The underappreciated island of Koh Samet is located off the east coast of Thailand, approximately 150 miles (241.4 kilometers) southeast of Bangkok. While popular with vacationing Thais, Koh Samet (known colloquially as Magic Crystal Island) has escaped the excessive construction that has plagued islands like Koh Samui or even Koh Chang. There are plenty of accommodations and places to eat on the island, but the aesthetic remains dominated by white-sand beaches rather than by the byproducts of tourism.
The best way to get around Koh Samet is to rent a motorcycle or a 4-wheeler; but keep in mind that the one road on the island is in poor condition. Also, be sure to rent your vehicle from one of the more reputable hotels, as smaller operators have been known to charge exorbitant rates for real or imagined repairs.
Among the best beaches are:
- Diamond Beach – arguably the most popular, and understandably so
- Ao Nuan – the short hike required to visit this beach is well worth the tranquility
- Ao Wong Deuan – the second-largest beach on the island, and a jumping off point for the regularly scheduled ferry service
- Ao Hin Khok – near Diamond Beach, look out for the mermaid statue
There are plenty of quality and affordable places to eat on Koh Samet as well. Among these, Joe’s Barbecue comes highly recommended, as does Jep’s (avail yourself of the very cheap buffet breakfast served right on the beach during the high season). While the aforementioned are typically safe, take care to examine your bill when eating elsewhere, as waiters will occasionally charge for items you neither ordered nor enjoyed.