side by side comparison of beaches of Phuket vs Koh Samui

Phuket vs Koh Samui: 8 Things to Consider

Phuket vs Koh Samui is the most popular Thai island debate, and it makes sense. Phuket and Koh Samui are Thailand’s two most developed and visited islands.

Choosing which island to visit can be difficult, especially if it’s your time visiting Thailand. Can’t decide? You’ve come to the right place!

Here are the eight most important comparisons you must consider before deciding to visit Phuket or Koh Samui!

Both islands share many similarities: they have excellent beaches and plenty of hotels/resorts, and each island has its own airport, so they’re both easy to get to. However, there are differences between Koh Samui vs Phuket!

a busy extensive beach shoreline full of people at Kata Beach and a mountain range in the background in Phuket, Thailand, is Phuket expensive?


The first and most noticeable difference is the atmosphere in each island. While they may seem similar at times, depending on the beach area you choose to stay in on each island, they’re pretty different.

Phuket has many known beach areas, such as Kata, Patong, and Kamala Beach. But it also has laidback, quiet, and calm beach areas like Kata Noi Beach and Nai Harn Beach. Despite both areas being located slightly south of the island, other beach areas and restaurants are still quite accessible.

Phuket offers visitors many atmosphere choices. You can stay in bustling areas like Old Phuket Town or Patong or in calmer areas like Nai Harn Beach and Kata Noi Beach. No matter where you stay in Phuket, other areas and attractions are nearby.

Koh Samui has three main beach areas, Chaweng, Bo Phut, and Lamai Beach, each with their atmosphere, but in general, the three are pretty busy and touristy for the most part. The island has more laidback beach shorelines on the West, but they’re far from anything else on the island.

Koh Samui has atmosphere options, but they’re not as convenient. Those looking for a laidback atmosphere in Koh Samui will find themselves isolated on the other side of the island. Sure, you can take a taxi to visit other areas, but it’s pretty far, 40+ minutes.

If you’re looking for a lively beach area, Phuket and Koh Samui are ideal, but if you’re looking for a very laidback beach area on an island that isn’t too isolated, Phuket is better!

clear sand, foamy ocean water and large rocks at the end of the shoreline at Lamai Beach in Koh Samui / Is Koh Samui worth visiting


Phuket and Koh Samui have beautiful beaches with crystal clear waters, palm trees, soft sand, and many amenities. However, Phuket has more beaches than Koh Samui and more secluded beaches to discover than Koh Samui.

Phuket is world-famous for its beaches. The western part of the island is full of spectacular beaches, each nicer than the next one, it’s a beach lover’s paradise. Patong Beach is Phuket’s most lively beach. Karon, Kata, and Kamala are excellent calm beaches popular amongst couples and families.

The secluded beaches in Phuket are nestled between popular beach areas, making them easily accessible. Another great aspect of Phuket’s beaches is the Phuket Smart Bus, a public transportation bus that takes visitors to different beaches. There is no need for a taxi if you don’t rent a scooter.

Koh Samui’s most-known beach is Chaweng Beach, a lively beach with many shorelines, beach clubs, and restaurants. Lamai Beach is another beach in Samui known for its nature-rich surroundings, but the sand is slightly rough. Bo Phut Beach is famous for its calm, shallow water and many resorts.

You must take a taxi or Grab to discover the other secluded beaches in Koh Samui, like Lipa Noi Beach and Thong Krut Beach.

views of condos and hotels, the ocean, and many trees from a Kata Viewpoint in Phuket, Thailand

Surrounding Attractions

Most of the main attractions in Phuket and Koh Samui are similar: the beaches, elephant sanctuaries, jungle adventures, cooking classes, and night markets, but what’s very different are the surrounding attractions for each island.

Each island has its surrounding must-visit attractions. See which has the most appealing list to you!

Koh Samui’s neighboring series of islands is Ang Thong National Park, a scenic, lush green series of islands isolated in the Gulf of Thailand. Here, you’ll experience large limestones, emerald-green waters, secluded secret beaches, and much more. Pig Island is another popular attraction in Koh Samui, an island full of pigs!

