Due to its proximity to Bangkok, Koh Samet is very popular with Bangkok residents taking short weekend breaks. Relaxation and leisure are the main pursuits here, as Koh Samet doesn’t have the same sightseeing potential as other parts of Thailand. For those with stamina, renting motorbikes and taking part in some water sports are popular pursuits, while for others lying on the beach and getting a massage are great ways to de-stress.
The beautiful beaches are the number one attraction though, with the long white sand bays on the northeast of the island being the most popular. There are also a number of smaller beaches as you head south along the east coast, and the farther south you go the quieter and more secluded the coves get.
Koh Samet also has a beach on the west coast that caters for visitors looking for something a bit more luxurious than a standard Thai beach bungalow. Many high-end resorts will put on complimentary watersports for their guests, so check out their facilities before booking.
Since the island is rather small and low it doesn’t have the same lush interior of others presenting little in the way of hiking trails, waterfalls or nature areas. Most visitors stick to the beaches they’re on, although a walking trail does stretch the eastern side of the island making it easy to explore each of the secluded beach areas.
Koh Samet Beaches
By far the biggest attraction for visitors to Koh Samet is the beautiful beaches, which are usually quieter than those on some of Thailand’s bigger islands. Known for having the whitest sand in all of Thailand, Samet offers lovely bays but some can be a bit busy in the popular areas over a weekend.
Many visitors to this island are Thais who prefer to stay out of the sun. There are half-a-dozen private beach bays down the east coast and one exclusive beach on the west side, the further south you go the quieter it gets, with the stretch near the park entrance at the north being the most lively and having the most options for hospitality.
Had Sai Kaew, also known as Diamond Beach, is on the northeast coast of the island and is one of the most popular beaches. The sand here is white and soft, and there are plenty of activities to do from this base.
Along the east coast, Ao Hin Khok is a smaller beach than Sai Kaew, but just as beautiful and with some of the island’s budget accommodation. This is a popular and atmospheric spot for dining in the evenings, as the restaurants here set up tables on the beach, Jep’s Inn is popular and does good barbecued food. Had Sai Kaew and Ao Hin Khok are two of the most developed beaches, and they can get crowded at weekends.
Right next door, Ao Phai is another popular beach with some good accommodation choices. Silversands in Ao Phai is probably the most popular bar on the island, busy in the evenings with a dance floor and famous for its ‘buckets’ of cocktails. Samed Villa has some quality air-conditioned bungalows in among the trees on a rocky outcrop.
The last beach on this long stretch is Ao Tub Tim (Ao Phutsa) a small beach with some inexpensive bungalows tucked away. Just over the headland is the tiny beach of Au Nuan, which is usually very quiet but also a little rocky. Around the next headland, Ao Cho has a small jetty and can be reached directly from Ban Phe pier on the mainland. The bungalows here are not the best on the island, but the beach is usually very quiet and a nice spot to get away from it all.
Ao Wong Deuan is another large beach, not dissimilar from Had Sai Kaew farther south. The beach is beautiful and popular with weekenders from Bangkok. The accommodation here is of quite a high standard, but the beach has become a little crowded with jet-skiing and speed boats.
As you move farther south, the island becomes more secluded. Ao Thian is a pleasant bay with sand and rocks. Swimming is good here, but there isn’t much choice of accommodation. Farther south again, Ao Wai and Ao Kiu Na Nok are much quieter and offer excellent snorkelling, with only one or two bungalow sets on each beach.
Ao Phrao is the only beach on the west coast of the island and is Ko Samet’s luxury and exclusive beach. The resorts here are all relatively expensive, clean and air-conditioned. Some of them have swimming pools and nice restaurants. Ao Phrao is popular with Bangkok VIP’s on weekend breaks.
Things to do on Ko Samet
The number one attraction on Ko Samet is the numerous beautiful beaches, from long sandy white stretches with water sport possibilities to more secluded and quieter affairs. This small island is easily explored by motorbike or indeed on foot, but for many it’s simply a place to relax on the beach with some gentle swimming in calm waters.
Snorkelling is one of the most popular attractions here and it is possible to hire a boat to reach the uninhabited west coast or the reefs of the south coast, where the snorkelling is some of the best on the island.
The windsurfing is said to be good yet challenging north of Had Sai Kaew, and boards can be hired here. Jet skis can be rented at Ao Wang Deuan, which is the best place for more serious water sports, but be mindful that this is a national park and jet-skiing can be noisy and environmentally damaging.
The sea at most of the beaches is calm and pleasant for swimming and relaxing in the water, but don’t forget that you can get sunburnt easily in the sea. Canoes can also be rented from many of the bungalow operations. On occasions there’s even big enough waves for body surfing.
A popular activity on Koh Samet is to rent a motorbike and explore the local attractions. It is possible to rent bicycles as well, but there are few paved roads here so it’s not the easiest way to travel. With a motorbike, you will be able to explore the island and its inner roads to Ao Phrao, where some of the more exclusive resorts are located. It is also convenient to have a motorbike for a quick run to 7-Eleven, where the island’s only ATM can be found. The island is very small and can easily be explored, but some of the roads are rough and can be treacherous in wet weather.
As is true in all of the popular tourist places in Thailand, there are some fantastic massages to be had on Koh Samet. It is hard to find a more relaxing pastime than lying on a beach with beautiful views and getting a rub-down from a trained professional. Enquire with your bungalow or simply stroll along the beach and look out for the groups of women providing massage services.