Updated September 4th, 2018.
Koh Samet is a tiny T-shaped island just off the coast of Rayong – in the Gulf of Thailand. This small slice of paradise is the perfect getaway for some mid-week relaxation, but stay too long and be prepared for a shock, as at weekends the island becomes an adventure playground for the hard-working folk of Bangkok.
You’ll also feel the impact on your pocket as the prices often rise from Friday – Monday by anything up to 60%. For the best deals arrive early to midweek when it’s still possible to find a nice bungalow for around 300 – 500 Baht.
In 1981 Koh Samet was declared part of the Khao Laem Ya–Ko Samet National Park and, with its beautiful white sands, stunning turquoise waters and lush green forests, it’s clear why.
On top of the rocks at Hat Sai Kaeo beach sits the statue of Phra Apaimanee, a fictional character from a story by Thailand’s most famous poet, Sunthorn Phu (1786–1855). In the story, Phra Apaimanee was led safely to Koh Samet by a mermaid after fleeing a hideous monster. You’ll see countless Thai tourists flock to the rocks to have their pictures taken next to the statue.
Where to stay in Koh Samet
As Koh Samet caters to a richer crowd, it can be difficult to find cheap accommodation directly on the beachfront. However, if you stay in the town (which is only a very short walk to the beach), you’ll find a few hostels and guest houses for around 300-400 THB! It’s a good idea to book in advance, especially at weekends, to make sure you get the cheap options. Check out:
Stay Samet: This hostel has the cheapest beds in town at $13 USD for a dorm bed with privacy curtain. The hostel is modern and clean and the location is in the centre of Samed town, close to bars, restaurants, the port and only a short 6-minute walk to the beach! It’s a good place to meet people and the breakfast and coffee are very decent. A double room costs $30 USD.
Runa Runa Hostel: With dorm beds starting at $15 USD, this is a bright and cheerful place to stay for backpackers in Koh Samet. Just a 5-minute walk to the beach, the hostel is clean and modern and there’s a lounge area where travellers socialise with free coffee and water all day!
Runa Runa The Best Guesthouse: Runa Runa also have a guesthouse just up the road with basic double rooms (with fan) starting at $17 USD per night.
Miss Hong House: Another guesthouse with cheap double rooms (starting at $15 USD per night) Miss Hong House is a good budget option located in town.
Things to do in Koh Samet
Take To The Seas: Several boat trips operate daily and there are even some night trips, including tours of Koh Samet and neighbouring islands. Prices range from around 250 – 1,200 Baht depending on the tour and often include a free drink and a snack.
Visit The Underworld: For 1,600 Baht you can don a diver’s helmet and explore an underwater world as you walk on the sea bed, and with crystal clear waters you can be sure there’s a lot to see.
Go For A Bumpy Ride: Motorbike is the best way to see the island and it’s very easy to get around as it’s a small place. But be aware that the roads are very bumpy and muddy, don’t wear your favourite white tee and definitely don’t drive too fast. A day’s rental cost between 200 – 300 Baht.
Become A Flame-thrower: If you’re a bit of a daredevil you can try your hand at a spot of Fire Spinning with a class in the village but if you prefer something a little easier on the hands then why not try a massage course instead. Alternatively you could just lie on the beach and let someone else massage you for around the same price, it’s your holiday after all.
Coach: A VIP coach from Bangkok to Koh Samet will cost you around 350 Baht including the boat trip. The whole journey takes around four hours but be prepared to wait around as the boats are usually loaded with cargo before leaving and this can take some time.
Boat: If you’re going directly from Bahn Phe, boats leave approximately every 30 minutes throughout the day and take around 30 minutes to reach the island. You can pick up a ticket at the pier for 50 Baht.
Fees: As Koh Samet is part of a national park there is an entrance fee for all visitors, payable on arrival. The fee for foreign visitors is 200 baht while visitors from Thailand understandably pay a lesser fee of just 20 Baht.
Where to go next?
Pattaya: Party people’s paradise – Take a boat and a minibus for around 250 Baht.
Koh Chang: Natural unspoiled beauty and tranquility – Take a boat and a minibus for around 350 Baht.
Back to Bangkok: Thailand’s Chaotic Capital, a must for any travelers and fantastic connections for the rest of Asia – Take a boat and coach for around 350 Baht.
Written by Luke Doolin, June 2012.