If you are looking for a weekend getaway island near Bangkok, Koh Samet is a great choice. Located in the Gulf of Thailand, in the province of Rayong, Koh Samet features white sand beaches, plenty of hotels and resorts catering to any budget, and a vast choice of restaurants and beach bars.
Also written as Koh Samed or Ko Samet in English language guides and websites, Koh Samet is a somewhat tranquil and cheap alternative to the mainstream Thai islands such as Koh Phi Phi, Krabi, and Phuket. Additionally, many mistaken it for the much popular and touristy Koh Samui island.
Situated around 220 km from the capital, it’s one of the closest islands near Bangkok famous among the local young crowd to relax and party during the weekend. It’s slowly gaining popularity among foreigners too. Most of the island is part of Khao Laem Ya–Mu Ko Samet National Park, meaning that you’ll need to pay a small fee to enter the area: 200 THB for adults and 100 THB for children.
Read about Koh Larn, another island near Bangkok
How to get from Bangkok to Koh Samet
Using a bus is the easiest way to get from Bangkok to Koh Samet island. The buses depart from Ekkamai Bus Terminal and the final destination is Ban-Phe pier, the closest pier to the island. The first bus leaves at 7 a.m and goes till 5 p.m every 1:30hrs. The journey takes around 4 hours until the pier with a short 20-minute toilet/snack break. Buses are comfortable, with enough leg space and air conditioning. Tickets cost 155 THB per person one way. I recommend getting an open-date round-trip ticket. There is no additional fee for such a ticket and it’s just very convenient.
Once at Ban-Phe, the harbor is only one minute walk away. The ferries depart from 8 a.m till 5 p.m every hour. The open-date round ticket costs between 100-150 THB depending on which part of the island you want to go to. Check with the cashier to give you the right ticket. The journey from the pier to the island is around 45 minutes. At the port, you have to pay an additional 20 THB for security, cleaning, and developing purposes of the harbor.
If you are willing to pay more and shorten the journey in half, hire a private driver. This will cost you around 1,500 THB one way. You can arrange this via the Grab mobile app.
It is also possible to get to Koh Samet from Pattaya and Rayong either with a minivan or a public bus. Buy tickets in bus stations or from local travel agencies.
Getting around Koh Samet
The total area of the island is around 6.8 km from south to north, meaning that’ is quite a small island. Once you arrive at Koh Samet’s main harbor Na Dan, there will be green songthaews (truck taxis) parked right at the entrance. However, if your hotel is close to the pier, you can easily walk.
The best way to get around the island to do some sightseeing is by renting a motorbike or scooter if you have a license. The cost per day for a small bike is around 300 THB.
You can also use the truck taxis but it might get a bit expensive as they charge per person. Otherwise, you can also explore it on foot.
Best Koh Samet beaches
Koh Samet has approximately 16 white and beige-sand beaches, so there’s something for everyone’s taste. Whether you want peace and quiet, a private resort beach, or a crowded one, everything is here.
Also referred to as Diamond Beach, Sai Kaew is the most popular and longest beach on the island. This 780 meters long coast has almost snow-white sand lined up with cozy restaurants and beach bars. There are a couple of accommodation options too, so choose it if you’d like to be in a bustling area and close to grocery shop 7 Eleven, various activities (jet-skiing, snorkeling, windsurfing, etc), and other beaches.
Ao Lung Dum
A bit far away from Sai Kaew, Ao Lung Dum beach is famous for its backpacker vibe with no large resorts in the site, making it a popular place for a young crowd.
This small beige-sand beach is great for swimming and even jumping from an old pier. Here, bohemian bungalows aline along the coast, making it a somewhat paradise scenery – waking up to the gorgeous green-blue water landscape. There’s also an awesome restaurant made from driftwood.
Located next to Sai Kaew Beach, this is another postcard-perfect coast with white sand beach and blue-green water. Even though Ao Phai is favored by backpackers, it still has a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. The coast is lined up with oceanfront bars and restaurants so if you get hungry you can enjoy a meal or a drink with spectacular views. There are a couple of bungalows for rent.
Among Koh Samet beaches, Ao Wai is another stunning and serene beach ideal for escaping crowds. Laying next to the Ao Lung Dum, this powder-white sand beach features Cajeput trees to offer shade. The water Two headlands make water calm The water here is calm due to the two headlands making it a perfect spot for swimming. Samed Villa Resort is the only accommodation option here. Its restaurants offer both local and western meals for lunch and dinner. Additionally, if you’d like to snorkel or kayak, you can rent the equipment here.
Note that you can get directly to Ao Wai from Ban Phe pier by a speedboat.
Ao Nuan is the second Koh Samet beach that backpackers favor. Nestled on a small rocky cove enclosed by untouched greenery, the beach is a bit south of the busy Sai Kaew; but you can still find a peaceful spot. The coast has grainy light-beige sand however the water is mostly free from seaweed and reef. There are no major developments, no crowds of people, and no watersports!
Ao Noi Na
Ao Noi Na is a popular northern beach for locals who own fishing boats. The beach itself is long and tranquil, but there might be lots of those boats, so it’s not very ideal for swimming or sunbathing. Come here to enjoy a glimpse of local living. The area is also full of bungalows and resorts.
