Quiet and peaceful yet just three hours from Bangkok, Koh Samet is a beautiful island in the Gulf of Thailand famous for its relaxing beaches. More popular with Bangkok residents seeking an escape from the city than international tourists, Koh Samet is a great weekend destination.
Koh Samet © mark_lehmkuhler
Thanks to its convenient location just 200 kilometres from Bangkok, Koh Samet is a popular weekend break destination for Thais. Beachside bars, great seafood restaurants and a good selection of bungalows and resorts make this small island a fun place to spend a weekend.
Although Koh Samet is less developed than Koh Chang, Koh Samui and other popular islands, its clean beaches and selection of day trips make it a fun destination. For a significantly more peaceful experience, visit during the week while most of the island’s visitors are busy at work.
Since Koh Samet is part of Khao Laem Ya-Mu Ko Samet National Park, you’ll need to pay a 200 baht entry fee upon entry, or 100 baht for children.
Koh Samet © mark_lehmkuhler
Main Areas of Interest in Koh Samet
If you’re travelling by ferry from Ban Phe to Koh Samet, you’ll arrive at Nadan Pier. The area around the pier has a limited selection of cheap accommodation options and several Thai and international restaurants.
Samet Town Centre
Koh Samet’s tiny town centre is home to a selection of souvenir shops, pharmacies, restaurants and bars. You’ll find Koh Samet’s cheapest accommodation in the town area a short walk from Haad Sai Kaew, although the nightlife makes getting a good night’s sleep tough.
Haad Sai Kaew
Koh Samet’s most popular beach, Haad Sai Kaew is the centre of activity on the island. While the large crowds and countless beachside bars and restaurants mean it’s far from quiet, Haad Sai Kaew’s white sand and calm water makes it a good choice for sunbathing and swimming.
Ao Hin Khok & Ao Phai
Located just south of Haad Sai Kaew, Ao Hin Khok and Ao Phai are two smaller beaches that are more popular with backpackers than Bangkok-based families. Although there’s much less nightlife here than on Sai Kaew, Ao Phai has a selection of bars and beachside restaurants.
Quiet and secluded but just a short walk from Ao Phai and Haad Sai Kaew, Ao Tubtim is a small and cosy beach that’s popular with holidaying couples. The beach is a calm and peaceful place to relax and enjoy the sun, with a selection of good dining options available at nearby resorts.
Ao Kiew Na Nok
Ao Kiew Na Nok is a small beach in the southeast of Koh Samet that’s home to the luxurious Paradee Resort. The beach, which was once one of the island’s top backpacker hangouts, is largely off-limits to anyone not staying at the hotel, although it can still be accessed by boat.
One of just a few beaches on Koh Samet’s western coast, Ao Phrao is a quiet and secluded bay that’s popular with weekend high-society Bangkok residents. Thanks to its isolated location, it’s an excellent choice for relaxing holidays and romantic weekend trips.
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Things to Do in Koh Samet
Beaches and Sunbathing
Koh Samet’s beaches offer a great mix of activities, from windsurfing and sailing to relaxing on the beach with a good book. While Haad Sai Kaew offers the best selection of beach activities, the beaches to the south — particularly Ao Tubtim — are the best for quiet relaxation.
At night, many of the resorts on Haad Sai Kaew and Ao Phai host fire shows and other exciting performances. Head down to the beach at around 8 pm on any weekend night for a cocktail and an exciting, if somewhat dangerous, live performance.
There are several good snorkelling spots around Koh Samet, ranging from rock formations at the end of several beaches to off-shore islands. To see the best of the island’s underwater life, book a snorkelling day trip, which will usually take you to several areas around the island.
While the relatively shallow water around Koh Samet means its diving isn’t as spectacular as Koh Phi Phi or Koh Tao, there’s still plenty to see around the island. Several resorts offer dive trips to sites around the island for beginners and advanced divers alike.
Best Luxury Hotels in Koh Samet
- Paradee Resort
Spacious and luxurious, Paradee Resort’s pool and garden villas are the most upmarket rooms available on Koh Samet. This five-star resort boasts its own semi-private beach at Ao Kiew Na Nok and incredible facilities. Private villas start from 8,000 baht per night.
Best Mid Range Hotels in Koh Samet
- Sai Kaew Beach Resort
Located right on Sai Kaew Beach, Sai Kaew Beach Resort is a convenient and comfortable four star hotel that’s perfect for visitors seeking to relax on Koh Samet’s beaches. Rooms range from simple cottages to spacious poolside villas.
