side by side photos comparing Koh Phi Phi or Koh Samui beautiful island nature

Koh Phi Phi or Koh Samui: Comparison Guide

Are you researching Thai islands and can’t decide between visiting Koh Phi Phi or Koh Samui? This destination comparison guide will tell you everything you need to know!

While both are beautiful islands to visit, they have several prevalent differences.

Koh Phi Phi is a small island in southern Thailand in the Andaman Sea, and it’s known for its surreal large limestones and nature, lively nightlife, and excursions.

Koh Samui is a large island in the Gulf of Thailand, and it’s known for its beaches, jungle, many hotels/resorts, and big city conveniences.

greenery on Phi Phi Don with views of the Andaman Sea along with several large limestones in the sea

Koh Phi Phi or Koh Samui: Main Differences

The few similarities both islands share are that both are home to nice beaches, unique natural landscapes, and plenty of things to do. Now, let’s look into the main differences between both popular islands!

Island size stands out; Koh Phi Phi is a small island and tends to be crowded, and you must walk everywhere; there are no roads/cars here.

Koh Samui is the second largest island in Thailand; while it gets crowded in some areas, it also has calmer areas on the island. If you choose to visit Koh Samui, use my guide on how to get around Koh Samui!

Here’s a short list of highlights for each island, though I recommend you read further to help determine which of the two Thai islands would be best for you to visit!

Koh Phi Phi Highlights

  • Surreal nature surroundings
  • Lively nightlife
  • Remote intimate island
  • Excursion famous
  • Very walkable

Koh Samui Highlights

  • Well Developed
  • Exceptional Resorts
  • Stunning Beaches all around
  • Wide variety of things to do
  • Great for families
long beach shoreline showing mountains, palm trees and clear skies in the distance at Lamai Beach in Koh Samui, Thailand

Koh Phi Phi or Koh Samui: Things to Do

Koh Phi Phi and Koh Samui offer plenty of things to do, from relaxing beach days to fun day excursions, including snorkeling/diving, island hopping, and viewpoint hikes. Both islands offer a wide variety of activities at night, but I’ll get into that later!

For the most part, most activities you can do in Koh Phi Phi, you can do in Koh Samui as well.

Another stand out is the beaches; Koh Samui has nicer and more convenient beaches than Koh Phi Phi.

Below, I’ve shared with you a shortlist of the best things to do on each island. However, sites vary, of course.

WINNER: Regarding things to do in each place, Koh Samui slightly wins!

Things to Do in Koh Phi Phi

Boat Tour to Maya Bay Beach & Pi Leh Lagoon: The most popular day tour to attend in southern Thailand. On tour, you’ll visit Maya Bay Beach, Pi Leh Lagoon, Monkey Beach & more

Sunset at Loh Dalum Beach: On one side of the bays in Koh Phi Phi is Loh Dalum Beach; in the evening, many tourists/locals gather to watch the picnic in this scenic spot. There are also plenty of beach bars along the shoreline

Hike to Koh Phi Phi Viewpoints: A must-do when in Koh Phi Phi is hiking to the famous Koh Phi Phi Viewpoints, where you’ll see stunning aerial views of the complete island

Muay Thai Boxing Match: Some nights, there are Muay Thai fights happening at the Reggae Bar; if you’re visiting Thailand for the first time, I’d recommend you experience a fight night

Stroll the Island: Koh Phi Phi is a small island and is very walkable, and because of this, walking around the island and seeing what you stumble into is a great idea

views of giant limestones and beautiful turquoise waters from a long tail boat on the way to Maya Bay Beach in Thailand

Things to Do in Koh Samui

Have a Beach Day: Koh Samui is known for its beaches, and it’s the main reason many choose to visit; some of the best beaches in Koh Samui are ChawengLamaiBo Phut, and Lipa Noi Beach.

Island Hopping: With its location in the Gulf of Thailand, there are many other islands nearby, including Koh Phangan, Ko Tao, and Pig Island, to explore.

Day Trip to Ang Marine Park: Ang Thong is one of Thailand’s best national parks; Ang Thong Marine Park is a collection of 42 unique islands to explore. Located not far from Koh Samui, visiting Ang Thong Park is a must when in Koh Samui!

Night Markets: A few notable night markets in Koh Samui are Lamai Night MarketChaweng Walking Street, and the Night Market Fisherman’s Village.

Explore Fishermen’s Village: The Fishermen’s Village is a picturesque walkable area by Bo Phut Beach; it’s full of boutique shopping, great restaurants, and beach bars with stunning sea views.

TIP: If you visit Koh Samui and would like to go to its neighboring island, Koh Pha Ngan, here’s how!

large sign and the entrance of the popular Fisherman's Village in Koh Samui, Thailand

Koh Phi Phi or Koh Samui: Nightlife

Koh Phi Phi and Koh Samui’s nightlife is quite similar in the sense that both islands offer lively nightlife experiences with plenty of bars, nightclubs, and beach parties.

