Family Holiday in Koh Samui
Koh Samui (Samui Island), also known as “the coconut island” is the third biggest island in Thailand. Unlike Phuket, which is linked to the mainland by bridge, Koh Samui is a real island which can only be reached by plane or boat. It is the best destination in Thailand for families interested in travelling to the islands in July-August, when (in many parts of the world) the kids are on a break from school.
Also unlike the islands Phuket, Krabi and Koh Phi Phi, where summer is the rainiest time of the year, Koh Samui enjoys beautiful weather in the summer. It is not recommended to go to Koh Samui between the months of September and November, as those are the rainiest months on that island and its neighbouring islands.
Koh Samui is known for its gorgeous beaches: turquoise waters, soft white sand, and plenty of coconut trees. But those looking for action, activities and adventure will find this island to be the ultimate destination as well. The island itself is full of attractions to rival any big city’s selection. Besides that, you can go on half-day or day-long trips to the neighbouring islands.
For families coming to Koh Samui, I recommend staying at Lamai Beach. It is a wonderful area by the sea with a great selection of hotels, some of them right next to beautiful beaches, shops, markets, restaurants and anything you need, without the over-crowdedness of Chaweng Beach. In any case, however, you can also find great family hotels in Chaweng, right by the sea.
Because one usually frequents the beach of the hotel
where they are staying, it is important to pick a hotel
that is next to a sandy beach with no rocks. In Koh
Samui – both in Lamai and Chaweng – there are some great
sandy beaches right next to rocky beaches which are
unsuited for swimming. The resorts and hotels are lined
along all of the beaches, including the rocky ones, so
it is important to make sure while booking your hotel
that it is next to the right kind of beach.
Two great hotels with great beaches in Lamai are Thai House Beach Resort, a good hotel at a low price, and the luxurious Pavilion Samui Boutique Resort, which offers rooms and apartments with Jacuzzis or even private pools. A nice family hotel with a lovely beach in Chaweng is Baan Chaweng Beach Resort & Spa. While looking for hotels in Thailand, do not be misled by the use of the word “resort”. Any hotel may call itself a “resort”, even below-average backpacker hostels. On the other hand, there are some amazing high-class resorts to be found in Thailand. It is important for a family travelling in Thailand to choose a nice, comfy hotel, because the difference between a good hotel and a bad hotel is major there. Choosing a bad hotel with a foul-smelling room may ruin your vacation.
I recommend going to
Koh Samui for at least a week. Spend two days at the
great beaches near your hotel, combined with massages,
meals on the beach, and some shopping – the winning
combo when it comes to vacationing in Thailand. Spend
the remaining time on activities and touring Koh Samui
and the neighbouring islands.
There is no need to book the tours long in advance. Book then a day or two ahead of time according to the weather and what you feel like. All tours include pick-up and return to and from the hotel. Most of the tours include free drinks, fruit, and lunch. There is no need to rent a car in Samui, either. The roads are full of bumps and holes and the Thai drive like crazy (and don’t really obey traffic law), so it is better to just let a local driver to make his way for you in the controlled chaos of the island.
Koh Samui’s airport is one of the most beautiful and pleasant airports in the world; a cute little airport seemingly taken out of a fairy tale. Colourful, Disney-esque carriages drive passengers from the plane to the terminal along a road lined with straw-roofed huts, with an atmosphere of exotic holiday in the air. The airport has a beautiful new shopping area and a wide selection of restaurants and coffee shops that could put many big, international airports to shame. I recommend flying to Koh Samui with Bangkok Airways: excellent airplanes, amazing service (including a full meal on a 40-minute flight) and a special lobby in the airports where you will get food, drinks, and free internet, making even the flight days pleasant and fun.
Two good hotels that sit close to beautiful beaches are:
Good hotel for families on a lovely beach in Chaweng:
Baan Chaweng Beach Resort&Spa
and more expensive one:
Many companies organise a one-day
tour of the different attractions of the island. It is
especially recommended to go on a jeep tour which will
include, besides the regular attractions, a drive
through the impressive green forests in the centre of
the island from which you can see a gorgeous view of the
entire island, its bays and beaches and, if it’s a clear
day, the neighbouring islands as well.
