koh phangan holiday resorts on a beach


Some of the nicest islands in the world are found in Thailand. You may imagine paradise as having glistening blue ocean, miles of immaculate white sand, and swaying palm trees. All of Thailand’s islands fit this description. Aside from the fact that there are over 1,400 to pick from, each one provides something distinctive in addition to the relaxation and natural attractiveness of the beaches.


From Thai islands with the world’s best scuba diving to jungle-covered hideaways where rare bird species can be spotted, private islands for a romantic getaway and popular haunts where you’ll find all the restaurants, entertainment and adventure you could dream of, Thailand has it all. Before you go, check out what each one has to offer and remember that Thailand’s east and west coasts have slightly different seasons for diving, snorkelling and swimming; plus, consider whether you want off-grid living or a more built-up paradise before deciding exactly which patch of sand to make yours.


kayaks on a beach in koh samui
One of the best Thailand islands for water activities is Koh Samui.

Koh Samui is one of Thailand’s most famous islands.

With something for everyone, from families to backpackers, couples to solo travellers, it’s no longer known for full moon parties and cheap hostels – although plenty of these can be found here if you want them.

Instead, Samui has developed into one of the world’s most luxurious islands with elite resort brands, a stand-out international dining scene and an array of spas, yoga retreats and other wellness offerings.

Koh Samui is ideal for first-time visitors to Thailand’s islands for a relaxing break.

While it has all the beauty, lush landscapes and laid-back Thai way of life, you’ll have plenty of home comforts, modern amenities, and boundless adventure opportunities.



aerial view of koh tao
Koh Tao is one of the natural islands in Thailand to see.

Koh Tao, which means Turtle Island thanks to its unique shape, is famous for one thing: scuba diving.

There is no shortage of dive shops here, all of which are very affordable due to the amount of choice available.

Whether you’re dipping your toe in for the first time or are a more experienced diver, it’s perfect.

Under the waves are reefs, wrecks and tropical marine life to discover, but don’t worry if you’re not a diver.

Snorkelling, SUP, kayaking, and any other water sports are available here, and just because it’s dive-centric, there are many other attractions too.

There’s dense jungle, excellent beaches, local restaurants and bars, not to mention accommodation ranging from beach hut to ultra-luxe.


koh phangan holiday resorts on a beach
Pick a holiday resort in Koh Phangan, one of the impressive Thailand islands to explore.

Nowadays, the fun island of Koh Pha Ngan is the home of full moon parties, so this is where to head if you’re looking for nights filled with music, drinks and partying and days spent doing nothing but relaxing on the beach.

The half-moon parties naturally occur once a month and often see upwards of 20,000 visitors head to Koh Pha Ngan, so booking accommodation ahead of time is essential.

If you’re not keen on competing with that many people, almost as busy and just as fun are the frequent half-moon and black-moon parties that happen throughout the month.



couple dining on a beach in phuket
A romantic experience on Phuket island in Thailand.

Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and arguably has the most to see and do.

It takes around an hour to get from the island’s airport in the north to the popular southern and southwestern beaches to give you a sense of size.

Don’t miss all of the golden sand beaches along the island’s western coast, which are generally quieter the further north you go.

Also, make time for Phuket Old Town, where brightly coloured colonial buildings, cute cafes and great restaurants are perfect for strolling around.

The southern end of Phuket, such as Chalong Bay, is also where boat trips start to head out to other islands, such as the Phi Phi Islands, meaning you can tick off a few while you’re here.





sunset at koh lanta
You’ll love the sunsets on the islands of Thailand. Pictured here is a beach in Koh Lanta.

Koh Lanta is sometimes overlooked due to its stunning neighbours, the Phi Phi Islands, however, this island has the longest beaches in the region, along with clear waters, hidden caves, jungle and underwater life to discover.

Koh Lanta Yai is the main island people visit here, which is developed enough that backpackers, families and luxury holidaymakers can find something here.

Swanky hotels sit next to palm-fringed beach huts, there’s super-fresh seafood, and the waters are calm and warm, making it perfect for kids.

It takes under an hour to travel to Koh Lanta from Krabi, which is why it’s become one of the most accessible, safe and popular islands in Thailand.


aerial view of koh lipe

Koh Lipe is just one of 51 islands within Tarutao National Marine Park, and this somewhat protected collection of islands consistently wins the award for having Thailand’s best beaches and comes second only to Koh Tao for underwater adventures.

