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While you might find it difficult to tear yourself away from Koh Samui’s pristine white-sand beaches, our Forbes Travel Guide editors think it’s well worth exploring the island’s lush jungles and visiting some of its top attractions. When you’re ready for some sightseeing, put these picks for some of the best things to see and do in Koh Samui at the top of your to-do list:
1. Wat Phra Yai. This Buddhist temple is probably the island’s most well-known landmark, and certainly it’s most visible one thanks to the 15-meter high Big Buddha, a gleaming golden marvel that can be seen from miles away. Look down as your plane is about to land — depending on your flight route, on clear days you should be able to see it.
2. Angthong National Marine Park. A visit to this small archipelago of 42 islands is one of the most memorable day trips you can take from Koh Samui. You can get there either on a public tour or by hiring a private boat, and once you arrive you can go kayaking, snorkeling through dazzling coral reefs and hike up limestone cliffs to an emerald seawater lagoon in the middle of one of the islands.
3. Namuang Waterfall. Surrounded by purple rocks and gushing down from about 80 meters up, the waterfall at Namuang, which is actually comprised of two separate waterfalls, is the most majestic on the island. The smaller waterfall is accessible by vehicle, but you’ll have to make a short walk up to the bigger one.
4. Wat Khunaram. How many times will you get a chance to see a mummified monk? The body of Luong Pordaeng has been on display in a glass case at this Buddhist temple since his death in the early ’70s; it may sound a bit grisly, but a visit here yields a fascinating glimpse at Buddhist beliefs and culture, particularly since the temple is heavily frequented by locals.
5. Hin Ta and Hin Yai. Located on the island’s southern coast and also known as the Grandpa and Grandma rocks, these natural rock formations bear a remarkable resemblance to male and female — ahem — genitalia. You’ll be chuckling with locals and other tourists alike.