The only difference is Koh Samui offers both a lively night out and many laidback night activities to experience, whereas Koh Phi Phi doesn’t.

Depending on the type of nightlife you prefer, this factor may make you favor one destination over the other.

Koh Phi Phi nightlife is known for its lively pool/beach parties that go into the early morning hours of the night, beach bars, and nightclubs.

Koh Samui’s nightlife offers all that Koh Phi Phi offers but also has many relaxing beach bars to spend the evening at, night markets, and activities like go-karting and going to the cinema.

WINNER: Regarding nightlife in each place, it’s a tie, depending on your preference!

Koh Phi Phi Nightlife

Ibiza Pool Party: The most famous party on the island, this pool bar/hotel hosts a lively party with live music every night into the late morning hours

Slinky Bar: Lively beach bar hosting beach parties with fire performances, live music and more

Reggae Bar: Fun reggae-themed bar serves small buckets of drinks and hosting Muay Thai fight nights

Stones Bar: Laidback restaurant with beautiful beach shoreline views, with a fun fire show on the beach in the evening

several longtail boats docked on the beach in Phi Phi, a couple sits under the lights on the beach

Koh Samui Nightlife

ARK Beach Party: Ark Beach Bar hosts a beach party that has become quite popular on the island, right on the sand, with a live DJ playing music

CoCo Tam’s Restaurant: Known as one of the best restaurants in Samui, CoCo Tam’s is a fun restaurant with beach seating and fun fire show performances

Bar Hopping in Chaweng: There are countless bars/nightclubs in Chaweng to visit. It’s the most lively area on the island and a must-visit for those looking to party

Lamai Beach Bars: At Lamai Beach, there are open-concept beach bars, basically a bunch of outdoor bars with live music and street food vendors around

several locals and tourist seated eating many different foods at the Fisherman's Night Market in Koh Samui, Thailand

Koh Phi Phi or Koh Samui: Hotels & Resorts

Both islands offer many accommodation types to suit all traveler preferences and budgets.

But with Koh Samui being a significantly larger island than Koh Phi Phi, you’ll find a wider variety of hotels and resorts in Koh Samui.

Koh Phi Phi has a variety of accommodations, ranging from mid-range boutique hotels to luxurious stays and budget-friendly hostels. Koh Phi Phi is famous for its large number of hostels, and that’s because Koh Phi Phi is a popular destination amongst backpackers.

Koh Samui offers a significantly larger amount of hotels and resorts. Here, you’ll find plenty of hotels in all categories: luxurious hotels, mid-range boutique hotels in the jungle, and many hostel/guesthouse stays as well.

While Koh Samui does offer stays for all budgets, it’s most known for its luxurious hotels!

WINNER: Regarding hotels in each place, Koh Samui wins!

Where to Stay in Koh Phi Phi

Zeavola Resort – 5 Stars / A luxurious resort offering a secluded, quiet atmosphere on the island

Phi Phi Coco Resort – 4 Stars / Beach Resort is located by the main port, a beautiful hotel, and a convenient location

Ibiza House – 3 Stars / Famous for its infamous pool parties by the beach, the most popular accommodation for solo travelers in Phi Phi Don

The Pier 519 – A boutique-style hostel is centrally located and ideal for those not looking to be around too much partying

several tourist wondering the busy streets of Phi Phi Don

Where to Stay in Koh Samui

Kimpton Kitalay – 5 Star / Famous for its spacious rooms, many restaurants, a luxurious spa, and much more. The Kimpton Samui is in an excellent location on Koh Samui

Ibis Samui – 4 Star / Located right along Bo Phut Beach, the Ibis is an excellent location ideal for families, with a beautiful pool overlooking the ocean

Lub d Koh Samui – 3 Star / A perfect hotel for a younger crowd, located right on the popular Chaweng Beach, Lub D Samui is close to the central part of Koh Samui

P&T Hostel / Those visiting on a budget, look no further. This is the cheapest and highest-ranked hostel on the island. They’ve got everything you need, even a restaurant

streets of Koh Samui on the main road along with mountains and clear skies in the background

Koh Phi Phi or Koh Samui: Restaurants

When deciding between two destinations, restaurant quality and food is an essential topic, especially for those foodies out there!

So which of the two islands has the better restaurants? Let’s compare the two destinations to help you make an informed choice.

Koh Phi Phi offers many local Thai restaurants to consider, and the island offers a wide variety of international cuisine, including Arabic, Italian, and plenty of Western food options!

Koh Samui, too, has exceptional Thai restaurants around the island, and the fresh seafood you’ll find in Koh Samui restaurants is far superior to that in Koh Phi Phi. Koh Samui offers an even wider selection of international food, including Mexican, Italian, Arabic, Indian, and much more!

Unlike Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui offers a selection of fine dining restaurants on the island, something you won’t find in Koh Phi Phi.

Koh Samui offers several great night markets scattered throughout the city that are worth checking out!

