Koh Samet, sometimes called Koh Samed is a small island situated in the Gulf of Thailand, just off the coast of Ban Phe, Rayong. It's relative closeness to Bangkok and natural beauty have made Koh Samet popular with weekend revellers from Bangkok, expats living in Eastern Thailand, and even a few backpackers. It's popularity combined with is small size have meant that prices can be a little higher than in other parts of Thailand, especially on weekends.
Koh Samet's rugged topography and pristine beaches was a source of inspiration for the epic poem, Phra Aphai Mani by Sunthorn Phu. In the poem, the main protagonist, Prince Aphai Mani, flees to "wonder Island" to escape the Ogress, Nang Phisuea Samut.
- 1 How To Get There
- 2 Arrival, Fees, and getting around
- 3 Beaches on Koh Samet
- 4 Koh Samet Restaurants
- 5 Nightlife on Koh Samet
How To Get There
There are regular services of both buses and minibuses from Bangkok's Ekkamai Station between 07.00 and 18.00, the journey will usually take between 3-5 hours, depending on traffic and stops. A flying coffin will set you back around 200thb with the regular bus being slightly cheaper at 155thb. Both types of transport will drop you off at Nuanthip pier, which is my preferred pier.
Ferry or Speedboat?
There are several piers in Ban Phe providing ferries and speedboats to the island, which service is best depends on how big your party is, and your budget.
Public Ferry - The public ferries depart every hour from the Municipal pier, Sri Ban Phe Pier, and Nuanthip Pier, taking around 45 minutes to reach Nuan Thip Pier. They cost 50thb each way, and are a good bet if you are staying Samet Village itself. There is a 20thb pier maintenance fee upon arrival, you pay at the ticket booth on the way off the pier in exchange for a ticket that allows you to leave the pier.
Fast Ferry - In late 2017 a new fast catamaran ferry service was introduced from Tarua Phe pier, and it currently runs 5 times a day with an extra service on weekends. The fast ferry costs 150thb each way and only takes around 10 minutes to reach the island.
Speed Boat - If you want to get a speed boat straight to your resort there are plenty of speedboat services available. If you're travelling on your own or in a small group then getting a speedboat from Nuan Thip Pier, is the best option. Here the speed boat drops individuals and small parties off at their required beach/resort, costing around 350thb return (depending on destination).
For larger parties (10+) it may be worth hiring a private speedboat. Although this can be done at almost any of the piers in Ban Phe, The Black Pearl and White Shark speedboat companies both operate from Tarua Phe pier and are the most popular among tourists.
Some of the speed boat operators will tell you that you will not have to pay the national park entrance fee if they drop you off at one of the beaches. While sometimes you may get lucky, most of the time a park ranger will be waiting for you with his ticket book by the time you alight your boat.
Arrival, Fees, and getting around
Aside from the northern eastern part of Koh Samet, including the town, most of the island is part of Khao Laem Ya Mu Ko Samet National Park. Technically, you could stay in the town on Koh Samet and not have to pay the national park entrance fees, but to get to any of the beaches, you would have to cross the checkpoint and will almost certainly be challenged for your entrance ticket (valid for a month).
Upon exiting Na Dan Pier, you will easily be able to grab a songthaew to your resort. As they are pretty much the only 4 wheeled vehicles on the island, they are expensive in comparison to the mainland. Expect to pay 50-200thb per person depending on where your resort is. The songthaews always stop at the national park checkpoint, where you will be kindly invited to pay the entrance fees:
Thai Child - 20thb
Thai Adult - 40thb
Foreign Child - 100thb
Foreign Adult - 200thb
If you have a work permit or Thai drivers licence, then you may get a reduction to 100thb per adult. My experience of this has been mixed, some guards will give a discount, some won't.
Once on the island the songthaews regularly patrol the main road waiting for passengers to flag them down.
