Koh Samet used to be my hands down favourite island in Thailand. It was charming, quaint and felt like an island escape; on top of that it was super convenient with its close proximity to Bangkok and Pattaya.
This is no rose tinted illusion of how it once was, the facts are a once peaceful island with sandy road tracks linking beaches has now fallen victim to mass tourism and over development.
I will not visit the first beach now, ever. It is a disgrace. The beach is over burdened and crammed with Chinese tourists. It is busier than Walking Street.
Anyway last year I made a vlog on Koh Samet from one of the secondary beach locations and although I enjoyed it – I was with my family and the beaches and sea are still gorgeous – it was still too busy.
The warning signs were there even before the Chinese. I was on a business trip to the island around 7 years ago, it was with management from a hotel group developing there. Even back then they said the island could not cope with the number of visitors and it was becoming increasingly difficult to control the rubbish.
If you have never been to Koh Samet, by all means give it a try – I would suggest you keep clear of the main ‘White Sands’ main beach. There are still small pockets on the island worth checking out. The beaches are indeed very nice and you can get some tasty BBQ on the beach in the evening, it is just a shame the island is being hit with the sheer weight of Chinese tourists each day.
Also check ferry times before you leave, they are every hour to the main pier but you can also get a daily ferry direct to Wongduan beach, which is a little quieter than White Sands. You can negotiate a speed boat price, the prices seem to vary every time I ask.
Other islands that still offer a paradise escape in this region of Thailand are Koh Kood and Koh Mak, and actually Koh Chang – although a large island with lots of travelers – still holds on to a lovely island feel.