The tranquil tropical island of Koh Samed (or “Samet”) has beautifully soft sandy beaches and is surrounded by clear warm water. Samed has become popular with gay travellers looking for something a bit different to the more developed resorts of Phuket and Pattaya. Nothing except the odd radio mast rises above the tree line and the main roads are just bumpy tracks.
Samed is less than three hours from Bangkok by car (plus a 15-minute speed boat crossing) making it easier and cheaper to reach than destinations that require an internal flight.
Most beaches on Samed are on the east side of the island. The beaches hide in small bays (“Ao” in Thai language) and stretch about 200 meters. From the north, popular beaches include Hat Sai Kaew, Ao Phai, Ao Tubtim, Ao Wongduen, Ao Wai, Ao Kiew Na Nok, Ao Pakarang and Ao Prao.
Hat Sai Kaew (Crystal Sand Beach) is the busiest beach on Koh Samed. The beach is about 1 km long and is filled with resorts, restaurants and shops. This is where you can enjoy all kinds of activities such as swimming, jet skiing and riding on a ‘banana boat’. At nighttime, the party scene takes over, with many places to eat, drink and party. One of the most popular tourist attractions on Koh Samed is the fire shows. Stay at this beach if you like to be close to all the action and don’t mind the crowd.
Ao Phai (pronounced “pai”) is a small bay with a few good restaurants and some good-quality mid-range hotels. It is also home to the gay-popular Silver Sand bar/disco.
Ao Tubtim is adjacent to Ao Phai and tends to be a popular spot for gay visitors.
Ao Nuan is a small, quiet bay with simple bungalows.
Ao Wong Duean (or “Ao Vong Duen”) is the second largest beach on the island. The sand is very fine and white, and the bay is in the shape of an almost complete circle (“Wong Duean” means “moon circle”). There are some good resorts and seafood restaurants with nice views.
Ao Wai is a quiet and scenic beach located a short walk from Ao Wong Duean.
Ao Kiew Na Nok (or simply “Ao Kiew”) is a more secluded beach towards the end of the island, away from the noise and nightlife. This bay is an ideal spot to watch the sunrise and is also home to the luxury Paradee Resort.
Ao Pakarang is located next to Ao Kiew. It is a great place to enjoy seafood restaurants and experience the lifestyle of the locals.
Ao Prao (or “Ao Phrao”) is the only beach on the west side of Koh Samed. The area is quite far from all the restaurants and nightlife, but it is peaceful and private. There are only three resorts on Ao Prao - Le Vimarn Cottages, Lima Coco and Ao Prao Resort.
You will find gay sunbathers on every beach, although Ao Tubtim has attracted a larger gay crowd in recent years and is now considered by many to be the ‘unofficial gay beach’ on the island.
During the day, most people tend to stay at their resort’s own beach as they usually provide sun loungers, shades and an ‘at seat’ food and drink service. At night, many head for Silver Sand Hotel that has an open-air dance club/bar that can get very crowded at the weekends. Occasional gay circuit beach parties take place on the island when there’s a 3-day weekend due to a national holiday.
The cheapest way is to take the bus from Bangkok’s Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekkamai) to Ban Phe pier which usually takes three and a half hours.
There are also minivans that leave from Victory Monument in Bangkok. They charge about 250 baht per person and bring you directly to the piers. This is a slightly nicer alternative to the larger tourist buses but they also make several stops along the way.
The easiest and safest way is to book a private transfer from the airport or your hotel to the Ban Phe pier. The price is normally around 2500 – 3500 baht each way depending on the type of car. This type of transport could also be arranged by your hotel concierge.
Some metered taxi in Bangkok might agree to drive you to Ban Phe pier. They will likely to ask for a flat-rate fare which should be around 1500 – 2000 baht. However, taxis are not recommended as they usually don’t have seat belts.
Unless you can carpool with local friends, you can rent a car in Bangkok and drive to Ban Phe. Leave your car at a designated car parking and pick it up on the way back from the island.
Your hotel on Koh Samed will be able to advise you about the various speedboat transfers from the pier to the island. Some resorts offer free transfers at scheduled times, otherwise a private speedboat will cost around 2000 baht. Scheduled but slower ferry boat transfer takes around 25 minutes and costs around 100 baht per person.
The island has only a single main road. Some parts are concrete, and some are only a dirt trail which get quite bumpy. The only way to get around is by a ‘songthaew’ (a pickup truck with two benches in the back and no roof), which costs 200 baht for a private trip, or 20-60 baht per person for a full load, depending on which beach you are going to.
Unlike a few decades ago, Samed island has become quite developed. Even if you go there unprepared, you can pretty much find whatever you need, be it ATMs, convenient stores like 7-Eleven, pharmacies or internet cafés. Most of these are located near the main pier on Hat Sai Kaew Beach.
Visitors go to Koh Samed all year round, with peak months from November to April. Low period starts from May until September which is the rainy season, but even then the island still has much less rain than other islands in Thailand. Tourists should, however, be careful of occasional storms.
Silver Sand Hotel, 92 Moo 4, Tumbol Phe, Ao Phai | map
Audience Rating: 3.7 stars from 6 votes - Click to vote
A small but lively gay scene exists that attracts foreign tourists and growing number of Thais from Bangkok who want to hit the beach, particularly on weekends and public holidays.
The bar and open-air dance club at the Silver Sand Hotel on Ao Phai beach is the focal point of the gay nightlife. The place gets busy around midnight and draws a mixed crowd, with more gay customers from Bangkok on weekends and public holidays.
Latest user reviews:
Jep’s is by far one of our favourites on Koh Samed for dinner. This beachfront restaurant offers a good selection of food that is reasonable for both Western and Thai tastes. The nightly Fire Man Show is what makes Jep’s more exciting. The show is not the biggest on the island but we think it is the most fun to watch. Arrive around 8pm to get a good seat.
Main street, Sai Kaew Beach | map
| website |
Audience Rating: 4.0 stars from 1 votes - Click to vote
Voted one of the best restaurants on Samed island, Red Ginger offers a creative menu of Thai and Western dishes in a cozy, friendly atmosphere. This fine little restaurant is a nice change if you are tired of the beach BBQ’s and nightly fire shows. Recommended.
82 Moo 4, Hat Saikaew Beach | map
| website | +66 (0)38 644 212 |
Audience Rating: 4.0 stars from 1 votes - Click to vote
Ploy Talay (which means “ocean’s gem” in Thai) is one of the most popular restaurants on the island. Located on Sai Kaew Beach, the restaurant serves Thai and Western dishes as well as seafood BBQ for a cheap price. There is also a bar - we recommend their coconut shake with a shot of rum! Like most beachfront restaurants on this part of Samed, Ploy Talay features live bands and has the biggest “Fire Men Show” on the Island. Arrive early to secure a beach ‘table’ with a good view of the show (facing the sea we recommend front center or front left – there is a small stream to the right can,on occasions, be a bit smelly).
We’ve strung together some video and pictures that we took during a trip to Samed in early 2012.
The video bits are a little shaky, but we hope that you will get the general idea, particularly from the pictures.