Koh Samui vs. Phuket

Koh Samui vs. Phuket: A Breakdown of Two Great Islands

Koh Samui vs. Phuket. It’s a difficult decision to make.

Both are mind-blowingly gorgeous islands. They have enough activities to fill up a month, let alone a few days or a week. But, how do you decide?

This post will break down the debate of Koh Samui (Ko Samui) or Phuket and which you should visit on your next holiday to Thailand.

Let’s get into it.

Which is better: Koh Samui or Phuket?

Ultimately, you have many things to consider when deciding if a place is “better,” and many are personal.

However, I’ll break down these two islands into the following categories:

  • Things to do
  • Cost
  • Weather
  • Food
  • Accommodation

Let’s get started.

Koh Samui vs. Phuket: Things to Do

Koh Samui and Phuket, Thailand, are both packed with activities.

No matter your preference, you’re sure to find things to do—water sports, hiking, food, museums, and so much more. The islands even have golf if you’re looking to hit the links!

But, here are the top things to do on each island.

Koh Samui’s top activities

Koh Samui is around 141 square miles (228 square km), so it’s not difficult to cover the entire island.

If you rent a bike, you’ll get around even faster. But, because it’s so small, you can quickly get to any landmarks or activities you want.

Koh Samui vs. Phuket comes down to the activities, and shooting a bow is just plain fun

Here are some of the top highlights:

  • Visit Big Buddha
  • Hike to the many waterfalls
  • Go on a safari tour
  • Ride a boat through Angthong Marine Park
  • Go diving with the colorful marine life
  • Take a cooking class
  • Visit the 40+ beaches
  • Go jet skiing on the sea
  • Have target practice at the shooting range
  • Visit Koh Tao or Koh Phangan for a day trip

And these are just some of the activities. There are many more, but I wanted to highlight the best options for brevity.

Phuket’s top activities

Phuket is slightly bigger than Samui and Thailand’s largest island at 222 square miles (576 square km) and is located in the Andaman Sea.

And it offers just as much to do—gorgeous viewpoints, surrounding islands, temples, and so much more. There’s a reason Phuket is such a popular tourist destination.

Phuket has tons of water activities

Here are the top things to do in Phuket:

  • Visit Big Buddha (Phuket has one, too)
  • Party on Bangla Road
  • Visit the many, many temples (especially Wat Chalong)
  • Wander the night markets of Phuket Town
  • Bathe with elephants
  • Visit all the viewpoints
  • Visit the many islands nearby (including Koh Yao Yai and Noi, Koh Phi Phi, etc.)
  • Sunbathe on world-class beaches
  • Go to a cabaret show
  • Browse the shopping malls

These islands may be small in the grand scheme, but they’re not small in their activities!

Koh Samui vs. Phuket: Cost

Here is where one of the islands will separate itself a bit.

Primarily, your costs will be personal. You can eat cheap, stay in hostels, and only do free activities, and your expenses will be super low (under $20 a day). Or, you can do the opposite and splurge on your idyllic tropical vacation (around $100 a day).

The choice is up to you.

Either way, let’s analyze these and look at how Koh Samui is compared to Phuket.

Koh Samui costs

Koh Samui is a popular tourist destination, that’s clear.

And that leads to “hotspots” where prices are inflated, however, not to the level of Phuket. As I mentioned, Phuket is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Koh Samui doesn’t have the same name recognition.

Koh Samui has cheap prices, especially for food

As a result, the costs are a bit lower.

For example, an average person would look to budget around $40/day in Koh Samui.

However, this will vary by person. Here’s a rough cost breakdown of what you would need to budget for a 7-day trip (not including flight):

  • Solo Traveler — $250-600
  • Couple — $500-900
  • Family of 4 — $1000-2100

I kept these ranges broad to try and account for all types of spenders, but this is just a rough idea.

Phuket costs

Phuket can be expensive, especially if you visit tourist hotspots (Patong, Karon, Nai Harn, etc.)

