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Looking for an exotic island vacation to break up those long cold winter nights? How about a chance to explore a tropical jungle, bathe beneath a waterfall, or dive below the warm waves to swim with whale sharks? Check out these 5 reasons to visit Ko Samui, an island off the coast of Thailand, where coconuts are the main export, you can shop with bare feet, and the rum is never gone!

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1. Go Chase Waterfalls!

Ko Samui is 88 square miles of tropical paradise. The island’s main road circles the island along the coast, connecting the myriad small lowland towns. Inland is pure natural tropical jungle climbing toward Khao Pom, the island’s tallest mountain. One of the island’s most sought-out spots is the Na Muang waterfalls. About 7 miles southeast of Nathon Bay along the coastal road, you’ll see the signs for the park.

True to their name, these ‘Purple Waterfalls’ are well known for the stunning purple rock faces framing the water’s fall. The first cascade flows into a natural pool that is great for swimming, and the path to the fall is relatively easy to manage.

There are small booths along the way selling snacks, souvenirs, and guided tours. The second cascade is about half an hour up the trail on foot and can be a bit more challenging. But make sure you leave yourself time to stop in between the two and check out the Na Muang Safari Park where you can ride elephants or laugh at crazy antics during the monkey show. Plan to spend the day, pack a picnic lunch, and strap on your walking sandals. Don’t let the helpful guides fool you, the park and falls are free to enjoy for everyone!

2. Take a Day Trip Across the Water to ‘The Golden Basin’!

Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park is a beautiful archipelago of 42 small islands where visitors can hike, kayak, snorkel, scuba dive, camp, and commune with nature. Take a 15-mile motorboat ride from Ko Samui to the park and spend the day wandering over 60 square miles of land and sea. Spend the night in one of the romantic bungalows on the island of Wua Talab, or rent camping gear and find your own secluded patch of paradise. Personally experience the backpacker’s tale as it was depicted in the novel “The Beach”, which was subsequently made into the movie starring Leonardo Di Caprio. Talk to the park rangers to make sure you don’t miss any of the towering limestone cliffs, exotic sealife, white sand beaches, and hidden coves. Come find out why the natives named it ‘The Golden Basin’!

3. Schedule your next Dive Club trip in one of the World’s Premiere Diving Destinations!

With mild currents, visibility up to 100 feet, and warm tropical waters, Ko Samui boasts some of the best diving in the world. Whether you’re an experienced diver, or just getting your feet wet, the island is littered with small, personable dive shops where you can rent gear, take a short class, and explore the shallow warm waters of places like Coral Cove. Venture over to Ang Thong Marine Park to dive among whale sharks, hard and soft corals, stingrays, sea anemones, barracuda, lionfish, cuttlefish, and angelfish.

Or you can take an exhilarating speedboat ride about an hour north to a place called Sail Rock. Best known for its 30-foot vertical chimney, this site is breathtaking at 15 feet and 115 feet. It is also one of the main sites for spotting whale sharks and giant morays. This site has it all, for the novice and the expert!

4. Relax at Your Own Villa

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Ko Samui has a ton of excellent villas for rent that are well priced. Whenever I am on the islands, I always take a couple of days to relax at one of these villas and recharge my batteries. Some of the best days in Ko Samui involve not planning too much, having a few drinks, and walking along the beach right outside.

5. Enjoy unique local food!

Experience amazing new flavors and fresh-off-the-boat seafood in the handful of restaurants on the island that showcase Samui style food. At Tahoe Bang Po Seafood, try the complimentary shoes jii, a vegetable dip made of shrimp paste, garlic, coconut, chili and some secret ingredients, served in a coconut shell. And don’t miss out on the octopus stir fry! Or rent a motor scooter and venture down the remote back roads to the Magic Alambic Rum Distillery. Owned and operated by a French couple, the rum comes in all the flavors of the tropics: orange, pineapple, coconut, and more.

Enjoy a sweet island cocktail in the garden tasting pavilion made with a mixer containing brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, and lime juice called ti punch. If you’re looking for your morning cup or an afternoon pick-me-up, try Horm Lamai Coffee House, known for brewing excellent strong coffee the old-fashioned way in a cheesecloth sock!

This café also serves various exotic dishes like their lunch special, kanom jeen, a type of vermicelli noodle curry, or congee; a rice pudding served for breakfast. But wherever you dine, make sure you pay attention to your feet! Most Thailand establishments, including your hotel and various shops, will expect you to remove your shoes before entering the building. It’s the polite thing to do!

Whether you’re touring Thailand and stop in along the way, or spend your entire vacation enjoying the beaches and waterfalls, come kick off your shoes in the Land of Smiles, take a breath of fresh air, and make Ko Samui your new favorite escape!

More on Thailand: Guarded by a Sak Yan / Thailand Travel Tips / The Cost of Living in Thailand / Hanging With Locals in Thailand

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