WINNER: Regarding quality in restaurants, Koh Samui clearly wins!

Where to Eat in Koh Phi Phi

Garlic 1992: A humble local Thai restaurant that’s been open since 1992, family-owned/operated. The food was delicious here, it was well-priced, and their cocktails were massive

Thai Duck Noodle Soup: Located right in the night market, the friendly man who owns this shop always has awesome music, serving several various classic duck Thai dishes

Phi Phi Don Cafe & Restaurant: This cafe/restaurant has the best view of the bay on the island. Their menu is extensive, and they serve cocktails throughout the whole day

Only Noodles: This small hidden restaurant on the corner of a street serves delicious cheap pad-thai in several ways, a perfect place for a quick, affordable lunch

a plate of seafood Pad Thai made to perfection at Only Noodles in Phi Phi islands

Where to Eat in Koh Samui

Kawin’s Kitchen: Excellent local Thai restaurant serving delicious local food with exceptional presentation

Cabezas Muertas: Mexican restaurant serving all the favourites, tacos, quesadillas, toastdas and more!

Raw & Spirtz: A Chic appetizer bar serving oysters and many other small apps & drinks

The Oyster Bar x: A classic Oyster Bar serving exceptional Lobster, small bites & more

views of neighbouring island Koh Phangan from a restaurant in Koh Samui

Best Time to Visit Koh Samui or Koh Phi Phi

The weather patterns on each island are essential before visiting Koh Samui or Koh Phi Phi.

Each island has its own weather pattern, so knowing when to visit to experience great weather is important!

Koh Phi Phi is located in southern Thailand near Phuket and Krabi, and they all share the same weather patterns.

The best time to visit Koh Phi Phi is late November to April, from May to October; it’s the rainy season in Krabi and the rest of southern Thailand, like Phuket!

Koh Samui is located in the Gulf of Thailand and sees different seasonal weather patterns compared to Phuket, Krabi, and the rest of southern Thailand.

The best time to visit Koh Samui is January to September; it’s the rainy season from October to December. If you’re leaning to visit Koh Samui, check this weather guide to know when to visit!

Koh Phi Phi or Koh Samui — Final Thoughts

Have you decided which of these two beautiful islands in Thailand is best for you to visit?

It shouldn’t be a difficult choice, and I say that because they’re two very different islands with opposite atmospheres.

Regarding excursions and things to do, both islands offer plenty, but beach-wise, Koh Samui is superior.

The atmosphere and island size are both clear standout differences between Koh Samui and Koh Phi Phi. Koh Samui has its lively nightlife but also offers a laidback nightlife, unlike Koh Phi Phi.

Overall, Koh Phi Phi is much busier than Koh Samui due to its smaller size and heavier tourist foot traffic, and you’ll notice this as soon as you arrive. Because of that, I wouldn’t recommend staying longer than four nights in Koh Phi Phi.

Koh Samui has its tourists, but because of the island’s size, it’s easy to find calmer, laid-back parts on the island. On the other hand, Koh Samui is easy to spend plenty of time here due to its size.

kayaks along the beach shoreline at sunset in Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

If you’d prefer a mix of a lively island with many day trips to do, plenty of beaches to relax, and various options of entertainment for both adults and kids, Koh Samui is the island for you.

If you’d prefer a remote exotic island full of day excursions and lively nightlife, where you’ll meet plenty of other travelers, Koh Phi Phi is the island for you!

Having visited both islands, I enjoyed my time on both and found each to have its unique traits. Koh Phi Phi was a fun time, seeing the massive limestones, hiking the viewpoints, and spending evenings strolling the island, ending up at various bars.

Koh Samui was also great, but I enjoyed the fact that Koh Samui offers both a lively and relaxing time, depending on your desire for that day/night, unlike Koh Phi Phi.

sunset overcasting over the Chaweng Lake on one of the best things to do in Koh Samui at night

What is better Koh Phi Phi or Koh Samui?

Both islands offer many exciting excursions, island hopping, and lively nightlife.

But Koh Samui is much larger than Koh Phi Phi, meaning it offers more things to do and lively and quiet atmospheres throughout the island.

Is Koh Phi Phi worth it?

Yes, Koh Phi Phi is worth visiting. The island is in a remote location in the Andaman Sea, which makes for a unique trip, and the island’s natural surroundings are mesmerizing.

How far is Koh Phi Phi from Koh Samui?

The trip to Koh Phi Phi from Koh Samui takes around 7 hours and involves a ferry from Koh Samui to Surat Thani mainland.

Then, a minivan bus for a few hours to southern Krabi and another ferry from southern Krabi to Koh Phi Phi.

Is Koh Samui touristy?

Yes, it is, and walking around the different areas in Koh Samui, you’ll notice the island was built for tourists and is currently home to plenty of expats.

The island is beautiful, with plenty of beaches and green-filled jungle in the center, but overall, it lacks the character of an authentic Thai island.

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