If you get away from these areas, your costs will drop significantly. But, there’s no getting around inflated prices island-wide when you’re visiting. 

Walking around Phuket Town, there are tons of things to do for free

For example, an average person would want to budget around $80/day in Phuket, double what you would budget in Koh Samui.

However, always remember these costs are personal. You can spend far less in ›Phuket than that average.

Here’s the rough cost breakdown for Phuket:

  • Solo Traveler — $500-800
  • Couple — $900-1500
  • Family of 4 — $2000-$3300

If you want a more in-depth breakdown, I recommend visiting Budget Your Trip, an excellent resource.

Koh Samui vs. Phuket: Weather

Let’s be honest here. You can have beautiful days on both islands, even during the rainy season.

But, there is a difference between the two you should consider. Let’s get into it.

Koh Samui weather

The weather in Koh Samui is usually great, but sometimes it can rain

The weather you get will depend on the season you visit: dry or rainy season.

The dry season (December-April) has slightly “cooler” temperatures (around 80°F), not much rain, and sunny days, which is relatively similar to Phuket. But, the rainy season is where they differ.

Koh Samui’s location in the Gulf of Thailand receives far less rain than Phuket (around 77 inches year-round). And the rainy season is a bit shorter than in Phuket, starting in October and ending in December.

So the weather is more stable in Koh Samui, and you can expect fewer rainy days.

Never a bad thing when you’re on an island.

Phuket weather

The weather in Phuket depends on the season you visit

As I mentioned above, Phuket and Koh Samui share some similarities.

Again, the weather is “cooler” (around 80°F), the skies are clear, and the seas are calm. This usually lasts from December to April and is the best time to visit. However, the shoulder months can vary.

But then the rainy season comes, and the switch flips.

The seas become stronger, the days aren’t as clear, and you could go ten days of straight rain. Phuket gets around 100 inches of rainfall yearly, and almost all of it comes during these few months.

So, if you’re hoping for clear skies on your trip, Samui may be a better fit (depending on the season).

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Koh Samui vs. Phuket: Food

The food throughout Thailand is delicious and colorful

I won’t break this section down like the others, mainly because the food is similar on both islands.

You’ll be in your glory if you’re a seafood lover. A short trip to the beach offers you all the seafood you can eat and more if you’re feeling gluttonous.

But, if you’re looking for other options, Phuket is a better choice.

Because of the island’s popularity, it draws Thais and foreigners from all regions. And, as a result, all the food from those places comes with them. Koh Samui has excellent food choices, but it can’t match the variety and amount Phuket has.

However, this is a draw if you’re not picky about food.

Koh Samui vs. Phuket: Hotels and Stays

Resorts, spas, hotels, hostels, and private rooms, you’ll find it all on Koh Samui and Phuket.

Whether looking to live a high-class lifestyle or traveling out of a backpack, you’ll find the perfect accommodation. And it won’t be hard to find.

I’ll break each of these islands down in the following ways:

  • Top resorts
  • Top hotels
  • Top hostels

But remember that you can find some amazing deals by checking Airbnb. I’ve had some fantastic stays at a fraction of the cost of a hotel.

Koh Samui accommodation

Koh Samui has tons of high end and low end hotels

There’s no shortage of accommodation to choose from on this small island, but I’ll do my best to lead you in the right direction in terms of choices.

Koh Samui’s top resorts

Looking for a bit of luxury? Here are the top resorts in Koh Samui for January 2023 for one person:

  • Vana Belle ($638/night)
  • Casa de Mar ($123/night)
  • Silavadee Pool Spa Resort ($332/night)
  • Four Seasons Resort ($1,757/night)
  • Banyan Tree Samui ($987/night)

Koh Samui’s top hotels

Still want some luxury but don’t want to pay a kidney to get it? Here are the top hotels in Koh Samui for January 2023 for one person:

  • Sandalwood Luxury Villas ($102/night)
  • Amari Koh Samui ($142/night)
  • COSI Samui Chaweng Beach ($43/night)
  • Ibis Samui Bophut ($32/night)
  • The Lodge ($73/night)

Koh Samui’s top hostels

Hostels are the way to go if you’re trying to budget and make your money stretch. Here are the prices for one person for January 2023.