Koh Samet is not large enough to accommodate large amounts of four wheeled traffic. Therefore, your only other option is to get around on two wheels. There are plenty of places to hire motorbikes for around 250-300thb per day.If you're feeling particularly adventurous, there are a few shops on the main road, as well as several resorts that where you can rent a bicycle for around 200thb per day (Pandora resort definitely provides this facility). Be warned though Samet it a very hilly island once you get out of Samet Village, you may find yourself pushing your bike at some points.
Beaches on Koh Samet
The beaches on Koh Samet range from crowded and lined with resorts, to peaceful, secluded beaches with great opportunities for snorkelling.
Hat Sai Kaew
Sai Kaew beach is the first beach that you come to once you enter the national park. Hat Sai Kaew is a long sweeping bay with fine, almost white sand. The many resorts and restaurants lining the beach, make Hat Sai Kaew the most popular beach on Samet.
During the day there is an almost never ending stream of speedboats picking up and dropping off tourists at the beach, which can get a little noisy sometimes. At night the beach restaurants illuminate the length of the beach with their soft lighting, creating a wonderful atmosphere for evening dining. Oftentimes, customers are treated to a fire show as they enjoy their meal.
Ao Phai Beach
A little further south of Hat Sai Kaew is Ao Phai beach has plenty which still has plenty of restaurants and resorts to choose from, but is not as developed as Sai Kaew beach. A lot of the islands more lively night time bars are situated around Ao Phai, in between Naga bar at the north of the beach and Silver Sands resort at the south.
If you're not staying on Ao Tubtim the best way to get to it is to walk from Ao Phai beach as Songthaews are likely to drop tourists off at the main road. Which is a fair walk down a mud track to the beach itself.
The beach itself is dominated by the beautiful Tubtim Resort and is otherwise fairly quiet and secluded.
Ao Wai is one of the more secluded beaches on Koh Samet, and as a result is one of the quieter beaches. Ao Wai is worth a mention because the bay in which Ao Wai beach resides is perfect for snorkelling. The coral that inhabits the bay is still largely undamaged, and you might even see a Giant Clam or two (if you're lucky).
The 3* Samet Ville resort is nestled in the valley that leads to the beach. Being the only resort in the bay, there is limited food options, however they do have a restaurant which is open to non-guests.
Koh Samet Restaurants
There are plenty of restaurants on Koh Samet, both in the town and lining most of the more popular beaches. The quality of the food can vary massively as some of the restaurants know they probably won't ever have your custom again. There are however some good places if you know where to look, here are my picks.
At night many fire performers visit the various beach restaurants putting on fire shows for the restaurant patrons.
In the Town
Banana Bar - Good quality Thai staples with the odd western dish thrown in. Serves great Pancakes! Service can be a little slow due it's small size and popularity.
The Funky Monkey - Situated right on the edge of the national park,next to the ranger's checkpoint, The Funky Monkey serves up great burgers and pizzas, as well as some Thai favourites.
Sai Kaew Beach
Talay Bar - Talay Bar (meaning sea bar), looks a little shabby compared to some of the restaurants and big resorts on Hat Sai Kaew. The food is good quality and reasonably priced though, the number of Thais eating there in the evening is testament to that. It is situated right at the northern end of Sai Kaew Beach.
There are also a number of good BBQ restaurants at the south end of the beach, many of which serve various BBQ seafood dishes and BBQ'd meats on skewers.
Ao Phai Beach
Bamboo Bar - Small restaurant situated on Ao Phai beach, right next to the Silver Sands Resort. Has a nice atmosphere on the beach in the evening with nice Thai food and you're far enough away from White Sands not to be deafened by their nightclub.
Nightlife on Koh Samet
Despite Koh Samet enjoying a reputation as a party island, there are not many clubbing options on the island any more. There is now an 11pm curfew for excessive noise, although it is rarely observed by certain bars.
The main night spots on the island are Naga Bar on the edge of Ao Hin Khok and Audi Bar in the main town. Expect plenty of body paint and buckets of cocktails.