Koh Samet Travel Guide

Thailand Beach Vacations



Secluded White Sandy Beaches

 

Legends of pirates, princes and mermaids only add the allure of the island of Koh Samet. It is said that the island of Koh Samet was once home to pirates. Some still believe that buried treasure lies beneath the sands of Koh Samet. With its beautiful white stretches of sandy beaches, calm crystal clear waters and lush rolling hills, the real treasure of Koh Samet is the island’s magnificent natural scenery. Easily accessible, with accommodations offered in every price range, Koh Samet offers an idyllic tropical vacation in paradise Famous for its secluded stretches of white sandy beaches, Koh Samet remained off limits for overnight stays until 1981 when Thailand’s Forestry Department designated the island and surrounding areas as a national park. Today, the island has become a favorite destination for travelers seeking an unspoiled tropical paradise vacation.

 

This blog post with images shows the virtues of Koh Samet as a great beach destination only a few hours from Bangkok. 


Island with the National Park

The name “Samet,” sometimes spelled “Samed,” is the Thai word for the cajeput tree. A member of the genus Melaleuca, the evergreen trees with their characteristic white flaky bark are found all over Koh Samet Island. Essential oils derived from the cajeput are used throughout the East in aromatherapy. Because the entire island is part of the Khao Laem Ya – Mu Koh Samet National Park, the island’s cajeput trees are protected. The park’s oversight helps Koh Samet remain relatively clean and unspoiled.

The Mermaid of Koh Samet

In his epic poem, “Phra Aphai Mani,” famed 19th-century Thai poet Sunthorn Phu wrote of the adventures of a seafaring prince named Aphai Mani. In the story, a mermaid rescues Prince Aphai Mani and brings him to safety at Koh Samet. Statues of the mermaid and her prince perch on a rock formation located between the beaches of Ao Phai and Hat Sai Kaew.

A broad selection of resorts in every price range ensures an ideal beach holiday for every visitor, from those seeking a quiet, relaxed stay on the beach to those who want to party until dawn. Because Koh Samet lacks commercial attractions, island activities center on sand and sea. The beaches in the south of the island are generally the most secluded. From lounging on pristine white beaches to scuba diving through the clear waters of a coral reef, visitors will discover a dozen reasons to love idyllic Koh Samet.

Beaches

Hat Sai Kaew

Hat Sai Kaew, also called Diamond Beach, is the largest and one of the most popular beaches on the island. A half of a mile long and 100 feet wide, Hat Sai Kaew is a favorite spot for sunbathing. Hat Sai Kaew translates into English as “crystal sand beach,” and the sparkling white sands are one reason why the beach is so popular. The beach is also a great place to try catamaran sailing, jet skiing or wind surfing.

Hat Sai Kaew is also one of the most social beaches on Koh Samet. At night, between 6:00 pm and 10:30 pm, locals perform fire juggling acts, swirling chains or sticks with flaming ends into the air. Visitors can watch the performers on the beach or from the comfort of the bars and restaurants that line Hat Sai Kaew. The performers gladly accept donations.

Ao Hin Khok & Ao Phai

South of the statues of Prince Aphai Mani and his mermaid lies Ao Hin Khok, a beach that stretches before accommodations that house local monks. Signs posted on the beach ask for quiet and consideration, making Ao Hin Khok ideal for local looking for a quiet escape from the noise of neighboring Hat Sai Kaew. Ao Hin Khok and Ao Phai, located just to the south of Hat Sai Kaew, have traditionally been the vacation destination of choice for backpackers.

More Beaches

Ao Wong Deuan & Ao Thian

The second-largest beach on Koh Samet, Ao Wong Deuan has a scenic crescent-shaped bay that’s popular with tourists. Because some ferries from the mainland arrive directly at Ao Wong Deuan, the easily-accessible beach is often included in package tours. The picturesque beauty of Ao Wong Deuan is not to be missed. South of Ao Wong Deuan is Ao Thian, or Candlelight Beach.

