Spice Up Your Family Vacation With These Lesser Known Attractions In Koh Samui
If your idea of a beach paradise involves endless stretches of pale, soft sand, tropical jungle and clear warm waters teeming with tropical fish, Koh Samui is likely to be your dream destination. In fact, this super-alluring Thai island is many a traveler’s idea of a tropical idyll, and it’s become one of the most visited vacation destinations in the region. But while there’s no denying the island’s popularity with everybody from backpackers to the luxury travel brigade, a family visit to Koh Samui doesn’t have to mean English-language menus and jostling others out of the way for a decent spot on the beach. It’s surprisingly easy to escape the madding crowds and find under-the-radar experiences where you’re more likely to meet animal inhabitants than other humans. And the good news is, families are never too far away from ‘civilisation’ – the easy access to ATMs, pharmacies, large stores and other modern amenities can take some of the stress out of your Thai island adventure with the kids.
Cool off in secluded waterfalls
When it comes to Koh Samui and bodies of water, most people make a dash straight for those famous beaches. But for a day’s crowd-free splashing around and cooling down, it’s hard to beat the island’s waterfalls and natural pools. There are several to choose from, and with most of them requiring at least a little legwork to reach (nothing too strenuous, but bring plenty of strong insect repellent), tourists rarely make the trek. The best known (but still pleasingly isolated) of Koh Samui’s falls are at Na Muang, some 12km from Nathon town. A short, jungly walk leads to the first of two breathtakingly beautiful pool, while those who carry on for an extra half hour are well rewarded with a spot that feels even more blissfully isolated. Families who fancy exploring a little bit of wild nature also have the option to hike around the well-marked trails in the surrounding Namuang Safari Park.
Visit a Secret Buddha Garden
Put on your comfiest walking shoes and get set to head high up into the hills to visit one of the most magical spots on the island. It’s a steep climb to reach the Secret Buddha Garden via a clearly-marked trail (it’s possible to make much of the journey by off-road vehicle if little legs aren’t up to it…), but well worth the effort. The tropical gardens are a treasure trove of hidden statues – depicting animals, deities and, of course, Buddha – as well as streams and small natural pools. There are even footprints said to have been made by the Buddha himself. A viewpoint looking out over the island is the perfect place to rest the legs and enjoy a picnic and watch birds and butterflies 🦋 flutter by. The garden is less ‘secret’ than its name suggests, but while most locals and visitors have heard of it, few make the effort to actually visit, so kids will have plenty of opportunity to race around to their heart’s content.
Take a Snorkeling Side Trip
There’s no denying the beauty of Koh Samui and its beaches, but for serenity, snorkeling and scuba diving, families can take a side trip to Koh Phangan, which is served by regular ferries – the trip takes around four hours and is a pretty ride in itself, but it’s worth considering spending the night in one of the island’s cheap and cheerful guest houses. It can be busy with tourists and the Full Moon Party set during high season, but with 30 beaches on the island, a little walking is all it takes to leave the crowds behind and discover blissfully quiet spots with some of the best diving and snorkeling imaginable. Bring sturdy walking shoes and a heck of a lot of repellent, pack water and a picnic and you can while away entire days on the sand before heading back to civilisation and catching the sunset from a beach bar.
🌜Tip: To avoid the crowds coming to Koh Phangan for the full moon parties, try to schedule your trip to dates few days after the moon is full.
Eat here: Peak Eye View Restaurant
Families in Koh Samui can work up a heck of an appetite making the ascent to this hidden restaurant (it’s along the same route as the Secret Buddha Garden, and makes a good pitstop on the way back) which has a magnificent vantage point 600 meters above sea level. Kids love the chilled fruit smoothies, and the traditional Thai dishes taste all the better when eaten outside taking in those jaw-dropping views over the entire island. Peak Eye View Restaurant is still a well-kept secret – for now – so visitors can feel rightly smug about discovering a genuine hidden gem on Koh Samui.