A Quick Guide to the Best Islands in Thailand!

Thailand beach guide andaman or gulf coast islands shershegoes.com


Here are the Best Islands in Thailand!


There are so many beautiful islands in Thailand that it can be hard to narrow down which to visit first. If you have 10 days in Thailand or less, I’d recommend picking two islands – any more and you’ll be rushing from island to island taking overcrowded catamarans and won’t leave enough time to relax.

The good news is Thailand’s islands are all quite different so you’ll have plenty to explore and do! 3-4 days is the perfect time to allocate per island for your Thailand vacation!.



The Best Thai Islands: Andaman Coast or Gulf Coast?

The first step to deciding where to visit in Thailand is to choose a coast. Thailand has two long coastlines – the Andaman coast islands, located on the outside of the Thai peninsula in the Andamen Sea (nearest Burma) and on the opposite side, the Gulf coast islands to the right of Thailand’s peninsula sheltered by Cambodia.

Which Thai coast has the better beaches? Well, it depends

The Andaman coast is one of those postcard perfect turquoise fantasies where the beauty actually lives up to the hype – soft white sand beaches at Phuket, jagged limestone cliffs in Krabi, crystal blue waters at Ko Phi-Phi and karst climbing in Railay. Phuket is no ugly step sister – you’ll be hard pressed to find better diving in Ko Tao, more luxurious comfort than in Ko Samui or a crazier night of your life than at a wild moon party in Ko Pha-Ngan.

The Andaman has more variety and claims to have better Thailand beaches but the islands are spread farther apart and you’ll have to allocate time to move around. The southern Gulf islands (Ko Tao, Ko Samui and Ko Pha-Ngan) are quite close together and Ko Tao especially is THE place to learn to scuba dive. Regardless, Thai beaches are some of the beautiful in the world – so you’ve got plenty of choices!


When is the Best Time to Visit Thailand?

Here’s a quick guide to the best times of the year to visit Thailand.

  • High Season (Nov – Mar) cool and dry temperatures create a lush landscape and manageable heat. This is the best time to visit the Andaman islands with sunny temperatures and clear diving conditions. Christmas and New Years brings terrible crowds and high prices.
  • Shoulder Season (Apr – Jun) Generally quite hot and dry in Bangkok but there’s a nice sea breeze for relief in the north and coastal areas. This is the best time to visit the Gulf islands.
  • Low Season (Jul – Oct) Both the Andaman and Gulf coasts take turns getting pummeled by heavy monsoon rains. Some islands shut down completely and boat service to and from the islands is limited.



Getting Around Thailand’s Beaches

You can fly from almost all major airports in the region by connecting through Bangkok. Ko Samui has its own airport with direct flights to Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Check here for flight deals and book in advance to save on fares.

For connection between the islands, buy a ticket to the Catamaran. You don’t need to buy before you go, but arrive about an hour before the ferry leaves to ensure you’ll get a ticket as they can sell out quickly in the high season. The boats themselves are huge and allow you take luggage on board, but can get topsy turvey on the journey.




9 of the Best Islands in Thailand

koh samui thailand island travel guide shershegoes.com


1. Ko Samui

Where to Go in Thailand for Luxury

Thailand’s Koh Samui Island is for the luxury vacationers seeking to hop in and out of their paradise without bothering with any of the local culture. Chaweng, closest to the airport, is the liveliest section of the island with bars, restaurants and sandy beaches. For a secluded paradise, head around the island and stay in one of the many 5 star resorts with private villas carved into the cliffs – most come with your own infinity pool.

Check here for deals to Thailand’s beach resorts.

ko tao thailand island travel guide shershegoes.com


2. Ko Tao

One of the best places to go in Thailand for scuba diving

Ko Tao is the scuba training island king, with the highest concentration of quality dive shops in one place creating the world’s easiest and most affordable spot to learn how to dive. The water is warm and gentle and the waters hold abundant coral reefs frequented by all sorts of fish to make for an excellent and exciting first time learning ground.

Check here for travel deals to Ko Tao, Thailand.


koh phagnan thailand island travel guide shershegoes.com


3. Ko Pha Ngan

The best island in Thailand to party

Famous for the all out crazy sloppy fun Full Moon parties, Ko Pha-Ngan is a party pit stop for the wild backpacking crowd. What was once a sleepy bohemian paradise is now more commercialized, but hammock hangers can grab some peace and relaxation on the northern and eastern coasts and live out their modern castaway fantasies.

Check here for hotel deals to Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand.



hua hin thailand island travel guide shershegoes.com


4. Hua Hin

Hua Hin was the ancient island getaway of Thai kings. You’ll find plenty of buddhist shrines, Thai culture and delicious Thai eats.

Check here for hotel deals to Hua Hin, Thailand.


ko lanta thailand island travel guide shershegoes.com


5. Ko Lanta

Penetrate the interior of Ko Lanta to witness beautiful jungle scenery and Muslim fishing villages. Ban Lanta has artsy shops while Ko Lanta Marine National Park has gorgeous natural cafes and endless beaches to hop through. Nearby feeding stations for manta rays and whale sharks make this island a must for diving.

Check here for hotel deals to Ko Lanta, Thailand.


railay thailand island travel guide shershegoes.com


6. Railay

Railay’s rock climbing scene is legendary, with over 500 routes of limestone walls overlooking crystal blue waters and white sandy beaches. Climbing beginners have nothing to fear while seasone pros will want to try deep water soloing, where the climb ends with a splash into the waves.

