Tag Archives: paradise islands

How to Choose a Thai Island

Please note: this Thailand travel blog has been updated since the global pandemic as I moved back to Bangkok, Thailand in 2021 and I'm travelling Thailand in 2022 onwards.
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So how many islands does Thailand have? Nobody seems to know for sure but it’s safe to say that Thailand has hundreds of islands you can stay on and/or visit and it is my intention to stay on all of the Thailand islands.

With so many island destinations, it can be difficult to choose which island to visit in Thailand. I often get asked many of the following questions by backpackers and tourists who are looking for Thailand’s best islands and beaches:

Hopefully this post will help you make the best decision about which islands to stay on. Even better, you can pick Thai islands to visit on the same trip as they often have good transport links between them to make island hopping around Thailand accessible. Please note some ferry schedules are reduced as a result of the covid pandemic.

Here is a summary of all the ones I’ve been to so far and some brief information to help you decide how to choose a Thai sland to check out first including must-do activities and how to get to each Thai island. Read more about how to travel around Thailand on this post.

Thailand Island Hopping

I’ve grouped the islands according to their locations which should give you an idea for the best island hopping routes in Thailand. The Gulf of Thailand refers to the islands South of Bangkok on the East of the mainland – mainly Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui.

Then we have the Andaman islands on the West with connecting airports such as Krabi and Phuket. Then Southern islands like Koh Lipe and Koh Tarutao and Eastern islands towards the Cambodian border.

Best Islands in Thailand to Visit – The Gulf of Thailand

How to choose a Thai island – Koh Tao, Thailand

Koh Tao Thailand Islands
Learning to dive on Koh Tao

A backpacker island in the Gulf of Thailand. It has beautiful beaches and an obvious party scene but mostly it is known for cheap diving courses, and is often advertised as one of the cheapest places in the world to learn to scuba dive. I took my PADI Open Water Qualification here and many others choose to get scuba qualified in Thailand as it’s so cheap. Your Open Water diving certificate can start from around 9000 baht. Try and get your accommodation thrown in too. If you turn up at the pier, you can often negotiate prices with the dive shops.

Unfortunately Koh Tao is not without its problems and I suggest being careful here, not to get too drunk and never to cause problems with locals, such as getting into fights etc.

Best Thailand island for: learning to dive. Once you learn to dive, head to some of these places for the best dive sites in Thailand

Things to do on Koh Tao: get PADI certified for your Open Water dive course or advanced. Check out beautiful viewpoints and quiet beaches.

Cheapest way to get to Koh Tao: Sleeper train/night bus to Chumpon and then ferry. You can book tickets here

Fastest way to get to Koh Tao: Fly to Chumpon/Surat thani, bus to pier and take the ferry. Lomprayah have the fastest service. Alternative is to fly to Koh Samui and take a ferry from there.

Book your transport here with this useful website. The more you book the cheaper the tickets become…

How to pick Thai islands – Koh Phangan 

bottle beach 2
Bottle Beach on Koh Phangan

Home to the infamous Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan is one of the best party islands in Thailand. Even if you are visiting Koh Phangan island not during a full moon party, then there are other party events happening. If you’re interested in party islands and attending the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan, then read my Full Moon Party blog post – I should know, I’ve been to 5 full moon parties in Koh Phangan.

Koh Phangan is not just a Thailand party island, it’s actually one of my favourite islands in Thailand. The North of Koh Phangan is tranquil, green and has some of the best quiet beaches in Thailand including Bottle Beach in Koh Phangan.

Scuba diving in Koh Phangan can be great although visibility is unpredictable. Sail Rock Koh Tao is one of Koh Phangan’s famous dive sites (actually found between Koh Tao and Koh Phangan) and whale sharks can be spotted here  fairly regularly so I hope you’re feeling lucky (I haven’t been lucky…yet!). I love staying in the best accommodation in these cute Koh Phangan bungalows, right on a lovely stretch of beach. Check out Seaboard Bungalow’s reasonable rates here. The restaurant here did great food and there were more food options further down the beach too.

A budget Koh Phangan accommodation was these basic bungalows that also had a pool but not as a nice a beach was Lucky Resort. Compare their room rates here. The restaurant had great views of the ocean for sunsets too.

