Craving a memorable island escape in Thailand but not quite sure where to go? With its unrivaled hospitality, outstanding snorkeling spots, and numerous world-class beaches, Thailand is a paradise for beach bums and sun-seekers. But with so many options available, finding the right tropical idyll for your Thailand vacation isn’t exactly a walk in the park.
Koh Samui and Phuket are two of the most celebrated island destinations in Thailand. Both destinations are world-famous, alluring, and welcome millions of visitors every year. So you might find it challenging to pick which island should be your next getaway spot in Thailand. To help you make the right choice, we’ve compared Koh Samui and Phuket based on several factors that could impact your vacation.
With more than 50 beaches, Phuket has a spot of sand for everyone. Whether you want a secluded spot to work on your tan or a safe stretch of sand for your kids to play in, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
From the energetic vibe of Patong to Mai Khao Beach’s serene charm, every beach in Phuket has a different atmosphere. Plus, Phuket has a host of exciting activities to offer to its visitors, including surfing and a vibrant nightlife scene
Koh Samui isn’t as wealthy as Phuket when it comes to beaches. But the sands in Samui are slightly whiter and softer, and the water is a little clearer and calmer. Plus, it’s home to some of the best snorkeling points in Thailand.
What’s more, there are tons of clubs and bars on the sands of Koh Samui, especially in Chaweng.
Koh Samui and Phuket are home to some of the world’s best and most spectacular beaches. Your choice will depend on your interests as well as what you want to get out of your island vacation.
If you want to snorkel or indulge in a relaxing break by the ocean, you should head to Samui. But for surfing and a social whirlwind, Phuket is definitely the better choice.
Phuket has a plethora of thrilling sports to offer the active traveler. The island’s surrounding seas provide tons of opportunities for sailing, snorkeling, surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, and diving.
Furthermore, the island has an excellent collection of land-based activities, such as Muay Thai lessons, golfing, and shooting.
Koh Samui, on the other hand, doesn’t have a lot of land-based diversions. But on the bright side, its water-based sports and activities are fantastic.
For snorkelers and divers, Samui is, by far, a better and more suitable island destination, with all the outstanding diving sites nearby.
Plus, diving in Samui offers you the opportunity to spot rare underwater creatures like whale sharks.
And did we mention that it’s less crowded and more laid-back than Phuket?
From the famed Big Buddha to Old Town, Phuket has a plethora of culturally and historically significant landmarks. Whether you’re in the mood to explore a museum or go on a temple-hopping adventure, you’ll have a blast doing some sightseeing in Phuket.
As you explore the island, you’ll even find “living museums,” in which you’ll spot the traditional farming practices of Thailand at work.
Not to be outdone by Phuket, Koh Samui has some extraordinary and wonderfully bizarre sights that you won’t see elsewhere in Thailand.
The Hin ta and Hin Yai rocks, for instance, are strange sights that look like naturally formed genitalia shapes.
Alternatively, you might visit Wat Khunaram’s mummified monk, who looks awesome in his shades.
There’s no obvious winner in terms of affordability between Phuket and Samui. Prices for both islands are similar when it comes to activities, food, and accommodations. It is cheaper, however, to get to Phuket than to Samui. And, accommodations in Koh Samui are higher compared to Phuket’s
While Phuket seems the more inexpensive destination, visitors are more likely to spend some cash or even splurge here since it is filled with restaurants, nightclubs, and large shopping malls.
Dining is convenient and easy in Koh Samui, especially for older visitors who crave some home comforts. Here, you’ll find a cluster of eateries with international cuisines, giving you a variety of options for food without the need to travel far. Best of all, most of these restaurants are located near the island’s beaches.
The dining scene of Phuket is as colorful and wondrous as its streets, thanks to its multicultural influences. Unlike Kamala or Patong, the capital of the island has not been dominated by the foreign and tourist trade, meaning most of the food on the island offers a genuine Thai taste.
You can get to Phuket by land, sea, or air. If you’re traveling on a budget, you may get to the island by train, bus, or a rented car on a road bridge from the mainland.
Additionally, traveling to Phuket by air is easy; there are daily flights to and from Phuket. Even better, Phuket Airport offers direct flights to and from 49 cities worldwide, making it easy and more convenient for people to visit this Thai island.
Samui, meanwhile, can only be reached by sea or air. Compared to Phuket, the airport capacity in Koh Samui is quite limited. Moreover, flights to this island are somewhat expensive by Thai and Southeast Asian standards.
There are also ferry services available, and some companies offer combined ferry and bus tickets from Phuket and Bangkok.
So, as far as accessibility, Phuket is the clear winner between the two famed island destinations. Not only does it have a large airport, but it also has a myriad of other travel options.
There’s honestly no clear-cut winner between Koh Samui and Phuket. Both islands are mesmerizing and exciting destinations that you should visit at least once in your lifetime.
The choice definitely depends on your lifestyle, taste, and personal preference.
For an intimate and more romantic getaway, you can’t go wrong with Koh Samui. For wild parties and sightseeing, you should visit Phuket.
Gin lover. Coffee addict. Nicola has traveled the world for 7 years and is a staff writer for Hotel Jules. Born in London, Nicola first got the taste of travel studying abroad in Barcelona. Since then she's been hooked - traveling the world non-stop. Passionate about green travel and vegan lifestyle, Nicola spends more of her free time staring at maps wondering where she will head to next!