On an island renowned for pristine beaches and sapphire seas, you would expect visitors to Thailand’s Koh Samui to spend all of their waking hours near the shore. However, there’s also lush rainforest that’s equally enticing for adventurous travellers, and the holiday gurus over at Expedia Australia have all the top tips. Whether by boot or by bike, you’ll enjoy hidden waterfalls, secret gardens, and incredible views when you follow this guide to hiking in Koh Samui.
Pointers and Preparation
Before you go running through the canopy to a lookout high on a mountainside, there are a few things to consider. First and foremost, you’re going to need the proper gear. That means comfortable trail-worthy shoes and appropriate clothing. Leave the sandals and cotton T-shirts back at your Koh Samui hotel. It’s humid in the rainforest—moisture-wicking clothes are a must to keep you cool and dry. Sunscreen and insect repellent are also must-haves for any extended time outside, and you might want to pack a travel rain poncho, just to be prepared for the occasional pop-up shower.
Because of the midday heat, it’s best to start your hike early in the morning, or later in the afternoon. Be sure to bring plenty of water and a snack so you can stay hydrated and fuelled up on the trail.
Best Hikes on Koh Samui
Now that you’re properly prepared, it’s time to lace up your trail runners and make tracks. Here are some of the best hiking trails on the island—all of which can be tackled with or without a local guide.
Consider these one to two-hour hikes to be more like leisurely strolls that even the most inexperienced hiker can thoroughly enjoy.
Hin Lad Waterfall Trail is a riverside path that gradually leads you uphill through the jungle to the scenic area where the flowing river falls into the plunge pool. Feel free to take a swim—or just dip your toes in—before heading back down.
The Maenam Viewpoint Trail in Nathon South is another easy option. Normally, you would expect to exert yourself for hours to reach an expansive island view. But this trail delivers a picturesque vantage point high atop the mountain rim.
Expect to be on the trail about two or three hours for these treks. You’ll get a workout, for sure, but you won’t need to be an expert hiker to attempt them.
The Magic Garden—or Secret Buddha Garden, as it’s also called—is a sculpture park built by Buddhist practitioner Uncle Nim. The hike there, through the dense forest, can be steep and challenging in a few spots, but the payoff is well worth it.
You can continue on a separate moderate hike after you’ve spent some time with the statues and the surrounding landscaped jungle. An effigy of the Sleeping Buddha—a golden, reclining re-creation of the spiritual leader—is found about 90 minutes along another trail that begins at the Magic Garden. If attempting both hikes is too much, and you want to only do the Sleeping Buddha hike, you can catch a ride to the Magic Garden and start from there.
You’ll definitely want to get an early start for these three to four hour treks. Bring plenty of water, and make sure you have a full battery for your camera—you’re going to need it once you reach these majestic peaks.
The Nathon Mountain Ridge Trail takes you on a 13-kilometre loop around the entire Nathon Valley. Along the way, you’ll pass through coconut plantations, evergreen forests, and jungle vegetation—all offering plenty of photo ops.
Another 13-kilometre trail combines some of the easy and moderate hikes, creating one long trek, and takes you through a Buddhist temple. On the Maenam Viewpoint-Wat Lamai-Magic Garden Trail, you’ll enjoy a couple of Koh Samui’s most gorgeous vistas. Maenam Viewpoint is a popular spot for views of the island, but continue on to the top of the tower at Wat Lamai, and you can see the mainland on a clear day. After you’ve taken in the panorama, you’ll pass through the Magic Garden, where you can witness Uncle Nim’s handiwork.
There you have it. Hopefully, you’ll spend some time enjoying these amazing hikes in between sessions on the sand, snorkelling in the sea, and sightseeing along Koh Samui’s streets. In fact, a day on the trails will make that pint at the pub all the more refreshing, and the seafood dinner even more delightful.