Thailand’s islands have become synonymous with paradise and for good reason. Its diverse landscapes, friendly locals and exotic culture swirl into a kaleidescope of colours, smells and sights that can be only be summed up in one word: irresistible.
There’s something for every whim and discerning taste – you just need to know where to find it.
To get away from it all: Ko Chang
Despite being Thailand’s second largest island, it has no villages or tourist facilities. It has forests, rivers, waterfalls and hiking trails and is devoid of the buzz of Thailand’s usual hotspots. And all this seclusion has only furthered tourists’ love of this beautiful island. Sink your toes into the soft sands of the shore or go for a swim or snooze in a hammock under a palm tree- you won’t need a ‘Do not disturb’ sign.
For an infamous Full Moon Party: Ko Pha Ngan
Ko Pha Ngan has paved its way into the hearts of hardcore partiers – its reputation really does precede itself. As one of the major party areas in Southeast Asia you can expect one hell of a show. Every month the Full Moon Party descends on the island and so do all the party-goers. Set foot on the moonlit beach and set your senses alight – fireworks, fire jugglers and pumping music will be there to greet you.
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Weekend beach trip from Bangkok: Koh Samet
For those flying visits around Thailand, people often end up in Bangkok and can’t bear to leave – there’s a lot to contend with in such a frenetic capital. Queue Koh Samet, a convenient, weekend-distance away. When we say teeny, we really do mean tiny – but this small little island packs a big punch in regards to its beaches. It only measures six kilometres from top to bottom but those white sandy beaches dazzle you regardless. Framed by coconut palms and edged by pale blue waters, you’ve got all you need for a postcard-perfect Thai beach.
For rainforest treks: Ko Kood
Largely uncommcerialised, Ko Kood has become a magnet for nature lovers. Shorelines are fringed by scrub and mangrove while the island is covered in tropical rainforest, palm groves and rubber plantations. Those sea breezes will keep you cool as you explore the island on foot or, if you’re really missing the water, by kayak.
For scuba diving: Koh Tao
Koh Tao was fondly nicknamed Turtle Island as its outline is reminiscent of a turtle diving towards Ko Pha Ngan. That’s not all its known for though. Adjacent to its sandy coves are waters home to every sea creature you could want to meet while swimming. And thankfully it’s one of the world’s top places to learn to scuba dive – and the cheapest, thanks to the competition amongst all the dive shops!
To camp: Mu Ko Surin National Park
South Thailand is stunning and Mu Ko Surin National Park is no exception. There are shallow reefs, azure waters, sun-bleached sands and dense forests – it’s a kaleidescope of colours. The best way to experience is in the outdoors itself and that’s exactly how it’s provided. Most of the accommodation on the island are found in national park tents. Wake up right on the beach and spend your relaxed hours between the sand and snorkelling alongside plenty of sea creatures.
For the island life: Ko Jum
Laidback people gravitate to Ko Jum for its serene surroundings. There’s half a dozen beaches to lounge on and only a handful of beach bars to try out in the evening. Once 11pm hits, it’s paraffin lamps, living by the light of the stars and cooling off by the salty ocean breeze. It’s the kind of island you can fall asleep on while listening to the hum of nature without a peep of 21st century racket.
To meet the locals: Ko Sukorn
For a peek into the life of local Thai people, Ko Sukorn is a small but accurate window. Live alongside the friendly locals and watch them see out their busy day-to-day lives. The verdant interiors of this island shares square miles with rubber plantations, rice paddies, banana and coconut palms, not to mention decliciously fresh and tasty watermelons.
For a variety of natural landscapes: Ko Turatao
As the largest of the Ko Turatao National Park archipelago, it’s pretty much an explorer’s dream. There are mountains which rise to 700 metres and are layered with semi-evergreen rainforests. Limestone caves and mangrove swamps are scattered along the shore. And for those sun-worshippers, the west coast boasts 26-kilometres worth of picturesque beaches.
For solo travellers: Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi’s a bustling getaway that has pulled in many a young gap year traveller. Days are spent under waves snorkelling and diving, cliff jumping and boat trips to islets such as the one The Beach made famous – there’s a wealth of opportunity to meet all the other islanders! Evenings are just as busy. Shopping, mingling at rustic beach bars and watching Thai dancers juggle fire is just a typical night in Koh Phi Phi and there are plenty of like-minded people that are willing to join in the fun.
For a romantic getaway: Koh Lipe
When looking at picture-perfect beaches of Thailand, you’re probably flipping through shots of Koh Lipe. Phrases like ‘the most beautiful beaches in Thailand’ have been thrown around while describing this area. Koh Lipe is part of the 51 islands that make up Tarutao Marine Park, down south near the border of Malaysia. This remote island is small enough to explore on foot but you may just want to relax beachside or book a massage at one of the many luxury resorts.
For an all-rounder: Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta is made up of several little islands, the most popular being Koh Lanta Yai. There are nature reserves and beaches, completely void of busy crowds. You can stay in stripped back rustic beachside shacks to glamorous hotels. And then there’s everything in between, from stunning shores, with incredible diving, buzzing beach bars, kayaking (through mangrove forests no less) and beyond delicious food.
To stay in five-star luxury: Phuket
Phuket might be tourist central as the biggest island in Thailand (and quite a few package holiday-esque places) but it has not downsized its luxurious side. Celebrity chef restaurants and six star resorts reign supreme alongside deluxe beach bars and designer boutiques. And let’s face it – the beaches aren’t too bad either.