Koh Samui, as a whole, has a nice tropical environment but there are no specially designated national parks as such. Only the Ang Thong Marine Park – an archipelago west of Samui – is protected. This uninhabited cluster of spectacular marine scenery is a popular daytrip and it is possible to kayak, snorkel and dive the surrounding reefs.
A hike to the inland Emerald Lake is another popular activity, while for those in search of the ultimate desert island experience, you can arrange to stay overnight at the park’s headquarters. This requires a permit from Bangkok, but some agencies can arrange overnight tours.
The Samui highlands that dominate the centre of the island have some lovely waterfalls and nature areas that are worth seeking out. The waterfalls on Koh Samui may not be the highest or most spectacular in Thailand, but they are have a certain amount of charm. Each is worth a visit during your stay, providing an instantly refreshing break from the built up areas of the island. At the end of the dry season (April-May time) you might find them disappointing through lack of water, yet they are still worth a look for their tropical setting.
Na Muang 1 is one of the best known waterfalls on Samui – ease of access and picturesque swimming area. You’ll find the falls off the 4169 Ring Road, between Nathon and Hua Thanon in the southwest of the island. Natural rock formations form a steep and scenic stairway down to the base of the fall, plus there are elephant trails nearby – seeing elephants amble over waters downstream with trekkers on their backs is surreal. The heavily populated pool at the base of the fall must be approached with caution as the waterfall’s foam hides sharp rocks underneath.
Na Muang 2 is Koh Samui’s most beautiful waterfall, with stunning rock formations and lush surrounds bathed in a brilliant natural light. An enjoyable 10-minute walk leads to the falls and is part of the fun – you can pick up something to eat and souvenirs at Na Muang 1 to break up the trip. Follow the concrete road to the left (south of Na Muang 1 on the Ring Road) until it becomes a walking track. Remember to bring a camera!
Wang Saotong Waterfall is fairly tall by Samui standards and is a special visit in that it has not long been accessible to the public. You’ll need to complete a one-kilometre walk to get there, so bring along a picnic or a book to make the trip worth while, and spend an idyllic afternoon relaxing. Turn right off the Wat Kunaram 4169 Ring Road near Ban Tha Po (between Nathon and Hua Thanon) and drive into the hills for about two kilometres beyond Baan Chang Elephant Trekking.
Hin Lad Waterfall is Koh Samui’s least populated waterfall. The walk is along a stunning jungle path, and can be completed with a refreshing dip in the waterfall pool. Strong walking shoes and leg protection is recommended for the walk and it is best to bring food and drink and plan plenty of time to take in the sights. Follow Route 4172 to the eastern end; two kilometres south of Nathon.