Hotels and Guide to Samet Island
Ko Samet - Overview
Koh Samet is an idyllic island about 200km south-east of Bangkok and around 6 km off the coast of Rayong province. Its beautiful beaches especially in the north-east of the island have been described as having the "whitest squeakiest sand in the kingdom. Incorporated as part of the Khao Laem Ya National Park in 1981, it has great natural beauty, secluded beaches and a lush interior - home to exotic wildlife such as monkeys, hornbills, gibbons and spectacular butterflies... ..
In the 1970's Ko Samet was 'discovered' by Thai teenagers and young couples looking a weekend retreat from the hectic pace of Bangkok. Over the last 10 years its popularity has increased with overseas visitors joining the locals in search of paradise. From its early days as a peaceful and inspirational place for artists who retreated there to capture the island's natural beauty on canvas, Ko Samet now increasingly attracts Bangkokian residents and tourists. Electricity is now available 24 hours a day, and resorts offer TV and air-conditioning. Camping is still popular on the more secluded beaches, but bring your own tents!
Where to Stay in Koh Samet
Over the past few years, lots of small bungalow resorts have emerged along the popular beaches at Hat Sai Kaeo, Ao Pai, and Vong Deuan beach. These beaches get busy with locals at the weekend during high season (Nov-May) and on national holidays. Accommodation even in the new resorts, is mainly standard bungalows with terrace. Mains electricity has brought air-conditioning and TV, but not necessarily hot water! Accommodation along the more secluded beaches is non-existent or very basic. Camping is possible. Most seasoned visitors bring their own gear.
When to Visit Koh Samet
Ko Samet gets significantly less rainfall than neighbouring Rayong Province, even though it is only a few kilometres offshore. The island has its own micro-climate (the driest archipelago in Thailand) and can be visited throughout the year. Even in rainy season, (May to July) Koh Samet has substantially less rain than the other islands in Thailand which has contributed to water shortages, especially in the dry season. Ko Samet's peak season is Nov-May. The "rainy" season (June-October) brings fewer visitors, so accommodation is cheaper during the week, but as weekends get busy, discounts generally only apply mid-week.
What to do in Koh Samet
Ko Samet is essentially an island for relaxing and enjoying the quiet life close to nature. As more tourists arrive, more facilities and outdoor pursuits are being offered, particularly along the more developed northeast coast at Hat Sai Kaeo (Diamond Beach) Ao Pai, and Vong Deuan. Sailing, snorkeling, boats for hire and windsurfing can all be arranged through most of the resorts. Windsurfing is particularly good north of Hat Sai Kaeo and the rocky north coast where strong currents and offshore winds offer a challenge. Windsufers are available at most guest houses for around 100B to 200B per hour) You can also rent jet-skis at Hat Sai Kaeo.
For around 300B per person, you can book a speedboat at the main beaches. Take a tour around the island and/or go snorkeling off the rocky uninhabited western side, or around the reefs at the southern tip. They'll be happy to do a morning drop-off and afternoon pickup if you want to relax at one the secluded bays along the island's east coast. Or negotiate a price and explore the islands of Kudi, Kruai, Kham and Plai Tin which lie a little to the east of Ko Samet. The islands are fringed by lovely beaches - ideal for swimming and camping. Scuba diving excursions can be arranged at Vong Duang.
The beaches on the southeast coast are the least developed and least visited. The west coast is rocky but does have one very secluded beach Ao Prao (Paradise Beach) which has a comfortable bungalow resort and a alternative health centre offering courses in yoga, painting, dance, meditation and Reiki healing among others. Courses conducted in English.
How to Get Around Koh Samet
Generally walking and "Songtaews" (local open air taxis) are the main modes of transport. As the island is tiny it's really not a problem. Samet Island has only one road going from north to south with tracks running from it. You can catch a songtaew anywhere along the road and at all the main beaches. Transfer from beach to beach costs around 30-40 Baht per person per trip, depending on distance and negotiating skills. Or, hire a taxi for a group for the day.
Many of the resorts and guest houses around Hat Sai Kaeo (Diamond Beach) - the most developed beach on the northeast cape, are linked by a local path. Diamond Beach is also only a 10 minute walk from the ferry port at Na Dan. You can also hike the shoreline path between beaches.
How to Get to Koh Samet
This tiny island (about 7 km long, and 5 km wide) lies about 6 km off Thailand's east coast in the province of Rayong. Ferries leave the small fishing village of Ban Phe (about 20 km east of Rayong town) to Koh Samet daily from 06.00 - 17.00 hrs. The trip takes about 30 to 45 minutes depending on which part of the island it goes to. It's possible to hire a local "long-tail" boat which makes the trip in about half the time. There is also a 20 baht entry fee to the National Park.