Best Thailand island for partying: Dancing until sunrise. Even if you miss Full Moon there are Half Moon Parties, Jungle Parties, Waterfall parties…Read my post here for more Full Moon Party advice

Best things to do on Koh Phangan: Party and the chill out on Bottle Beach (one of my favourites), party or go scuba diving.

Read more about Thailand’s quiet beaches here

Cheapest way to get to Koh Phangan Sleeper train/night bus to Chumpon and then ferry

Fastest way to get to Koh Phangan: Fly to Chumpon /Surat thani/Koh Samui and take the ferry. Lomprayah have the fastest service.

How to Choose Thai islands: Koh Samui

Koh Samui Thailand Islands
Koh Samui during an island day tour I took to see temples, beaches, monkeys and waterfalls

Boasting one of coolest airports I’ve ever been to, Samui caters to holiday makers on a large scale. It is the only island in the Gulf of Thailand to have an airport.

In all honesty, Koh Samui is probably my least favourite island as a result of this, it can get very crowded over peak season (December – when I went!) and I don’t think it is as idyllic looking as Koh Tao or Koh Phangan.  That said, if you are on limited time it is one of only two island that you can fly direct from Bangkok to Koh Samui (the other being Phuket).

I stayed in the luxury Koh Samui accommodation at Lamai Wanta Beach Resort (courtesy of my generous aunt who took my sister and I there).

For a budget Koh Samui accommodation,  stay in these Koh Samui bungalows: New Hut Bungalows and recommended them to me. They look like a great photo opportunity too!

Why are flight so expensive from Bangkok to Koh Samui?

The airport in Koh Samui is owned by Bangkok Airways so the flights will always be expensive compared to Thailand’s budget airlines. However, the airport looks like the garden of a 5 star hotel and is worth seeing. Occasionally cheap flights with Thai Smile can be found.

Best Thailand Island for families: luxury resorts, families and couples

Best things to do on Koh Samui: an all round island tour including temples and waterfall visits

Cheapest way to get to Koh Samui: Sleeper train/night bus to Surat thani, bus to pier and then ferry. You can buy all inclusive tickets from this website

Fastest way to get to Koh Samui: Fly direct from Bangkok

Koh Phangan vs Koh Tao

I would personally go for Koh Phangan because of the nature, the option to party or stay in a quiet Koh Phangan beach and it’s a bigger island so more to explore.

Best Andaman Sea Islands Thailand

How to choose a Thai island – Phuket

 Phuket is one of Thailand’s largest islands and is attached to the mainland by bridge. It has an international airport which can lead to extremely busy beaches and very high prices for taxis, which is why it has a bit of a bad reputation among those of us who live in Thailand. However, I don’t feel this is totally deserved and as it is such a huge island there are many less popular places to explore. The busiest area seems to be Patong beach which I avoid unless I am looking for a party island in Thailand. I’ve mainly spent time in the South at Kata and Karon beaches for surfing during rainy season (June-October). I loved staying at this budget hostel,  accommodation in Kata and Karon beach. It was about 4 minute walk to the surfing beach, was good value and they had really nice facilities.

Last time I visited Kata Phuket I stayed at this lovely accommodation right between Kata and Karon beach. I would definitely recommend and I would stay there again. It had a gorgeous rooftop pool and was really conveniently located. Click on the image to check the cost of Phuket accommodation here:

Best Things to do in Phuket:  some of the best surfing in Thailand is in Phuket (and top surfing spots on Khao Lak as well).  If you are looking for beginner waves in Thailand, then you can hire a surf instructor and you get the board included for the rest of the day (the best season in Thailand for surfing is during rainy season from July-September)

The cheapest way to get to Phuket from Bangkok:  Take a night bus to Phuket Town, then songtaew (local trucks) to the beach of your choice. You may need to take two, one from the bus station and then another from Phuket town to the beach. Approx cost of transport in Phuket: songtaew 20 baht.

Fastest way to get to Phuket from Bangkok: Fly to Phuket from Bangkok or international airports and take the local bus further south.

