With so many to salivate over, how on earth can you choose the best islands in Thailand to visit during your trip?! The easy advice is to go to them all but if you can’t then here’s our guide to help narrow them down.
Famed for its Full Moon parties, Phangan is a mixture of hedonism and soulful bays but there is so much more to this paradise island than the antics of Haad Rin. As well as all the amazing stretches of sand here, there are plenty of relaxed beach bars, restaurants and yoga retreats. Come here to party or for the tranquil charm that oozes in abundance on the west and north coast. This incredible island has to be experienced to be believed! [find out more]
If you like sunsets and sweeping bays you’re in for a treat on Koh Lanta as pretty much all of the beaches on this long, thin island face westwards. The beaches become increasingly more beautiful and laid back as you work your way south but they’ll all have you kicking off your flip-flops and thinking of staying forever. There’s a serious amount of sand to get stuck between your toes here.. so what are you waiting for?! [find out more]
Would you like to learn to dive in paradise?! If that thought doesn’t reel you in then you could always come to Koh Tao for the breathtaking beaches and aquamarine waters that are a feature of this gem of a Thai island. Grab your snorkel and fins and join the increasing number of travellers visiting the island. It’s only small and there are just a few roads but it packs a punch in terms of its beauty as well as the party scene, which throbs on long after the wet-suits have dried off. [find out more]
Think Robinson Crusoe and pristine, white sandy beaches and you’ll be well on your way to Koh Lipe. This pocket-sized treasure is found within the ‘Taratao National Marine Park’ and is part of a group of castaway islands in the southern Andaman coast. Most of the other islands in the vicinity are inhabitable but act as perfect places to catch a longtail boat to for lazy day trips while you’re there. You will not want to leave.. you have been warned!
Koh Phi Phi
The karst limestone cliffs that jut out of the sea around Phi Phi will forever instill an indelible beauty on these picturesque islands. Sure, it can get busy here but you can be smart and beat the crowds by heading out to Phi Phi Leh by longtail boat at sunrise to see it in relative peace (although not currently Maya Bay, which is closed to allow its ecosystem to recover). Pick a beach away from the main town for a more relaxing stay.
The mountainous, jungle-clad hills of Koh Chang create a stunning contrast with the beaches that fringe its coastline. Find a palm tree, truss up your hammock and gently swing to the rhythms of the lapping waves. More of a tourist destination these days, there’s plenty to do here in the jungle before taking a dip in the sea. It’s not so much picture-perfect white sand here but more about the remote seclusion of the place.
One of the resorts here is accessible only by private plane so jet-set exclusivity can be the order of the day if you so desire! The good news is that the blissful serenity of the island can be experienced on a lower budget too, with several other sleeping options having cropped up in recent years. The beaches are the main draw but head inland to see the waterfalls if you need a break from the heavenly coastal breeze.
This blissful hideaway is a throwback to the Thailand islands of old. It’s so relaxed on back-and-beyond Phayam that you’ll forget that the real world exists if you stay too long. Situated near the Burmese border and off the coast of Ranong, it’s not as easy to get to as some of the more mainstream islands. However, this is the blessing in disguise that has allowed Phayam to retain its character over the years as one of the best islands in Thailand. [find out more]
Cove after cove of beautiful bays await you on Koh Samet, an island that is easily accessible from Bangkok by just a bus and short boat ride. Samet is certainly no secret and is popular with the Thai’s but development here has not kept up pace with other islands and as a result you’ll feel a long way from the city when you get here. You can walk the length of the island via wooded paths, stopping off at whichever beaches tickle your fancy along the way! [find out more]
Surely one of the Trang region’s most gorgeous islands, Koh Mook will have you drooling upon arrival as the boat moors up on one of its heavenly, palm tree lined beaches. Being one of a few islands in the area it can get a little overcrowded with day trippers at certain points in the day but once they disappear you’ll be left to enjoy beautiful sunsets as you dine on the beachfront.. simply perfect for that tranquil getaway you’ve always dreamed of!
You’ll need to catch a speedboat here from Phuket but will be glad you did once you arrive on this pint-sized paradise. Racha is vehicle-free and has white sand that squeaks under your feet. There are several little coves to explore plus the incredible Siam Bay to stay on whilst you gaze out at the ocean horizon and wish you’d never have to leave. There is also excellent diving and snorkeling in crystal clear waters if you can tear yourself away from the beach. [find out more]
Unspoilt Koh Yao has long been the choice of eco-tourists and those who love to engage with an islands’ natural habitat, wildlife and people. Many of the resorts here boast impressive, rustic accommodation with back-to-nature outdoor bathrooms so you can freshen up with the forest around you. Views from the beaches take in the dotted karst outcrops of Phang Nga bay, an idyllic backdrop to behold as the sun goes down.
Under-developed and with its accommodation tactfully set back into the trees, Koh Jum could be the perfect companion for you, your book and a hammock. There’s a deserted feel to the island but you can get around on bikes if you’d like to investigate the few villages here. If you’ve got the energy you can also trek up Mount Pu to a stunning viewpoint above the hills that takes in the Andaman sea and its many islands below.
This is the ideal place to hole up on for a few days if you’re seeking a sedate and tranquil beach experience. The waters around the island are glass-clear and you can make the most of that by swimming in them or donning your snorkel and gazing through them as the sun warms your back. At low tide you could wander for hours on the sandbars that appear whilst padding in the shallow, warm waters around them.. total bliss!
Sandwiched between Koh’s Chang and Kood on Thailand’s eastern Gulf coast is the small and star-shaped island of Koh Mak. If you fancy strolling along gently arcing beaches until your heart’s content then you’ve got it made here as there’s a whopping 27km of coastline to explore. It’s fairly low-key here but don’t let that put you off from coming as the island is loved by visitors for it’s calm lapping waters and restful vibe.
Hopefully this list has helped you get an idea of what the best islands in Thailand are and has whet your appetite for visiting one in the near future. The islands are unique in both look and feel and wherever you go you’ll find welcoming Thai people and wonderful cuisine to greet you. You really can’t go wrong!