Koh Samui vs Koh Phangan? Which Thai island is best for you to visit? Because both islands are neighbors of one another, the debate between Koh Samui and Koh Phangan is a popular one!
Despite the two islands being so close, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan are very different, so deciding which would be best for you to visit should be easy!
Koh Samui is a well-developed island ideal for families, expats, and those who enjoy a mix of island and big-city activities.
Koh Phangan is a more authentic Thai island, laidback, has many beaches, is rich in nature, and is preferred by yogis/backpackers and those looking to unwind completely!
Both Thai islands are breathtaking, with stunning beaches, several attractions, nightlife, and marvelous restaurants.
The main difference between the two islands is the atmosphere; Koh Samui is a well-developed island, while Koh Phangan, on the other hand, is less developed and has more traits of a more authentic island in Thailand.
Getting to Koh Samui or Koh Phangan
First, let’s discuss how to get to Koh Samui or Koh Phangan. Both islands are located in the Gulf of Thailand, away from the mainland.
Getting to Koh Samui is very straightforward. The best way is to fly to Samui International Airport (USM) with Bangkok Airways flight time is 1 hour. If you’re coming from anywhere else, you must get to Donsak Pier on the mainland and then take a 1-hour ferry to reach Koh Samui.
Getting to Koh Phangan is similar to Koh Samui because Koh Phangan doesn’t have an airport, and Samui International is the closest airport to it. The best way to get to Koh Phangan is by flying into Samui International Airport and then taking the ferry from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan. Otherwise, you must go to Donsak Pier and take a ferry from there to Koh Phangan.
It’s important to know that Samui International Airport is an airport that offers primarily domestic flights. They have limited international flights; Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, and Singapore are the only three international flights that fly into Samui International Airport.
So if you’re looking to fly to Koh Samui/Koh Phangan and get here as quickly as possible, you most likely will have to fly to Thailand first and then take a domestic flight in the country to Samui International Airport.
Koh Samui vs Koh Phangan: Main Differences
Choosing the right island for you to visit should be easy because Koh Samui and Koh Phangan offer different atmospheres. If we were discussing Koh Samui vs Phuket, that would be a different story because those two islands share similar traits.
Koh Samui is famous for being the second largest island in Thailand after Phuket. Despite being an island, Koh Samui can sometimes feel like a city.
An airport, a large mall, many hotels and resorts, several places to go shopping, and access to almost everything you need. One of the many reasons many expats call Koh Samui home is island living with big city conveniences here in Koh Samui. Those are all the positives about Koh Samui.
The cons about Koh Samui is how developed the island is, while this is perceived as a great thing to many. It’s a negative aspect of the island to many because it takes away from an authentic island experience.
Koh Phangan is most famous for its infamous Full Moon Party on the island once a month. Tourists and locals come from all over once a month to Koh Phangan to experience this spectacle. If you aren’t familiar, it’s a massive party on the beach that lasts 12 hours.
But Koh Phangan is so much more than that. The island is home to beautiful beaches and waterfalls and is famous for hosting yoga/wellness retreats. Those are the positives about Koh Phangan.
The cons of Koh Phangan is what it’s most famous for; the island becomes very busy monthly for 3/4 days because of the Full Moon Party. Despite being close to Samui, there isn’t a wide variety of accommodations because it’s considered a more remote island.
These quick comparisons and the table I’ve shared below can give you a small glimpse of comparisons between the two popular islands.
I’d recommend you read further to understand which island would be better for you to visit!
|Things to Consider||Koh Samui||Koh Phangan|
Koh Samui vs Koh Phangan: Things To Do
There are plenty of things to do on both islands, and many of the activities are similar, waterfall hikes, long days at the beach, viewpoint hikes, and more.
The main difference between Koh Samui and Koh Phangan when considering things to do is that Koh Samui offers both island adventures and big city activities, such as shopping, going to the cinema, or go-karting!
Koh Phangan doesn’t offer big city activities; it’s more of a laidback island. There are fewer shopping options than in Koh Samui, and activities in Koh Phangan consist of scuba diving, snorkeling, and other activities one would do visiting a less developed island!
Koh Samui Main Attractions
Besides the beaches in Koh Samui, which I’ll discuss shortly after, the main attractions in Koh Samui consist of the following:
Jungle/Waterfall Adventures: The safari tour in Koh Samui is the most popular tour on the island; during the tour, you will visit the jungle side of Koh Samui and experience beautiful waterfalls/viewpoints.