Best Andaman Sea Islands Thailand – Koh Yao Noi

koh yao noi thailand islands
Stunning Views of Phangna Bay from Koh Nok, a small island I kayaked to from Koh Yao Noi

This island has really chilled out vibes and zero party scene. Koh Yao Noi is one of the quietest islands in Thailand. It felt like Thailand off the beaten track but still has hotels and restaurants around.

The beaches are fairly thin strips of sand so there’s not all that much room for sunbathing. Swimming with the backdrop of Phangna Bay behind you felt pretty awesome though. I rented bicycles and cycled around the island – which has a couple of hills so be prepared! (or get off and walk like someone may have done…). This is a great place to rent kayaks from as well and I discovered the small empty island of Koh Nok which this amazing viewpoint. I loved the Koh Yao Noi accommodation that I stayed at,  Sabai Corner Bungalows, it had tall wooden bungalows set back into the mountain with great views of the bay. It was also very affordable and the owners were helpful with renting kayaks and bicycles. It also had lots of cats!

For a luxury stay on Koh Yao Noi – stay at Six Senses. We went there for some cocktails and it’s a gorgeous luxury Thailand resort.

Best Thailand Island for a hidden gem in Thailand : non-touristy islands in Thailand

Best things to do in Koh Yao Noi:  Kayak around Phangna Bay, stop on unihabited paradise islands and find secret viewpoints in Thailand

Cheapest way to get to Koh Yao Noi from Bangkok: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then long tail boat. Book tickets on this useful website

Fastest way to get to Koh Yao Noi from Bangkok: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, speedboat to island.

Best Andaman Sea Islands Thailand – Koh Phi Phi

Scuba diving in Koh Phi Phi with the famous Maya Bay beach behind me

Koh Phi Phi is the type of island that the first time I went there, I hated it. Lots of young backpackers falling drunk out of bars and overpacked long tail boats pouring into Maya Bay to see the beach from Dicaprio’s ‘The Beach’ movie. Even post covid pandemic, this is one of the best partying islands in Thailand.

That said, I really enjoyed my last visit to Koh Phi Phi in 2022 because I spent most of my time on a boat scuba diving some of the best dive spots in Thailand.

Now I’ve returned there a 2nd, 3rd and 4th time, I have to admit that Phi Phi is growing on me. I’ve accepted it for what it is : a party island and a great place to meet backpackers. Try taking a snorkelling trip to a few of the less crowded islands and definitely watch some of the fire shows. I personally feel they are the best fire shows in Thailand.

The diving around the marine park is generally of a very good standard for Thailand. I was lucky enough to see a turtle, black tip reef shark and a leopard shark all in one day. I also love that you can walk everywhere and it’s a Thailand island with no cars, definitely a bonus if you’re living in Bangkok and sick of traffic jams.

Best Thailand island for partying and best Thailand islands for scuba diving: parties and beautiful beaches combined with a beautiful marine national park for scuba diving

Top things to do in Koh Phi Phi:  An island hopping trip to nearby islands, the famous Maya Bay from ‘The Beach’, scuba diving around Koh Phi Phi Ley and the wreck dive

Cheapest way to get to Koh Phi Phi from Bangkok: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then ferry. Book all your tickets together here

Fastest way to get to Koh Phi Phi from Bangkok: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island

Scuba Diving Tips Thailand: Dive with Blue View Divers. I had a great time with them, they’ve got a big dive boat and I loved diving with Jaa, a female Thai divemaster.

Best Andaman Sea Islands – Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta Thailand Islands
Lunchtime with a view!

Serene and stunning, this is one of the quietest islands in Thailand and probably the best beach in Thailand. Kantiang beach in the South is huge, wide and empty when I was there in April. There isn’t much of a party scene and not so many backpackers here. The snorkelling and island hopping trip was definitely a highlight for me as it took you to Koh Kradan, a stunning white beach uninhabited island. I went with my parents and we stayed at Alama Sea Village Resort which was incredible. It has a great view (so a short walk uphill), an infinity pool and monkeys who come and visit your balcony. Click the Agoda link to see how much Koh Lanta accommodation costs:

Best Quiet Island in Thailand: best island for relaxing, couples, families

Best Things to do in Koh Lanta:  The 4 Island Hopping Trip, hanging out on the best beach in Thailand , Kantiang Beach

Cheapest way to get to Koh Lanta from Bangkok: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then ferry. Tickets can be booked via this website, including ferries

Fastest way to get to Koh Lanta from Bangkok: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island

Best Andaman Sea Islands Thailand – Koh Lipe

koh lipe
Mango smoothies and banana pancakes breakfast on the beach! Yes please!