Even though Ao Prao is within a walking distance from Sai Kaew, it feels like an offbeat world with almost no loud boat motors, tourists screaming while doing watersports, and very few children. The beach has three mid-range and luxury resorts, with almost no boat traffic.
Rent a sun lounger with an umbrella, sit back, relax, and enjoy gorgeous scenery with coconut water or a delicious cocktail.
Things to do on Koh Samet
As the island is a getaway from the bustling cities of Thailand, expect a limited number of sights, but an abundance of bars, restaurants, and cafes to relax and indulge in the scenery as much as possible. So apart from sunbathing and visiting nearby beaches, the list of things to do on Koh Samet includes watersports, visiting a couple of statues, watching breathtaking sunsets, and attending beach parties.
The very first statue you’ll notice when approaching the main harbor of the island is of an underwater woman called Pisuea Samut (Butterfly of the Sea). She is the ruler of the undersea kingdom in a famous Thai poem Phra Aphai Mani written in 1821. According to it, a mermaid saves Prince Aphai Mani from the sea and takes him to Koh Samet. There’s another statue of a mermaid and a prince on a rocky terrain between Ao Phai and Sai Kaew beaches representing the poem.
The island is also home to a large Big Buddha Statue at Wat Koh Samet. Accessed via a line of trees and a few steps, you can find the temple after the turnoff for Sawadee Coco Coffee on the right.
Where to watch the sunset on Koh Samet
As the majority of Kot Samet beaches face east, there are only a couple of places to watch the sunset. One of the popular spots to watch the sunset is Sai Kaew, Ao Prao, and Ao Lung Dum beaches.
Where to eat in Koh Samet
Love Island Cafe & Beach – cool beachfront cafes past the main Da Nan pier overlooking a long stretch of sandy white beach. You can sit either on a deck or in comfy chairs right on the beach. The prices for drinks are high, but it’s worth a visit or a short stopover.
Bar and Bed waterfront restaurant – modern and trendy hotel to stay and its restaurant is a great choice for dinner while watching a sunset from the deck.
Sawasdee Coco Cafe – beachfront cafe offering good quality coffee in an open-air venue. It’s a bit hidden from the main road so look for the sign.
Banana Bar – this highly rated restaurant on Tripadvisor is a great choice for dinner. Offering one of the best Thai meals.
Sidewalk Boutique Hotel Cafe – yet another trendy and modern boutique hotel on the island is a perfect choice for breakfast at reasonable prices.
Life Buoy Smallroom & Coffee – this tiny and cozy coffee shop is another place to get a delicious and craft beverage on the island.
Summer Day Beach Restaurant – another spot for local, authentic, and affordable Thai meals.
Koh Samet Hotels
Koh Samet Hotels vary by price and location. However, there are plenty of budget-friendly options, as well as for mid-range and luxury travelers. So here’s some of the best Koh Samet Hotels to choose from:
Baan Rom Talay – ideal for couples, friends, and budget travelers. This local hotel has a homestay feel with small private rooms that come with private bathrooms.
Olly’s Bar & Hostel – solo and budget travelers. Located right across the main street, the hostel is very centrally located and close to everything. It has one of the coolest outdoor bars to hang out. However, the hostel only has dorm rooms.
Sidewalk Boutique Hotel – mid-range hotel with comfort and modern style. The boutique hotel has more of a hostel feel offering small clean rooms with bright colors. It’s a bit overpriced, but the price might be justified with its central location. Its cafe serves delicious smoothies, breakfast, and food in general.
Sawasdee Coco – beachside hotel, but lacks privacy offered by many other hotels. It’s ideal for those traveling in groups.
Jellyfish Bungalows – private beach huts that are not modern, trendy, or luxurious, but are ideal to have private space right on the beach and be away from traffic, resorts, and crowded beaches.
Apache Loongdum Bungalows – mid-range private huts on beachfront offering bungalows either with a fan or an air conditioning, free WiFi, and breakfast included in the price.
Bar and Bed – trendy mid-range hotel offering comfort, pool, and bar far from the touristy areas. This artistic hotel has one of the best water view restaurants and a lounge overlooking the ocean.
Paradee Resort Koh Samet – an ultimate luxurious resort with private bohemian beachfront villas and pools on the south of Koh Samet. It has its own private beach.
Mooban Talay Resort – another luxurious resort with private pools on the coast offering a tranquil environment and private beach on the northern part of the island.
Prepare for the trip
To ease your travel planning, check out all the posts about Thailand travel. Additionally, here are some of the websites and services I use when preparing for my next adventure anywhere in the world.
– Book affordable flights on Kiwi.com, a platform that shows the best routes and flight deals to your destination. There’s a money-back guarantee if you miss the flight!
– Check iVisa to see if you need a tourist visa to visit Thailand, how to apply online if applicable, or where’s the nearest embassy or consulate
– Find budget-friendly deals on all sorts of accommodation types on Booking and Agoda, or find a cool apartment on Airbnb and get $34 off on your first stay (my invite expires in 30 days after you sign up! )
– Buy the most flexible and budget-friendly travel insurance, SafetyWing, to cover all sorts of health problems on the road
– Book in advance some of the best city walks, floating markets, snorkeling tours, or day trips to maximize your stay and experience here