Big Buddha Samui: The most famous landmark in Koh Samui is the Big Buddha, located in the island’s Northern part. Visiting the Big Buddha, you’ll see great views of both Koh Phangan and Koh Samui.
Fishermen’s Village: One of the most popular places in Koh Samui is the Fishermen’s Village, this lively area by Bo Phut Beach is popular for its boutique shopping, many delicious restaurants, beach bars, and overall is a perfect place to walk around at all hours!
Night Markets in Koh Samui: No matter where you visit in Thailand, night markets are a must-visit. Koh Samui has a few excellent night markets to check out: Lamai Night Market, Cheweng Walking Street, and the Night Market Fishermans Village.
Day Trip to Ang Thong: This national park is a collection of 42 beautiful islands and is located next to Koh Samui. A Day trip to Ang Thong Marine Park is necessary when visiting Koh Samui or Koh Phangan.
Island Hopping: There are several islands nearby Koh Samui to visit, including Pig Island, Ko Tao, and Koh Phangan.
Other activities in Koh Samui, as suggested earlier, are shopping at Central Samui, the biggest mall on the island, going to one of the many cinemas to see a movie, and visiting EasyKart to go go-karting!
Koh Phangan Main Attractions
There are several fun things to do in Koh Phangan, the beaches I will cover shortly.
Koh Phangan is more known for snorkeling/scuba diving than Koh Samui, and for those who enjoy a more backpacking/yogi atmosphere, you’ll find more suitable activities in Koh Phangan!
Ko Ma: Located in the Northern part of Koh Phangan is Ko Ma, an island attached to Koh Phangan by a long strip of sand, and you can visit just by walking over! It’s a sight to see!
ATV Safari Tour: On this ATV Tour, you will experience Koh Phangan’s jungles and coastlines!
Snorkel Tour/Island Hopping: You will visit Nang Yuan and Ko Tao islands from Koh Phangan during this snorkeling. Ko Tao is known for its stunning waters full of healthy coral reefs and tropical fish, making it the perfect place for snorkeling.
Namtok Tahn Sadet Park: Famous for being the best national park in Koh Phangan, Namtok Park is a must on your Koh Phangan itinerary; the park is full of scenic trails, rivers, waterfalls, and viewpoints.
Pantip Night Market: Open daily from noon till 10 PM, Pantip night market is an excellent market with many different foods to try!
Day Trip to Ang Thong: Closeby to Koh Phangan is Ang Thong National Park rated one of the best national parks in Thailand. Comprising 42 islands, the park is full of mangroves, luscious green scenery, and more!
Wat Ruese Pa Saeng Temple: The most famous Buddhist temple on the island is Wat Ruese Pa Saeng, located in the heart of the jungles of Koh Phangan. As you finish hiking toward the temple, you’ll see stunning views of Koh Phangan’s dense green jungles.
Koh Samui vs Koh Phangan: Beaches
Both islands are full of beautiful beaches to discover; depending on which type of beach-goer you’re, you may heavily favor one island’s shores over the others!
Koh Samui is more known for its beaches with conveniences, like chairs, umbrellas, food nearby, beach clubs, etc.
Koh Phangan is more famous for its secluded beaches around the island, full of viewpoints and stunning nature, and the beaches here have a more laidback, quieter atmosphere.
Beaches in Koh Samui
Koh Samui is home to many beautiful beaches, but the most popular beaches on the island are Cheweng Beach and Lamai Beach because of the many conveniences these beaches offer. Both beaches have several nearby hotels, resorts, and restaurants nearby.
Other lesser famous beaches in Koh Samui are Bo Phuet Beach, Bangrak Beach, and Lipa Noi Beach.
Beaches in Koh Phangan
The beaches in Koh Phangan are as beautiful as in Koh Samui, but here you can find secluded beaches with only a few visitors, something you can’t do in Koh Samui!
The most well-known beaches in Koh Phangan is Salad Beach. Here, you will be nearby many hotels, shops, and restaurants. Bottle Beach is another popular beach in Koh Phangan, but it is more secluded.
For families visiting Koh Phangan, Thong Nai Pan Beach is an ideal beach for you, with many resorts nearby and a calm beach shoreline perfect for the kids to swim.
