Hundreds of Tropical Thai islands to choose from; Ko Samui or see the others?
The perfect Thai islands for your next sun & beach vacation. Traveltalk has a few good ideas for you, perhaps even places you would not know of and consider.
With hundreds of islands spread across the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, Thailand has some of the world’s most beautiful and tropical beaches. Thanks to varying degrees of growth and tourism, islands are perfectly suited for backpackers, party-goers, honeymooners, families and almost every traveler sort. It can be really hard to pick the perfect Thailand island.
Below is a breakdown of what to expect and how to find one that is perfect for your next trip on several major islands. Next, to help you get started, when you start preparing your Thai island getaway, there are three important things to keep in mind:
- Test when Monsoon Season will arrive. No Island Getaway is fun in the pouring rain before you book it, so do your homework before you go and schedule your trip accordingly! Monsoon patterns tend to vary from region to region. Rains are generally the greatest for islands along the Andaman coast between April and November (Phuket, Phi Phi Islands, Koh Lanta), while islands in the province of Rayong (Koh Samet, Man Islands) and the province of Trat (Koh Chang, Koh Kood) have the highest rainfall between May and October. Between late August to December, the Gulf Coast (Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao) receives its best monsoons.
- Consider how much time it will take to Island Hop Travel time can be rather tedious to many of these islands, often requiring long ferries, bus rides and flights— or a combination of all three. If your holiday is only a week long, you might want to consider moving to an island with easier access from the mainland — ferries and busses frequently run on “Thai Time” and believe me, you don’t want to waste a whole day of your precious week-long break sweating it out at a ferry terminal. Nonetheless, if you have three weeks to spare, you will have plenty of time to get off the beaten track and explore the more isolated locations on this list.
- Figure Out Which Island’s Style Suits Your Holiday Needs Every Thai island has its own special atmosphere. Some also have different sections, such as the party area, the family area or the backpacker zone, so find out which island meets your needs and where to stay if you’re looking for a particular holiday style. Here is a brief introduction to the most famous Thai islands to help you choose your perfect destination.
The best islands in Thailand
Koh Tao Yai
The best islands in Thailand Located in the beautifully scenic Phang Nga Bay between Krabi and Phuket, Koh Yao Yai is the larger, but quieter, of two sister islands. It is sufficiently developed to be comfortable but sufficiently underdeveloped to have rustic charm. The island is surrounded by beautiful sandy beaches with thick patches of mangroves suitable for kayaking exploration. Villages are largely made up of traditional wooden houses on stilts, and there are many coconut groves and rubber plantations in the interior of the island.
Koh Yao Noi
Koh Yao Yai’s little sister, Koh Yao Noi, is appealing to honeymooners and others looking for an idyllic setting with amazing views. Many accommodations are suitable for people who are willing to spend more on luxury. The resorts, with sparkling pools and opulent suites, are stunning in their own right. However, away from the flashy resorts, you will find a laid-back lifestyle and a farming community that still lives by old traditions. Sitting next to the shallow rocky bays, golden sands are a great launch pad for snorkeling, rock climbing and kayaking adventures.
Ko Tao Island (Turtle island)
Ko Tao is quickly becoming the favorite destination for recreational tourists to Thailand. Especially scuba divers, rock climbers, and hikers are served by the island. Every year about 7000 new divers are certified on Koh Tao making it one of the world’s most popular diving destinations.
Visit Ocean Utopia with its underwater monuments like the HTMS Sattakut shipwreck, Japanese Gardens, and more. Kayaking, wakeboarding, sailing, fishing, yoga and tai chi are other sports.
Ko Tao is also a hawksbill and green turtles breeding site. Head to Haad Tien or Rocky Bay, also known as Shark Bay for the number of black-tip reef sharks that you can snorkel alongside, Go to John-Suwan Viewpoint, Mango Viewpoint, and Two Views–the highest peak on the island for the best views of the island.
Koh Lanta Yai
One of the main islands of Krabi, Koh Lanta has a much more glamorous and sultry appeal than Koh Phi Phi’s awesome. It may not have its neighbors ‘ spectacular calcareous cliffs, but with silky stretches of sand and an overall more grown-up air, it makes up for that. The rough wooded hills and mangroves provide great views and adventures away from the seductive sands. Take time to get to know the local community of Moken. The party is also known as chao lair, or “water gypsies,” because of its amazing free-diving skills.
If your idea of a perfect holiday includes three-day beach parties, Koh Phangan is for you the Thai island. Renowned at Haad Rin’s Sunrise Beach for its full moon celebrations, this island is for extreme partygoers. The island can see 30,000 tourists dancing, partying and cavorting under the full moon on the white sands during the peak season. When you can’t do it at the right time of the month, in the intervening weeks there are half-moon and black-moon celebrations, and there’s activity at the beach and cocktail bars of the island every night of the week.
Sleep it off in the shadow of a palm tree the morning after while you are kneaded back into shape by a Thai masseuse. There are secluded beaches far from crowds (such as hippie favorite Bottle Beach, perhaps one of Thailand’s best beaches), and plenty of spas where you can check in for a relaxing afternoon.
