Accommodation on Ko Samet
On this visit I wanted to stay near Sae Keaw beach but on the cheap, so I picked one of the small guest houses just off the village road running from Nadan pier to Sae Kaew beach. Good aircon, good shower/bathroom, decent beds, reasonable space, so-so wifi, cheap. Pleasant staff. Nothing else. Rated at 1.5* by TripAdvisor. No breakfast, no safe, no cleaning your room during your stay. 5/8 minutes walk to restaurants, bars, 7-11 (‘supermarket’) in the village street, and Sae Kaew beach.
Balancing price, quality of beach, tranquility and convenience Tubtim would be my first choice for beach holiday and Ao Phai second, with Ao Phrao on the west coast for 4 star uncrowded serenity. See all three beach assessments below.
Ko Samet beaches
Hat (Beach) Sai Kaew
Hat Sae Kaeo beach, (Diamond beach), aka Hat Sai Kaew or even Haad Sai Kaew.
Hat Sae Kaeo (also Sae Kaew and other spellings) is quite active, with speedboats coming and going, though all Ko Samet beaches have roped off areas separating boats from swimmers.Sae Kaew beach offers a line of palm trees that make useful shade and an unusually wide strip of exceptionally soft, squeaky white, no-heat sand that’s the best on this island.
Bars and restaurants fringe the beach and during the evenings it’s is lined with dining tables that can be crowded but still have a pleasant ambience makes a great people-watching stroll. Prices are not ridiculous. In 2017 at a beach table run by one of the best hotels (Sae Kaew Villas) I had seafood rice, prawn salad and a sizeable glass of wine for $11.
Hat/Had/Haad means beach, Ao means bay, Ko/Koh means island.
Dinner time on Ko Samet’s Sae Kaew beach in 2017. One unique feature of Hat Sae Kaew is the dogs lounging around like it’s their living room, digging into the cool sand during the day then alert for food scraps in the evening. They’re generally in good shape – a bit overweight even – extremely relaxed and never aggressive. No worry-pooches.
Ao Phai beach, next south to Hat Saikaew and a good alternative with same sand tho’ less of it and much cheaper.
A cluster of old Ao Phai bungalows just across the north/south road from the beach. There are also some smart newer ones nearby.
Ao Phai, just south of Saekaew beach is in fact two small bays, one more developed and one less developed. Ao Phai hosts some of the cheaper bunglaows on Ko Samet in addition to a couple of entertaining clubs and bars. It’s popular with low-budget travelers, backpackers, flashpackers and neo-hippies. Ao Phai would be our second choice of best budget/mid-range accommodation on Ko Samet. The main downside of Ao Phai is the curse of the speedboats coming and going into to the cordoned part of the beach, with associated noise and fumes.
Tubtim beach, next bay south of Ao Phai.
Our choice of best place to stay in Ko Samet would be Tubtim, the next bay/beach down (south), from Ao Phai. It’s smaller than Ao Phai, home to some very nice looking bungalows and doesn’t appear to have a speedboat parking/arriving issue, so that would be our first choice of place to stay on Ko Samet, though we suspect that the bungalows – which are clearly smarter than Ao Phai – may be pricier.
The beach offers good but limited budget and mid-range accommodation options but is still within an easy stagger of the party beaches of Ao Phai and Hat Saekaew. Tubtim is popular with Bangkok residents so weekends are likely to be booked up.
Ao Vong Duern (Wong Duan)
Vong Duean (Vongduan?) beach, popular but very narrow and frequently visited by speedboats.
Vong Duern (aka Wong Duen/Duan) beach, possibly at high tide but it’s always been like this when I visited so maybe that’s the way it is!
Half way down Samet’s east coast Vong Duern hosts a cluster of convenient bungalow operations and some decent little seafood restaurants as well as a landing stage for ferries from Ban Phe, though the beach is narrow.
The cheapest bungalows are generally the furthest from the two main landing points (Na Dan Pier and Wong Duan), so backpackers should be prepared to walk a while.
The downside to Vong Duern is that the bungalows are not only pricier than those further away but also much desired by people who don’t want to lug their bags a few hundred metres, so book early. Furthermore, as the island’s second landing point, smelly, noisy boat traffic will be regularly in your face, as will the hordes of tourists being off-loaded.
Ao Thian, another narrow beach backed by facilities, encompasses good value backpacker bungalows and an interesting bar, even if the beach is narrow and rocky in parts. The bungalows are mostly smaller and simpler (but still comfortable) than those on other Samed beaches and give an idea of what Samet was like in the old days.
There are another half dozen bays/beaches running down the bottom third of the east coast. We haven’t visited them but would assume them to be also narrow but wilder and less developed than those further north. However, there is access to all beaches via a road – taxis here are green pickup trucks, walking trail (photo below) and speedboats in some cases.
This is a typical section of the very pleasant walking trail down the east coast of Ko Samet, wandering from bay to bay. Generally beaches are no more than 5/10 minutes walk from each other, fairly easy going and safe in the daytime. Probably in the night time too but night walkers would certainly need a torch