Thailand Islands are some of the most beautiful in the whole world. But which ones are the best? Our Thailand Islands travel guide will tell you!
Think traveling to Thailand and it’s easy to imagine beach bliss and tropical paradise.
You can picture yourself wandering barefoot across a Thai island, creating fresh footprints on virgin sand and admiring a sublime sunset in wonderful seclusion.
But which Thailand island should you visit?
Some deliver on the promise of island escapism while others offer a vacation of resort indulgence and partying.
Here are six Thailand islands that you have to visit when traveling to Thailand– three that are justifiably famous and three for off the beaten track adventure.
1. Ko Chang
Photo: @centrotours Thailand
Ko Chang epitomizes the appeal of Thailand islands. It’s fringed by a ring of white sand beaches yet the interior provides jungle-clad hills and a canopy of thick greenery. This is the second largest of all Thailand islands and it’s still easy to find deserted beaches where you can laze beneath a palm tree all to yourself.
To get really off the beaten track, take a trek into the dense forested interior, where there’s little but some waterfalls, hiking trails, and rivers of sapphire waters. Alternatively, this is a Thai island for finding an excellent resort package deal and treating someone to a week of opulence.
2. Ko Samui
Photo: @International Traveler
There aren’t many travelers who can resist Ko Sumui’s charm. Perhaps the most famous Thai island, Sumui’s landscape comes straight from an exotic fairytale, the colors rich and vibrant and never slipping into the mundane. Mountainous rainforest tumbles into elegant coconut groves which line up along a circle of impossibly soporific beaches.
This Thai island is the kind of postcard that has everyone swooning in envy. However, it does get insanely popular in peak season. Consider going in the rainy season. It might be a little cloudy but the posh spas and luxury resorts are less than half price.
3. Ko Phangan
World-renowned for its full moon parties, Ko Phangan has been having a bit of makeover in recent years. Local authorities are clamping down on the excessive madness and trying to convince travelers that there’s more to this Thai island than young people partying. And they’re right.
On the opposite side to party beach Hat Rin you’ll find some delightful strips of white sand and turquoise waters. Enter the jungle and it’s easy to lose a few days in a bamboo hut high in the hills. Then whenever you want a little more excitement, head to Hat Rin and you’ll find the beach bars thriving on any night. Full moon is probably the worst time to visit Ko Phangan. Arrive at another time and the party is far less hectic and not tailored to young adults on their first trip away from home.
4. Ko Lanta
Everyone knows of Ko Phi Phi; if you haven’t then it’s the one that was used for filming “The Beach.” Ko Phi Phi is impossibly tiny and you can no longer get a photo of the famous beach without a hundred other people. But Ko Lanta could be just what you were imagining of a Thai island. Ko Lanta is a little group of islands south of Phuket and they’re yet to develop abundant tourism.
Ko Lanta Yai is the largest and its west coast is the place to start. Check into a wooden hut, kick off the shoes, and relax on the beach. There’s some stunning diving here with manta rays and whale sharks swimming past. But it’s not just the marine life. Make sure you also head inland and weave through an ancient indigenous forest, where javelins of light hypnotically flicker through the trees.
5. Ko Jum
Photo: John Everingham @thebeachfrontclub
Ko Jum is one of those Thai islands that you never want to leave. You arrive to check it out for a couple of days, and end up stuck there for two weeks. It’s indelibly laid-back; just lounge on the pristine west coast beaches and flick through a book beneath the sun.
Accommodation is mostly in wooden huts, and there’s enough to ensure everyone sleeps to lolling waves and wakes to sapphire waters. Intrepid romantics are the main visitors as this Thailand island offers private white sand bliss without the price tag. Looking for a quieter and more romantic Thai island? This is it. After 11pm everything is lit by paraffin lights and the stars.
6. Similan Islands
Far off shore, the Similan Islands offer some of Southeast Asia’s most evocative tropical diving and snorkeling. The reefs serve up a feast of dazzling fish, sea turtles and strange tinges of vibrant color. But then again, don’t most Thailand island dive spots?
Similan’s dive sites don’t have the crowds of somewhere like Ko Tao. But they do have intimate encounters with the big stuff, like leopard sharks and black tip reef sharks. If you’re a diver then Elephant Head Rock is the completely unmissable dive site. If you’re not, then it’s easy to spend a week savoring your own piece of Indian Ocean paradise.
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Written By: Traveling Islander Contributor, Stephen Bailey