Koh Lipe is off Thailand’s southwestern coast, virtually on the border with Malaysia, which is why so few people end up here, giving it that remote desert island feel.

All the activities and attractions you could want are here, including an array of water sports and plenty of beaches, including Pattaya Beach, where you will find a vibrant restaurant and bar scene.

Although there is accommodation for all budgets, there are many private villas and bungalow hotels here, making it popular for honeymooners and those looking to escape the crowds of more northern islands.



thailand islands koh chang
Koh Chang is one of the lovely islands in Thailand to relax.

Koh Chang is Thailand’s second largest island after Phuket, and while it is fairly developed, much of its natural beauty has deliberately been protected so that visitors can get out into untouched nature.

It has its own jungle-covered national park, local fishing villages, mangrove forests and more beaches than you can count.

Its unique location, which is almost in Cambodian waters, means you can get a taste of Thailand’s eastern gulf while also using it as a relaxing place to take a break when visiting Siem Reap or even Cambodia’s southern islands.



Koh Phi Phi Don, the main island of the Phi Phis, has become an all-around island popular with everyone but has been almost entirely rebuilt following a tsunami.

It’s now frequented by young, single travellers looking for an exciting island experience.

You can catch a boat from here to the famous Koh Phi Phi Ley, where Leonardo DiCaprio filmed The Beach.

This is where you’ll find the majority of day-tripping tourists.

Stay awhile, however, and jungle treks, cliff-jumping, snorkelling, and all-day beach bars await.

The island is covered, as many in Thailand are, by spectacular limestone karsts, which you can hike up for epic views or to watch the sun go down.



Head to the Similan Islands for a Thailand islands holiday in paradise.

You may not have heard of the Similan Islands, a group of just eleven islands a fair way off Thailand’s west coast.

The fact that not many people know about them, combined with their distance, means they’re still beautifully undisturbed.

The islands are often cited as one of the world’s best diving spots thanks to their location in the Andaman Sea, which is why they’re now a protected national park.

Many reefs are still undiscovered, and turtles, rays and whale sharks are often spotted here.

The islands are closed between May and October, but if you want to visit the rest of the year, you’ll need to catch a boat from Khao Lak on the mainland.





koh kood beach
Koh Kood is one of the best islands to visit in Thailand for a relaxing holiday.

Koh Chang isn’t the only Thai island within touching distance of Cambodia.

In fact, Koh Kut (also known as Koh Kood) is even further south in the Gulf of Thailand and is the country’s fourth largest island.

Unless you’re in the area by chance, you’re unlikely to visit, so it hasn’t been developed like Thailand’s more touristy islands.

Instead, you’ll find it ringed with white sand beaches and blue waters, while the island proper is covered in lush mangrove forests, jungle and waterfalls.

Despite being less touristy, there are many accommodation options and local restaurants and bars, but remember to bring cash as you won’t find any ATMs on Koh Kut.



One of a few different islands off the western coast of Thailand’s Ranong province, Koh Phayam is one of the country’s most laid-back islands with very little to do – in a good way.

There’s a tiny population of just 500 people, most of whom are local fishermen or rely on a small trickle of tourism, but don’t expect luxury resorts here.

Electricity is generally only available at certain hours of the day, so you’ll want to explore the various untouched beaches or take a leisurely cycle around the island.

Despite this lack of development, Koh Phayam is popular with expats, many of whom live here for most of the year.

If you’re looking to make friends, chill out or are thinking of moving to a paradise yourself, head to one of the wooden beach bars for a cold drink here.


If you haven’t heard of the Surin Islands, don’t worry, they are often overshadowed by their more famous neighbours in Phang Nga Province off the coast of Phuket.

However, as part of Mu Koh Surin National Park, these five stunning islands in Thailand combine a great location with no crowds.

Forewarning, the Surin Islands’ lack of tourism means that those who end up here are looking for an authentic Thai island experience.

Camping on the beach or at campgrounds is the most popular accommodation here, although there are a couple of guesthouses.

Otherwise, you won’t find much in the way of shops or restaurants here, but there are frequent snorkelling trips, so many people choose to make a day trip here instead.



Koh Yao Noi, one of the Koh Yao islands just a 30-minute boat trip from Phuket, is surprisingly large and full of adventure.

Although visitors flock here, tourist infrastructure isn’t particularly developed, with most shops, restaurants and bars being just small local shacks, although there is one 7-eleven should you need it.

