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Why Koh Samet is a great choice for a family beach getaway

In other words, why do you need a list of the top 5 things to do in Koh Samet with kids? Koh Samet (sometimes spelled as Koh Samed) is a small island in the Gulf of Thailand in the Rayong province of, you guessed it, Thailand. There’s no better way to end an ultimate road trip through Thailand than with a little beach vacation. And after spending a few weeks traveling with your kids, you probably don’t want to travel too long to reach your last destination. Since Koh Samet is located about 220 km from Bangkok it’s the ideal spot to end an epic trip in Thailand. With lots of beach side hotels, accommodation is easy to find all over the island. Koh Samet is a very dry island. Which means very little annual rainfall.  Meaning that visitors are almost certain to have plenty of sunshine regardless of the time of year. Enough to win you over, I hope? Find out which 5 things in Koh Samet with kids you cannot miss out on.

Choosing the right beach for your family

The first time we visited the island, in 2013, mass tourism didn’t reach the island yet. Nowadays a few of the beaches are totally filled up with hotels and families and backpackers. Especially in weekends when residents of the capital visit the island for some much needed relaxation. But there are still some beaches on Koh Samet where peace and quiet can be found. It’s just a matter of taste. The island has 11 beaches, so you will definitely find one to your liking. Does your family love hustle and bustle and a beach fully filled with bars, music? Then you should book yourselves a hotel at Sai Kaew Beach. Do you want to relax in peace after a long and exciting trip from Chiang Mai to Bangkok? Then follow our lead and book a hotel at Ao Wong Duean Beach. There are beaches for everyone on this small and beautiful island.

Ao Wong Duean Beach

Just a little bit more info about Ao Wong Duean Beach, because we highly recommend it. The ferry from Ban Phe will drop you off directly at this beach, so you don’t have to find yourself a songthaew (a small pick-up truck with benches in the back) to get you to one of the other beaches. You’ll find the ambience low-keyed compared to the other beaches. It’s one of the most family friendly parts of Koh Samet with mostly 3 star hotels. Lots of them also include a swimming pool, outdoors of course.

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How to get to Koh Samet

To get to Koh Samet from Bangkok you have to spend 205 km in a taxi, car of bus and after that you’ll only have to spend another 7 km in a boat before placing you can place your bare feet in the beautiful white sand, with crystal clear blue water brushing against your ancles.

Bangkok to Ban Phe

Because of its closeness to Bangkok it isn’t hard to get to Koh Samet. You can take a bus from Bangkok’s Ekkamai Station. Regular buses depart from the station every 1,5 hours with the first bus leaving at 7am and the last one at 5pm. Depending on the traffic the trip will take about 3,5 hours. If you’re traveling on Friday or Saturday, make sure you buy your tickets in advance. It will be very crowded in the bus on these days because locals will also travel to the Ban Phe pier for a beach vacay in Koh Samet. On your way back to Bangkok the buses depart from the Ban Phe Pier every two hours from 7am to 6pm. Bus tickets are cheap, about 4 euros per person.

Another way to get to the Ban Phe pier is by minibus, which will cost you an extra euro per person, but it is more comfortable and they leave every hour from 7am to 6pm (there and back).

To book your ferry, we recommend using a website called 12Go. This is a user-friendly website that will show you all the different price options and comparisons as well as reviews from fellow travelers. We used this company to get from Ban Phe to Koh Samet by ferry and from Chiang Mai to Bangkok by sleeper train.

Ban Phe to Koh Samet

Once you arrive at the Ban Phe pier you either get picked up by a speedboat arranged by your hotel that will get you straight to your accommodation or you have to arrange the last leg of your trip yourselves. In case of the latter you have two options. You can go there by ferry in a wooden passenger boat, which means that you’ll board a charming former fishing boat that is now used to transport travelers to the island, or by speedboat.

Ferry or speedboat?

Of course going by speedboat is the faster option, why else call it a speedboat? It will take about 10 to 15 minutes to get to the beach of your choice. It only leaves and returns 5 times during the day, so check the most recent timetable online to make sure you arrive on time for the speedboat. The costs depend on the beach you want to reach. If you want to go to Sai Kaew Beach a return ticket will cost you about 10 euros per person and going to Ao Wong Duean Beach will set you back 15 euros per person.

If you decide to take the ferry you have more options during the day. It leaves every hour from 7am to 6pm (outwards and return). This boat is much cheeper than the speedboat, but it lasts you longer and it doesn’t go to all beaches. The boat ride will take about 30 to 45 minutes depending on the beach of your choice. A return ticket to Ao Wong Duean Beach will cost you about 4 euros per person.

That’s it! You’ve arrived and rewarded with gorgeous white sand beaches, clear blue water and the offer of lots of water sports and a wide range of restaurants.

Top 5 things to do in Koh Samet with kids

So now that you’re there, what are the top things to do there? Here are 5 tips you don’t want to miss!

Beach day

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This must be the main reason that you’re even considering going to Koh Samet. A relaxing day or multiple days on the beach. Time to sunbathe, play football (some call it soccer, but I refuse to do that), search for some cute little bubbler crabs and swim in the sea.

And while you do this, why not enjoy a massage on the beach. Take turns as parents. And if you’re a single parent give your kids a drink and an iPad for twenty minutes, so you can enjoy some much needed relaxation. There’ll be plenty of time to get them to be active during the rest of the day.

And if your hotel has a swimming pool you can switch it up during the day. There’s usually more shade around the pool so that’s ideal during the warmer hours of the day.

Koh Samet – island of pirates

Legend has it that once upon a time Koh Samet was inhabited by pirates and to this day a lost treasure is still buried somewhere on the island. Thai poet Sunthorn Phu was the first to put the island on the map when he wrote his classic stories set on the island.

