This Koh Samui Itinerary is perfect for travelers who are spending just a few days on the island and want to make the most of it.
Koh Samui is the second-largest island in Thailand and a great destination for anyone planning a short visit. It’s big enough to have a lot of options for your trip without being as overwhelmingly big as Phuket.
During my week-long stay on Koh Samui as a solo backpacker, I fell in love with the culture, the food, and the people.
From there, I traveled to other islands in Thailand’s Chumphon archipelago. I spent 2 weeks getting my scuba diving certifications in Koh Tao. And then I eventually returned to Thailand to live as a digital nomad for 3 months.
From my experiences exploring Thailand, including its islands, and talking to travelers who are interested in visiting Koh Samui, I can confidently say that three days is enough time to explore the best of what this island has to offer (but more is always better!).
Whether you want to relax on one of Koh Samui’s beautiful beaches or hike to a waterfall, you’ll be able to find something exciting and memorable here.
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3 Day Koh Samui Itinerary Overview
3 days in Koh Samui will go by fast – there’s so much to see and do!
This 3 Day Koh Samui itinerary is designed to give travelers a glimpse of the best that this island has to offer.
It includes visits to some of the most beautiful beaches, a day tour of Ang Thong Marine Park, and plenty of time to sample delicious street food and dance at the cabaret.
You’ll find extra day trips, tours, and activities listed at the end of the itinerary so you can easily cutomize the itinerary to your preferences.
Koh Samui Itinerary Day 1: Arrive in Koh Samui
Getting to Koh Samui / Getting Around
Traveling to Koh Samui from other parts of Thailand is quite simple.
If you don’t mind paying a little more for convenience, you can choose to fly. You can fly directly into the Koh Samui airport from Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Phuket, or wherever you are in Thailand.
If you’re looking to cut back on costs, you can fly to Surat Thani. Or get there by train from Bangkok. From Surat Thani, you’ll take a ferry to Koh Samui – expect this to add about 4 hours to your journey. Any travel agency can help you buy your ferry ticket, which usually includes shuttle service to the dock.
Once you’ve arrived in Koh Samui, renting a scooter is the best way to get around and explore the island, if you’re comfortable.
There are plenty of songtaews (kind of like shared taxi trucks) available for getting around, but it will take a little longer. Taxis are more expensive, but always an option. Make sure you negotiate with your driver for a good rate.
Big Buddha, Wat Plai Laem, Bo Phut Beach, Fisherman’s Village
On your first day out, you’ll want to check out the northeast corner of the island.
Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai) is a well-known free landmark and is impossible to miss with its 12 meter tall golden statue. There are some great places to watch the sunset on this part of the island.
Just down the road, Wat Plai Laem is another nearby temple with a big statue of Guanyin, Goddess of Mercy and Compassion.
If you’re all templed out from other places you’ve visited in Thailand, don’t worry – there’s plenty more to do here (people don’t really choose Koh Samui for its temples anyways).
Bo Phut Beach is within easy reach and boasts crystal clear waters without feeling overcrowded. It’s a 3km long beach in the shape of a crescent moon. While not my favorite beach for swimming (visibility isn’t great and there are a lot of boats), there’s a nice view of Koh Phangan from here.
Take some time to explore the historic fishermen’s village nearby too. It’s full of great places to eat and on Fridays, a local night market sets up! The Friday night market at Fisherman’s Village is a lot of fun, with live music, cold beers, and all the amazing street food Thailand is famous for.
Traveler’s Tip: To make the most of your visit and experience the fantastic foods of Thailand, you should consider a local cooking class or food tour. Here are some favorites!
- Thai Cooking Class with Local Market Tour in Koh Samui (4 hours, pick-up offered)
- Thai Cooking Class in Koh Samui (4 hours, pick-up offered)
- Thai Cooking Class & Organic Micro Farm Experience (4 hours, pick-up available)
Koh Samui Itinerary Day 2:
Day Trip to Ang Thong Marine Park
Day 2 is the perfect day to get out and explore Angthong Marine Park. It’s an incredible stretch of islands and lagoons boasting some of Thailand’s most pristine marine life.
My pick is this highly-rated small group sunset tour of Ang Thong Marine Park.
This full day excursion takes you sailing around the limestone islands. It’s then followed by snorkeling at remote lagoons, kayaking along the coast and through tunnels. Then, you get to end with an unforgettable view from Blue Lagoon viewpoint.
Travelers say this tour was the highlight of their 3 days in Koh Samui.
It’s important to do your research when selecting the tour company for this experience. Some boats provide a much more luxurious experience while others are crowded and less comfortable.
