Whether you enjoy spending your time in-between dives dozing in a hammock, trying the local food or partying on the beach, there’s more than just coral reefs and stunning beaches in Koh Samui. Located in the Gulf of Thailand, off the coast of the Kra Isthmus, Koh Samui is the second largest island in Thailand after Phuket.
As a well-developed island it is an international hub with a broad appeal, and each year it that attracts thousands of travellers from all walks of life.
Scuba Diving in Koh Samui
Sadly, shore diving in Koh Samui would not make it onto many divers’ bucket list nowadays, what with destroyed corals and poor visibility.
However, thanks to its strategic geographic location, Koh Samui makes up for its average shore diving conditions by offering daily boat excursions to some of Thailand’s best diving spots, including the immaculate dive sites of Ang Thong Marine Park and others closer to the neighbouring island of Koh Tao.
There are many dive shops on the island that offer a full range of diving qualifications with PADI or SSI, from beginner to instructor training. As a hotspot tourist and diving destination, you can also expect to find dive centres with a multicultural staff that can speak multiple international languages. Regardless of your level, there is thus no excuse not to go scuba diving in Koh Samui!
Best Dive Sites in Koh Samui
Sail Rock is a big granite pinnacle, located at 50 minutes speedboat ride away from Koh Samui, near Koh Phangan. The pinnacle stands inconspicuously at roughly 8 metres out of the water. But beneath the waves, there’s a lot going on, and it’s easy to see why Sail Rock is considered one of the best dive sites in Koh Samui.
The boulder drops down to 30 metres, making it a perfect wall dive for divers of all levels. The main highlight is the congregation of whale sharks that like to stay around in the company of divers. Don’t worry if there are no whale sharks in the area, because there is a great variety of other fish too, such as giant trevally, moray, groupers and barracudas.
Another famous attraction is the vertical “chimney”, a wide and well-illuminated swim-through. Starting at around 16 metres, you can leisurely make your way up to around 6 metres, passing by the smaller inhabitants of the rock, like boxer shrimps, moray eels and glassfish – pure ecstasy for micro life lovers!
Chumporn Pinnacle is another all-time favourite dive spot in the region. Chumporn Pinnacle boasts a series of breathtaking granite pinnacles that reach a depth of 36 metres and extend within 14 metres of the surface. The boulders are all encrusted with corals, from vibrant anemones to branching corals, sea whips and large barrel sponges. The site is also home to batfish, tuna, schools of snappers, barracudas, and the occasional passing whale shark and manta ray.
Ang Thong Marine Park lies 30 kilometres from Koh Samui. It’s safe to say that its underwater scenery is as stunning as its setting, and a must-visit for every diver. Situated in 102 square kilometres of protected area with more than 40 islands covered in lush evergreen jungles, the Marine Park has an abundance of tropical fish and an incredible diversity of soft corals, barrel sponges, sea fans and anemones. The most popular dive sites are Koh Yippon and Koh Wao. They both have perfect diving conditions, with calm and clear waters and an average depth of 20 metres. You couldn’t ask for anything more for a top day’s diving.
Shark Island easily tops the list as one of the best dive sites around Koh Samui. The island slopes gently down to 24 metres and it’s a breeding ground for different marine species. In the shallower part, you can find beautiful hard and soft corals, as well as nudibranchs, turtles and pufferfish. Going deeper, you might also encounter whale sharks, leopard sharks and blacktip reef sharks.
When to Visit Koh Samui
Lying close to the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, Koh Samui has a tropical monsoon climate, making it hot and humid all-year-round with an average temperature of 28C. There are three distinct seasons: dry, hot and rainy. When planning your trip to Koh Samui, make sure to take into consideration the weather conditions.
The dry season runs between December and March. This is also considered as the high season and the best time of year to visit Koh Samui. It offers warm and bearable temperatures with clear skies and tranquil tropical waters.
The hot season starts in April and lasts until August with temperatures soaring above 30C. The weather usually follows a pattern of hot daytime sunshine followed by late afternoon cooling rain showers that come as a welcome relief from the stifling heat.
September through to November is the peak of the monsoon season, with the heaviest rainfalls. The weather can be unpredictable, and if you’re hoping to sunbathe or scuba dive, this is not the best time of year to visit Koh Samui.
Visiting Koh Samui outside the peak season will get you away from the crowds and guarantee you the best hotel rates. On the other hand, if you want to secure a diving trip, visit Koh Samui in the dry season (Dec-March), when the climate is favourable, and the diving conditions are at their best.
The island is a popular tourist destination, so to avoid any disappointments, book your travel tickets and accommodation well in advance.
The fastest and cheapest way to getting around Koh Samui is by renting a scooter or a motorbike. It’s the preferred way of transportation for tourists and locals alike because it’s the fastest way to zoom past the heavy traffic.
Alternatively, there are Songthaew (commonly called tuk-tuks), which are the closest thing to public transportation in Koh Samui. These are essentially pick-up trucks that cover the main touristy areas. Alternatively, there are private taxis and scooter taxis. They don’t all have meters, so you’ll have to bargain a little and agree on a price beforehand.
Eat, Sleep & Drink
When it comes to eat, sleep & drink, there’s something for everyone in Koh Samui. Based on the type of holiday you want, whether it’s a quiet stretch of beach to relax on, outdoor activities, or a lively party atmosphere, each town offers something different.
However, all dive centres are located on the East coast of the island, where the water is calmer and clearer. It’s also where most of the accommodation and entertainment is. Some popular tourist beaches include Chaweng Beach, Lamai Beach and Bophut, all with varying degrees of hectic nightlife and hotel prices.
To avoid ruining your holiday, find the area that best suits your expectations. Imagine wanting a peaceful and quiet holiday and ending on a busy and crowded beach!
Although the island is renowned for being a tourist magnet and a wild party island, it still preserves a natural beauty with dense jungles, waterfalls, interesting rock formations and quiet sandy beaches waiting to be explored.
For culture vultures, there are also temples and traditional fishing villages that preserve and represent the island’s heritage.
The shopping scene is pretty impressive too, from large shopping complexes to the more basic night markets with cheap and tasty food and colourful handicrafts.
And if you’re looking for more outdoor activities, there plenty to choose from. There are yoga schools, golf courses, Thai boking classes, windsurfing, sailing and much, much more.
Divers and swimmers should be careful of currents and rip tides. Hotels and beaches will usually put up a beach board or a flag warning, while your local dive guide will take you to more protected dive spots, away from the strong currents.
As most dive sites are a fair boat ride away, if you’re prone to seasickness, you might want to consider taking anti-nausea medication so as not to risk spoiling your dive trip. Better safe than sorry!
On a general note, Koh Samui is a safe travel destination, but you should still keep an eye out for scams and potential dangers. If you rent a motorbike, wear a helmet and drive carefully. Even for experienced drivers, it can be challenging to drive on the island’s winding roads and through the heavy traffic.