The best way to explore the jungles, rice paddies, coconut plantations and beaches is by bicycle or scooter, and make sure to stop often for food, as the seafood is out of this world.

Despite the lack of shops, hotels aren’t a problem; there’s even a Six Senses here if you’re looking for the ultimate splash-out stay.



koh tarutao thailand islands to visit
The Thai islands of Koh Tarutao has some interesting geographical features.

We’ve already mentioned Koh Lipe, another island that’s part of Tarutao National Park, with Koh Tarutao being the largest island in the archipelago.

Despite being the largest, it’s pretty undeveloped, so you won’t find modern shops, restaurants or reliable internet here.

On the other hand, along its 26-mile length, you will find unexplored beaches, unique caves, rainforests and waterfalls, and crystal clear sea, which you can explore on foot, by bike, kayak or snorkel.

As it is a national park, you’ll need to pay a small fee to enter, and accommodation is hut-style, but for next to nothing, you’ll wake up to the sound of the waves and while exploring, you might not even see another soul.





Located off of the west coast of Thailand, Koh Jum is actually the southern part of one island, with the northern part known as Koh Pu.

This tiny island packs in nine tranquil beaches, of which the ones in Koh Jum are more popular due to accessibility, but if you’re up for a hike, head north to Koh Pu for truly deserted stretches of sand.

The beaches here are the main draw, whether you lie on them for the day or go snorkelling and swimming.

Again, the island isn’t built up, but there are local cafes, beach bars, tourist and swim shops, and travel agencies for renting gear and booking tours.


Koh Samet sits in the Gulf of Thailand, not far south of Pattaya.

This makes it popular with locals from the city and Bangkok who visit for a beach getaway.

Despite being a tiny island, Koh Samet has 14 beautiful beaches with classic blue waters lined with beach bars, restaurants and entertainment that go late into the evening.

Snorkelling and diving are popular and worthwhile here, and accommodation is abundant; however, on weekends and national holidays, Koh Samet can get very crowded with Thai people, expats and tourists looking for an escape.


Not quite as close as Koh Lan, but still very accessible, Khram Yai is just a short way from Pattaya.

Compared with the overcrowding on land, this island may as well be deserted, with little to no tourism here, thanks to being heavily protected in a Thai Naval compound.

You can’t stay overnight – there’s no accommodation, but most snorkelling, diving and tour companies visit on day trips.

Aside from water-based activities, you’re still allowed to relax and sunbathe or watch from afar at the right time of year as baby turtles hatch into the waves.


If you want the ultimate island experience, a private island is the only way.

Koh Munnork is such an island off the coast of Rayong Province in the Gulf of Thailand.

The island itself is actually called Koh Man Nork, with the private resort adjusting the name.

Incredible beachfront bungalows, gently lapping waves, and white sand beaches await, and they’ll be yours to enjoy completely to yourself.

Rent glass-bottomed kayaks, go hiking, snorkelling or fish for fresh squid for your dinner.

Although the amenities are luxurious, there’s no electricity between 9 am and 1 pm, so you’ll still feel like you’re on a desert island, but you’ll soon forget when you’re enjoying delicious food beachside under the hot Thai sunshine.

19- KO MAK

Koh Mak lies directly in between the islands of Koh Chang and Koh Kud and is the least developed of the three.

Clean, modern accommodation is dotted around the island, but you won’t be spending much time inside.

Instead, rent a bike or scooter (the easiest way to travel here) and meander through the working coconut and rubber plantations.

Although there’s no jungle here, you’ll get to see the working side of Thailand, where locals fish and harvest each day.

Although the population is small, the area around Ao Kao Beach has a few great resorts, cafes, restaurants and bars, where people congregate to watch the sun go down.


koh mook aerial view
Stay on the beach at Koh Mook, which is one of the Thailand islands to tick off your to-visit list.

Part of the Trang Islands, Koh Muk is close to Thailand’s western coast, just south of Koh Lanta.

The island has several quaint local guesthouses and some excellent swimming, jungles and fishing villages.

The main attraction is Tham Morakot, or the Emerald Cave, an incredible cave only accessible at low tide.

After swimming inside, you’ll eventually reach a naturally-lit soft sand beach surrounded by the cave.

Avoid the cave on weekends and in summer, when hundreds of tourists flock here from Phuket – instead, stay overnight or go off-season, and you can get this natural wonder all to yourself.

Koh Muk has a few other caves, stunning beaches, such as Sivalai, and just offshore, the island of Koh Kradan with spectacular coral reefs.




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