(A trainer’s guide to the best gyms, yoga studios, outdoor activities, and healthy places to eat while abroad)
I accidentally stumbled on Koh Samui, fell in love, and decided to stay for a week. Koh Samui is fairly big – larger than its neighbors Koh Tao (where I was technically supposed to be) and Koh Phagnan (known for the popular Full Moon and Half Moon parties). It even has its own airport with direct one hour flights to Bangkok. Koh Samui boasts beautiful beaches, excellent Muay Thai and fitness gyms, waterfall hikes, and even a super chic yoga resort (that serves the delicious vegan cheese plate pictured above). For someone who’s looking for a relaxing, yet active escape, look no further than Koh Samui!
Where to Stay:
In an effort to explore different parts of the island, I booked my first half of the week at the north of the island at Baan Bophut Hotel in Fisherman’s Village, and the second half at Phannarai Guesthouse in Lamai Beach. I’ve found that splitting your accommodations between two different neighborhoods in a week allows you to explore different neighborhoods and discover hidden gems that you otherwise wouldn’t staying in one spot. (I’ve linked to the Booking.com pages that I directly booked these places with. By using my affiliate links, you’re helping support the site and allow me to continue providing you with free travel recs!).
Fisherman’s Village is conveniently located close to the airport, offers many shopping, dining, and drinking options for tourists and plays host to the Friday night market – definitely worth checking out. Feel like royalty staying at Baan Bophut Hotel with an ocean view balcony and rainfall shower head. Its location is perfect for walking and exploring the nightlife, but also providing a quiet retreat to return home to. Additionally, my favorite healthy cafe and local yoga studio (mentioned below) were located in Fisherman’s Village.
Lamai Beach is located on the southeast edge of the island and provides you with a more central home base for active adventures and beach hopping. If you want to be closer to the Muay Thai gyms, waterfalls, and the crystal blue beaches, opt for this spot. I stayed at the Phannarai Guest House, ran by Golf – an adorable, sweet Thai woman who goes out of her way to accommodate her guests. She helped me print out my Vietnam visa last minute, arranged transportation to the airport for me, and even let me borrow her motorcycle helmet when I accidentally left mine out in the rain. The location was perfect – with walking distance to a Thai market, 7-Eleven, a one of a kind health food store (mentioned below), and Lamai beach. I recommend renting a motorcycle from Golf’s friend down the street to visit the local’s preferred beach: Silver Beach or go up the coast to visit the many beach clubs in Chaweng. Lamai Beach is also a short 15 minute motorcycle ride to the waterfall, making it a perfect spot that is in the center of everything.
Where to Sweat:
The Yogarden – Offering different classes throughout the day, this yoga studio is nestled in a lush garden in the Fisherman’s Village neighborhood. Practice with locals and tourists alike in this inviting, welcoming space. They offer adynamic/vinyasa flow class both in the morning and early evening, as well as a late morning beginner’s yoga almost every day. Yogarden also has a shop where you can buy yoga accessories, essential oils, and natural bug repellent, as well as a cafe serving fresh-pressed juices and vegan food. I recommend checking out this spot to meet locals/ex-pats who live here, as I received some great tips and advice from them on exploring the island.
Punch it Muay Thai – Looking for a higher intensity workout? No trip to Thailand is complete without experiencing Muay Thai boxing – either as a spectator or personally at their many gyms. Even if you don’t have a fighting background, Punch it Gym specifically provides classes for all levels with passionate, dedicated instructors. With a clean facility and nice equipment, I was thoroughly impressed with this gym and wished I had a longer stay to take more classes.
Koh Fit Thailand – A beautiful outdoor facility with a nice swimming pool, healthy cafe, and group fitness classes for all levels, Koh Fit is a great destination for the active traveler who likes a little bit of everything. Plenty of variety offered here from yoga to crossfit to conditioning to muay thai boxing – this place has it all. I took the Circuit Conditioning class with Chris and he did a great job customizing the class for both beginner and advanced levels.
