It seems that most people- aka tourists- only visit Rayong to reach the pier where boats depart for Koh Samet. And that’s a shame, Rayong is really nice, still very authentic and has a lot of offer. Koh Samet is good island to visit, touristy, but nice and visitors are ‘captive’ on the island, price go up, quality of food and such might come down.
If you want a quick trip to the beach, want great food and want to keep things more “Thai”, check out Rayong. The beaches are nice, not like the big white beaches in the south of Thailand, but nice. The food is outstanding, loads of great, fresh crab that is very inexpensive and some really nice fish, squid and prawns as well.
There are international hotel chains, and they’re nice. Most of the hotels are located on the beaches just outside the town of Rayong. You can also stay in some really nice locally run, smaller hotels- more boutique, many having beach front access. If tired of the beach, take a trip to some of the local Wats or head into the town of Rayong (where the pier to Samet is) as there are some good markets and outstanding fried durian chips for sale.
There is also an aquarium, but haven’t tried that.
I drive, it’s about 2 hours (185 kilometers) from Bangkok and very easy. The car is useful to have as I stay about 10 kilometers outside Rayong and can then drive in, find the good local eats and explore the area during the day; there is a great waterfall and state park about 40 kilometers away.
If you have a few free days and want to head to the beach and want something a bit more local, try Rayong. Of course you can always take a day boat trip from Rayong to Samet as boats run frequently.
More of my pictures can be found on my Tumblr page.