Koh Samet is a popular island among many Bangkokians. Because the island is located only 220 kilometers from Bangkok, it’s a great place to escape from the city. The beaches are quite something: stretches of white sand, a clear blue sea and green trees adorning the coastline. To experience Koh Samet in this way, it’s important to know where to go. We’d like you to join us on a trip along the nicest beaches!
Koh Samet: a national park…?
I experienced first hand that Koh Samet is Bangkok’s perfect place to get a fix of heavenly island life, however my first impression was a different one.
Officially speaking, Koh Samet is part of Khao Laem Ya – Mu Ko Samet National Park. That’s why you need to pay a 200 baht entry fee to visit the island.
I don’t mind contributing to nature preservation, but in the case of Koh Samet, it didn’t feel right.
Upon arrival, Koh Samet didn’t strike me as a National Park in any way. Restaurants drown each other out with loud music, there’s trash by the roadside everywhere and the noise of speedboats and jet skis fills the bay…
National Park? Hardly.
It’s a good thing I quickly got to see the other side of Koh Samet. If you accept having to pay the entry fee and travel on to the south, you’ll notice the beaches become increasingly empty, clean and exotic.
Now I understand why Koh Samet is so popular!
Koh Samet’s beaches
Although Koh Samet isn’t large (13 km²), the island has 14 gorgeous beaches and all of them have lovely soft, white sand and a clear blue sea. The island is known for the green cajeput trees growing on many of its beaches (Samet is the Thai word for cajeput). The beaches in the north are buzzing with hotels, restaurants and things to do. The beaches in the south are calmer, free from jet skis and overseen by luxury resorts.
Ao Prao: Resort beach
Ao Prao (meaning: Paradise Bay) is the only beach on the west coast. With its white sand, palm trees and green mountains, this beach is a true paradise. Scooters aren’t allowed here, which keeps it nice and calm.
Three luxury resorts along the coast separate the beach. But thankfully, you don’t need to stay in a resort to enjoy this little piece of paradise; the southernmost part of the beach is accessible to everyone. You can rent a beach chair for 50 baht. This is also the best spot for some great snorkeling and admiring coral and tropical fish.
It’s the perfect bay for the whole family!
Sleeping at Ao Prao
Ao Karang: A calm little paradise
Ao Karang’s beach in the south of Koh Samet is located in an incredibly beautiful bay that ticks all the boxes: white sand, azure blue sea, rugged rocks and lots of cajeput trees providing the necessary shade. This calm, remote beach is perfect for couples as well as families with children. Ao Karang is also accessible to non-paying guests; you can rent a beach chair for 50 baht.
Sleeping at Ao Karang
Ao Wai: Picture perfect
Ao Wai is another one of those gorgeous beaches. Although the resort is under construction (and a visit is not recommended) this secluded bay is picture perfect with its white sand, green trees and beautiful rocks at either end of the beach. Definitely worth a short visit for a swim and some nice pictures!
Ao Nuan: Small but beautiful
Ao Nuan (or Ao Nual) is a remote bay with a small but gorgeous little beach, with a few stray rocks here and there, trees and clear blue seawater. Yet again, this beach is calm and peaceful. It has only one accommodation and we think it’s great: Ao Nuan Bungalows – quite possibly the best budget accommodation in Koh Samet. Once again, this beach is accessible to everyone: beach chairs cost 50 baht per day.
Sleeping at Ao Nuan
Ao Nuang Bungalows:
A mix of various types of bungalows, where the cheapest ones have a shared bathroom. From 800 Thai Baht per night. Bookings by telephone only: +66 38 644 334
Ao Lung Dam: Backpackers beach
Ao Lung Dam is a backpackers beach with a laidback vibe. Visit this beach for the nice atmosphere, not the beach. It has various kinds of basic bungalows at a low price. If you’re looking for a place to sleep without booking in advance, this is the place to go. We thought the atmosphere at Apache Restaurant & Bungalows was particularly fantastic – the relaxed island vibe!
Sleeping at Ao Lung Dam
Apache Restaurant & Bungalows: Basic bungalows with a laidback vibe. The treehouse bungalow on the beach is amazing. It’s also a great place to eat. From 600 Thai Baht per night. Bookings by telephone only: +66 81 452 9472
Haad Sai Kaew: Tourist trap
Haad Sai Kaew is Koh Samet’s most popular beach. We’re not quite sure why…it’s busy, the bungalows are very expensive and there are loads of bad restaurants. This isn’t the calm paradise you would hope for, but more like a tacky tourist trap. But given the number of tourists, apparently plenty of people do like Haad Sai Kaew a lot. Go and see for yourself!
Sleeping Sai Kaew Beach
Things to do on Koh Samet
Although the main reason for visiting Koh Samet is to relax on one of the many gorgeous beaches, that’s not the only thing you can do there:
- Climb from one bay to the next scrambling over rocks;
- Look for the southernmost tip at End Viewpoint;
- Enjoy a lovely massage at Paradee Spa;
- Admire the fire dancers after sunset on Haad Sai Kaew;
- One of the great views from Koh Samet End Viewpoint.
Best time to visit Koh Samet
The best time to visit Koh Samet is October – April when the sun shines approximately 8 hours a day and temperatures are around 30 degrees. Koh Samet has its own microclimate, which means it gets relatively little rain, even during the rainy season. But you can still expect big downpours in July and August.
Take a direct bus (or minivan) from the Ekkamai bus station in Bangkok to the Ban Phe pier in Rayong (06:00 AM – 6:30 PM, departure every hour, ± 200 baht). The trip takes around 3.5 hours, but if the traffic is bad it can take up to 5 hours. Getting back to Bangkok from Ban Phe, buses depart every other hour between 05:00 AM – 06:00 PM.
It’s best to take a speedboat from the pier and let it take you directly to the bay of your choice. This saves you a taxi ride and a long ferry crossing. Buy a one-way ticket – not a return ticket. You’ll pay a little extra ((± 300 baht), but it means you are free to choose a ferry line and can depart wherever and whenever you want.
There are green jeep taxis at the pier, ready to take you to your hotel. Prices are reasonable; it’s around 300 baht to get to the other side of the island (± 30 minutes). If you share the taxi with other travelers, prices drop considerably.
Staying in a remote bay? Then it’s a good idea to rent a motorbike. It’s around 400 – 500 baht per day. It’s expensive, but we really enjoyed cruising around. The roads are easy, though the narrow roads down to the bays require some skill. Unfortunately, it will take some time to get around, because there are speed bumps every few meters. Surprisingly, in most cases, you won’t be given a helmet when renting a motorbike – something to bear in mind.