What is more fun than going on a treasure hunt with your kids? Take them on an adventure, draw a fake map, leave some clues and have a fun afternoon hunting for a treasure. Our clues led back to the beach in front of our hotel where we dug a hole and filled a shoebox with some small trinkets.

Happy hunting!

Dinner at the beach and a fire show

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Around 5pm restaurants and bars start to fill up parts of the beach with tables and (long) chairs. Time to grab the kids for an ice cream and have yourselves a nice cocktail. The ambience slowly starts to change.

Snorkel attire and blow up sea animals are put away and people change into comfy shorts, dresses and shirts. And don’t forget sarongs, lots and lots of sarongs. During the day beach vendors stroll around the beach to sell hats and sarongs. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone resisting them for long. I think most families will leave the island with a minimal of one sarong in their suitcase.

But let’s get back to our cocktail hour. The people watching is great. There’s lots to see and check out around you, before you ask for the menu and order yourselves a great dinner. There’s lots of delicious seafood on offer and of course also Thai food like Tom Kha Kai, Pad Thai and Tom Yum Goong. For kids there’s also mango with sticky rice (a dessert, but who’s judging?) and fried rice (Khao Pad). Western food is also on offer. Things like fries, burgers and pancakes.

Broodje kroket

For the Dutchies that visit Koh Samet I have a special tip: head out to Ao Wong Dueang Beach, find hotel La Lune Beach Resort (we stayed there and loved it!) and to the left of the hotel there’s a small restaurant where you can buy a real Broodje Kroket, which is a soft bun with a croquette filled with beef.

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After sunset the daily fire shows start all over the island. The shows are spectacular and last about 30 to 45 minutes and are mostly performed by boys dancing and performing tricks with fire. I do have to say that watching boys as old as my (then) 9yo son was also a bit sad. While most of us teach our kids not to play with fire, here they do it for the amusement of adults and their peers. It’s hard to fathom. They have to provide for their families.

When they walk around after the show, please don’t forget to give them something for the show they put on. They need the money to feed their families and themselves.

Do you enjoy this list of 5 things to do in Koh Samet with kids?

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Parasailing

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Lots of activities can add a little adventure to your beach vacation. When you’ve had enough lazy days it is time for some action, don’t you agree? You can go diving, hop on a water ski or take a ride on an ATV. We opted for parasailing. You get a gorgeous view of Koh Samet from the sky and an adrenaline rush to go along with it. At least we did!

The major center for parasailing is at Sai Kaew Beach, but on other beaches there are also a handful of operators that offer parasailing. You get about 8 minutes in the air for about 25 to 35 euros, depending on who you talk to and where you book. A great price for a great 8 minutes, if you ask me.

Age appropriate?

Kids ages 8 and up are allowed to do it. But I have to say that we saw an 8 year old do it and he did not have a great experience. His mom asked the guys to take him down early and he was a bit anxious. The straps didn’t hug him tight enough. He was quite tall, but also on the thin side, like lots of boys at that age. I think that was the reason. I would advise to start at 10, except when your kid has a little bit of meat on the bones, then it should be fine and really fun.

Henna tattoo - natural vs. black henna

From the moment the restaurants put their tables and chairs out for guests, vendors flock to the tables to offer a henna tattoo. Please check beforehand if it’s natural henna. I made the mistake not to and later found out it was black henna. Nothing happened to my son, he was really happy with his angry bird and the wolf he got (yes, he got two, oops). But in hindsight, it turned out to be black henna, which can leave you with burns.

Black henna in Koh Samet

Black henna in Koh Samet

Watch the sunset together

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A 5 things to do in Koh Samet with kids list is not complete without naming the sunset. There’s nothing more relaxing and beautiful than sitting in the sand at the end of a day at the beach. Salt and sand in your hair and your kids by your side enjoying ice cream, while the sun is setting. Pure happiness, in my opinion.

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And what makes this part of the day even better is that most of the local vendors seem to have a few hours off. They hang out on the beach and enjoy each others company. For an hour or so there’s a perfect mix of locals and tourists relaxing at the beach all enjoying the same sunset.

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Snorkeling

When your kids are old enough to (night) dive, this is a great place to do it. You’ll find pufferfish and manta rays just off the coast of Ao Phai’s. And you can swim among black-tipped sharks, stingrays, barracudas and star fish at the southern tip near Ao Kiu and Shark Point. Mine were to young to dive. But don’t worry you can also spot beautiful coral and spot lots of fish while snorkeling.

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The best snorkeling can be done on the eastern and western coast since the middle of island is farther to southern cape. A speedboat will take you to the best spots. We had our suits on, because it was advised, but it really isn’t necessary unless you’re here in monsoon season. But then you should probably skip diving and snorkeling all together, because the visibility under water isn’t great at all.

We saw turtles while snorkeling near the western point of the island and were thrilled.

That’s it. The top 5 things to do in Koh Samet with kids. I hope you enjoyed reading all the tips. Did I forget anything? Or do you have any questions after reading this post? Please let me know in the comments.


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Comments (8)

    Saskia posted on 15 Jul 2021 at 3:41 pm

    You were lucky! Hopefully we will all be able to travel to Thailand again without fear of Covid 🤞🏽

    Saskia posted on 08 Jul 2021 at 5:20 pm

    You should. It’s a great place for a family visit, but also for couples or backpackers. To each their own beach :)

    Saskia posted on 05 Jul 2021 at 2:27 pm

    Yeah, watching the sunset together is truly amazing.

    Saskia posted on 05 Jul 2021 at 2:27 pm

    Me too. It's raining where I am at the moment. So I get what you mean ;)