I particularly recommend the fun, action-packed Mountain Safari Tour. On this tour you will watch short and amusing elephant shows, monkey shows, and Thai boxing. You will ride elephants and see the most famous rocks on the island, called Grandfather and Grandmother (Hin Ta Hin Yai), which look like male and female genitals. You will climb up to a waterfall in a forest and swim in its pond (very refreshing!). You will visit the temple of Wat Khunaram where you can see the glasses-wearing mummified monk and climb up to see the Big Buddha at the north of the island, from which you can see a beautiful view of the area. You will visit the Magic Gardens in the heart of the jungle where there are impressive Thai stone statues. You will pass by exotic fruit plantations, coconut plantations, and rainforests. Along the tour, the guide will demonstrate how natural rubber is made from rubber trees and show you the animals of the forest up close (for example, a harmless giant spider).
It’s hard to believe all this can be done in a single tour day, but the Thai are known for their efficiency. The trip will flow quickly, yet comfortably. After a tour like that, you will definitely know the island well! Other companies offer similar tours. For example, Funny Day Safari has a similar tour which includes an crocodile show instead of Thai boxing and there is a choice between Elephant riding and a mega-zip-line in the jungle.
Namuang Jungle Trip offers trips suitable for people who want their trip to be centred around animals. On this tour you will cross rivers while riding elephants, watch bird shows and tiger shows, and visit an aquarium – on top of going to the temple, the waterfall, the view point and the grandfather and grandmother rocks.
A tour to Ang Thong Marine National Park
35 kilometers West of the island, an hour-and-a-half to two-hour boat ride from the town of Nathon in Western Koh Samui, is a group of 42 islands of different sizes which make up one very impressive marine national park. The islands are green and full of vegetation, many of them rising high above the sea, some of them made up of unique-shaped rocks, and many of them with hidden beaches full of fish and great hiking trails.
Many companies offer day tours to these islands which include – on top of the boat ride to and from the islands (and of course, rides from your hotel to Nathon harbour and back) – kayaking between the islands, snorkelling among the myriads of fish and coral, hiking to view points on the islands, and of course, swimming at beautiful beaches. In Wuatalub Island, the biggest of them all, is the visitor centre of the national park and even a number of lodging options for those who wish to stay away from the big, busy main island. Some of the companies that go on tours to these islands use big boats, while others use small speedboats. An important thing to note is that the tours do not take place if the weather does not allow for it. Therefore, you should choose a day with a sunny forecast and reschedule it if necessary.
A trip to Koh Tao and Koh Nangyuan
One of the best places for
snorkelling and diving in Thailand is the island of Koh
Tao and its neighbouring islands, Koh Nangyuan. These
islands are 45 kilometers North of Koh Samui and take
around two hours to get to by boat. This is a real
paradise for those who love the underwater world. For
those interested in taking a diving course, I recommend
staying in Koh Tao for several days. There are many
companies there which specialise in diving instruction.
For those who just want to try out snorkelling in the best location near Koh Samui, you can go on a one-day tour to Koh Tao and Koh Nangyuan. Many of the tours include stops for snorkelling at two different destinations in the islands. One of the bigger companies is Lomprayah, which offers tours in speedy catamaran boats. The company is also responsible for ferry services between many islands in Thailand.
Sailing to Koh Tan and Koh Mudsum
People who want to visit closer islands can take a lovely boat ride to Koh Tan and the neighbouring island, Koh Mudsum. The two islands are roughly two kilometres South of Koh Samui and the boat ride is short and sweet. These islands have sandy beaches with very clear waters, caves, and many options for snorkelling. I recommend going on a half-day tour in a Thai long-tail boat. The tour includes fishing in traditional Thai methods, a fishy meal (made of the fish that you caught yourself along with traditional Thai dishes so that you won’t go hungry even if you aren’t the best fishermen), and snorkelling at a reef near one of the islands. The main company running these tours is TK Tours , located at the Southern end of the island. The company also offers kayaking, sunset snorkelling trips, and fishing tours (with professional rods!).
Family attractions on the island
Koh Samui has a
magnificent selection of attractions for anyone of any
Animal lovers can visit the following attractions:
in the South-Western part of the island, near Orchid Resort, is an aquarium full of all kinds of sea life including sharks, sea turtles, and a great selection of tropical fish. Those who do not like diving and snorkelling can see plenty of sea creatures here instead, with minimal effort. Near the aquarium is a small zoo with tigers and birds. Every day at 1PM there is show there. You can also feed the tiger cubs and take pictures with them.
International Sea Lion Search & Rescue
If you have always wanted to swim and play with sea lions, this is the place to make your dream come true. In this place, located near the Samui Aquarium, you can swim and have fun with the sea lions, feed them, and of course take pictures with them in or out of the water.
