Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more
Phuket vs Koh Samui: How to choose? Which is best? A total side-by-side island comparison of Phuket vs Koh Samui, Thailand | #thailand #phuket #kohsamui #travel
Phuket vs Koh Samui: How to choose? Which is best? A total side-by-side island comparison of Phuket vs Koh Samui, Thailand | #thailand #phuket #kohsamui #travel

Long sandy beaches, beautiful hot weather, excellent food. It’s true – you can tick all of these boxes in tropical holiday destinations around the world. Even within Thailand, Samui competes with Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Khao Lak, Krabi and others for travellers’ attention.

Wondering which to choose? We’re biased, but we can help.

Koh Samui vs Phuket (FAQs)

Hottest period?

Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more

Phuket is hottest in March-May, while April is Koh Samui’s most scorching month.

The Koh Samui Guide: “Your book has been so helpful in organising our trip” Get your Koh Samui Guide

Rainy season?

Rainy season comes to Phuket in September-October. On Koh Samui it’s usually late October, November and part of December.

Is Phuket or Koh Samui bigger?

Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more

Phuket – almost twice as big. Phuket’s total area is 540 km²/208 mi² – similar to Guam, a bit smaller than Singapore or Bahrain. By contrast, Koh Samui is 228.7 km²/88.3 mi² – like the Cook Islands, and a bit smaller than the Cayman Islands and Maldives.

Is Koh Samui or Phuket least touristy?

Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more

Many would say it’s apples and oranges when you consider Thailand’s two most popular tourist destinations. Yet a tremendous difference between Koh Samui and Phuket is the height of buildings: resorts, apartment towers, condo blocks, etc. While high-rises line Phuket beaches (much like Honolulu, Miami, etc), Koh Samui has a strict development regulation: no building can be higher than a coconut tree. The effect is that, even on Samui’s busy beaches, you still enjoy a tremendous sense of palm-tree, beach bungalow, ‘time has forgotten us’ charm.

More and more, Koh Samui is trying to position itself as a ‘green’ island (though hotels throughout Thailand are making great strides generally with environmental/eco awareness).

Don’t want *any* amount of touristy? We’ve spent 6 years on 6 editions of The Koh Samui Guide making sure you’ll avoid the masses (and their tour buses) in full – we even help you pack.

Use The Koh Samui Guide avoid the masses (and their tour buses) Get your Koh Samui Guide

Which is quickest to get to?

Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more

The fastest possible journey (total flying time including connections) from the following four cities to Koh Samui (USM) and Phuket (HKT) airports.

  • Quickest from London: Koh Samui (13h 35m vs 14h 10m to Phuket)
  • Quickest from New York: Phuket (20h 45m vs 21h 35m to Koh Samui)
  • Quickest from Singapore: About the same (1h 45m)
  • Quickest from Sydney: Phuket (9h 15m vs 11h 50m to Koh Samui)

How to get to Phuket or Koh Samui from Bangkok?

Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more

Flight time to both is roughly equivalent. Depending on the plane it’s between 45-90 minutes to Samui and 1.25 hours to Phuket. Bangkok Airways (a very reputable boutique regional airline) runs about 20 flights a day to both destinations, almost one per hour. (Our biased input? Koh Samui Airport wins ‘best airport’ in its category, in every contest, every year).

How to get to Phuket or Koh Samui by plane, ferry, car or bus?

Unlike Phuket, Khao Lak, and Krabi, Koh Samui is an island. You can only get there via scheduled ferry and flight services. This means there’s a finite number of people who can visit, and the tap of travellers is turned off overnight. As you can’t reach Koh Samui by bus (without a ferry ride), there are fewer casual visitors and people tend to stay for longer. (Lucky there are so many things to do).

Getting to Koh Samui from overseas? Many airlines have international direct flights to Koh Samui, including Firefly (from Kuala Lumpur), and Silk Air (from Singapore). Bangkok Airways also operates direct services from destinations including Hong Kong, Singapore, Siem Reap, Phuket, Krabi, and Pattaya, with a codeshare with Qantas recently introduced.

Koh Samui vs Phuket: Things to do

Water-sports on Phuket and Koh Samui?

Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more

Here’s one we can’t fluff – Phuket does have a bigger sailing scene. Yet the Koh Samui Regatta has been drawing fans for over a decade every May and June.

Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more

As an island, Samui is an ideal year-round destination for water-sports (except at the height of rainy season). When prevailing winds change with the seasons, lessons just relocate to the other side of the island.

Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more

Samui is an excellent place to try your hand at a new nautical skill, too – a great, encouraging place for beginners trying sailing lessons and windsurfing through to a full PADI certification at one of the island’s many dive centres. With courses taking you to nearby Koh Tao – a mecca for divers – could there be a better place to learn?

What local history or culture is there?

Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more

Both destinations offer ample opportunity to visit temples and get off beaten tracks. As for secondary industries to tourism, it is (or was) rubber on Phuket, while Koh Samui is all about coconuts. Would you rather look at a rubber plant – or drink the freshest coconut on earth? (Hey we said we were biased at the start!)

Golf?

Koh Samui has just one 18-hole golf course, Phuket has… lots.

Does Koh Samui or Phuket have better food?

Do you l-o-v-e food? It’s no exaggeration to say that entire books have been written about Thai food, and Koh Samui does it as well as anywhere, and at every price point. If you just need 7 straight days of Pad Thai, you’ll be happy in either location. Yet ‘tiny island’ Samui offers tremendous choice. Even small hole-in-the-wall restaurants win praise from food guides and locals alike for simple but authentic Thai food with mega spice. Tired of Thai? Find the cuisine of nearly every flag – from Indian to authentic pizzas (and even Indian-inspired pizzas) to sushi and the world’s best sausage rolls.

