Koh Samet is a small island located in the Gulf of Thailand, off the coast of the province of Rayong. The island is just 7 kilometers long and 4 kilometers wide.
Samet (pronounced locally as Samed) is a popular tourist destination known for its stunning beaches, clear waters, and lush tropical scenery. As a small island there aren't many attractions, but there is plenty of opportunity for beach-time, snorkeling, kayaking, boat trips and other sea-sports.
Samet is easy and affordable to get to from Bangkok, and its proximity from the Big Mango has made it a popular weekend getaway for local Thais.
Despite getting pretty crowded in high season, Koh Samet still retains its natural beauty and a very chilled atmosphere.
It's certainly worth visiting, so let's dig down a little further on how to get there, what to do, and where to stay, etc.
How to Get From Bangkok to Koh Samet?
It's likely that you'll be coming in from Bangkok, either after some time spent in the capital or at one of the two major airports.
In that case, there are three main ways to get from Bangkok to Koh Samet:
- Bus and Ferry: You can take a bus from Bangkok's Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekamai) to Ban Phe, which is the main ferry terminal for Koh Samet. From there, you can take a ferry to the island.
- Private Car, Minivan or Taxi: You can hire a private car, minivan, or taxi to take you from Bangkok to Ban Phe ferry port. The journey takes about 2.5 to 3 hours.
- Flight: There are no direct flights from Bangkok to Koh Samet. However, depending on where you are in Thailand you can fly to U-Tapao (Rayong-Pattaya) International Airport and then take a taxi to Ban Phe ferry port. From there, you can take a ferry to the island.
When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Koh Samet?
The best time of year to visit Koh Samet is from November to February, during the dry season. At this time the weather is sunny and warm with little to no rain, making it ideal for beach activities. The sea is also calm, making it perfect for swimming and other water sports.
However, keep in mind that this is also the peak tourist season, so expect the island to be busy and accommodations to be more expensive.
If you are looking to avoid crowds, consider visiting in the low season, from May to October, when the weather is still warm and sunny but the island is less crowded and prices are lower.
How Long Does the Ferry Take from Ban Phe to Koh Samet?
As someone with kids, this is always a big consideration when visiting an island without an airport.
Thankfully, the ferry journey from Ban Phe to Koh Samet typically takes around 30 to 40 minutes, depending on weather and sea conditions.
Some faster speedboat services may take as little as 15 to 20 minutes, but these can be more expensive.
Note that there are several piers at Ban Phe port. The Municipality Pier is the obvious one, located at the information counter; it's the one with a blue roof. This is the more expensive one, with tickets costing 200-300 Baht, depending on the type of boat.
The cheaper alternative is Nuanthip Pier, located behind the 7-Eleven supermarket on the main street. Tickets can be bought from here for as little as 70 Baht, and a round trip for 100 Baht.
If you're lugging bags and kids you might want to forgo the 100-150 Baht saving on a ticket and just stick with the main Pier pricing. I can't be bothered to faff about in the heat.
Note that you can buy a return ticket, too, as the ticket is open and the date not fixed.
Also note that the ferry schedule and frequency may vary depending on the season. It is advisable to check ahead of time to confirm timings and book tickets if necessary.
How to Get Around the Island?
Koh Samet is a small island, so you can pretty much walk everywhere. That said, in high season it is very hot in Thailand and not the best idea to expose yourself to lengthy sun-blazed walks.
Instead, you can rent a scooter for 300 Baht a day, or 100 Baht per hour.
Don't forget to check if your travel insurance (see here) covers you to ride motorbikes!
Alternatively, cruise around in a golf cart for 500 Baht per day. It's a cool way to travel, literally, as you have the roof to shield you from the sun.
You can also rent a bicycle, but a hat, shoulders covered and sunscreen is highly advised.
Another option is to take a Songthaew. This is a pick-up truck that functions as a local bus.
Unlike in other areas of Thailand, where these trucks are picking up and dropping off along regular routes for 10 Baht a pop, Songthaew prices are higher here.
It may cost 200 Baht (for whole truck hire) to get to a neighboring beach, or even 600 Baht from one side of the island to the other, while a shared ride to a beach will be as little as 30 Baht.
What Are the Best Beaches on Koh Samet?
Koh Samet is renowned for its beautiful beaches. Some of the most popular and highly rated beaches on the island include:
- Hat Sai Kaew (Diamond Beach): This is the main beach people visit, so it does get a tad crowded in high season. It is a long, white sandy beach that is popular for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. You can easily access the nightlife on Samet from here.
- Ao Hin Khok Beach: Next door to Diamond Beach, Ao Hin Khok is quieter, yet still has wonderfully white sand and turquoise waters. There are a few bars on the beach, too. There are no are water sports activities and jet skis here either, which is better in my opinion.
- Ao Wong Duan Beach (Full Moon Beach): Not to be confused with the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangnan, Ao Wong Duan holds its own version of the party here on Koh Samet. This is the second largest beach on the island. The shore is lined with some of the more expensive hotels, and the sand is just as fine and the water just as turquoise.
- Ao Pakarang Beach: The southernmost beach on the island, this little treasure is tucked away and only accessible through the Nimmanoradee Resort. You don't have to be a guest at the resort; you can just walk through. The thing I love about this beach is the shade provided by the trees.
- Ao Prao Beach: Ao Prao is a secluded bay with calm, clear waters. I much prefer it to Hat Sai Kaew, and it's only a 5-minute ride by scooter. Highly recommended!.
Recommended Hotels on Koh Samet
The three hotels listed below are beachfront properties, each with amenities such as swimming pool, restaurant, fitness center, and shuttle service.
There is a fair amount of accommodation to choose from on Samet, ranging from budget to high-end, so use the link below these recommendations to check out other options according to your budget.
1. Paradee Resort
A 4-star property located in the Ao Kiew part of Ko Samet, and with its own private beach, this highly rated hotel has all the trimmings you'd expect.
2. Sai Kaew Beach Resort
Situated on Sai Kaew Beach and fairly near Koh Samet Pier, this resort also has a 4-star rating.
3. Le Vimarn Cottages & Spa
Conveniently situated in the Ao Prao part of Ko Samet, and rated 4-star, this beautiful property has amazing views.
Things to Do on Koh Samet
Apart from the obvious beach, water sports and chill, there isn't too much else to do on this small island.
Here are a few recommendations, though, just in case you get bored of the amazing beaches.
- Island Hopping: Koh Samet is surrounded by many other small islands, such as Koh Talu, Koh Kud, Koh Man Nork, and Koh Mun Nai, each offering a day-trip opportunity for snorkeling and exploration.
- Scuba Diving: With such crystal clear waters, scuba diving is a treat. In this area you are likely to see sea turtles, Napoleon wrasse, barracudas, and moray eels. There are many dive companies on the island; just take your pick.
- Wat Koh Samet: Walkable from Sai Kaew Beach, this temple's proper name is Wat Ko Kaew Pitsadan. It's worth a look, even if just to enjoy the tranquil atmosphere and admire the intricate architecture and artwork. It's the only temple on the island.
- National Park: Pretty much all of Koh Samet is part of the Khao Laem Ya-Mu Ko Samet National Park. In fact to access most parts of Samet you have to enter the park, which means paying the 200 Baht fee. This applies to many beaches. A ticket lasts one week. If you like walking, there's plenty to see. I found a specific nature walk, which can be followed using the map here.
Nightlife On Koh Samet
The nightlife on Koh Samet is centered around the main town, Ao Prao, and the beaches Haad Sai Kaew and Haad Sai Khao.
Here, you will find a range of bars and restaurants that offer a lively atmosphere for socializing and entertainment. Many of the bars have live music and DJ sets, and of course serve food and drinks until late into the night.
Perhaps the most popular bar on Haad Sai Kaew is Ploy Bar. This is a Thai-style beach bar with live music. Also see Lima Bar, not more than 100m from Ploy, which offers more of the same but a tad livelier as the evening wears on.
Popular with backpackers is the Silver Sand Bar on Ao Wong Duan, the beach that hosts Koh Samet's Full Moon Party.
Don't expect the neon lights of Pattaya, or the nightlife of Samui (Chaweng) or Phuket (Patong), but do expect a good vibe on the seafront.
In Quick Summary
Koh Samet has some stunning beaches and I found the water to be very clean, at least it appears that way.
The island still has that old-fashioned desert island feel to it in places. Because it's so small you don't feel as though you've missed out on anything if all you do is visit a handful of beaches.
There isn't loads to do, which is a blessing in a way – because the wife isn't able to go shopping here! But seriously, it's just a great place to relax and take in the views, nature and the ocean.
If you're in Bangkok and looking for a beach you can get to within a few hours that doesn't involve a flight, Koh Samet is an excellent choice. You might choose to go on a weekday, though, as weekends are more crowded due to locals escaping the rat race of the Big Mango.
Definitely worth a few days of your life.
Tips to Start Planning Your Trip:
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. I never travel without it. I’ve used SafetyWing for years. It is great.
Looking for Other Beaches to Visit?
Check out my top destinations for unspoiled beaches here.