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6 best beach holiday destinations in Thailand

Phi Phi islands
Phi Phi island tour

If you are looking for a country to enjoy your beach vacation in Southeast Asia then Thailand, with its 1,430 islands, each with own characteristics, will be your preferred destination.

Ok, not all 1,430 islands (pronounced ‘koh’ in Thai) are available for you to visit, but many of the more popular destinations are renowned not only for their white sand beaches and lush green palm trees but also for their equally ‘lush’ Thai-style nightlife.

There will always be a never-ending list of things to do during your stay at any of these listed island destinations, some more ‘tropical paradise’ and others more ‘get-busy-by-the-beach’.

Phuket – Thailand’s largest island

AKA, the Pearl of the Andaman. Phuket is the most popular and busiest island that has more than 30 of its own beautiful beaches, surfing (for beginners) aquamarine waters and beach bars and restaurants. It’s located on the Andaman Sea side of Thailand and, although an island, is joined by a 300 metre-long bridge to the mainland.

From its thousands of accommodation choices, at all price points, to spa treatments, markets and upscale shopping, Phuket has a reputation for providing a perfect holiday for just about everyone – families, singles, back-packers and expats.

Karon and Kata beaches are less developed than Patong or Kamala beaches, so it’s more peaceful and relaxing, if that’s what you’re looking for. Even further south is Nai Harn Beach, with the boutique Ya Nui Beach next door.

Up north along the west coast, you have Surin, Bang Tao, Layan, Nai Thon, Mai Khao and Nai Yang beaches. These are all a bit quieter, and you can even find a spot the further north you go on Phuket’s west coast, where you mightn’t see another tourist all day.

There are also some cute beaches along the east coast, including Ao Yon, Laem Ka and Sunrise Beach on Koh Sirae.

Phuket is also the main southern step-off point for the best day and island tours in Thailand where another 30+ islands await your visit, including the famous Maya Bay in the Koh Phi Phi groups, the Similan Islands, Koh Ratcha Yai and Koh Maithon… there are many to choose from.

For Phuket’s best island tours, click HERE.

And Phuket is the main departure point for a must-see visit to the world-famous Phang Nga Bay, including James Bond Island.

Apart from the beaches, Phuket has a growing list of world-class entertainment destinations, shopping centres, tourist attractions and excellent dining choices.

When you visit Phuket, you will spoiled for choice. And, take the tip from us, Phuket is a LOT more than just Patong.

Best time to visit: November to April

How to reach there: An hour by plane from Bangkok, 1.5 hours from KL and just under 2 hours from Singapore.

Things to do: Diving, kayaking, surfing (from May to November), jungle ziplines, temple visits, island tours, shopping, nature walks, a vibrant nightlife in Patong, Rawai and Phuket Town, world-class restaurants. Or nothing!

Krabi – Not quite an island, but an adventure playground

If you would like to either soak in the natural landscape or sea during your holiday, Krabi has got all you need, at a slightly slower pace compared to Phuket. Phuket to Krabi is about a 3 hour drive. Krabi is situated in a delta on Thailand’s mainland, on the opposite side of Phang Nga Bay from Phuket.

Due to its rugged terrain,  you can find a wide range of extreme sports and lens-worthy photos available. There are some fantastic views available, some easier to access than others, there’s rock climbing routes up limestone cliffs can satisfy climbers of all levels.

Besides the kilometres of spectacular coastline, there are also remarkable caves and hot springs ready to explore. It’s also an Island hopping paradise with some of Thailand’s most famous islands within a day trip of Krabi.

Best time to visit: November to April

How to reach there: One hour by plane from Bangkok. There are also numerous direct international flights these days. It’s a three hour drive from Phuket, many buses available each day.

Things to do: Island hopping, scuba diving, rock climbing, nature tours, sunsets, amazing view points. Take your camera!

