Although the Samui and Bali Islands do not exactly play the same degree, they are among the preferred holiday destinations in Southeast Asia. On this page, we have tried to compare these two islands with their advantages and disadvantages on a variety of major topics, such as beaches, hotels, food, culture, activities, and more.
Table of Contents
Samui Island vs. Bali Island
Samui: More suitable for swimming
Samui beaches are beautiful, and most of the time, filled with calm waters. The brief exception to this is during the low season, from September to November. From the busiest resort town beaches to the most remote sand beaches, breathtaking scenery featuring white sand, coconut trees and turquoise water is available all over Samui.
Bali: More suitable for surfers
Beaches in Bali have a reputation for being dangerous for swimmers, but they are more fun for skiers. Due to its size, Bali offers a variety of beaches, with many different types of sand and water quality, which makes choosing the right beach for a vacation more difficult in Bali than in Samui.
Samui: more by the beach
Samui is one of the destinations in southern Thailand that hosts the largest selection of beachfront hotels and resorts. If you want to stay near the heart of the action in Chaweng or in the quiet surroundings of Minam, Lipa Noi and Taling Ngam (just to name a few), you can easily find dozens of beachfront accommodation options directly for any budget type.
Bali: More diverse
As one of the major destinations in Asia, Bali offers an amazing choice of accommodation options. You can clearly find beachfront hotels among the favorite hotels in Bali, but you can also find wonderful resorts in the lush mountainous areas of the island, such as in Ubud or in the bustling urban environment of Seminyak.
Samui: more stylish
Samui has a fairly modern dining scene that can suit any budget. Although fine restaurants can be found in hotels and as independent establishments, they are not particularly abundant. Most restaurants in Samui are aimed at medium-budget tourists, who serve high-quality Thai and international cuisine.
Bali: More fine dining
Due to its popularity and size, Bali offers a great choice of good dining opportunities. International chefs and five-star restaurants offer innovative cuisine in the resort’s most popular town in Bali, providing you with the best gastronomic experience at reasonable prices (compared to the price you will pay in Europe for the same type of restaurant).
Samui: more conservative
Culture and religion are somewhat reserved in Samui. Big Buddhist temples such as the Big Buddha in Samui and Wat Play Lyme are clearly part of traditional Thai culture, but in Samui and Thailand in general, there are not many major cultural events or events, except for Songkran and Loui Krathong.
Bali: More cultural events
With over 80% of its population embracing Agama Hindu Dharma – a religion that mixes Hinduism, Buddhism, and Oromo – Bali is rich with cultural and religious festivals. Even on a small scale, festivals and celebrations are held on numerous occasions during the year in the streets, on the beach, or in temples.
Samui: more coastal
Samui has great coastal views. The mountainous central part of the island is covered with lush vegetation, but unfortunately it is difficult to reach due to the lack of suitable roads leading to this road. There are a few hotels, restaurants and attractions on the hillsides. As such, views are fairly rare, but those sites tend to be in a convenient location and can be easily enjoyed.
Bali: More panoramic
Bali offers a wide range of scenic views. With a 145 km long coastline and featuring steep slopes, long white or sandy black beaches and small, hassle-free bays, Bali’s sea area already offers impressive panoramic views. The hinterland is stunning like the coast with its mountains, terraces of rice, plains, waterfalls and rainforests that offer amazing tropical views.
Samui: more commercial
The quiet tropical island of Samui has changed a lot since the 1970s. The development of tourism has certainly had many positive impacts, creating better infrastructure such as roads, hospitals and public transportation. It also means that visitors enjoy more modern western facilities to enjoy, including malls and international attractions. The slight downside is that the island is losing some of its traditional charm.
Bali: More cultural
Tradition and culture play very important roles in daily life in Bali. While the most popular destinations show signs of becoming very commercial and western, the size of the island means that it is not as clear as in the smaller Samui. The bustling resort towns are not many, and they are definitely far from each other, leaving more room for the original culture to breathe between them.
Samui: More cheap stuff
Although the first contemporary shopping mall – Central Festival Samui – opened in 2014, the island has not yet become a modern shopping destination. There are a few chic fashion outlets and great handicraft shops, but the most exciting shopping options are on Walking Street. These open night markets allow you to find a wide range of cheap goods, including T-shirts and souvenirs.
Bali: More crafts
Art and crafts markets are the most interesting parts of shopping in Bali. Ubud is one of the most important destinations in this area, but handcrafted goods and their creators can be found all over the island. Once again, the strong and influential cultural climate in Bali is at the heart of this important aspect of the shopping scene.
Value for money
Because of the difference in currency exchange rates, Samui is more expensive than Bali. In January 2017, you can get over 13,000 Indonesian rupees for one US dollar while you only get about 35 baht for the same amount. In addition, the cost of living in Bali is about half the cost of Samui. This will make a big difference for those traveling on a budget, but those looking for a more luxurious experience will find the difference between the two most vulnerable destinations.