Koh Phangan’s secluded, quiet beaches are the best part of the island. Haad Sadet Beach, Haad Yuan Beach, and Head Khontee Beach are the best-secluded beaches on the island, and I highly recommend you visit them!
Koh Samui vs Koh Phangan: Hotels & Resorts
Both Koh Samui and Koh Phangan have a wide variety of accommodations. Resorts, hotels, hostels, and rentals are available on each island.
But there is a significant difference hotel-wise between the two islands, despite both islands having all types of hotels.
Koh Samui is more well-known for its 5 Star hotels, large resorts catering to families, and many monthly rentals catering to expats living here. The island does have plenty of mid-range hotels and hostels too.
Koh Phangan is more well-known for its hostels, smaller boutique hotels, and rentals. The island has many resorts but is more famous for those accommodations.
No matter which island you choose, look into the different areas on each island before deciding which hotel you’d like to stay at. Below I will share many hotel recommendations for each island for all budgets!
KOH SAMUI Areas
If you’d like to be more central in Koh Samui, close to restaurants, shops, and night markets, stay by Cheweng Beach or Lamai Beach.
If you’d like a secluded, quiet area, consider Lipa Noi Beach in Koh Samui.
KOH PHANGAN Areas
And if you’d like to be more central in Koh Phangan, nearby grocery stores, restaurants, etc, consider the Coco Garden area.
Consider the Mae Haad Beach, Rose Villa, or Panburi Village for those looking for an even more laid-back atmosphere.
Best Hotels in Koh Samui
Koh Samui is the second largest island in Thailand, so decide if you’d prefer to be central to most things on the island or further. To avoid having to use transportation often.
These are the best hotels in Koh Samui for each budget!
Best Hotels in Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan isn’t much smaller of an island than Koh Samui, so again, decide whether you’d prefer to be in town or a smaller beach village area like Rose Villa or Panburi Village.
These are the best hotels in Koh Phagan for each budget!
Koh Samui vs Koh Phangan: Food
Both islands are full of delicious night markets and restaurants to try. Though, there is a distinct difference between the two islands food-wise. Below I will share my favorite restaurants on each island!
FOOD TIP: The cheapest and sometimes the most delicious foods are at night markets; this is applicable anywhere you visit in Thailand!
Koh Samui has a lot of Western-style food options; besides your typical steakhouse, and burger spot, Koh Samui has a lot of the big fast food chains like Mcdonald’s, KFC, etc. The island does have a lot of local Thai food, but for the most part, western cuisine seems to dominate the food scene here.
Koh Samui has three notable night markets; I recommend you visit Lamai Night Market, Cheweng Walking Street, and the Night Market Fishermans Village.
Koh Phangan has more local cuisine because the island is less-developed; you won’t find big chain restaurants here and fancy Western restaurants. For the most part, you will find several exceptional Thai restaurants to try!
Koh Phangan also has three notable night markets to check out; Pantip Market, Saturday Walking Street, and Night Market Cafe Vintage.
Best Koh Samui Restaurants
Here is a short list of some of my favorite restaurants in Koh Samui – If you’ve got more recommendations, please comment them under this article!
The Oyster Bar x: Classic Oyster Bar, serving exceptional Lobster, & more
Raw & Spirtz: Chic appetizer bar serving oysters, and many other small apps & drinks
KhaoHorm: One of the best Thai restaurants on the island
Gusto Italiano: Italian restaurant right on Bo Phut Beach serving all the classic
Best Koh Phangan Restaurants
Here is a short list of some of my favorite restaurants in Koh Phangan – If you’ve got more recommendations, please comment them under this article!
Fisherman’s Restaurant: Seafood restaurant serving a wide variety of delicious seafood
The District Steak & Seafood: Perfect restaurant for those craving some surf and turf
Bustan: Located in the jungle of Koh Phangan, Bustan has exceptional cocktails and a tasting menu, along with a unique atmosphere
La Terrazza Restaurant: Right on the beach, La Terrazza serves all the Italian classics
Koh Samui vs Koh Phangan: Nightlife
Koh Phangan is far more known for its nightlife compared to Koh Samui, and that’s for one reason; Koh Phangan is home to the famous Full Moon Party that takes place every month!
While both islands have their fair share of bars and nightclubs, Koh Phangan is overall more well-known as a “party island”.
Thailand Party Tip: These are small buckets that come with one/three alcohol choices. They are popular here in Thailand at parties and are well-priced!