  • Timeless Hostel ($16/night)
  • Samui Backpacker Hotel ($13/night)
  • P&T Hostel ($10/night)
  • Nid’s Bungalow ($20/night)
  • Us Hostel ($36/night)

Phuket accommodation

Phuket has tons of options from resorts to hostels

Phuket has resorts scattered all over the island.

So, whether you’re looking for a secret hideaway or a place on the beach, Phuket has something for you.

Phuket top resorts

Living luxuriously is easy in Phuket, and here are some of the top resorts to do it, especially near Patong Beach. Prices are for one person in January 2023:

  • The Nai Harn ($418/night)
  • Angsana Laguna Phuket ($460/night)
  • Kalima Resort and Spa ($171/night)
  • The Shore at Katani ($935/night)
  • JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa ($537/night)

Phuket top hotels

Despite the eye-popping numbers for the resorts, there are plenty of affordable hotels in Phuket. Here are some top options and prices for one person in January 2023:

  • Novotel Phuket City ($82/night)
  • Wyndham Grand Nai Harn ($147/night)
  • Movenpick Myth Hotel ($127/night)
  • Seabed Grand Hotel ($41/night)
  • Deevana Patong Resort and Spa ($90/night)

Phuket top hostels

Believe it or not, budget travel in Phuket is possible.

And, with the help of these hostels, you can do it, too. Prices are for one person in January 2023:

  • Lub Dee Phuket Patong ($23/night)
  • Hip Hostel ($13/night)
  • Fulfill Phuket Hostel ($23/night)
  • Ananas Phuket Hostel ($9/night)
  • Book a Bed Poshtel ($11/night)

Koh Samui vs. Phuket FAQ

Now that we’ve covered the major areas you’d consider, let’s get to some frequently asked questions.

Is Phuket or Koh Samui cheaper?

Between the two, Koh Samui is cheaper than Phuket. Although your costs will be personal, they are generally higher in Phuket because it is a more popular tourist destination.

So, if you visit Phuket, plan on budgeting more money for your stay.

Is Koh Samui bigger than Phuket?

Phuket is larger than Koh Samui.

Phuket is 222 square miles and is also Thailand’s largest island. Koh Samui is 141 square miles, slightly smaller than Phuket.

Is it easier to get to Koh Samui from Bangkok or Phuket?

It is easier to get to Phuket from Bangkok, despite being a farther distance away when you look at a map.

Although, it’s not difficult to get to Koh Samui from Bangkok, either. But Phuket’s airport is one of the most popular in Thailand and has frequent routes between Bangkok and Phuket at lower rates, especially with Bangkok Airways.

Plus, Phuket is connected to the mainland via the Sarasin Bridge. 

Koh Samui requires you to arrive by ferry or airplane.

Additionally, both are a short trip away from the Krabi region and its nearby national parks. So, you’ll have no problem getting around and seeing all Phuket and Koh Samui offer.

Is Koh Samui more beautiful than Phuket?

Honestly, I can’t say one is more beautiful than the other.

They’re both similar in many ways and different in others. As you drive around the island, you’ll pass under coconut trees, go past rubber plantations, and see some of the gorgeous beaches Thailand (and the world) has to offer.

So, honestly, they’re both beautiful, and I could never choose one over the other.

Is Phuket better or Koh Samui? I’ll leave it up to you!

Having spent time on both islands, I can’t choose in the debate of Phuket vs. Koh Samui.

Primarily because I think you should visit both! But, if you don’t have time, it’s best to look at each island based on what you want to do.

Phuket is larger and has more variety. But, Koh Samui allows you to visit more places in a faster time because of its smaller size.

Let me know what your choice is in the comments and why!

And ultimately, enjoy your trip to Thailand!


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