Plenty to choose from
Published/Last edited or updated: 23rd April, 2016
Beach lovers, you have come to the right place. From bar-studded bays to tranquil coves, beaches on Ko Samet come in a range of styles. So listen up: The quality of your experience depends on aligning your idea of paradise with the particular beach where that brand of paradise can be found. Starting in the north and working south, we’re here to guide you through all 16 of Samet’s beautiful beaches.
With the exception of the exclusive Ao Kiu in the far south, all of Samet’s beaches are fully open to the public. All but a few are found on the east coast, making it easy to jump from bay to bay. Most are great for swimming at any time, but the vibe and accommodation changes considerably from one to the next. If you choose a room on a beach that you’re not happy with, grab a bicycle or motorbike and go find some sand that suits you.
Ao Noi Na
The island’s only north-coast beach doesn’t look like much at first glance, but the wide stretch of fine khaki sand in front of Mooban Talay Resort is just gorgeous. And it’s not a private beach, despite what receptionists might say. With views to the mainland, the rest of the beach stretching back east towards Nadan Pier is mostly defined by docks, boats, break walls and rocks.
Blink and you’ll miss Ao Lukyon, a tiny stripe of light-tan sand with a pier extending into a small bay. Few travellers make it here despite a location just off the main drag in Samet Village. Often showing up for an after-school dip, local kids know it well.
Laem Yai means “Big Peninsula” and refers to the long stretch of stones and forest marking the northern end of Haad Sai Kaew. A tiny patch of sand fronts Larissa Resort and the otherwise rocky coast enjoys northeastern views to Ko Kudee and Ko Kham. It’s a prime sunrise spot with a location that puts you within easy walking distance of Haad Sai Kaew and Samet Village.
Haad Sai Kaew
Also known as “Diamond Beach,” kilometre-long Haad Sai Kaew is Samet’s longest and most popular beach. The brilliant white sand is blinding on sunny days. The water can feel like a parking lot for speedboats and jet-skis, making swimming dangerous outside of relatively small roped-off sections in front of the larger resorts. Accommodation tends to be overpriced and the atmosphere will be too package-touristy for some, but you can’t beat the nightly barbecues, live music, DJs and dance parties.
Ao Hin Khok
The fine white sand of Ao Hin Khok still attracts backpackers, even if most of the rooms now fetch flashpacker prices. Jep’s and Tok’s restaurants join casuarina and umbrella trees to provide a veil between the beach and the narrow island road. An old-school backpacker vibe lives on at Naga Bungalows, a go-to place for social stirring over cheap buckets. The location is convenient to Haad Sai Kaew, which stretches just beyond the mermaid statues to the north of Ao Hin Khok.
Small and heavily developed Ao Phai’s specialty is nightlife. Silversand Resort holds roaring parties at the centre of the beach while several smaller bars cosy up to the northern end. Tight rows of loungers join considerable speedboat traffic to create a crowded atmosphere. Even so, quiet rooms can be found on either fringe at the budget-friendly Ao Pai Hut and midrange Samed Villa.
Thai VIPs and their entourages sip overpriced wine before jetting off by high-powered speedboat on Ao Phrao, also spelt Ao Prao or Ao Praw. As Samet’s only west-coast beach, it’s an ideal spot for sundowners. Employing small armies of uniformed staff, the three resorts here run from midrange to top-end luxury. The sand is powdery fine in front of Le Vimarn but gets grainy as you near the northern corner. Relatively few boats and large roped-off swimming areas make it easy to float without any worries, though the water stays shallow for a way offshore.
Samet’s more laidback side begins to find footing on Ao Tubtim, also known as Ao Pudsa. The two long-running bungalow spots have left plenty of breathing room along this crescent of feathery white sand. At the northern edge, rocks are balanced to form several phallic-looking “sculptures” signifying good luck and vitality; the first was erected by someone named Yut back in 1958.
A sandy cove backed by a wooded hillside, Ao Nuan has the most secluded feel of any Ko Samet beach despite a location that puts several busier bays within easy reach. The light-tan sand is grainy and you’ll have some rocks to contend with when swimming, but the lone bungalow joint‘s serene setting is the stuff that daydreams are made of.
Also known as Ao Lung Wan, Ao Cho is a bit of an oddball. In some ways it’s the prettiest beach on the island, with silky white sand and a long wood pier stretching to clear aquamarine depths. But it also has an unkempt look around some of the crusty old resorts, where faded signs, broken-down boats and crumbling concrete horses lie strewn around. Stop here for an hour, at least.
Ao Wong Duean
Trumped only by Haad Sai Kaew in length and popularity, aptly named “Crescent Moon Bay” stretches as a long half-circle of pillow-soft sand. While Ao Wong Duean serves as a centre for Samet’s southern reaches, it operates on a lower key than the more party-oriented northern beaches. The swimming is good, but you do need to watch out for speedboats. While hasty development resulted in a tight tangle of concrete near the centre of the bay, a few of the long-running midrange resorts offer plentiful space.
Ao Sang Thian
Digging into Samet’s more remote far-southern beaches, Ao Sang Thian is a narrow beach dotted with rocks and backed by a steep forested hill. The name, which means “Candlelight Bay”, was coined before electricity arrived. Though you’ll now find WiFi, air-con and, yes, lightbulbs running 24/7, the sedate atmosphere hasn’t changed much. Some stretches of beachfront submerge entirely at high tide, explaining the break walls built in front of the handful of small flashpacker-range resorts.
Ao Lung Dum
Named after an old Ko Samet character who went by the nickname, “Uncle Black”, Ao Lung Dum joins Ao Nuan as the only beach left on Samet where an old-style backpacker attitude is still firmly in charge. The small tan-sand beach is gorgeous and the swimming excellent — don’t be afraid to take a plunge off the pier. Apache Bungalows fronts the whole beach, with a mellow mood also permeating the similar air-con bungalow joints holding it down along the path from Ao Sang Thian.
Down in the far southern reaches of Samet, Ao Wai’s powder-white sand is so perfect that we thought about bottling some of it up to use as bathroom decor back in Bangkok. Only travellers seeking an isolated location should consider staying at the one resort, but everyone should stop by to experience one of Samet’s most stunning beaches. Umbrella trees provide shade to the south, and the water stays calm thanks to broad headlands on either side.
Samet’s far-southern tail becomes so narrow that you can walk from coast to coast in less than a minute — at least you could before the lavish Paradee Resort closed off both sides under guard of an ever-watchful security team. If you shell out 15,000 baht a night to stay here, have fun splashing around the white sand of Ao Kiu Na Nok and its west-coast partner, Ao Kiu Na Nai.
Way down near Samet’s southern end, Ao Pakarang (or Ao Karang for short) is a picturesque mix of tan sand and rocks running just south of the Laem Kud peninsula. You’ll also find a pint-size patch of sand on the other side of the miniature cape. The whole lot is overseen by the charming Nimmanoradee Resort, where you can rent a kayak for a paddle to the islets found off Samet’s far southern end. Do bring a snorkel.
Want more beaches? Take a boat trip to Ko Thalu and Ko Kudee.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
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