side by side comparison of beaches of Koh Samui vs Phuket

Koh Samui vs Phuket: Which Island to Visit?

Koh Samui vs Phuket can be a difficult decision, but it can also be easy for some.

This in-depth and complete guide will cover all the basic comparisons between Koh Samui and Phuket. Once you’ve read this guide, it will help you decide which island you should visit and why.

Before I get into the comparisons of Koh Samui vs Phuket, you should know both islands in Thailand are beautiful, full of things to do, and are excellent places to visit or even live in.

Phuket is the largest island in Thailand, and Koh Samui is the second largest island in Thailand; because of this, both islands are constantly compared!

Identify which of these topics for each island is more important to you and make a decision!

How to Get to Koh Samui

Here are the different ways you can get to Koh Samui.

Samui International (USM) has flights from cities outside Thailand, but are minimal because it’s a small airport. Most flights flying to Samui International are domestic, and the airport is owned/operated by Bangkok Airways.

Fly into Samui Airport: You can fly into Samui International Airport; from Bangkok’s Airports / Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK) or Don Mueang International Airport (DMK) – Flight time: 1 Hour.

Bus + Ferry: You can take a travel bus from Bangkok to Koh Samui Ferry docks and then take the ferry. Most tickets booked include both. – Total Travel time: 14 Hours

How to Get to Phuket

Here are the different ways you can get to Phuket; if you’re coming from Bangkok, this guide will help Phuket from Bangkok.

Phuket International has flights from many other cities outside of Thailand. You may be able to fly into Phuket directly rather than flying within Thailand.

Fly into Phuket Airport: You can fly into Phuket International Airport; from Bangkok’s Airports / Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK) or Don Mueang International Airport (DMK) – Flight time: 90 Mins.

Bus: You can take a travel bus from Bangkok to Phuket. – Total Travel time: 13-14 Hours

the main beach area at Freedom Beach with several tourists and large rocks separating the main part of Freedom Beach and the hidden beach area
Freedom Beach in Phuket

Koh Samui vs Phuket: Things To Do

Both islands offer a wide variety of things to do, from island hopping to several beaches to visit, night markets, and more.

These are the beaches, main attractions, and a breakdown of the nightlife on each island.

Note: Both islands have plenty more to do; I’m only highlighting the beaches and main attractions here.

Koh Samui Beaches

Samui Beaches are known for their island vibe; these are the main beaches to visit in Koh Samui.

  • Lamai Beach
  • Cheweng Beach
  • Bo Phut Beach

Phuket Beaches

Phuket’s beaches are plenty; there are way more beaches in Phuket vs Koh Samui.

This is a list of Phuket’s main beaches; refer to my guide for a complete list.

stunning empty beach shoreline with large rocks at the end of the beach in Koh Samui Island in Thailand
Lamai Beach in Koh Samui

Koh Samui Main Attractions

  • Hike to Waterfalls
  • Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai)
  • ATV off road
  • Visit Pig Island (Ko Mat Sum)
  • Evening at Fisherman’s Village
  • Go to neighboring islands Ko Pha Ngan & Ko Tao

Koh Samui Night Markets: Fishermans Village Market – Cheweng Night Market

Phuket Main Attractions

  • Phuket Old Town
  • Sunset at Cape Phrom Thep
  • Nightlife in Patong

Phuket Night Markets: Sunday Old Town Market – Naka Weekend Market – Kata Night Market

RELATED: 9 Best Things To Do in Phuket

the famous tall white big buddha of phuket on a clear sunny day
Big Buddha Phuket

Koh Samui vs Phuket Nightlife

Regarding nightlife on both islands, Phuket is the clear winner here, without a doubt.

Koh Samui offers a more intimate island atmosphere. Nightlife in Koh Samui involves going to a beach bar by the beach, a Muay Thai fight, or a walk on the beach.

On the other hand, Phuket offers so much more because of how large the island is.

Patong’s Bangla Road offers a large street of nightlife. There are multiple beach clubs in Phuket you can go to during the day/night and countless bars/nightclubs scattered amongst the island.

