rent a car or motorbike. If you’re heading on a shore excursion, we’ll arrange all of the transportation to and from the port.
In Nathon Town, you’ll find supermarkets, pharmacies, and a number of stores and restaurants. At Chaweng Beach, you’ll find plenty of boutique shops selling clothing, jewelry, and other souvenirs.
Thailand’s local currency is the Thai baht. Tipping is not common in Koh Samui, but if you’ve had excellent service or a friendly taxi driver, you can always leave a small tip as an extra thank you.