The best things to do in Koh Samui with kids
Whether you’re looking for gorgeous beaches, adventure activities, animals, or cultural attractions, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Koh Samui with kids. Thailand’s 2nd largest island is a beautiful destination and has lots to offer visitors, whatever their age.
Although Koh Samui has a reputation as a party island, it is also an excellent destination for families. Kids will love the sandy beaches, warm sea, buzzing markets and day trips.
We’ve just spent 8 days in Koh Samui with teenagers, as part of our 4-week itinerary in Thailand. In our guide, we’ll share all the top places to visit, things to do and must-see attractions in Koh Samui.
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Relax on the beach
With over 40 beaches and coves, Koh Samui has a beach to suit everyone.
Our accommodation overlooked the Mae Nam beach on the North coast, an idyllic beach with very few people. With its golden sand, clear waters, and huge palm trees, Mae Nam Beach looks like something from a holiday brochure.
If you are looking for somewhere livelier, Chaweng Beach on the Northeastern side is the one for you. This is where you’ll find more choice for bars, restaurants, and water sports.
One of the best things about the beaches in Koh Samui is the warm sea water. The temperature of the sea remains at about 29° throughout the year.
If your kids love snorkelling, there is an offshore coral reef off the coast of Koh Samui. You can see an assortment of fish and other sea creatures, such as sea urchins, giant clams, and sea cucumbers.
Many of the day trips on boats will also include the opportunity to snorkel from the boat. Our trip to Pig Island included snorkelling near Koh Tan.
Feed the pigs on Koh Madsum (Pig Island!)
One of the best day trips from Koh Samui for kids is a visit to Koh Madsum, otherwise known as Pig Island.
That’s right, an island with pigs! It’s not really what you imagine when you think of Thai beaches.
The small, tropical island is off the southern coast of Koh Samui and can only be reached by boat. We visited as part of a half-day tour, which included snorkelling offshore at Coral Island (Koh Tan) too.
When you arrive at Pig Island, buy some pig food from the bar. You’ll be given a plate so the kids can feed the pigs themselves. Once they see you have food, the pigs will come running over. Don’t put it all on the plate at once or some of the greedy big pigs will scoff the lot!
The pigs are not completely wild but do roam freely around the island. They belong to the restaurant owner, who takes care of them. However, they are extremely cute, and kids (and adults) will love feeding them.
READ MORE: A visit to Pig Island, Koh Samui
Visit Wat Plai Laem (Lady Monk Temple)
Although a visit to a temple might not be top of the children’s list of things to do in Koh Samui, Wat Plai Laem (Lady Monk Temple) is rather unique. In fact, at Wat Plai Laem you’ll find an impressive complex of colourful temples, each with their own unique characteristics.
The most important temple at Wat Plai Laem is the Ubosot, an elaborate, pink ceremonial hall which sits in a small lake. It is here that the monks get ordained.
As you cross the bridge, have a look in the moat for catfish and turtles. For a small donation (10 tbh) kids can get a bag of food to feed the fish.
Take a look at the Laughing Buddha
One of the most fun statues at the Wat Plai Laem complex is the Statue of the Chinese Laughing Buddha.
Standing at 30 metres high, the laughing Buddha is an impressive figure, with a very smiley face. He has a fat belly, which signifies wealth and prosperity in Thai culture.
On an adjacent platform, you’ll find the comical Ganesha elephant statue. This colourful Buddha has the head of an elephant, as well as four arms.
Check out the Guanyin Statue (Goddess of Mercy)
Another of the enormous statues that you need to see on Koh Samui is the enormous Guanyin statue, the 18-armed Goddess of Mercy and Compassion.
Both the Laughing Buddha and Goddess of Mercy show Koh Samui’s strong Chinese heritage. Her numerous arms symbolise her power to reach out and help many people at the same time.
Take a tour of Koh Samui island
Although the Koh Samui beaches are amazing, it’s always good to take some time out to get a feel for the island. Without a car, a half-day tour is a fantastic way to see the top attractions on Koh Samui. It’s easier to get to them all if you don’t have a car and you will have an English-speaking guide, who will give a brief explanation for each attraction.
We booked a half-day island highlights tour which took us to Wat Phra Yai, the Big Buddha temple, the Mummified Monk, Grandma and Grandpa rocks, a waterfall and Chaweng Noi Viewpoint. We stopped at each destination for about 30 minutes, but were free to visit at our leisure.
See the Mummified Monk
Another of the more unusual things to do Koh Samui with kids is visit the Mummified Monk, Luang Pho Daeng. You can see him in a glass casket at Wat Kunaram.
Daeng was a Thai monk, who’d dedicated his life to Buddhism. When he died during meditation in 1973, his body remained in the same position without decomposing. In accordance with his wishes, his family kept him in this upright position in the cabinet, where he has remained ever since.
The body has remained in a well-preserved condition, apart from his eyes. However, there’s not need to worry about scaring the children, the monk is wearing sunglasses! And, doesn’t he look cool!
Visit an ethical Elephant Sanctuary
One of the most amazing places to visit in Thailand with children is an elephant sanctuary.
Koh Samui has two elephant sanctuaries, both for retired elephants who have spent their lives working in logging and tourism industries.
