Koh Samui vs. Phuket

Koh Samui vs. Phuket: Which Thailand Destination to Visit?

Written By: author image Kyle Cash
author image Kyle Cash
Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania.

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Koh Samui and Phuket are both perfect beach destinations. But which should you visit? This guide will help break down the differences between Koh Samui vs. Phuket.

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

Both are mind-blowingly gorgeous islands and perfect holiday destinations. And they have enough activities to fill up a month, let alone a few days or weeks.

But how do you decide?

This post will discuss 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 an island and is around 141 square miles (228 square km), so it’s not difficult to cover the entire island.

Also, Koh Samui lies in the Gulf of Thailand, so you’re sure to get beautiful waters, idyllic beaches, and clear skies most days.

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

Koh Samui offers these top activities:

  • Visit Big Buddha
  • Hike to the many waterfalls
  • Go on a safari tour
  • Ride a boat through Ang Thong National Marine Park
  • Go diving with the colorful marine life
  • Take a cooking class
  • Visit the 40+ beaches in Koh Samui
  • 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. Koh Samui is also surrounded by many other islands to visit. 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 worth visiting.

Phuket has tons of water activities

Phuket also offers these top activities:

  • 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 islands around Phuket (including Koh Yao Yai, Koh Yao Noi, Koh Phi Phi, etc.)
  • Sunbathe on world-class beaches in Phuket
  • Go to a cabaret show
  • Browse the shopping malls

If you’re looking for vibrant nightlife, then Phuket is a better option with bars and restaurants across the island to enjoy a night out.

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 may not 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 on a trip to 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 for when you visit Koh Samui.

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 in Koh Samui 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 experiences far less rain in the Gulf of Thailand, unlike 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.

You’ll love Koh Samui if you’re limited on days and need to make the most of them.

Phuket weather

The weather in Phuket depends on the season you visit

As I mentioned above, Phuket and 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 in Phuket 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).

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 definitely 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 of Phuket.

However, this is a draw if you’re not picky about food. In either place, make sure to avoid these foods you don’t want to eat in Thailand.

Koh Samui vs. Phuket: Accommodation

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 an Airbnb discount. 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 accommodations in Koh Samui 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:

  • Vana Belle
  • Casa de Mar
  • Silavadee Pool Spa Resort
  • Four Seasons Resort
  • Banyan Tree Samui

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:

  • Sandalwood Luxury Villas
  • Amari Koh Samui
  • COSI Samui Chaweng Beach
  • Ibis Samui Bophut
  • The Lodge

Koh Samui’s top hostels

Hostels are the way to go if you’re trying to budget and make your money stretch.

  • Timeless Hostel
  • Samui Backpacker Hotel
  • P&T Hostel
  • Nid’s Bungalow
  • Us Hostel

Phuket accommodation

Phuket has tons of options from resorts to hostels

Phuket has plenty of 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.

  • The Nai Harn
  • Angsana Laguna Phuket
  • Keemala Hotel Phuket
  • The Shore at Katani
  • JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa

Phuket top hotels

Despite the eye-popping numbers for the resorts, there are plenty of affordable hotels in Phuket:

  • Novotel Phuket City
  • Wyndham Grand Nai Harn
  • Movenpick Myth Hotel
  • Seabed Grand Hotel
  • Deevana Patong Resort and Spa

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:

  • Lub Dee Phuket Patong
  • Hip Hostel
  • Fulfill Phuket Hostel
  • Ananas Phuket Hostel
  • Book a Bed Poshtel

Phuket vs. Koh Samui in Thailand 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 to budget more 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?

Getting between Bangkok and Phuket is easier, although Koh Samui is around 100 kilometers closer geographically.

Although, it’s not difficult to get to Koh Samui from Bangkok, either. But Phuket airport is one of the most popular in Thailand and has many operating flights out of Phuket to Bangkok at lower rates, especially with Bangkok Airways. So it’s easier to reach Phuket.

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

However, the island of Koh Samui requires you to arrive by ferry or airplane, and there aren’t many (if any) direct flights to Koh Samui airport.

Additionally, both are a short trip away from the Krabi region and its nearby national parks, like Khao Sok. So, you’ll have no problem getting around and seeing what Phuket and Koh Samui also 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 many beaches Thailand (and the world) has to offer.

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

What is the better choice between Koh Samui and Phuket?

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

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 faster because of its smaller size.

Whichever island you choose, you’re sure to have a wonderful time.

author avatar
Kyle Cash Owner
Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania.