So you’re going to the world’s most visited country for your beach holiday: Thailand. And you’re tossing back and forth between Phuket or Koh Samui. Which of these islands is actually the best?
Choosing one over the other is like choosing between an apple and an orange: both are equally beautiful and the only difference between the two is your own preference.
So which island do you choose to visit? Here are some essential information to help you out:
One thing that is certain is that both Samui and Phuket are naturally beautiful -the beaches, the views, the coastal terrain -in terms of these, you cannot go wrong with whichever island you choose. But there are some aspects where the two do differ.
Because tourism started to flourish much earlier in Phuket and because it is more accessible, it is significantly more developed than its cousin island. It is more urbanized and offers the conveniences of modern-day city living.
Conversely, the very charm of Koh Samui is its well-kept laid back island vibe. There are more villages than commercial areas and you will find many places that are quiet and serene.
In terms of location, Phuket is about 862km from the capital of Bangkok, and located to the southwest, on the Andaman Sea. Koh Samui, on the other hand, is about 700km from Bangkok and located to the southeast, on the Gulf of Thailand. Phuket has a larger land area, being 21km in its widest point and 40km in its longest point; whereas Koh Samui is also 21km in its widest point and only 25km in its longest point.
When talking about accessibility, Phuket is easier to reach since it is connected to the mainland of Thailand via several modern road bridges. It can also be reached through air and sea travel. Koh Samui, on the other hand, can only be reached through air and sea.
There are 65 airlines operating in Phuket courtesy of its own international airport, providing direct flights from 49 different cities from all over the world. Though there are not as many options, Bangkok Airways, a regional airline, offers comfortable daily flights to Koh Samui.
Both islands have picturesque beaches with powder-soft white sand and crystal clear waters. Koh Samui, however, is known for having calmer and clearer waters. Samui’s sand is also said to be whiter and softer.
There are more beaches in Phuket, with a total of 65. The most visited of these, Patong Beach is packed with clubs, bars, dining options, hotels, and plenty of water sports activities. Koh Samui also has popular beaches such as Chaweng and Lamai, as well as 33 other beach areas all around the island. Patong, however, is definitely more globally known among all the beaches of the two islands.
If you want a more lively beach scene, then Phuket is definitely the choice for you. If you want to find calmer, and more private beaches, Koh Samui is the better choice.
Being more developed, Phuket, hands down, definitely offers more activities to do and places to see. There are malls, plenty of shopping options, dining offerings, more culture and history, theme parks, and the Phuket Old Town is a popular site to explore among tourists of all ages.
In Koh Samui, there are more beach clubs than bars, more street vendors than shopping malls, and more restaurants on the beach than in the main towns.
Island hopping is a must-do in Phuket. Head over to any of the marinas, charter a yacht and visit the world-famous Phi Phi Island or Similan Island. Sunset cruises are also popular, as well as over-water parties that last the night away. There are plenty of options when it comes to private yacht charters as there are a total of 4 marinas in Phuket.
There is no marina in Koh Samui, only private docks. If you fancy a chartered yacht, there are fewer options on the island as compared to Phuket, but you can still easily find a yacht tour that allows you to explore Samui in style.
For adventures, there are more land-based activities to do in Phuket whereas there are more water-based activities in Koh Samui, as the island is renowned for having the country’s top dive spots. For only a short boat ride away, the Ang Thong National Marine Park features over 40 islands to visit and explore.
But of course, both islands do offer their fair share of things to do and places to see. Water sports abound on both islands, as well as hiking and trekking. Thai cooking classes, Muay Thai events, and cultural shows can be found on both islands.
Hotels and private villas are aplenty on both islands. If you fancy high-rise hotels with ocean views, you can find them in Phuket. Koh Samui does not allow high-rise properties to be built as an existing law states that no building on the island should be taller than a coconut tree.
Because of this, Koh Samui has a more laid back vibe and in terms of accommodation options, you’ll find plenty of beachfront luxury villas on the island. The beautiful northeastern part of Koh Samui is dotted with private villas offering exclusivity and direct access to beaches.
In Phuket, though there are only a handful of beachfront properties, you’ll find many private Phuket villas nestled on clifftops with incredible ocean views of the Andaman Sea. You’ll see the nearby limestone structures of Phang Nga Bay on the eastern side, as well as that of nearby islands. Along the west coast, the most popular location for high-end travelers is definitely Millionaire’s Mile, which is near Surin and Kamala beach.
Both islands are warm all-year-round but Koh Samui experiences more of the monsoon season. Frequent rain is normal in Koh Samui between the months of September to November; whereas in Phuket, it’s only between September to October. The best months to visit both islands are between April to August since these are the sunniest months of the year.
In general, Phuket has more activities in store. It may be better for families since there’s plenty of options for all age groups; while Koh Samui may be better for couples or anyone who wants a more relaxing or calmer holiday in Thailand.
And because Phuket is easier to get to with different channels of reaching the island, there are more tourists, especially those that stay for short periods of time. In Koh Samui, because it’s only accessible through air and sea, there are fewer tourists and people stay for longer periods of time.
Both islands are equally as stunning and choosing which one is better is futile: making your decision rests solely on what your needs are for your dream Thailand holiday.