Which has the best drinks?

Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more

While Koh Samui has its own rum distillery, not to mention some gorgeous spots for sunset cocktails, we’ll give a good-humoured nod to the nice guys at Phuket’s Sri Panwa (whose Baba Nest bar recently earned a spot CNN’s 50 best beach bars).

Phuket vs Koh Samui hotels

Which has the best-priced accommodation?

Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more

Picking a random night in February 2017, we used Booking.com to find the best available room prices for high-end hotels from 10 different brands in Phuket and Koh Samui. They’re all 4- to 5-star, exceptionally well-rated and gorgeous – it would be a very tough choice.

Amari

Anantara

Banyan Tree

Centara

Impiana

Mövenpick

Outrigger

Renaissance

SALA

Six Senses

Results (USD per night):

  • Koh Samui: 244 (median price)
  • Phuket: 349 (median price)

Both Phuket and Koh Samui of course have options at all price points – using high-end, branded resorts was easier in this case to compare like for like.

For a fantastic introduction to Samui’s many ways to spend or save on accommodation, see our up-to-date guide for where to stay on Koh Samui.

Which has more options your price bracket?

Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more

While Phuket is more developed (with approx. 1,600 hotel options on Agoda, compared to Samui’s 700 or so), there’s great seasonal price variation. Noting Phuket’s larger size and greater development, let’s dispel the myth that Koh Samui is a strictly up-market destination; truly, there are plenty of gorgeous places at every price bracket.

Phuket vs Koh Samui for Christmas?

Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more

We’re sorry to dangle Christmas in October (it’s unforgivable, we know) but the holidays are peak season in both Samui and Phuket. If you have Thailand in your sights this December, you’ll need to get booking ASAP! Blame Russia, blame Germany, blame any country you like – it’s not us filling up every last plane seat.

Having trouble choosing your destination? Lest we’re accused of being impartial, it’s time to put Phuket and Samui side by side and take a mathematical look. Which is better at Christmas, Phuket or Koh Samui? It’s possible we’re about to suggest that Phuket’s sunnier and, if you’re Australian, quicker to reach.

Phuket vs Koh Samui Christmas weather?

Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more

For utter truthiness, we need to explain that Christmas on Koh Samui is the tail-end of rainy season and early January is the coolest point of the year (a matter of degrees – it’s nothing near chilly). If you prefer statistics to anecdote, here’s the side-by-side Christmas weather comparison:

Temperature range

  • Koh Samui: 26°C to 29°C / 79°F to 84°F
  • Phuket: 24°C to 31°C / 75°F to 88°F

Chance of rain

  • Koh Samui: 37%
  • Phuket: 31%

Humidity

  • Koh Samui: 74% to 88%
  • Phuket: 60% to 89%

Cloud cover

  • Koh Samui: 77% to 88%
  • Phuket: 59% to 73%

How to choose

Why do we prefer Koh Samui to Phuket?

Phuket’s fans will have reasons all their own, but this is why we prefer this side of Thailand:

1. Do you want convenience and seclusion?

Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more

Koh Samui offers a great balance of both. Within the same day, you can feel like you’re the last person left on earth, and easily find happy hour crowds and nightlife. At the same time, Samui is more developed than many other tourist destinations in the region (like Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and the mainland, Surat Thani). Its hotels and guesthouses number in the hundreds, it benefits from world-class hospitals and is well-stocked with restaurants and shopping of nearly every description. The difference? Samui is large enough to absorb the aforementioned without blinking, giving visitors both convenience and unspoiled beaches.

2. Do you have varied interests and big curiosity?

Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more

Koh Samui caters for quiet and active vacations alike; there’s something for everyone. If you’re more inclined to sit back and while away the hours, Samui is home to dozens of fantastic spas. Or, if you feel like burning a few calories, there’s plenty to keep you and your family occupied.

See the top 10 family activities on Koh Samui

Verdict

Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more

Samui’s charm is that it manages to marry these features into the best of both worlds – convenient but restful – where other spots can either suffer for amenities or (cough–Phuket–cough) feel overrun.

So there you have the straight facts (remarkably untouched by our Samui bias) – Phuket’s a bit sunnier at Christmas, hotel prices are fairly similar and travel time is a draw for Brits, but not Aussies.

To get a better sense of where you’ll be happiest, get to know Koh Samui completely with The Koh Samui Guide or try DK Eyewitness Top 10 Phuket.

Still can’t decide?

Koh Samui vs Phuket? How to choose between Koh Samui and Phuket – Compare weather, prices, things to do and more

Of course, many visitors to Thailand book time in both Samui and Phuket, plus a few days in Bangkok (and sometimes even up north to Chiang Mai) – perhaps that’s the best formula of all? No matter where you’re headed in Thailand, get our 15 years of tried-and-tested packing tips and answers to all your travel prep FAQS – find out how to prepare for Thailand.

If we’ve convinced you to try Koh Samui, or maybe you want to try this ‘big-little’ island on for size, use The Koh Samui Guide to choose the beach that’s perfect for you, and to plan every aspect of your best vacation ever – no blind choices necessary. Wishing you best of luck in solving your first-world problems. Enjoy!

Use The Koh Samui Guide to choose the beach that’s perfect for you Get your Koh Samui Guide

 Map comparison via MAPfrappe. Sources: weatherspark X2.

Phuket vs Koh Samui: How to choose? Which is best? A total side-by-side island comparison of Phuket vs Koh Samui, Thailand | #thailand #phuket #kohsamui #travel

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