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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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!
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