Starting in the north of this long and slender island, Ao Noi Na is a fine option with a small village feel near Nadan Pier. Nearby Samet Village has the island’s only real selection of rooms for less than 1,000 baht a night. Next comes Laem Yai with its confusion of resorts set along a rocky coast, followed by mostly pricey beach resorts on Haad Sai Kaew. Ao Hin Khok was traditionally a backpacker enclave that still hangs on to a few old huts. Next comes a lively atmosphere on Ao Phai, the last of the busy northern beaches. Continue south and you’ll reach a crossroads: right (west) leads to Ao Phrao’s three upscale resorts, while left (east) carries on to conveniently located Ao Tubtim. Just south of that is tiny Ao Nuan, followed by mostly dire accommodation on beautiful Ao Cho. Then comes Ao Wong Duean, Ko Samet’s second longest beach at roughly the centre of the east coast. South of Ao Wong Duean stretches rocky Ao Sang Thian, which tapers into Ao Lung Dum’s old-style beach bum vibe. A more remote feel overtakes Ao Wai and Ao Pakarang, both featuring just one resort each in the far south. In between is Ao Kiu Na Nok, a small beach that’s fully occupied by the lavish Paradee Resort’s rooms starting at 15,000 baht a night.
We have 35 places to stay in and around Ko Samet.
Facing north towards the mainland, Ao Noi Na is accessed by its own narrow road and has several modest houses along with a handful of resorts. The coast is rocky near Nadan Pier but turns into a splendid white-sand beach in front of Mooban Talay Resort. Narrower patches of sand are found in between, though high tide erases most of them and the many piers can make swimming difficult. Ao Noi Na’s low-key village vibe is a good choice if you want easy access to conveniences -- Samet Village is within walking distance -- but also prefer to steer clear of the busier beaches.
Clustered along the main drag from Nadan Pier to Haad Sai Kaew, Ko Samet’s not-so-charming village is a good place to score affordable rooms, meals, motorbikes and massages. The village doesn’t win points for atmosphere, but backpackers and long stayers may find that it makes a good base with the island’s best selection of food at your fingertips.
A bunch of small guesthouses with mostly air-con rooms for around 1,000 baht a night are on offer here. We recommend only a few places (reviewed below), but you’ll find passable rooms and standoffish service at Mossman House, I-Talay Trio Guesthouse, Samet Smile House, Miss Hong House and Koh Kaew Village, to name a handful. Beyond these “official” guesthouses, many of the pubs and cafes also rent out a room or two.
Samet’s longest and busiest beach has several tired old resorts to the south that were practically built on top of one another. These include Ploy Talay, Sai Kaew Villa, Sinsamut and White Sand, and we wouldn’t recommend any of them. If seeking a room in the 1,000 to 3,000 baht range without sacrificing a seaside location, head a smidge south to Ao Hin Khok or north to Laem Yai. If you’ve got more to spend, a few quality resorts are found on the northern half of the beach.
A rocky cape extending from Haad Sai Kaew’s northern end, Laem Yai’s north coast has a tightly packed cluster of small resorts stacked so closely together that it can feel like a maze. Often with sea views and quiet atmospheres, some of them are solid options for a comfy stay in the flashpacker range. Larissa Resort has a tiny stretch of sand, but most who stay here stroll over to nearby Haad Sai Kaew for beach time.
Also known as Ao Pudsa, medium-size Ao Tubtim is one of our favourite beaches on Samet. With only two places to stay on the beach and a couple of guesthouses on the dirt access road, the location is strategic for day trips to all other parts of the island. Often filling up on weekends, the resorts attract a mix of Thais and foreigners, including a lot of families.
Squeezed between Ao Tubtim, Ao Cho and a wooded hill, tiny Ao Nuan’s lone place to stay is among the only places left on Samet where you can snag a simple bungalow with a remote, old-style vibe. If staying here you can while away the days on a private beach by day, and then head to the nearby beaches after dark for some eating and drinking variety.
Ao Cho beach has a lot going for it: fluffy white sand, clear water and even a wood pier that you can jump off at high tide. Unfortunately, the accommodation is dismal save one pricey resort at the south end. At the centre, Lung Wang and Tarntawa are both run down, while Tongta Pha View at the north end charges a solid 1,000 baht more than their rooms are worth. Here’s a secret: If you stay at Blue Sky Resort in Ao Wong Duean’s northern corner, you can snag a basic fan bungalow facing south over Ao Cho.
Families and couples seeking comforts and conveniences, but not all-night beach parties, tend to favour Ao Wong Duean’s long half-moon of silky white sand. With all of the same conveniences found on Haad Sai Kaew, the bay hosts several solid-value midrange resorts along with a confusion of flashpacker spots and even one backpacker joint still hanging on.
Just south of busy Ao Wong Duean, Ao Sang Thian’s rocky beach maintains a sedate atmosphere that befits its name, which means “Candlelight Beach.” All of the small resorts fall into the flashpacker category and are especially popular with Europeans. Blending into Ao Lung Dum to the south, the beach consists of several short stripes of sand between rocks and break walls.
Stretching beyond some rocks to the south of Ao Sang Thian, Ao Lung Dum is a small and beautiful bay with an old-style beach gypsy vibe. While the creative Apache Bungalows enjoys most of the beachfront, the neighbouring Jelly Fish Bungalows and Ton Had Bungalows both offer air-con rooms overlooking a rocky coastline with prices and designs that are similar to Apache’s air-con digs. All three are holdouts from Samet’s previous life as a backpacker island -- even if their rates are now well into flashpacker range.
Down towards the end of Samet’s hilly southern tail, Ao Wai is arguably the most beautiful beach on the island. It’s not huge, though, and a single resort controls the entire bay, with lacklustre concrete villas stretching from one headland to the other -- and beyond. While the resort is nothing to write home about, the location might make it worth a stay.
A hundred metres shy of Samet’s southern tip, Ao Pakarang is a small and remote bay with a mix of sand, rocks and trees reaching out to a rocky cape. Travellers seeking serious peace and quiet can check into the charming Nimmanoradee Resort, the only place to stay. From here it will take some effort to navigate the steep hills along the road leading north up to Samet’s more developed quarters.
The only notable beach found on Ko Samet’s west coast, Ao Phrao is a favourite of luxury travellers who stay at one of three large resorts overlooking a pretty khaki-sand bay. The Samed Resorts group operates both the swish Le Vimarn and slightly less fancy Ao Prao Resort, while the colourful Lima Coco is a good midrange option in between. All three feature swimming pools and small armies of uniformed staff.