The visit to the elephant sanctuary includes feeding the elephants, rubbing them with mud and bathing. It really is one of the most fun things to do in Koh Samui with kids.
Climb up to the Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai)
One of the must-do things to do with kids in Koh Samui is visit Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai). The temple is on a small offshore island, which joins Koh Sami with a causeway.
This gigantic golden Buddha sits on a terrace at the top of an impressive stairway, flanked each side with a mythological snake. Built in 1971, the Buddha is 12-metres high (39ft) and one of Koh Samui’s most popular attractions.
You can climb the steps up to the Buddha, where you can ring the bells or look at the views over Koh Phangan.
At the base of the staircase, you’ll find a complex of stalls selling food and souvenirs. They do a good selection of ice-creams.
Swim at Na Muang 1 Waterfall
There are several waterfalls you can visit in Koh Samui, but there’s no guarantee they’ll have water!
As part of our island tour, we visited Na Muang 1, Koh Samui’s second largest waterfall. On a good day the water falls into a freshwater pool where visitors can swim. However, it was dry when we went, the pool was a murky brown, so we gave it a miss!
However, there are several market stalls around the car park area, so we stopped for some mangosteen (my now favourite Thai fruit).
Island-hopping at Ang Thon Marine National Park
For the best island-hopping experience near Koh Samui, book a day trip to Ang Thon Marine National Park.
Ang Thon Marine Park is an archipelago of 42 islands in the Gulf of Thailand, most of which are uninhabited. The trip includes fun activities such as kayaking and snorkelling, plus a Thai lunch.
One of the highlights of the Ang Thon Marine Park is the Emerald Lake (Talay Nai), best known as the aqua lagoon in Leonardo di Caprio’s film, The Beach. It’s a steep hike to the viewpoint at Mae Koh, so may not be suitable for younger children.
Click here to book your day trip to Ang thong Marine Park
Take a stroll through Fisherman's Village in Bophut
As we were staying in a quiet resort on Koh Samui, we took a Songthaew over to the Fisherman’s Village, Bophut.
On a Friday evenings they have a lively street market on Bophut Beach Road. They have all sorts of tempting street food, which kids will love.
The teenagers loved browsing the stalls, with their assortment of crafts, jewellery, bags, clothes, and souvenirs.
Watch an amazing fire show
If you’re looking for something to do with kids in the evenings on Koh Samui take them to a fire show on the beach. They will love it.
The best fire show on the island is at Coco Tam’s, an open air beach bar on Bophut Beach. They have two fire shows, one at 7.15 and one at 9.30pm. Coco Tam’s restaurant is very popular, so you need to turn up early if you want to eat first. Or you could eat at the night market then head straight to the beach.
Chill on the beach with a cocktail (or mocktail for kids) and watch the breathtaking fire display. You won’t regret it!
Have a Thai massage
If you have older kids, treat them to a Thai massage. We eased the teenagers in with a foot massage in Bangkok and upgraded to a full massage in Koh Samui.
If you let them know they are teenagers, the Thai masseuse will go easy on them!
Visit Hin-Ta and Hua-Yai Rocks
Would you believe that a pair of boulders resembling male and female genitalia would be one of Koh Samui’s top attractions?
Well, that’s exactly what you’ll see when you visit Hin-Ta and Hua-Yai, the Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks. (I’ll leave it to you to guess which one is in my photo!)
You’ll find the natural landmark on the rocky coastline just south of Lamai beach. It’s usually included as one of the attractions in the Koh Samui island tours.
It doesn’t really take long to visit the rocks, have a snigger, and take a few “rude” photos. However, as with most tourist attractions in Koh Samui, they have a complex of market stalls and cafés offering drinks, snacks, and crafts.
Go diving in Koh Tao
For the ultimate snorkelling or scuba diving experience, take your kids on a day trip to Koh Tao. This paradise island has a fantastic choice of bays and dive sites, where you can see an array of fish. You can get there by boat from Koh Samui, which takes about 90 minutes.
Although it’s possible to visit Koh Tao independently with the Lomprayah Ferry, it’s far simpler to book a day tour. As well as providing pick-up from the hotel and transport, the one-day tours provide a guide who will take you to Koh Tao’s top diving spots.
If you’re lucky, you may also spot turtles, as the waters off Koh Tao provide a natural habitat for these creatures. You may even see a dolphin or two!
- Click here to book your one day snorkelling tour to Koh Tao.
- Click here to book your one day scuba diving experience in Koh Tao.
Have a go at sea-kayaking
We were lucky to be able to borrow kayaks from our hotel. If not, you can hire them from the beach or book a sea-kayaking trip.
The water is flat and calm, though there are some currents, so may not be suitable for younger children.
Enjoy a smoothie at a beach bar
The kids loved the smoothies in Thailand. And where better to drink one, than at a beach bar overlooking the aqua sea. I think they drank their body weight in smoothies, working their way through the menus. Top choices were the banana, mixed fruit, or mango. Delicious!
Accommodation in Koh Samui
You’ll find accommodation in Koh Samui to suit all budgets and tastes. The island has plenty of luxury hotels and resorts, but a good choice of budget accommodation for backpackers.
We stayed at the Green Coconut Resort, which has villas on the beach and a pool. It was a quiet resort, within walking distance of several restaurants, a beach bar, and shops.
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