Koh Phangan has better outdoor parties, but Koh Samui has better beach clubs!
Koh Samui Nightlife
Here’s a list of spots you should consider when going out in Koh Samui, a mix of nightclubs and beach clubs below!
Hush Bar: Lights, loud music, Hush Bar is located in the mix of a party street
The Green Mango: One of the most popular nightclubs also located on the party street
Chi Samui: Fancy beach club/restaurant, sometimes with international DJ talent performing
Coco Tam’s: Located in the Fisherman’s Village, fancy beach bar with fire shows and comfortable beach seating
Koh Phangan Nightlife
If you want to visit Koh Phangan, come around the time to experience the Full Moon Party.
Besides the Full Moon Party, which attracts thousands of party-goers from all over the world, here’s a list of nightclubs to check out in Koh Phangan!
OXA Beach: Venue hosting wild fun beach parties at night every weekend
Chill UP: Mix between bar/nightclub, lots of areas to sit down for a drink, live music, and pool tables
Samsara Beach Club: Located right on the beach, this venue has a big pool, live music and is great both in the day/night
Koh Samui or Koh Phangan: Travel Tips
To make your adventures smoother, here’s a list of tips for each island, including the best time to visit either Koh Samui or Koh Phangan and things you should and should not do when visiting either island.
Best Time to Visit Koh Samui or Koh Phangan
Both Koh Samui and Koh Phangan are located in the Gulf of Thailand, and because of this, the two islands, along with the ones surrounding them, don’t share the same seasonal weather as most of Southern Thailand, like Phuket.
The islands in the Gulf of Thailand have a shorter rainy season, which is very convenient!
There are two seasons on both islands, Monsoon/Rainy season and Dry Season.
Monsoon Season in Koh Samui & Koh Phangan: October to December
Dry Season in Koh Samui & Koh Phangan: January to September
Travel Tips for Koh Samui
- Use the Song Taew trucks for cheap transportation around Koh Samui. To know how to use them, refer to this article
- Drink/Dine at Happy Hour promo times at some restaurants that offer it
- Attend morning day tours. They’re always less crowded than afternoon trips
- Koh Samui is a big island; choose the area you’re staying in wisely
Travel Tips for Koh Phangan
- Koh Phangan is a safe island, but there’s no reason to be exploring the jungles at night
- If you attend the Full Moon Party, understand that illicit things are being sold here, and undercover cops are looking to make arrests
- Being tipsy and going into the sea for a swim while at the Full Moon Party isn’t the best idea; it can get deep, and its nighttime; there have been drownings in the past
Koh Samui vs Koh Phangan – Final Thoughts
Each person will have an apparent preference for Koh Samui vs Koh Phangan; the two Thai islands are different. But despite that, both islands cater to all types of guests!
Personally, I enjoyed Koh Phangan far more only because it represents island living far more than Koh Samui.
But I’ve spoken to several friends who prefer Koh Samui because it’s a well-developed island with big-city conveniences!
Should I go to Koh Phangan or Koh Samui?
First, consider what type of traveler you’re and who you’re coming with!
Solo Traveler: Koh Phangan is more suited for solo travel; it’s cheaper and is a famous island for solo travelers, yogis, and backpackers to visit. But Koh Samui has hostels to meet other solo travelers.
Couple: If you’re looking for a romantic vacation, Koh Samui is perfect because of its hotels, restaurant options, and activities. But if you guys are more laid back and adventurous, you will prefer to visit Koh Phangan!
Family: Koh Samui and Phuket are the best islands in Thailand for families to visit. Koh Samui has exceptional accommodations, shopping, and many activities for all ages.
What is the difference between Koh Samui and Koh Phangan?
Koh Samui is a more developed island compared to Koh Phangan. Koh Samui has several big resorts, an airport, and lots of shopping.
Koh Phangan is a more authentic Thai island with its accommodations and restaurants, but it is less developed than Koh Samui.
Is it worth going to Koh Phangan?
Koh Phangan is a beautiful island and is worth visiting! Besides its most famous attraction, the Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan has several stunning scenic beaches, dense green jungle, and many incredible viewpoints to hike!
Why is Koh Samui so popular?
Koh Samui is one of the most developed islands in Thailand, only after Phuket. It’s popular because the island mixes island living with big city conveniences. Despite being an island, there’s good access to health care, shopping, and an airport!
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