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If you follow me on social media you know that I took my mom on her first trip to Asia in August/September last year. She had ten vacation days left and since I don’t travel in Europe (or anywhere for that matter) during high season, we had to look elsewhere for some sun and cultural experiences. When we found tickets to Bangkok for only $250 we jumped on the chance straight away!
We loved our time in Bangkok as there was so much to do and so much delicious food to consume. But after four days in the City of Angels, we were ready for some chill days on the beach. I did a quick search on Google for the best beaches close to Bangkok and Koh Samet popped up as a great alternative. I also read several places that Koh Samet is one of the sunniest islands in Thailand. Since we were traveling during the rainy season it was important to us that we found a place with the least possible rainfall.
Koh Samet also referred to as Koh Samed and Ko Samet is just as popular with the Thais as with foreigners. It’s not one of my favorite islands in Thailand, but Samet does make for a great beach getaway from Bangkok.
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Weather in Koh Samet
Located in the Rayong province, three/four hours southeast of Bangkok, Koh Samet makes for a great escape from hot and humid city life. With a year-round tropical climate, the island is a great place to be even during the rainy season. Temperatures usually stay between 25ºC to 34ºC, not too hot and never too cold (at least not for us Norwegians).
The weather on Koh Samet can be divided into three distinct seasons; the warm season lasting from March until August, the rainy season from late August until November and the cooler high season which lasts from December until February.
Although located only a few kilometers off the coast of mainland Thailand, Koh Samet receives considerably less rainfall. It’s actually the driest archipelago in Thailand and has its own unique microclimate which makes it one of the best places in Thailand to visit during the rainy season. My mum and I were there in August/September and only had one day of rain out of the six we were there.
How to get to Koh Samet from Bangkok
We opted for a private car to save time and get the most out of our six days on the island. The price was around 3200 baht / $100 for the three-and-a-half-hour drive down to Ban Phe Pier, including pick up at our hotel in Bangkok. From there we jumped on our hotel’s private shuttle boat. A super easy and comfortable transfer, but it can be done for a lot less money.
Hourly and daily minibusses and regular buses depart from both Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and Eastern Bangkok Bus Terminal (Ekamai) to Ban Phe Pier. Tickets usually cost around 200 bath / $6.
From Ban Phe you have the choice of public ferries and the more expensive speedboats departing from more than five different piers. The more expensive speedboats can drop you off anywhere on the island. Prices will depend on which beach you’re staying at.
Koh Samet’s main ferry pier, Na Dan (Nadan), is found on the north coast, just east of Ao Noi Na. Green songthaews (a pick-up with rows of seats in the back) shuttle passengers to and from their accommodation but keep in mind that a lot of hotels up north can be easily reached on foot from the pier.
You can book your private Bangkok to Koh Samet pier transfer here!
The best beaches on Koh Samet
With no fewer than 16 white and beige sand beaches, Koh Samet has something to offer for everyone. Whether you’re a loner like me and don’t like sharing or you like resort beaches where you can ride on those inflatable bananas, you are covered here? My best advice would be to rent a scooter and drive around stopping at quite a few different beaches to see which ones tickle your fancy.
The main beach and also the longest, Sai Kaew, looks more like something out of Phuket with its large resorts, fleets of speedboats and all the water activities you could possibly wish for. It gets way too touristy for me, but if you like that kind of stuff this is the place to be.
Ao Lung Dum (Loong Dum)
Far removed from the hoards at Sai Kaew, Ao Lung Dum is one of two beaches where the backpacker vibe is still very much alive. And that’s probably why it’s my favorite beach on the island, no large resorts in sight! The small beige-sand beach is gorgeous and swimming here is great, you can even jump from the old pier on high tide. Apache Bungalows fronts most of the beach with its bohemian style bungalows and super cool driftwood restaurant.
I’ll get back to this place under accommodation further down. You’ll find the swing(above) just in front of Jellyfish Bungalows and restaurants on the north side of the beach. Lung Dum, which by the way loosely translates to “Long Stupid” in Norwegian, is clearly marked by a colorful wooden sign up by the road. You can’t miss it!
Just down the road from Ao Lung Dum, you’ll find another beautiful and quiet beach where you can escape the crowds up north. Ao Wai’s powder-white sand is lined by Cajeput trees which offers some shade and two headlands make for calm waters perfect for swimming. Samed Villa Resort is the only accommodation here and in their restaurant, you can enjoy both western and Thai dishes for lunch and dinner. Kayaks are snorkeling gear are also available for rent. Ao Wai can be reached directly by speedboat from Ban Phe pier on the mainland and is definitely one of the beaches you shouldn’t miss.
Ao Nuan, a small rocky cove surrounded by unspoiled greenery, is the second beach on Koh Samet that feels like a good old backpacker secret. Although it’s located just south of busy Sai Kaew you can easily find a private spot here to enjoy in peace and quiet. The light-beige sand is grainy but the water is mostly free from reef and seaweed. Ao Nuan along with Ao Lung Dum is the kind of beaches I love love love. No major development, no noisy watersports at no hoards of people!