If you’re debating between Phuket vs Koh Samui and coming in a large group of friends who’d like to party, you must go to Phuket instead of Koh Samui.

several tourist walking the famous Bangla Road in Patong full of it's notorious nightlife

Koh Samui vs Phuket: Hotels/Resorts/Rentals

Resorts with spas, hotels, hostels, and private rooms, both islands are full of accommodations for you to choose from.

Having been to both islands many times, here are a few recommendations for each type of stay you may be looking for on each island!

Luxury: Koh Samui beats Phuket regarding luxurious hotels, Phuket has many, but Koh Samui is known for that.

Mid-Tier: Phuket beats Koh Samui for mid-tier hotels; the island is more significant and offers a larger variety, Koh Samui has them, but Phuket has more/better options.

Hostels: Phuket beats Koh Samui for hostels; some hostels in Phuket are basically at hotel-level, and it’s great. Koh Samui has its hostels, but Phuket has a more significant variety.

Koh Samui Recommendations:

Here’s where to stay in Koh Samui. Three categories with accommodations ideal for all budgets; these are the best hotels for each price range.

Luxury: Kimpton Samui or Explorar Samui

Mid-Tier: Ibis Samui or Punnpreeda Resort

Hostels: P&T Hostel

Phuket Recommendations

Here’s where to stay in Phuket. Three categories with accommodations ideal for all budgets; these are the best hotels for each price range.

Luxury: Rosewood Phuket or Le Meridien

Mid-Tier: Katathani Resort or Amari Phuket

Hostels: Lub D Patong or Nonnee Kata

fresh Thai coconut being served at a restaurant in Lamai Beach in Koh Samui, Thailand

Koh Samui vs Phuket: Weather

Both southern islands share similar weather throughout the year, temperature-wise.

But there is one significant difference regarding the weather between both islands; the monsoon (rainy) season in Phuket and Koh Samui are during different times of the year.

You want to avoid Koh Samui’s rainy season and Phuket’s.

Any rain that occurs during the Dry Season on either island tends to pass by quickly, but not always.

Koh Samui Weather

Monsoon Season in Koh Samui: October to December

Dry Season in Koh Samui: January to September

Phuket Weather

Monsoon Season in Phuket: May to October

Dry Season in Phuket: November to September

a tall palm tree standing high amongst many plants in Karon Village, Phuket

Koh Samui vs Phuket: Nearby Islands

Thailand is famous for its many islands, so naturally, when visiting; one is curious about other islands to explore, especially if the islands are nearby.

While both Phuket and Koh Samui are beautiful islands, because of their large size, they don’t have the small island atmosphere one thinks of when the word “island” comes to mind.

Koh Samui and Phuket have a few islands nearby to explore for the day, and some even stay the night.

In comparison, Phuket has more islands nearby than Koh Samui. But Koh Samui has more islands to visit with things to do. Phuket only has Phi Phi Island, while Koh Samui has Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao.

The other islands on this list aren’t quite developed. They’re quintessential islands; if that’s what you’re looking to explore, Phuket has more of those types of islands nearby.

Koh Samui Nearby Islands

  • Ko Pha Ngan
  • Ko Tao
  • Ko Mat Sum
  • Tean Island
  • Ko Phalua
several pigs walking on the beach shoreline along with a long tail boats on the water and a sunset at Koh Samui Pig Island
Ko Mat Sum in Koh Samui

Phuket Nearby Islands

  • Ko Racha Yai
  • Phi Phi Islands
  • Similan Islands
  • Coral Island
  • Koh Yao Noi
  • Ko Yao Yai
  • Coconut Islands
  • Ko Lon
aerial view of the entire Phi Phi main Island showing clear skies, forest filled mountains and turquoise waters from each side of the island from Viewpoint 2
Phi Phi Islands (Don)

Koh Samui vs Phuket: For Living

There isn’t much competition for Koh Samui vs Phuket regarding living standards.