Lovely Ao Prao Beach

Located on the less-populated west side of Koh Samet, Ao Prao is a pretty beach offering striking sunset views. Ao Prao, also known as Paradise Beach, is an upscale resort area that boasts some of the island’s best bars and restaurants. Ao Prao is also home to some of the island’s best health spas. While secluded from the busy east side of Koh Samet, the exclusive, small beach can sometimes feel crowded.

Scuba & Snorkeling

The island’s coral reef offers calm, clear waters that are ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving. Depths range from 15 to 80 feet. Most of Koh Samet’s beaches are located on the eastern side of the island. Many feature snorkeling and scuba diving equipment rentals as well as diving instruction. The west side of the island offers further diving opportunities. The island has several boat companies that provide rides around the island to various diving spots.

Island Hopping

Boat services are available to nearby islands as well. As most of these islands are uninhabited, visitors should bring food and water with them. Koh Kudi, also called Koh Kut, is located three miles from Koh Samet. The island features a pleasant beach and coral reefs for snorkelers. Three miles east of Koh Kudi is Koh Thalu, a favorite spot for scuba diving. Sandy beaches rim the eastern and southern sections of Koh Thalu. Island wildlife includes flying foxes.

Koh Man Nai Turtle Conservation Center

Boat trips are available in Koh Samet for visits to Koh Man Nai, an island west of Koh Samet that serves as a sanctuary for sea turtles. Open daily from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm, the Sea Turtle Preservation Sanctuary is home to the Rayong Turtle Conservation Center. The Center provides a safe breeding place for endangered sea turtles. Although overnight stays are not allowed, the island is also an ideal spot for snorkeling and scuba diving day trips.


Restaurants & Nightlife

Hat Sai Kaew is also one of the most social beaches on Koh Samet. At night, between 6:00 pm and 10:30 pm, locals perform fire juggling acts, swirling chains or sticks with flaming ends into the air. Visitors can watch the performers on the beach or from the comfort of the bars and restaurants that line Hat Sai Kaew. The performers gladly accept donations.

Ao Thian is a quiet spot on weekdays and a great place for skin diving. On weekends, it’s a popular place for students from Bangkok universities.

The beautiful bays of Ao Hin Khok and Ao Phai are separated by rock formations. There’s a large bar along the stretch of Ao Phai that attracts late-night partygoers.

Ao Put Sa & Ao Nuan

The neighboring beaches of Ao Put Sa and Ao Nuan are perfect for visitors looking for a quiet location where they can swim and snorkel in peace yet still have easy access to accommodations and restaurants. There’s a small pontoon at Ao Put Sa that’s a good starting point for snorkeling adventures, particularly at low tide. Separated from Ao Put Sa by a 10-minute walk through jungle greenery, Ao Nuan features hand-made bungalows lining the shore. Both of the wide beaches are popular with families and couples.

Overview

Located around 140 miles to the southeast of Bangkok, Koh Samet is the largest of a number of islands situated off the coast of Rayong Province in the Eastern Gulf Coast. Visitors reach Koh Samet by a 20-minute ferry ride from Ban Phe.

Roads are limited on the island, however, and notoriously ill-kept. Rented motorcycles and mopeds provide an easy way to explore this small island.

Getting In and Out

Bus

From Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, once you exit the Arrivals & Departures, catch the

Airport Express Bus AE3. Have some Thai Baht on hand and be ready to pay 150. Buses depart starting from 05.00 to Midnight.

The bus goes to Bangkok;s EKKAMAI bus station, located on Sukhumvit road. From Bangkok on to Ban-Phe

The total travel time to Ban-Phe bus station is just under 4 hours.

The ferry harbour is only a 1 minute walk from the bus terminal . Ferry cost per person is 200 Baht.

Taxi

The journey to Ban-Phe harbour in a car or taxi from Bangkok is approximately 2 hours 20 minutes. If you arrange for a taxi from your hotel in Bangkok, the cost should be about 2700 Baht each way. You might find prices closer to 2,000 Baht if you are lucky.