Vikasa Yoga Retreat– Practice oceanside yoga at this picturesque retreat and then chill out after at an infinity pool overlooking the coast. You can also stay here for a full retreat or drop in for a class to experience this slice of yogi paradise. Vikasa Yoga Retreat is tucked away on the east coast of the island, complete with its own healthy cafe – Vikasa Life Center – serving delicious food for all preferences, including gluten-free, vegan desserts (discussed more below).
Namuang Waterfall 2 – Ever wanted to experience Jurassic Park in real life? Trek in this tropical jungle and get rewarded at the end with a multi-tiered waterfall. Wear comfortable shoes as some parts can get rocky, but then be prepared to go barefoot for the latter part of the hike if they’re not water resistant. Fitness level should be moderate-active, as it wasn’t strenuous but not a leisurely stroll either with some inclines and slippery mud. If you’re motorbiking over there, be prepare to pay for parking/entrance upon arrival. You’ll receive a free water bottle as well which is nice.
One quick note: you’ll notice on the way to the waterfall that there are elephant riding attractions offered to tourists. Please walk past these unethical attractions that mistreat these beautiful creatures. There are alternative elephant sanctuaries both on Koh Samui and in Chiang Mai that are worth supporting.
Healthy Food & Drinks:
Greenlight Cafe – This was my favorite restaurant in Fisherman’s Village. With a friendly staff, fresh juices, and a wide range of options (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, pescatarian, and free-range chicken), this place is a health-conscious diner’s paradise. Plus, nearly all of their ingredients are locally sourced and organic – many coming from their very own garden! Enjoy high-quality, healthy food at affordable, Thailand prices.
Sasatorn Coffee | Barista Academy and Coffee Shop – Also located in Fisherman’s Village, this coffee shop serves coffee in any way that you like, including options you never knew were possible. With high quality beans from all over the world, multiple dairy and non-dairy options (soy, coconut, and almond), this coffee shop is the mecca of morning beverages, including matcha, hot chocolate, and dirty chai lattes. They also recently renovated their menu to offer more brunch/lunch options that are gluten-free and dairy-free friendly. My recommendation: their mocha latte with coconut milk.
Lamphu Health Shop – This shop was the closest thing to finding a Whole Foods in Thailand. Featuring unique products such as yak bone broth powder, MCT oil, probiotics, Ayurvedic herbs, as well as natural body and skincare essentials, this health shop sells things you can’t find anywhere else. Plus, they also have a small restaurant serving vegan/vegetarian/gluten free food, as well as healthy desserts, kombucha, and homemade sauerkraut. Located south in Lamai Beach near the main road, this shop is easily accessible and has a very friendly staff.
Vikasa Life Cafe – As mentioned above, Vikasa Life Cafe is the on-site restaurant for Vikasa Yoga Retreat center. Enjoy healthy beverages, snacks, meals, and desserts for any dietary preference with breathtaking views off an ocean cliff. The staff speaks excellent English, is very accommodating, and provides great recommendations for the diner with decision fatigue – which happens with the abundance of delicious options.
Pure Vegan Heaven – This popular vegan chain is available at multiple Thai locations and never disappoints. Serving plenty of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options, Pure Vegan Heaven provides nutrient-dense healthy options in Thailand for when you need a break from the traditional, fried Thai food. My top recommendations are their gluten-free gnocchi pesto pasta and their nori-wrapped spring rolls.
Full disclosure: I’m not a vegan and love eating meat (ethically raised, whenever possible). But typically vegan restaurants offer fresh foods that aren’t fried in hydrogenated plant oils – which causes inflammation and a host of health issues. My friend and I typically eat super clean in California and were experiencing swollen fingers, skin rashes, and digestive issues after eating stir-fried Thai food. I’m not saying they can’t be enjoyed in moderation, but Thai food can be taxing on the body if consumed frequently.
Who would’ve thought that eating healthy on vacation could be so easy and delicious?