Check here for hotel deals to Railay, Thailand.



ko phi phi thailand island travel guide shershegoes.com


7. Ko Phi Phi

Affectionately called Thailand’s James Bond Island

Perhaps Thailand’s most famous spot, this iconic island will live up to all the hype. Stunning turquoise waters, gorgeous beaches and beautiful limestone cliffs make it a paradise for all water sports – diving, snorkeling, even rock climbing. When the sun goes down, the party starts. Tons of bars all over the island and perfect for those seeking sunshine and nightlife.

Check here for hotel deals to Ko Phi Phi, Thailand.


khao lak similan liveaboard thailand island travel guide shershegoes.com


8. Khao Lak

For the dive enthusiasts, take a liveaboard (that’s a boat where you dive and sleep on board) from Khao Lak and head out to the Surin and Similan Islands Marine National Park to dive all day.

Head all the way north to Richelieu Rock to see the manta ray and whale shark feeding grounds. Another island on the Andaman side worth checking out is Koh Lipe.

Check here for hotel deals to Khao Lak, Thailand.

phuket thailand island travel guide shershegoes.com


9. Phuket

Luxury in Phuket is all about extreme pampering. A mirror sister to Samui on the opposite coast, you can also dive, hike, kayak and enjoy the waves.

Check here for hotel deals to Phuket, Thailand.


For my Thailand trip in June, we stuck to the Gulf islands as the weather is best on that side. We visited Koh Samui and Ko Tao and had an amazing time. For a guide to the best of Thailand, you can check out my two week Thailand itinerary here.


Did I miss your favorite Thai island? Let me know in the comments below!


Visiting Thailand – Travel Checklist

The most expensive part of the trip to Thailand are flights. Check for flight deals in advance in order to save. For hotel bookings, we relied on Booking.com.

For more help with planning your vacation to Thailand, we relied heavily on Lonely Planet’s guide. It covers most Thai cities and there is a separate LP guide on Thailand islands. The local advice for admissions, times, maps and pricing was pretty invaluable.

If you plan to scuba dive, kayak or swim – I recommend bringing along a GoPro to take some fun photos!

Finally, make sure to visit Thailand with travel insurance. Whether you get injured and need to be hospitalized, or your phone gets stolen, or an injury forces you to cancel all or part of your vacation, travel insurance will help when you need it most. I use and recommend World Nomads travel insurance.


 You Might Also Enjoy: 


Thailand Vacation Planning Articles

Choosing the Best Thai Islands Andaman or Gulf Coast

How to Plan the Perfect 2 Weeks in Thailand (Itinerary)


Thailand Points of Attraction

Conspiracy Theories & Thai Mansions at Jim Thompson’s House

Classic Bangkok Sights: Wat Pho & the Reclining Buddha

Exploring Bangkok’s Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun

Chiang Mai Things to Do: Learning to Cook Authentic Thai Food

Here’s Where to Find The Best Curry Noodles in Chiang Mai

Deciding Between 2 Ancient Ruins Sukhothai or Ayutthaya

Checking In: Our Luxurious Private Villa Conrad Koh Samui

Luxury for Less: Staying at the Conrad Bangkok

A guide to fund your travels on a budget


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HanhMarch 17, 2016 - 6:39 am

Ahh this takes me back to my trip to Thailand :) We traveled around Phuket and Kho Phi Phi. Would love to go go back and explore more around Koh Sumai and Krabi. xx

JoyceMarch 17, 2016 - 9:17 pm

This makes me miss Thailand so much…I can’t believe it’s already been almost 2 years since my trip there! I have to go back soon and will be bookmarking these guides for next time…thanks for sharing :D

Characters & Carry-ons

ElizabethMarch 18, 2016 - 2:02 pm

Ah Thailand :( has always been on my to go list but haven’t got the chance to go :((((


Svet DimitrovMarch 19, 2016 - 6:01 am

I would love to visit all, but most probably Phi Phi. Looks absolutely divine with that climbing shot!

DominicMarch 20, 2016 - 5:50 am

I loved reading this and it has brought back great memories. I’ve been to Koh Phi Phi, Phuket and Railay. Next on the list is Koh Lanta and Koh Tao. Thanks for sharing.

SherMarch 20, 2016 - 11:57 am

Hey Svet – hope you get a chance to go! the islands are really something else

SherMarch 20, 2016 - 11:59 am

Thanks for the kind words Dominic! It seems like most people get a chance to visit one side of the coast or the other, and I’m definitely hoping to go back to see more islands myself!

SherMarch 20, 2016 - 12:05 pm

Hi Elizabeth – I hope you get a chance to go!! It’s so worth it, i had an amazing time and would go back in a heartbeat

nonsoloamoreMarch 20, 2016 - 2:59 pm

So interesting! But the pictures are absolutely stunning

[…] Andaman or Gulf Coast: Choosing the Best Thai Islands […]

SueSeptember 7, 2016 - 5:08 pm

Ah! Brings me back to great times on Koh Lanta and Similan islands! Thanks for sharing. Thailand is all about the genuinely friendly helpful people

ShaniSeptember 17, 2016 - 7:09 am


Great read, thanks!

I’m planning a honeymoon trip to Thailand on the middle of Octoberand only have 10 days. I want to visit the islands and can’t decide which one’s to choose.
Please help! where do I get a better chance of good weather?


SherSeptember 17, 2016 - 9:10 am

Hi Shani – unfortunately October is a bit of a difficult month for the islands, as it`s the end of the wet season on the Andaman coast side & the beginning on the Gulf side. have you booked your hotels yet? i would consider heading up north instead, chiang mai and chiang rai have some really gorgeous luxury retreats with views of the rice paddies, forrests, etc. you could do more of a jungle retreat honeymoon (think glamping) as opposed to a rain, wet beach one.

MyrtleOctober 6, 2016 - 6:49 am

Thank you so much for all of the tips and info you shared here – really helps!

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