Koh Samet (or Ko Samet) is a small island paradise in Rayong province Thailand. Just 200km south of Bangkok and a stone's throw from Pattaya this idyllic little island is more popular with Thai's from Bangkok for weekend breaks than with foreigners who often overlook it when planning their holidays.
Beachside bars, delicious seafood restaurants and a good selection of bungalows and resorts make this small island a fantastic place to visit if you are looking for a quiet beach holiday.
This 6km long, T-shaped island has some of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand and is located just 15 to 45 minutes by ferry or speedboat from Ban Phe pier in Rayong. Koh Samet's beaches have sand that is so fine, white and dazzling you could be forgiven for thinking that you are walking on baking soda!
Most of Koh Samet’s beaches are on the island’s eastern side and are often only separated by small capes, making them easily accessible on foot by climbing over the rocks. The island’s administrative centre, Na Dan, is a small village next to the main pier. Na Dan has a school, post office, and a handful of shops, restaurants and inexpensive guesthouses.
Haad Sai Kaew Beach – Koh Samet’s Main Beach
Koh Samet’s main and most beautiful beach is Haad Sai Kaew also known as Diamond Beach, which is located a just a 10 minute walk from the island’s main pier and is the busiest on the island.
Haad Sai Kaew is a safe choice for most holidaymakers although the hotels and guesthouses here do charge a small premium in comparison with other options on Koh Samet due to their proximity to the main beach and other amenities.
Haad Sai Kaew is for you if you're looking for a beautiful beach, a great choice for restaurants and you want to party in the evenings.
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Ao Hin Khok - Backpacker Central
Just a stone's throw south of Haad Sai Kaew beach is Ao Hin Khok, Koh Samed’s backpacker beach which has three affordable guesthouses and one of the island’s most famous restaurants, Jep’s Beach - a great place to drop by for something to eat or a drink. There is also a small selection of bars, many of which are open late into the evening, on Ao Hin Khok.
Ao Thapthim and Ao Phai - The Romantics Choice
Quiet and secluded but just a short walk from Ao Hin Khok, Ao Thapthim, also somtimes referred to as Ao Phutsa, is a small and cosy beach which is a favourite with holidaying romantics. This peaceful calm beach has a reasonable selection of good dining options available via the surrounding, nearby resorts. Ao Thapthim and the next beach along, Ao Phai, are also popular with gay travellers.
Ao Wong Deuan – Best Beach for Families
Ao Wong Deuan with it's shallow beach which is protected from the waves is ideal if you are a family travelling with children. The beach is quite busy on its central part but nicely quiet on the edges.
Beaches in the South of Koh Samet
Beaches continue even further south, all the way to the island’s southern tip, but the terrain and the road linking to the beaches gets more challenging the further south you go.
Some of the more secluded beaches on Koh Samet have lonely inns which are best reached directly by speedboat if you are looking for a complete retreat and some tranquility.
Ao Phrao - The Hi-So Beach
One of just a few beaches on Koh Samet’s western coast, Ao Phrao is a quiet and secluded bay that’s popular with the high-society, or hi-so, Bangkok crowd. Due to its isolated location, it’s also an excellent choice for relaxing holidays and romantic short trips.
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The truth is that if you are looking for a super-active holiday or weekend break then Koh Samet may not be for you, this beautiful little island is about pristine beaches, massages on the beach and great food and drink.
That said, on Sai Kaew Beach the guys who own the speedboats offer a few services outside of trips between the island and the mainland like para-sailing or you can hire them for the day (best to book them in advance) and they will take you on a beach hopping tour so you can see some of the more secluded beaches.
You could also go snorkelling in the clear, blue warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand that surround Koh Samet and, on the more popular beaches, you do get the occasional adhoc game of beach football started by the locals!
Evenings in Koh Samet are when the beaches transform into beach side restaurants serving fresh seafood and amazing cocktails. We stayed on Sai Kaew Beach and found the choice of places to eat really impressive for such a small town. Fresh seafood is really the only way to go when staying in Samet and it's seriously delicious and affordable too!
After we finished eating we would either go and hang out in one of the beach side bars, many of which have huge bean bags available right on the beach, or we might head over to Ao Hin Khok beach where you can find a few bars that are aimed more at the backpacking crowd.
A big feature of the nightlife on Koh Samet are the impressive fire shows performed along the beach front intermittently through the evening. They really are impressive and make for some great photos.
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Boats to Koh Samed leave from Ban Phe pier in Rayong. By bus or taxi, the journey takes two and half hours from Bangkok, you then need to add another 45 minutes if you're crossing to Koh Samet by ferry or take the quicker option and get there by speedboat in just 15 minutes!
Ferries run hourly and cost around 50 baht per person. Speedboats can be hired privately and cost anything upwards of 2,000 baht. Speedboats go directly to your preferred beach, whereas the ferry will drop you at Na Dan Pier and you will need to get a taxi from there.
If you miss the last boat, Ban Phe has plenty of shops, restaurants and inexpensive guesthouses next to the pier where you can stay for the night and then jump on the ferry in the morning.
There are no cars allowed on Koh Samet except for the local taxis or songthaews, also know as baht buses. So, to get around this small island you can walk, hire a motorbike or use the local taxis. If you do use the taxis be sure to barter hard as the taxi drivers will try to charge you a premium.
We would also highly recommend that you book a hotel or guesthouse near to or on the beach because Koh Samet is all about it's beautiful beaches. There are some hotels that are slightly set back from the beach, which are generally a little cheaper, but to get the best of Koh Samet when staying at non-beach front hotel you will need to either use taxis or hire a motorbike.
Koh Samed is protected as a national park although, in practice, you only notice it when you have to pay the 200 baht national park fee upon arrival. If you pre-book at one of the larger hotels or hire a private speedboat to get to the island the 200 baht fee is often included.
Hopefully you won't need it, but there is a local health and medical centre on the road running between Na Dan and Sai Kaew beach. ATMs can be found both in Na Dan pier and on the Had Sai Kaew and Wong Duan beaches if you need to withdraw some cash.
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