In the South-East of the island is a small snake farm full of various reptiles (snakes, giant lizards and crocodiles). The main attraction of the place is an impressive and horrifying snake and scorpion show.
Samui Crocodile Farm
Phone number: 077-239002
Located near the airports, at the North of the island. Has six changing snake and crocodile shows a day.
Samui Monkey Theather
Phone number: 077-960128
Also not far from the airport, in Baphut. Hosts monkey shows three times a day and also Thai cultural demonstrations such as Thai boxing and Thai dancing.
Camp Chang Hinlad Elephant Trekking
Phone Number: 086-951454
In the South of the island, near the Hin Lad waterfall, you can go on an elephant trekking tour in the jungle, among thick greenery and waterfalls. It is especially suitable for those not planning to go to Northern Thailand.
At the top of the tallest mountain in Koh Samui, in a rainforest, amidst waterfalls and rivers, is a charming farm full of exotic birds, many farm animals (deer, goats, ponies), and gorgeous gardens. It is the place to escape all the tourists and the heat, get to the cooler mountaintop, pet and feed the animals, ride a pony, watch a bird show, walk around nature trails looking down on a breathtaking view of the island, and swim in the pool.
Attractions for sports and adrenaline lovers:
This may be Thailand and not New Zealand (Making the prices much cheaper...), but Thailand does have its fair share of thrilling, adrenaline-inducing rides and attractions.
Zipline through the treetops
Several companies offer
a “tour among the treetops” called Treetop or Skyfox.
This is a thrilling ride where you will zip down cables
between high platforms among the jungle treetops in
central Samui. The view you will see while sliding down
is simply breathtaking. The ride is suitable for ages 8
and up. Two big companies which offer these tours are:
Sky Fox Super Ride (Phone number: 077-422667) which will take you to a relaxed swim in a waterfall’s pool after the zipline ride; and
Treetop Tour Cable Ride (Phone number: 081-9684806) where you will slide down 730 metres on ten different cables.
If that isn’t exciting enough for you, you can bungee jump at Billabong Bungee Jump (Phone Number: 077-414252), North of Chaweng Beach.
The newest attraction on the island. Roll down a green hill in a giant see-through ball. The ride is located north of Chaweng Beach, in Bo Phut Hills Golf Club.
Samui Football Golf
Phone Number: 089-7717498
An interesting and amusing combinatination of football in a golf field. It is similar to gold, except you kick the ball into the hole instead of hitting it with a golf club. The place has 18 holes of varying difficulties. It is located in the North on the island close to the Big Buddha. Koh Samui also has standard golf courts and mini-golf in Chaweng Beach.
In order to get a better understanding of Thai food and
its components and familiarise yourself with all the
weird ingredients sold in Thai markets, I highly
recommend taking a short cooking course, 3-4 hours long.
Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts on
Chaweng Beach holds cooking courses and fruit and
vegetable carving courses.
For families, I recommend a smaller, more intimate cooking school, located in Lamai: Siam Kitchen. The groups are much smaller there – many times, it will be a private class for just you and your family – and you can choose what to cook. A charming couple names Sont and Daow will teach you Thai culinary secrets in fluent English. They will pick you up from your hotel (in Lamai only), take you to the local market and explain which vegetables, meat, fish, and condiments to choose, tell you what each ingredient is for, and open your eyes (and mouth) to the wonders of Thai cooking. Afterwards you will get aprons, and with dedicated guidance you will cook four wonderful meals which you will eat in the couple’s yard. Even fussy eaters will enjoy this!
and teens can’t drink alchohol there, but this very
unique bar is still a great attraction for the whole
family. The par, located in a room with a permanent
temperature of -7?C, is made up entirely of ice and
serves drinks (children will get soft drinks, of course)
in glasses made of ice. The place is full of ice
sculptures with different ice motifs such as temples,
tuk-tuks, palm trees and the like. Upon entering,
visitors get long, warm coats. You can walk around
between the ice sculptures and admire them. It’s a great
place to go to escape the heat and humidity of Thailand.
(Kids can go into the bar only until 10PM.)
More Thailand articles:
Animal Encounters for Families
The Jungles of Bangkok and the surrounding
Special Guided tours in Thailand
Family Vacation in Phuket
Vacationing in Koh Chang
A Trip from Bangkok to Khao Yai Reserve
Family holiday in Northern Thailand with Private Guide
The Islands of Thailand
Vacations Trips and Luxurious Hotels in Khao Lak