Close your eyes and visualise an idyllic tropical island, complete with swaying palm trees, powdery white sand and clear blue water – beautiful, right? Chances are that the landscape that you just imagined really does exist, and it is in Thailand.
This Southeast Asian nation is blessed with countless small islands that boast some of the world’s best beaches. Whether you are looking for an action-packed adventure holiday or simply a brilliant place to vegetate by the sea, your first trip to Thailand will usually be just that – the first of many more to come. Spend a few days in Bangkok, enjoy the cultural highlights of Chiang Mai and then head straight to the islands.
If you love spicy food, cold Singha beer and postcard-perfect beaches, this is the place for you. Here are our top five island paradises in Thailand to help you start planning your holiday today.
1. Koh Tao – Known as one of the world’s premiere diving destinations, countless people have done their PADI certification on the beautiful island of Koh Tao. Located in Thailand’s Southern Gulf, this island was once nearly untouched, but is now home to a thriving international diving scene and many lovely hotels, great restaurants and nightlife options.
While not as rowdy as nearby Koh Pha Ngan (famous for its full moon parties) or Koh Samui, those looking purely for peace and quiet might find Koh Tao’s party scene a bit off-putting.
Good for: Anyone looking to learn to dive; experienced divers; young couples, families.
2. Koh Kood – Relatively isolated and well off of the tourist track, Koh Kood sits in the Trat province near the Cambodian border. Home to sprawling rain forest, stunning beaches and small fishing villages, the island is also home to some amazing resorts, including the award-winning Soneva Kiri. If those room rates are a bit too steep, you can also find more budget-friendly options.
Good for: Those looking for luxury and isolation
3. Koh Phi Phi – Any list of Thailand’s best islands would be incomplete without Koh Phi Phi Don. Devastated in the Boxing Day Tsunami (but now completely recovered), this stunning north coast island is a huge tourist draw. The only permanently inhabited island in the Phi Phi archipelago, this tropical haven is surrounded by many other gorgeous islands that you can visit by boat for the day, or for overnight camping.
While the main harbour area is packed with hedonistic nightlife and non-stop partying, it is still possible to find more remote places to stay. Check out Tohko Beach Resort for a stunning stretch of private sand accessible only by boat.
Good for: Party animals; young backpackers; solo travellers
4. Koh Chang – This large island has been described as the “Maldives of Southeast Asia” because of its stilted houses, boasting a vast array of accommodation options and beaches that will suit any desire. As the country’s second largest island, after Phuket, Koh Chang may be a tourist draw but is far less developed than Koh Samui or other similar islands. The interior of the island is home to Mu Ko Chang National Park, a nature reserve that boasts hundreds of hiking trails, dense jungle and awe inspiring waterfalls such as Klong Plu. On the coast you will find beautiful beaches and rich coral reefs, perfect for sunbathing, snorkelling and diving trips.
Good for: Families; young couples; diving enthusiasts
5. Koh Lipe – Nestled in the Andaman Sea near the Malaysian border, Koh Lipe is near the Tarutao National Marine Park, south of nearby larger islands Koh Adang and Koh Rawi. Koh Lipe is a tropical jewel. Its turquoise waters are perfect for snorkelling, diving and swimming (25% of the world’s tropical fish species can be found on its shores), but if you would rather relax with a Thai massage and eat delicious food instead we don’t blame you! This is a truly calm and peaceful place to holiday for couples and families.
Good for: solo travellers; young couples; diving enthusiasts; families