Koh Samui – Boutique and beautiful

There are 3 main beach towns on Koh Samui offering slightly different experiences. From the hustle and bustle of Chaweng Beach to the relaxed atmosphere of Lamai Beach and the peaceful Fisherman’s Village – they’ve all got their own charm and atmosphere.

Koh Samui is in the Gulf of Thailand, off the coast of Surat Thani.

You can enjoy some truly remarkable sites full of historic, cultural and religious significance as well as breathtaking natural beauty sights. There’s also waterfalls, epic Buddha statues and some of the best sunsets in Thailand.

Best time to visit: December to March

How to reach there: An hour by plane from Bangkok (but only on Bangkok Airways). There are also a few international flights directly into the island, but not many. There are also regular island ferries from the mainland.

Things to do: Island hopping (including to Koh Tao and Koh Pha Ngan), snorkelling, diving, nature tours, sunset vibes, kayaking and some excellent beaches to laze around and wonder what your friends are doing.

Koh Phi Phi – More than just an island

In fact it’s a collection of 6 islands, but featuring the 2 major attractions, Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Leh, all part of the Phi Phi Island national park.

The national park, specifically Maya Bay, was also featured in the Hollywood movie ‘The Beach’ which made both Maya Bay and Leonardo di Caprio famous. Apart from Maya Bay, which is closed off during the height of each monsoon season these days, there is also the picture-perfect Phi Leh Lagoon.

Apart from the vibrant nightlight in Tonsai Beach on Koh Phi Phi Don, the seas in the area are filled with exotic marine life.

The main island has become a mini-Mecca for nightlife and, like Phuket (an hour away by speedboat), has accommodation and eateries at all price points.

Best time to visit: November to April

How to reach there: Ferries to the Phi Phi Islands take around 2 hours from Phuket and around 90 minutes from Krabi. There’s also speedboat options which cut your travel time in half, but a bit more expensive.

Things to do: Island hopping, snorkelling, diving, nightlife (on Koh Phi Phi Don) and a few exquisite viewpoints.

Koh Kood – Refuge of tranquility

Despite the fact that this place is a very beautiful island, with white-sand beaches and turquoise warm water, the thing that makes it unique is the calm. It’s one of those Thai islands that’s a bit further off the tourist map.

You will not find any 7-eleven shops or other trappings of mass tourism here (although there are a few bespoke souvenir and convenience stores).

Many of the resorts are located well off the main road, in the middle of nowhere. If you’re the one who just wants to kick back and enjoys the sun for a week or two, then here is the place that suits you the best.

Koh Kood is a different vibe than most of the other Thai islands. It’s almost in Cambodia and about as ‘east’ as you go in Thai waters, on the opposite side of the Gulf of Thailand to Koh Samui.

Best time to visit: November to March

How to reach there: One hour flight to Trat Airport from Bangkok, then take a ferry. There are also buses out of Bangkok everyday to Trat.

Things to do: Relaxing, waterfalls, swimming, kayaking, fishing, diving, island hopping.

Koh Chang – Thailand’s best kept secret

Known as ‘Elephant Island’ because of its elephant shaped headland. It’s also Thailand’s third largest island after Phuket and Samui, around 300 kilometres south east of Bangkok off the Trat Province coastline.

Koh Chang is part of the Mu Ko Chang National Park and rainforest covers a good chunk of the island, making it an excellent destination for comfortable trails and treks. You won’t find overdeveloped beaches or high-rise buildings that disturb the stunning natural landscape here.

A day out to the scenic Koh Chang Archipelago or a chartered yacht trip around the island is the ideal way to explore the island. For the adventurer, hiking through the dense jungle along lush mangroves and dramatic waterfalls should be on your bucket list. Klong Neung waterfall, in thesouth-eastern corner of the island, is the most accessible.

Best time to visit:  November to March

How to reach there: One hour flight to Trat Airport from Bangkok, then take a 30 minute ferry. There are also buses out of Bangkok everyday to Trat.

Things to do: Nature tours, snorkelling, hiking through the jungle, island hopping.

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