Ladyboy Cabaret Show
If you have any energy left after spending the day sailing, the Ladyboy Cabaret Show is a must-see activity for travelers in Thailand. I recently went with friends in Chiang Mai and it was so much fun.
It’s an entertaining, eye-opening drag performance featuring colorful costumes, dance routines, and lip-syncing to popular songs.
The performance has become so popular that local cabarets have been popping up all over the Caribbean and South East Asia – particularly in Thailand.
The Paris Follies Cabaret on Chaweng Beach Road is the most recommended cabaret in Koh Samui.
With nightly performances at 8:30pm, 9:30pm, and 10:30pm, this show is the perfect way to end a long day of exploring Ang Thong Marine Park. It’s free to enter so you just need to buy drinks while you enjoy the show.
Koh Samui Itinerary Day 3: Waterfall Hike & ATV Tour
Hin Lad Waterfall Hike
If you’re staying nearby one of their locations, Cafe K.O.B. Homegrown is one of my favorite breakfast spots on the island – and you’ll need to refuel after yesterday’s adventure so that you’re ready for more!
The Hin Lad Waterfall hike is a great way to explore the beautiful nature of Koh Samui.
The guided Hin Lad Waterfall Hike is highly recommended. Not only does it provide transportation, but the tour guides are incredible! You should plan for around four hours, which includes the time for transportation and the hike.
It’s a moderate 1-2 hour out-and-back hike up to the waterfalls. The trail is not difficult to follow, but you’ll definitely want close-toed shoes. There are a lot of tree roots and rocks to navigate on the path.
The jungle around the trail is lush and gorgeous. Perfect for amateur photographers or those looking for a relaxing walk in nature.
Make sure that you’re checking your maps often though, as some people stopped at the smaller pools on their way up thinking they were already there!
And don’t forget that it’s even better during rainy season, when you get more of a show from the waterfalls.
There’s no entrance fee either – all you need to do is walk up from the parking lot!
2-Hour ATV Tour
The highly rated 2-hour ATV tour is the perfect way to get off the beaten path and explore Koh Samui.
You’ll zip around on your quad bike, stopping to take in breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Not only is it a great way to explore the island’s hidden gems, but it’s also incredibly fun!
The tour has something for every adventurer. Talk about spectacular scenery, thrilling slides through the mud, and a nice stop along the way to enjoy a refreshing beverage.
Travelers rave about this Koh Samui tour.
Chaweng Beach and Night Market
The beaches in Koh Samui are beautiful – some travelers spend their whole time on the beach.
Chaweng Beach is one of the most popular beaches with a vibrant atmosphere and a host of beach clubs offering delicious cocktails. It can get quite crowded during peak hours, but there are also plenty of quiet spots to relax.
If you’re after a more peaceful beach day, Lamai Beach offers seclusion and tranquility. It’s about two kilometers south from Chaweng beach so it’s easy to reach by bike or taxi.
One must-see spot near Lamai Beach is the Hin Ta & Hin Ya Rocks, also known as the Grandfather & Grandmother Rocks. These fascinating geological formations are set against an idyllic backdrop with turquoise waters lapping at the rocks’ feet.
An even better spot for snorkeling is Coral Cove Beach. This is a small alcove tucked between Chaweng and Lamai beaches and sheltered from street traffic by boulders. The underwater life here is simply amazing!
TIP: Consider the sunset cruise! There is an amazing catamaran sunset cruise that departs from Chalong Pier and sails across the Andaman Sea. From there, you have endless opportunities for snorkeling, swimming, parasailing, scuba diving, kayaking… AND they serve dinner at sunset!
After your day at the beach, don’t forget to check out Chaweng Night Market. There, you will find amazing Thai street food every night except Sundays.
More Options: Build Your Own Koh Samui Itinerary
Swap out any of the items on this 3 day Koh Samui itinerary for one of these – don’t be afraid to make it your own!
You simply cannot go to Thailand without getting a traditional Thai massage, or at the very least a foot massage.
A Thai massage is a unique type of massage that uses acupressure points, assisted stretching, and gentle rocking to help relax the body and mind. The therapist will use their hands, feet, elbows, and knees to apply pressure to the various muscles and joints in order to release tension.
Unlike other forms of massage, Thai Massage doesn’t involve oils or creams. Instead, the therapist will use their own body weight to provide a pressure-filled massage.
If you’re looking to fill part of your day with exploration and end it with a massage, there is a Koh Samui Island Tour that includes Lunch and Thai Massage. It’s worth checking out!