I say this because the islands share similarities in that they’re both well-developed; they have malls, large grocery stores, an airport on each island, and anything one may need.

Many ex-pats, digital nomads, and several foreign families call Koh Samui or Phuket home, and the foreign communities only seem to grow each year on both islands.

At the same time, Koh Samui and Phuket are also very different when it comes to living as well. I’d like to elaborate a little more on this.

Is Koh Samui a Good Place to Live?

Yes, Koh Samui is an excellent place to live; it offers an authentic island life but with several conveniences. Malls, several shops, bars, many restaurants, and a wide variety of grocery stores are all here in Koh Samui.

Here is why one would consider living in Koh Samui vs Phuket. Despite being a large island, Koh Samui still has an island feel.

It’s noticeable when riding a car or scooter around the island on the main road, which goes around the island entirely.

As well as, when you’re sitting at a beach bar, you can see the next-door island, Ko Pha Ngan.

If you prefer a more authentic island vibe, you will like Koh Samui vs Phuket regarding living.

Rent a place in Koh Samui and see how you like it!

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

Is Phuket a Good Place to Live?

Phuket is one of the most liveable places in Thailand. Phuket is very well-equipped with shopping; grocery stores here are everywhere, as are bars and nightclubs; Phuket has everything and a lot of variety.

Here is why one would consider living in Phuket vs Koh Samui.

Phuket is a more developed island than Koh Samui. Living on Koh Samui, at times, there will be cuisines you might crave you won’t find on the island. Or things you may need you won’t find (nothing that’s a necessity that’s available in Samui)

Phuket has many areas to consider when choosing where to live, while Koh Samui has fewer. But because of that and its size, Phuket sometimes feels like less of an island.

Phuket beats Koh Samui regarding living standards. But Koh Samui tops Phuket if you prefer a more authentic island atmosphere.

Rent a place in Phuket and see how you like it!

empty streets along Karon Beach in Phuket, Thailand

Koh Samui vs Phuket: Restaurants

Whether you’re looking for a quick bite or a fancy meal, both islands have plenty of dining options to choose from.

You can find everything from popular fast-food chains to high-end restaurants serving exquisite cuisine. And if you’re looking for a truly authentic experience, there are plenty of traditional Thai dining restaurants to explore.

Keep in mind that dining with a view comes at a premium, so expect to pay a bit more for beachfront restaurants with beautiful views in either Phuket or Koh Samui.

For those looking for restaurants by the beach, Phuket is more known for its lively beach clubs. Koh Samui has one or two beach clubs, but it has many restaurants nearby the beach.

In all dining categories, Phuket beats Koh Samui; it’s simple, a bigger island means more variety. Fine-Dining, street food, and cuisine variation are better in Phuket vs Koh Samui.

Koh Samui has its fair share of restaurants but lacks variety in cuisine type.

For example, Turkish, Korean, Japanese, and other cuisine foods are not plentiful in Koh Samui, unlike Phuket, which has everything.

This can be inconvenient if you’re a foodie like myself craving a type of cuisine.

Phuket has more night markets and a broader variety of high-end restaurants verse Koh Samui.

ocean views from the second floor at Coco Tams in Koh Samui
Coco Tam’s in Koh Samui

Koh Samui vs Phuket: Shopping

If you’re visiting Koh Samui or Phuket, shopping may not be a concern for you, but it’s an essential factor if you’re considering moving to either of the islands.

Both islands have local shops, markets, boutique shops, and malls, but Phuket is far ahead of Koh Samui when it comes to shopping.

Koh Samui has Central Samui, a beautiful outdoor mall located in the island’s main area. The mall has many big store names like H&M, Samsung, and more. Inside is a food court featuring many various cuisine types, a perfect place to visit on a rainy day.

Phuket has several shopping malls, Limelight Avenue, Central Phuket, Jungceylon, and more. There are many malls to choose from, and most offer all the brands you want. For those looking for high-end designer brands, Central Phuket also offers that.

