Koh Samet is a tiny and very attractive island and is the closest decent leisure island to Bangkok. From the capital it is easily reachable if you want a quick escape from the concrete jungle. The beaches are among Thailand’s finest, boasting brilliant white sand, clear water and postcard-perfect scenery. On the weekends it gets lively, as Bangkokians pour in.
Because of its close proximity to Bangkok, Koh Samet receives a lot of Thai visitors, often staying just for the weekend. In the high season, the island can thus become very crowded, so finding accommodation, as well as space on the main beach, can sometimes be difficult.
But you can also visit Koh Samet during the rainy season, as it is one of the driest places in Thailand. In fact, this is probably the best time to visit as you can enjoy the beaches all the more when you have more space to move around.
The most developed beaches are Hat Sai Kaew and Ao Hin Khock, which can, at times, become crowded with sunbathers by day and a buzzing, happy hour-fuelled party by night. The beaches are very picturesque, although are becoming a tad over-developed.
Moving south, Ao Phai and Ao Phutsa are also popular beaches and are typically stunning. Towards the southern end are a few operations offering ‘banana boats’, ‘bumper rides’ and other fun water pursuits, as well as a wake-boarding and jet-skiing. If you want to get involved in other water sports, carry on farther south to Ao Wong Deuan, which has the largest amount of jet-skis and speedboats on the island.
Planning your own journeys can be tricky, as timings are never absolute in Thailand especially during the peak season. It’s a must to check up-to-date information as well as booking in advance. 12Go Asia is providing the quality of e-tickets for trains, buses, ferries and flights.
The other coasts are largely uninhabited, although Hat Ao Phrao on the west side is a pretty beach with some large resorts and guesthouses nearby. This is the best place to catch sunsets. In general, there isn’t much else to see and do on the island beyond the beaches. The interior is small, low lying and not very lush due to lack of rain and waterfalls.
Koh Samet is small enough to walk around anywhere really, although it can be fun to hire motorbikes and ride around the island for an afternoon; you’ll easily be able to cover the entire island in just a few hours. Be warned, however, the roads are quite rough.
Koh Samet now also has an ATM and 7-11 stores. Whereas this may be a drawback for some, those who need these amenities will be well served. The only real negative aspect of Koh Samet, apart from the over-crowdedness which may put some people off, is the presence of a lot of huge, mean mosquitoes. Remember to pack plenty of repellent!
Koh Samet nightlife and restaurants
For its size, there’s a surprisingly lively nightlife scene on Koh Samet, with fire-shows on the beach and many buzzing parties at the various guesthouses nearby. For the most part, it’s all very much dancing on the sand or under wooden shelters; you won’t find much resembling a pub or a club here, except for a couple of operations on Hat Sai Kaew. Silver Sands seems to be the epicentre of the Koh Samet beach party scene.
Prior to the partying, there are many beachside restaurants offering seafood barbecues, which are generally fair to good, and these places will also typically offer Thai and international food. Naga comes well recommended, as does the Ao Phai Resort.
Places to stay on Koh Samet
Silver Sand: the main party place on the island, though it can get a bit noisy if you’re staying near the beach…more details and booking
Seahorse Bungalow: good place to stay if water sports are your thing…more details and booking
Ao Phrao Resort: probably the closest Koh Samet gets to a proper luxury resort, this attractive place on the west coast has a great restaurant and luxuries, such as cable TV, air-con and telephones in the rooms…more details and booking
Coconut Bungalow: situated by Kat Sai Kaew (one of Koh Samet’s most attractive beaches), this place has rooms with fan, or with a/c, TV and a fridge; Tel: (085) 515 3666.
Naga Bungalow: located near the beautiful Ao Hin Khok beach, this guesthouse has an excellent restaurant. Tel: (038) 644 167).
Ao Phai Hut: nice, friendly guesthouse with a decent restaurant; the nearby Ao Phai beach is pretty but busy. Tel: (085) 477 6462.
Getting to Koh Samet
The easiest way to get to Koh Samet from Bangkok is by bus and boat combination. A prearranged package can be bought from most travel agents which will include the coach and ferry together for around 300 baht one-way, 400 baht for a small, uncomfortable minibus, or 300 one-way, 500 baht return for a much better VIP coach.
These buses take you to Ban Phe in Rayong, from where you catch a boat over to the island. You can make your own way to Ban Phe if you prefer, by catching a public bus from Bangkok’s eastern bus terminal. This offers small savings, but a spacious and more comfortable bus ride. The total journey time is about three hours, 30 minutes.
You can also drive from Bangkok: simply keep heading down Sukhumvit Road and follow signs to Chonburi, Rayong and then Ban Phe. In Ban Phe there are plenty of places to leave your car for a small charge per night.