Part of the Khao Laem Ya-Mu Ko Samet National Park, Ko Samet is an island in Rayong province, about 200 kilometres southeast of Bangkok. It’s easily accessed from the mainland town of Ban Phe, where ferry and speedboat operators are based. Samet offers rocky cliffs on its west coast, super fine sandy beaches in the east and a lush interior. With a casual vibe and accommodations that cater to a range of budgets, Samet serves as a great beach retreat for families.
The island is popular with locals and expats as well as Asian tourists, and certain beaches can get crowded on the weekends and holidays, even during the rainy season. A midweek stay is ideal, if possible. Below are some fun things to do while there.
Activities for Families
- Hit the beach – and there are well over a dozen to choose from! Haad Sai Kaew is the largest stretch, housing large resorts and all the conveniences, including a visitor’s centre that provides info on things to do and how to get around. There are also plenty of water sport options here, like water skiing, jet-skiing, banana boating, kayaking, etc. If you go further south, you’ll reach Ao Phrao, which offers a more upscale feel while Ao Wong Duean and Ao Thian are more relaxed and family-friendly.
- Take a day trip to another isle like the scenic Ko Thalu, which you can get to in less than 30 minutes on a speedboat. About 2 kilometres long from north to south, Ko Thalu features beaches, coral reefs and coconut groves. Popular activities include snorkeling and kayaking around the isle.
- Check out the hidden coves and beaches around Samet by boat; such trips can be arranged with a speedboat operator found around Haad Sai Kaew or Ao Wong Duean. You can usually include snorkeling, a BBQ lunch and excursions to nearby islands in a trip package too.
- Learn about Sunthorn Phu, a famous 19th-century Thai poet who used Samet as the setting for his 30,000-line epic Phra Aphai Mani. Around the island you can find sculptures of characters from the story, including mermaids, hermits, the namesake character of Phra Aphai Mani with his magic flute, and the ogress; the latter greets visitors right at Nadan Pier, the main ferry terminal on Samet’s northeastern tip.
How to Get to Ko Samet
First get to the Municipality, Nuan Thip, or Ban Phe piers in Rayong; they are all on the same oceanfront strip within 200 to 300 metres of each other, along with a number of other piers. The easiest options for families are to drive to the piers and park in a paid lot, or hire a private car/van with a driver to bring you there (and pick you up). You cannot bring a car to the island.
If your hotel does not have ferry/speed boat service leaving from a specific pier, you can easily charter a speed boat from a private operator to your desired beach. The cost is about 2,000 to 3,000 baht for a one-way journey (larger boats cost more and you can try to negotiate a better rate for a round-trip transfer). The ride takes around 20 minutes.
For a more tranquil (and cheaper) option, take one of the ferries that leave regularly from the above piers. On Samet, they stop at Nadan Pier, which may require a songtaew or open-aired communal taxi ride to your resort, or Ao Wong Duern. Check about docking options on other beaches, including Ao Prao. The ferry ride takes 40 minutes at the cost of around 70 to 100 baht per person, depending on your destination. Tickets can be purchased at the harbour offices or right before you get on the ferry itself.
You can pretty much get around Samet on songtaews via a network of roads. The main beaches also have places to rent motorbikes and golf carts by the hour or for the day.
There are plenty of resorts on Samet and most offer online booking options through third party booking websites. It’s recommended that you reserve accommodations in advance. Please note: if you stay in a hotel on the east coast beach, there is a national park entry fee of 200 baht per adult and 100 baht per child for foreigners; the local rate is less. You may be asked to pay this fee when purchasing your ferry tickets or when you arrive on the island.