Koh Samui vs Phuket shopping-wise is no competition. Phuket comes out far ahead.

the interior space at Bangla Market in Patong, several hats and bags displayed up for sale

Koh Samui vs Phuket: Costs

Here is an overall average breakdown of travel costs for both Koh Samui and Phuket.

The average cost breakdown will include: Accommodations, Transportation, Food, and Entertainment. Figures don’t include flights.

These are average numbers; on both islands, you can make it as cheap or expensive as you’d like. Everything is priced in US dollars.

For those considering moving to either island, your costs will vary only because accommodations for more extended stays will be cheaper.

Koh Samui Costs:

These figures include a 7 Day Visit for all essential needs stated above.

  • Solo Traveler — $400-$700
  • Couple — $850-$1200
  • Family of 4 — $1200-$2100

For a more in-depth budget breakdown in Koh Samui, check out Budget Your Trip.

Phuket Costs:

These figures include a 7 Day Visit for all essential needs stated above.

  • Solo Traveler — $700-$1000
  • Couple — $1400-$1600
  • Family of 4 — $2000-$3200

For a more in-depth budget breakdown in Phuket, check out Budget Your Trip.

Is it Cheaper to go to Koh Samui or Phuket?

Koh Samui is cheaper than Phuket to visit for a vacation, considering all essential factors: accommodations, transportation, dining costs, and entertainment for a 7 Day Visit.

Below I will break down which categories each island wins, one by one.

Koh Samui is slightly cheaper than Phuket regarding its accommodation prices, and though Phuket has more variety at times, you can find hotel prices at par with Koh Samui. This is the most significant expense, after all.

Food is quite even on both islands; technically, you can find cheaper food in Phuket because of the variety of restaurants/food places available.

Transportation-wise, Koh Samui is more expensive than Phuketl; Phuket also has several public transportation options that Koh Samui doesn’t. Entertainment is about the same price-wise on both islands.

If you’d like to go to Phuket and want to spend less, be choosey with the area you choose, Phuket is significant and different areas will cost a premium.

An example of this is Bang Tao; this area is known for its luxury resorts in Phuket, so if you’re looking to save on your accommodations, don’t stay there.

While Koh Samui is cheaper than Phuket, it’s not so significant that you’d have to choose one over the other only on a cost basis.

many rocks on the beach shorelines at Surin Beach in Phuket

Which is Better Koh Samui or Phuket?

Both islands are excellent for vacation or living; some may prefer one island, but as you can see, both islands are pretty similar.

On a personal note, having been to both islands many times, I prefer Phuket slightly over Koh Samui only because of its wider variety of cuisine; I’m a foodie at heart, so variety matters.

While both islands are excellent at accommodating anyone, each island is preferable, depending on who you’re coming with.

I’ll put Koh Samui vs Phuket in the following categories and tell you which is better.

How many days is ideal for Koh Samui?

Anywhere between 4 days or more, you will have time for a beach day, sightseeing, and an adventure off the island.

How many days is enough for Phuket?

You should stay in Phuket for 7+ days; this will give you enough time to explore the different areas and beaches of Phuket, see the Old Town, and go sightseeing.

Koh Samui vs Phuket For Families

Koh Samui beats Phuket if you’re visiting with your family; this is because the island has a more laidback atmosphere, it isn’t as large and overwhelming as Phuket, and it’s less busy.

Koh Samui vs Phuket For Couples

You could choose either island for couples. But if you’re looking for a more romantic getaway, Koh Samui is much better because the island has a more intimate vibe. Samui also has more romantic resorts.

If it’s not a honeymoon you’re on or a romantic getaway, you could also consider Phuket, as there will be more things to do there.

Koh Samui vs Phuket for Group of Friends

Phuket beats Phuket if you’re visiting with a group of friends. By a group of friends, I’m referring to a group in their 20s/30s.

For such a crowd, Koh Samui will be boring; there isn’t much nightlife, no beach clubs really, and overall the island can’t entertain a group like Phuket can.

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