Pros of a small, tropical island close to Bangkok
Get the best hotel deals on Thai beaches - make a Private Deal and BOOK DIRECT.
We list hotels that GUARANTEE, in writing, to discount the lowest rates for guests who book direct. Cutting out middlemen saves money for the hotel – and we take no commission. The GUARANTEE hotels on this page return some of the savings to guests as discounts. Contact the hotels directly via the e-mail box on each hotel page, and make your own Private Deal..
We also sell DISCOUNT HOTEL VOUCHERS for some hotels – the very cheapest rooms available – but they are limited. Click here to see all Thailand top deals, or e-mail Jade for help: email@example.com
Koh Samet's PROS are mostly related to location (close to Bangkok) and beach quality
Koh Samet is a favourite beach escape for Thai students and families, and is now being discovered by increasing numbers of foreign visitors. We have crawled over the island with a camera to find the good and bad points here... and there are lots of positives that make this suitable for many, but not all, beach-lovers.
Koh Samet is close to Bangkok – 2 1/2 hours drive, short boat ride
Koh Samet is not the closest beach resort to Bangkok, but it is the closest relatively quiet beach getaway with invitingly clear water and a natural environment. Both Pattaya and Hua Hin can be reached in two hours or less, while it takes two-and-a-half to get to Koh Samet. For many people the extra time is worth it, for this island offers an entirely different, more natural environment with better beaches. No wonder the island sees an influx of Bangkok residents each Friday evening.
Koh Samet has clearest water, better than at Pattaya or Hua Hin
As noted elsewhere in these pages, it is impossible to find truly clear and clean water high in the Gulf of Thailand – too many rivers empty the garbage of tens of millions of people into this relatively small, enclosed body of water. But Koh Samet holds the distinction of having the clearest and most inviting water close to Bangkok. Its position just outside the Gulf's most polluted, top basin surely has much to do with this. However, while it appears much clearer and cleaner than the discoloured stuff at Pattaya, the statistics from the government's Pollution Control Department show that Samet's water is far from perfect, with the quality on Sai Kaew Beach dropping from 4-stars to 3-stars between 2006 and 2009.
a very 'Thai' destination for those who want to feel they are in Thailand
Koh Samet developed as a distinctly Thai destination servicing the nearby population of Bangkok. At first the rough accommodations among the trees were a Mecca for groups of university students, but as accommodations improved Thai families soon followed. The number of foreign tourists has risen rapidly in the past few years, however, and in the high season months there appears to be almost as many foreigners here as Thais. The rainy season sees the foreign visitors disappear almost completely, leaving it to the locals again. It will be interesting to see if Koh Samet goes the way of Pattaya, with foreigners taking over and pushing most of the locals out.
young people's party place on Fridays and Saturdays
The gradual upgrading of accommodation on Koh Samet from basic student huts to comfortable family rooms has seen the island moving progressively up-market and more expensive. But budget accommodations are still available here and the Bangkok university crowd still uses this as a favourite getaway for fun and romance. On Friday and Saturday evenings large number of them are seen on the beach, generally in small groups of school friends. So Samet still has not lost touch with its roots, and this is the one place in Thailand where young people from around the world have a chance to connect with Thais of similar age. Most Thai university students speak some English, and are eager to meet foreigners.
Koh Samet is quieter during the week days
Foreigner visitors looking for a relatively quiet beach can find it here on Koh Samet for five days of each week during the high season months. With the influx of Bangkok residents restricted to weekends, the rest of the week is relatively quiet here. And of course during the monsoon season the week days are exceptionally tranquil, with the beaches almost deserted.
most of Koh Samet is a national park, covered with natural forest
Koh Samet is a National Park – though sometimes we might not guess it. Most of the resorts here are encroaching on national reserve land, but survive because they have been here for generations, and because there is so much public demand for them. Over the years a number of National Parks efforts to remove or curtail the resorts have met public anger, and the accommodations have remained in a tentative stand-off.
National Park status might not be able to preserve the island in a pristine, uninhabited state, however it has managed to curtail many of the negative aspects of tourism development that have destroyed the natural environments in other beach destinations.
pleasant wining and dining right on the beach
Everyone, it seems, loves to dine outdoors, right on the beach with their toes wriggling in the sand. Thai students and families, foreign tourists, they all love it. To cater for this passion the hotel and restaurant owners on Koh Samet have gone all out, moving their tables and chairs, and even their kitchens, way out onto the beach. Sometimes, when the tide comes in those sandy toes take a swim. You can choose between high and low tables, beach mats and lay-back lounges. Everyone loves the alfresco living, and Koh Samet is king of the beach when it comes to outdoor dining.
few cars and roads on Koh Samet island
Another of the advantages of Koh Samet being a National Park is the restriction on motor vehicles and the number of roads. Visitors may not bring cars to the island, and those vehicles that do work here are restricted to meet the basic need to carry passengers to and from the various beaches and resorts. Visitors who want their own mobility can rent small motorcycles, but be warned, the few roads here are often narrow, rocky and rough.
beaches at the south end of Koh Samet always quiet
Even as the northern beaches of Sai Kaew and Wongdeuan get quite busy over weekends and Thai holidays, the more isolated beaches in the south are surprisingly quiet. Ao Sang Thian is very low key, and the accommodations are rather basic. But the beach here is as beautiful as any on the island, and sees very few people. Further down at the very bottom end we find two up-market establishments, Paradee and Nimmanoradee resorts, both enjoying near complete isolation.