Ao Noi Na
Koh Samet’s only north-coast beach might not look like much when coming from Na Dan Pier, but the wide stretch of fine sand in front of Mooban Talay Resort is just gorgeous. It might very well be the most picturesque stretch of sand on the island. And I don’t think it’s a private beach, despite what the hotel staff might tell you.
Ao Prao, though within walking distance of Sai Kaew, feels like a different world. Almost no loud boat motors, no tourists screaming while doing watersports and very few children. Much thanks to Ao Prao being one of the fanciest beaches on the island with three resorts ranging from mid-range to luxury. The sand is powdery fine in front of the stunning Le Vimarn Cottages & Spa but gets grainy towards the northern part.
There isn’t much boat traffic here and a large roped-off swimming area makes it safe to frolic in the water, though it is very shallow. Rent a sun lounger with an umbrella and just sit back and relax while taking in the beautiful scenery cocktail in hand. Prao beach is one of the only west-coast beaches on the island which makes it the perfect spot to watch the sun go down. Speaking of sunsets…
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Koh Samet sunset spot
Most of the beaches on Koh Sames face east, which makes it hard to find a good spot to watch the sunset. But in addition to Ao Prao, there are a few good spots south on the island. The best thing to do is to rent a scooter and drive until you find an opening in the vegetation. There is one good spot close to Ao Lung Dum where my mum and I spent several evenings and shot some great sunset photos.
Another one of the best sunset viewpoints on the island is located just across the road from the entrance to Vongdeuan Resort. The brown “sunset” sign is partly covered by branches which makes it easy to miss from the road. So slow down and look closely. Park your scooter on the side of the road and head down a rugged path until the jungle opens up to the most amazing view. Then sit down and enjoy the show!
Where to stay on Koh Samet
Apache Bungalows (on the beach)
Pieced together from driftwood, logs, stones, cement and metal, the rooms at Apache Bungalows come with a choice of fan or air-con and cold-water bathrooms. All the rooms have front porches, including several that are literally in the sand like you see above. The restaurant looks like it was thrown together in a hurry from leftover wood, so simple yet so beautiful. But the best thing of all is that all the buildings are decorated with seashells in all shapes and sizes. Bohemian beach vibe to the fullest.
As of July 2018, Apache Bungalows is finally online. You can book your stay here!
If Apache Bungalows is fully booked you should also check out the similar air-conditioned bungalows at neighboring Jelly Fish Bungalow or the even more tropical-looking beachfront bungalows at Ton Had.
None of these places on Lung Dum beach have great reviews, but remember that it is backpacker-style beach accommodation. I’ll take laidback beach living over large all-inclusive resorts any day of the week. The location is in my mind the best on the island!
Ao Nuan Bungalows
If Apache Bungalows is your kind of place, I’m sure you’ll also love Ao Nuan Bungalows. As mentioned above, Nuan beach is one of the few spots left on Koh Samet which feels totally secluded. The simple yet charming bungalows are set on a hillside in the jungle. They look like those beach shacks you see on inspiration boards on Pinterest. The fan rooms rely on a few shared cold-water outside bathrooms and the air-con rooms have private bathrooms. Their restaurant & bar has a good menu with lots of options at very affordable prices.
You can call (+66 38 644 334) to make a reservation but most guests stay at another hotel first then move to this one after booking in person.
Mooban Talay Resort
If you prefer accommodation with a higher standard and some more amenities you should book a stay at Mooban Talay Resort. This place is newly renovated and as mentioned above, it’s located on the best part of Noi Na beach. Superior service combined with a friendly village atmosphere is what makes Mooban so special. They want their hotel to feel like your second home.
The rooms range from the most expensive deluxe beachfront rooms to more affordable bungalows in the garden. They also have their own shuttle boat for transfer from Ban Phe Pier. If I end up going back to Koh Samet I would split my time between some chill nights at Apace and a little bit of luxury at Mooban Resort.
Best restaurants on Koh Samet
Banana Bar is highly rated on Tripadvisor for a reason! Dinner here was the absolute best meal we had during our stay on the island and the best Thai food I’ve had in a long time. We tried the spring rolls and sweet & sour chicken, both delish.
My mum almost didn’t want to go into the restaurant with me. She’s one of those “judges a book by its cover” people. Haha sorry mum! But after traveling for so many years I have learned that you often get the best local food in small hole-in-the-wall places like this one. I think we were literally seated in their living room/storage room which is open onto the main street in town. A fun experience and definitely a must on Koh Samet!
Summer Day Beach Restaurant is another great place for some authentic and affordable Thai food. I heard some Bangkok expats talking about it being the best Thai food they’d ever had. The setting is beautiful right on the beach but they only have 6 tables and the kitchen closes early, usually around 8 pm (at least during low season).
The staff here are friendly and extremely helpful. They’ll do whatever they can to make your lunch or dinner an amazing experience. I’ve also heard great things about the adjacent resort, so if you want to stay in the thick of things it might be worth checking out.