Benefits from this massage include increased flexibility in the joints, improved range of motion in muscles, reduced stress levels, improved circulation, and overall feeling of wellbeing.
I’ll be honest, I’ve gotten a few Thai massages and they’re too intense for me. Instead, I get foot massages several times a week when I’m in Thailand because they’re so affordable.
Muay Thai Boxing Match
Muay Thai is an ancient form of boxing with its origins in Thailand. It is known for having very physical bouts, which combine elements of striking, kicking, and grappling to create an intense and powerful sport.
Muay Thai fights are regularly scheduled and held at various locations across Koh Samui. There are also boxing gyms where you can train and learn more about this martial art.
I had the opportunity to attend a Muay Thai match while living in Thailand. And it ended up being much more entertaining than I expected!
As I watched two fighters go back and forth through a series of kicks and punches, I found myself constantly on the edge of my seat. Even though the fight was one-sided at times, it was still incredibly exciting to watch such skilled combatants show off their techniques.
You can see fights every night at Chaweng Stadium, the most popular stadium on the island.
Koh Samui or Koh Tao
A lot of travelers want to know the difference between Koh Samui and Koh Tao, two of Thailand’s most popular islands.
Koh Samui is the largest and most popular island in Thailand. It’s well known for its lively nightlife, stunning beaches, and bright lights. Many visitors come to Koh Samui to experience the party atmosphere and enjoy a range of activities from watersports to ATV rides.
On the other hand, Koh Tao is much more laid back. It’s quieter and smaller than its neighbour Koh Samui but offers plenty of opportunities for tourists too.
I had the pleasure of visiting both islands during my time living in Thailand. And I was lucky enough to experience a variety of activities on each one.
On Koh Samui I enjoyed scooter adventures through lush jungles, relaxed beach days with great food, and hiking to a waterfall.
On Koh Tao, I got my basic and advanced scuba certifications. I also spent a lot of time in cafes overlooking the water and mingled with the other backpackers for sunset drinks.
Which do I recommend?
If I had to pick which one I’d recommend more for tourist who want a unique experience that isn’t too busy or rowdy, then it would be Koh Tao without a doubt!
The second smallest Thai island may be small but it has plenty to offer visitors who are looking for a chilled out vacation away from any hustle or bustle. While still having many activities on offer such as snorkelling and scuba diving amongst colorful coral reefs.
Or do you fancy enjoying amazing sunsets while kayaking around its coastline? All these activities make this place truly special!
On the downside, Koh Tao is a little trickier to get to since it doesn’t have an airport. So, you’ll get there by ferry. And some people think the island is too small, and therefore boring. So, if you like a little more hustle and bustle, then you’ll prefer Koh Samui!
Koh Samui to Chiang Mai
Many people who have visited Thailand’s islands in the south like to finish their trip with a visit to the northern capital, Chiang Mai. Or sometimes they start in Chiang Mai and then head south to the islands.
This bustling city offers travelers a unique and diverse cultural experience, with its ancient temples, laid-back atmosphere and vibrant night life.
Popular activities among visitors include exploring the city’s markets and trying out the local street food. You can also take part in Muay Thai classes or yoga centers. For those who love nature, the nearby national parks offer stunning views of mountains and waterfalls.
My own experience living in Chiang Mai for several months was incredibly rewarding. I loved how safe Chiang Mai is for solo female travelers, the friendly locals, delicious street food, and wonderful scenery!
I also got to enjoy some of the quirky cafes. They made for great places to meet up with friends and getting some work done.
Chiang Mai is definitely one of those places that will stay with you forever. So if you’re planning a trip to Thailand then it should be high on your list!
Conclusion: 3 Days in Koh Samui
Visiting Koh Samui is an unforgettable experience. And with this 3-day itinerary you can make sure you get the most out of your trip.
3 days in Koh Samui is enough time to experience the highlights. Relax on the beach, hike to a waterfall, take a full day tour to Ang Thong Marine Park, and eat lots of delicious Thai food. Your evenings won’t be full either, since you can catch a Ladyboy Cabaret show or watch a Muay Thai fight.
This itinerary is perfect for travelers looking to take full advantage of what the island has to offer. Even if they only have a few days to do it.
About the author:
Meet Cat, a travel lover who quit her job in 2021 to travel the world full-time. She started with shorter solo trips in her 30s and really enjoyed exploring. So, right before she turned 33, Cat started a trip around the world, and it’s still going after more than two years! She first shared her adventure on Instagram for friends and family but later wanted to inspire other solo travelers. Cat wants you to know it’s never too late for a big trip, even in your 30s and 40s.