Ideal for hippies and party-goers.
The tried-and-tested default setting for Thailand island holidays is Koh Samui. Koh Samui. It’s a crowd-pleaser, an island with latte-colored beaches, grown-up nightlife, sparkling shopping malls, night markets, and a giant golden Buddha staring out to sea with a peaceful gaze.
It is well designed for tourists and there is plenty of options because of this. Kids and first-timers have the international-grade hotel comfort blanket so you can punctuate your spicy fried rice breakfasts with toast jam. There are day trips and excellent diving nearby, or you can sit on a soft sandy beach with a drink in hand and get to know the life of the island more thoroughly. Koh Samui is also protected by almost any form of hotel. Choose from big-hearted boltholes, massive resorts for kids to enjoy playing around in, and breathtaking romantic hideouts such as Banyan Tree Samui, where you can have date nights on the starlit, ocean view terrace to the faint glow of lights from the near-private bay around the resort.
But this natural beauty hasn’t escaped tourists ‘ eyes–on the island you will also find endless luxury resorts and spas. Many visitors come here to take advantage of the available hedonistic spa treatments, from conventional Thai massage to yoga retreats, fasts bathing, tai-chi camps, and chakra-balancing therapies.
Ko Samui’s main attraction is the Big Buddha statue at the Wat Phra Yai temple that can be located on a causeway-connected islet. Rent a scooter and beach hop or visit major attractions such as Chaweng Beach, Fisherman’s Village Bophut, Wat Plai Laem Temple, Grandfather’s Hill, and Tan Rua or Hin Lat Waterfall.
The second largest island in Thailand, home to its own international airport, Ko Samui is a favorite tourist. It is also one of the most beautiful islands in Thailand, heralded for its palm-dotted beaches, tropical rainforest and coconut groves.
Ideal for first-timers, honeymooners and relatives.
Serene, welcoming and carefree, as first discovered by Western backpackers, Koh Lanta is like an island in Thailand. In fact, there are two islands, one big (Koh Lanta Yai) and one small (Koh Lanta Noi), linked by a bridge.
You may have to pinch yourself at how often it seems like there’s nobody else around, particularly if you’ve already encountered a busy peak season Thai island beach. On Koh Lanta, motorized water sports are not permitted–instead, snorkelling and diving around islands such as Koh Rok where you can go clownfish-spotting in the coral. The low-key feel of the island does not mean either small and spartan hotels. There are adult-only hotels on this island that meet high standards.
Ideal only for holidays for adults.
Koh Phi Phi
The pride and joy of Thailand, Koh Phi Phi is in reality a series of islands off Phuket’s coast. Easily the first island in your mind when someone mentions Thailand, Ko Phi Phi is a Thai island celebrity–and maybe somewhat overrated, but we’re going to let you know.
The archipelago of Phi Phi islands are pure paradise. Ko Phi Phi Don is the largest island, the busiest island, and the location where your accommodation is most likely to be found. But you can check out the other five islands during the day. Every island you visit, thick jungles, beautiful beaches and crystal-clear water are guaranteed to give you a paradise for snorkeling and diving. Yet there’s plenty of party-seeking crowds coming up with great scenery; many visit Phi Phi for the day and remain on the sand until sunrise.
This Thai island is widely known on Ko Phi Phi Leh for Maya Bay, which has been used as a filming location for Leonardo DiCaprio’s film title The Beach.
The Similan Islands
The Similan Islands made up pf Nine Islands, are a group of low-lying forest islands located in the Andaman Sea, ideal for families and first timers. As part of Mu Koh Similan National Park, the islands are home to a variety of natural wonders such as oddly shaped rocks, white sandy beaches and thick wildlife forests.
Not only are these same rare boulders found scattered throughout the Similan Islands sequence. They are also found in offshore waters, where natural reefs have been formed. The islands are home to some of the finest scuba diving sites on Earth with these rocks and crystal-clear water. There are popular activities besides diving, snorkeling, hiking and bird watching.
Ko Similan is the archipelago’s largest island and a great base for discovering the attractions of the islands such as Sail Rock, Sunset Point, and Similan Viewpoint. Keep in mind that there are no hotels, but you can live in campsites and wooden bungalows.
Ideal for tourists flying feet.
Located near the Cambodian border, Ko Chang is Thailand’s third largest island and the largest in the archipelago of Ko Chang Marine Park. It is a rugged island noted for numerous waterfalls, vibrant coral reefs, rainforests and long white beaches of sand.
In less than ten years, even though much quieter than islands like Phuket or Ko Samui, Ko Chang has become a major tourist destination in Thailand. The White Sand Beach is one of the island’s most popular beaches. Located on the northwest corner of the island, it is Ko Chang’s longest beach. The soft sandy beach’s central portion is lined with resorts and hotels.
The island marks the site of Ko Chang’s 1941 Battle between the Thai and the French when a French warship armada attacked a larger Thai naval fleet, including two coastal defense vessels. The island of Ko Chang and its surrounding waters have been declared a Maritime Nature Reserve today, while nothing much remains as a reminder barring an annual memorial ceremony.
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