There’s also two other islands near Koh Samui but with a more authentic Thai island atmosphere: Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. You can do day trips to either of them or spend a night there!

Phuket offers many tropical islands nearby, such as Ko Yao Yai, Ko Racha Yai, and other picture-perfect islands full of white sand, calm shorelines, and an isolated atmosphere.

Also not too far away is Koh Phi Phi, the most famous series of islands in Thailand for day trips, there you’ll experience towering limestones amongst the sea and famous attractions such as Maya Bay Beach, Pi Leh Lagoon, and more.

Phuket’s close location to Krabi offers a significant advantage for those looking to experience the best of Thailand’s island destinations in Krabi!

views of the entire Phi Phi Don island showing both bay's connection to the island, clear skies, and green mountains from Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint 2

Food & Restaurants

Whether looking for a quick bite or a fancy meal, both islands have plenty of dining options.

You can find everything on both islands, from street food at the night markets to popular fast-food chains or high-end restaurants with fine dining by the sea.

There’s a wide variety of cuisine in Phuket and Koh Samui, from Italian to Mexican and more, and many excellent Thai restaurants. That being said, Phuket offers a wider variety of cuisine than Koh Samui, and the island is more known for its local Thai food.

In Phuket, you will find countless Thai restaurants, from humble eateries with metal tables and chairs to fine dining restaurants by the sea. Phuket is also the home to southern Thai cuisine, and there’s no better place in Thailand to experience southern Thai cuisine than in Phuket.

Koh Samui, too, has many Thai restaurants, but it still lacks local cuisine. The island is quite Westernized, with many pubs, American food, etc. You will find Thai food, but the variety isn’t there, which is shocking, considering one’s in Thailand.

Phuket has a significantly more extensive selection of night markets to visit. Not only that, but the night markets are much better in Phuket, with a larger variety of foods and goods for purchase. Koh Samui also has its night markets, but it’s no competition food-wise to Phuket.

table full of Thai Dishes, Pad Kra Pow, pineapple friend rice, and coconut curry with rice being served at Pinto / Best Kata Beach restaurants

Hotel & Resorts

Both Thai islands have an overwhelming number of hotels for all budgets. Resorts, luxury stays, hostels, and monthly rentals are all available in Phuket or Koh Samui.

However, in each category of hotel type, there’s a clear winner between each island.

Koh Samui is known for its large resorts full of amenities and luxurious 5-star hotels. Some hotels in Koh Samui have won awards for their luxury stays.

If you’re looking for a mid-range hotel, both islands offer many options to choose from scattered throughout each island. However, because Phuket is a larger island with more beach areas than Koh Samui, you will most likely find a more favorable accommodation in terms of location and price in Phuket!

There are plenty of hostels on both islands suit any traveler’s budget. But Phuket has better hostels than Koh Samui. There are more options in Phuket, and because of that, you can find a better deal!

several houses sitting in the hills of Koh Samui island with stunning views of the ocean


Koh Samui is known for its bustling beach towns, such as Chaweng, Lamai, and Bo Phut Beach. Each offers its nightlife own atmosphere.

Chaweng is known for its many bars, nightclubs, and parties on the beach. Lamai is popular for its outdoor bars and laid-back nightlife. Bo Phut Beach offers exciting beach fire shows, bars, and night markets.

The biggest bonus about Koh Samui’s nightlife is its neighboring island, Koh Phangan, which hosts the famous Full Moon Party. If you visit Koh Samui near a full moon, you can attend the famous party!

Phuket is quite famous for its nightlife because of all it has to offer once it gets dark. Patong Beach is Phuket’s most well-known nightlife area. The famous Bangla Road is full of nightclubs, bars, go-go bars, and much more.

Cafe del Mar in Kamala Beach is a beach club in Phuket famous for its techno music events throughout the high season, for those who enjoy electronic music, it’s a must visit.