- Ao Prao Resort
One of only a few resorts on Koh Samet’s western coast, Ao Prao Resort offers quiet, peaceful and relaxing hillside cottages with great views over the Gulf of Thailand. Although the resort’s isolated location makes it quiet and relaxing, it can be difficult access the rest of the island.
- SummerDay Beach Resort
Located right on Sai Kaew Beach, SummerDay Beach Resort offers a great selection of guest rooms and peaceful beachfront dining. A short distance from the nightlife along Sai Kaew, but far enough away to avoid the noise.
Best Budget Hotels in Koh Samet
- Ban Chom Samed Resort
Located in the far north of Koh Samet, Ban Chom Samed Resort is a quiet four star resort with a selection of simple but comfortable cottages. The resort’s quiet location makes it a great option for escaping the hustle and bustle of Bangkok over the weekend.
- Green Bay Samed Resort
Cheap and simple yet perfectly located on Sai Kaew Beach, Green Bay Samed Resort is a two star resort offering a selection of comfortable rooms. Free Wi-Fi and breakfast make this a great place to relax in between enjoying the beach and Sai Kaew Beach’s nightlife.
- Tubtim Resort
Located on Ao Tubtim, a smaller beach to the south of Sai Kaew, Tubtim Resort offers a huge range of bungalows. Rooms range from cheap and simple to luxurious private bungalows right on the waterfront. The quiet, family-oriented beach outside is a nice, quiet place to relax.
Pad Thai © judemasti
Best Places to Eat and Drink in Koh Samet
- Red Ginger
Located a short walk from Sai Kaew, Red Ginger serves high quality Thai food in an upmarket, modern setting.
- La Luna Cafe & Bar
La Luna Cafe & Bar is a beachside cafe, restaurant and cocktail bar located right on Wong Duan Beach that’s perfect for enjoying the sunset.
- Samed Villa Restaurant
Part of the Samed Villa Resort, Samed Villa Restaurant is a beachside restaurant on Ao Phai that offers dining right on the sand.
- Tubtim Resort Restaurant
Part of the quiet and peaceful Tubtim Resort, Tubtim Resort Restaurant serves excellent Thai food, a selection of international dishes and great cocktails.
- Ploy Talay Restaurant
With a location right on Sai Kaew Beach and a selection of great seafood dishes, Ploy Talay Restaurant even offers nightly fire shows for customers.
- Antique Cafe
Located a short distance from Nadan Pier in Koh Samet’s small town centre, Antique Cafe is a small cafe with a great selection of snacks and Western-style breakfast dishes.
- Banana Restaurant
Another convenient choice in Samet’s town centre, Banana Restaurant is a family-owned small restaurant that serves tasty Southern Thai food.
Koh Samet © mark_lehmkuhler
How to Get to Koh Samet
Koh Samet is approximately 200 kilometres from Bangkok and can be accessed by taxi in about 2½ hours. Taxis from Bangkok to Ban Phe, where the ferry to Koh Samet departs, cost 1,600 to 2,500 baht. Note that most taxis will insist on a fixed fare due to the long distance.
If you’re travelling to Koh Samet from Bangkok, it’s best to ask your hotel to request a taxi for you, as many taxis called off the street will refuse the fare. Taxis to Ban Phe are also available from Suvarnabhumi Airport, usually at a fixed fare of 2,000 to 2,500 baht.
By Bus & Minivan
Ban Phe is easy to access by bus from Bangkok. Buses leave from Ekamai Bus Station several times daily and take about 3½ hours to complete the journey. There are also minivan services to Ban Phe, which depart from Victory Monument and make the journey in about 2½ hours.
Koh Samet is a 45 minute ferry trip from Ban Phe. Ferries travel between the island and Rayong hourly but terminate at 6pm, after which only speedboats are available. Ferry tickets cost 100 baht and include a return fare.
If you’ve arrived at Ban Phe late or just want to travel straight to your beach, you can get to the island significantly faster on a private speedboat. Speedboats are available 24 hours a day and make the trip between Ban Phe and Koh Samet in 15-20 minutes.
Prices for speedboat transfers vary based on the beach you’re travelling to. Beaches located on the eastern side of Koh Samet are typically the cheapest, with the cost of transfers to the more remote beaches on the island’s western coastline often 2,000 baht or more.