Lastly, the many beach areas in Phuket, like Kata, Karon, Bang Tao, and the rest, offer a laidback nightlife experience with all types of bars, from local to cocktail and billiard bars.

Those looking to do something different at night can visit the island’s many night markets or experience Muay Thai fights, Thailand’s national sport.

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

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

The Weather

A clear, significant difference between both islands you must consider are the weather patterns. It may be an excellent time to visit Phuket and a bad one to visit Koh Samui or vice versa.

If it does rain during the dry season on either island, it tends to pass by quickly.

Temperature-wise and humidity, both islands are similar, but the rainy season in Phuket and Koh Samui occur during different times of the year. Locals refer to the rainy season as the monsoon season.

Consider the month carefully if you visit Phuket or Koh Samui during the rainy season. Despite the rainy season, some months are more favorable to visit than others.

Koh Samui Weather

Dry Season in Koh Samui: January to September

Rainy Season in Koh Samui: October to December

Phuket Weather

Dry Season in Phuket: November to September

Rainy Season in Phuket: May to October

visitor parasailing high above the sea on a beautiful clear sunny day in Koh Samui, Thailand

Tourist Crowds

There’s no reason to sugarcoat it, both Phuket and Koh Samui are very touristy islands in Thailand. If anything, they’re the most touristy islands in Thailand, along with Koh Phi Phi.

So, no matter which island you choose, you can expect your fair share of tourist crowds visiting as well, especially if you visit either island during the dry season, which also tends to mean the high season.

That being said, each island offers opportunities to skip the tourist full crowds.

In Phuket, you can visit one of the many secluded beaches or calmer beach areas like Mai Khao Beach, Nai Harn, or Rawai. Many small villages are in the island’s center, where you’ll experience a more local island feel.

For Koh Samui, you’ve got the extensively large jungle in the middle of the island to explore and a few quieter beaches along the Western part of the island to explore.

Despite being the more famous island, Phuket offers more opportunities for visitors wanting to skip the full tourist crowds compared to Koh Samui.

many rocks on the beach shorelines at Surin Beach in Phuket

Phuket vs Koh Samui — Final Thoughts

Regardless of which island you choose, you’ll surely experience beautiful beaches, a relaxing tropical atmosphere, and plenty of fun day trips.

As mentioned above, both islands share many similarities and are suitable for all visitors.

However, when comparing Koh Samui vs Phuket, the most important aspect to consider are the surrounding attractions each island offers.

Foodies like myself will much prefer Phuket over Koh Samui because Phuket offers better restaurants, and is the home of Southern Thai food. When it comes to the cuisine between both islands, it’s not even a close competition.

Besides those two main points, other considerations between the two islands could be debated!

Visiting costs for Phuket and Koh Samui are very similar, but on average, Koh Samui is slightly more expensive than Phuket.

I’ve had the pleasure to visit both islands a few times. I much prefer Phuket over Koh Samui because the island still offers areas that aren’t too touristy, and the local cuisine in Phuket is more represented than in Koh Samui.

Lastly, Phuket is more accessible because its airport offers more frequent flights and options than Koh Samui’s airport.

the famous Big Buddha in Phuket standing tall, a concrete Buddha statue sitting atop a hill

Is it better to go to Koh Samui or Phuket?

Phuket offers more beaches, better nightlife, and a wider variety of activities than Koh Samui.

It’s also best to consider each island’s surrounding attractions and see which you’d prefer to experience.

Is Phuket or Koh Samui better for partying?

Phuket is more known for it’s nightlife, Patong Beach offers plenty of nightclubs, bars and markets every night of the week.

There are also large electronic music events that happen in Phuket in Kamala Beach.

Is Koh Samui cheaper than Phuket?

No, it’s not, Koh Samui is slightly costlier to visit than Phuket. Though the difference isn’t significant, and it may not even be noticeable, depending on your travel style.

Both islands are the two most expensive places to visit in Thailand.

Is Phuket hotter than Koh Samui?

Both islands share warm temperatures throughout the year. But Phuket’s rainy season is May through October, whereas Koh Samui’s is October through December.

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