Koh Lipe is one of my favourite islands. It is paradise and is home to white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, beautiful coral reefs and less tourists than many others.  It also had some of the best sunsets I’ve seen in Thailand and the coral reefs were extremely colourful for snorkelling and it is the best diving in Thailand. It’s close to Malaysia so can fill up if there are Thai and Malaysian coinciding holidays. I suggest you book in advance if this could be the case. I stayed at Gypsy Bungalows and loved these basic but cute bungalows with a garden walk to the beach.

I love Koh Lipe so much I wrote a whole blog post about it which I am continually updating every time I visit (once in 2021 and once in 2022).

Check out my full Koh Lipe Guide here

Best Thailand Island for scuba diving: Koh Lipe dive sites are the best dive sites in Thailand!

Best Things to do on Koh Lipe:  Walk around the corner from the main beach to Sunset beach for some of the most impressive sunsets in Thailand

Cheapest way to get to Koh Lipe from Bangkok: Night bus to Hat Yai, minivan to pier, 2 hour speedboat

Fastest way to get to Koh Lipe from Bangkok: Fly to Hat Yai, minivan to pier, 2 hour speedboat

This island can take a long time to get to. I think it’s definitely worth it but don’t try if you’re on limited time.

Best Andaman Sea Islands Thailand – Koh Jum

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A complete hidden gem in Thailand, Koh Jum is a lesser known island to both tourists and Thais, this is a rocky, wild island which still feels fairly untouched. However, this is not always a good thing as it was extremely expensive to get to from Koh Phi Phi and once on the island it was difficult to get around.  My sister and I stayed at the gorgeous Onlee bungalows with amazing food as the couple who run it are Thai-French.  The stargazing was also incredible and so clear as there is not much light pollution nearby. I recommend settling into a resort as there are limited ways to visit other restaurants and if you want to hire a ‘taxi’ it won’t be at a cheap price.

Best Thailand Island: that people have never heard of

Best things to do on Koh Jum: Star gazing, eating, relaxing at a beautiful resort

Cheapest way to get to Koh Jum from Bangkok: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then ferry

Fastest way to get to Koh Jum from Bangkok: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island

Best Thailand beaches in the Andaman – Railay

Railay Beach Thailand Islands
Swimming around limestone karsts in Railay

I’m including Railay in this island section as it is only accessible by boat and therefore many people think Railay is a Thailand island.  Lots of snorkelling day trips stop off here so it can get crowded during peak season (Nov-Dec) but you can jump on boats from Krabi to get here at any point during the day. Limited options at night where the boats can charge a much higher price.  Watch dusky langur monkeys climb in nearby trees, hike to the top for a sweaty but great view and visit the Buddhist shrine to the penis. This is one of the best islands in Thailand for outdoor adventures like rock-climbing and hikes to viewpoints.

Best things to do on Railay: slip and slide your way up the viewpoint for a pretty view of both beaches, go into the huge bat cave and experience rock climbing and abseiling

Thailand Island Hopping Tip: Many boats arrive on the not so nice beach area so walk through the jungle pathway to reach the prettier beach

Cheapest way to get to Railay from Bangkok: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to Ao Nang and then longtail boat. Book your bus tickets here now. 

Fastest way to get to Railay from Bangkok: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to Ao Nang ferry to island

Best Andaman Sea Destinations: Ao Nang

Aonang Krabi is also not an island but it’s the easiest beach destination to get to in Krabi. Ao Nang has two long, wide stretches of yellow sand beaches where a lot of long tail boats depart from, making for some pretty photos. It has a lot of choices of accommodation and restaurants and is a good jump off point to go island hopping to the nearby beach of Railay, and National Park island hopping to nearby uninhabited islands like Koh Poda, Koh Hong and many more.

Best Beach Destination for a weekend getaway from Bangkok: for having as a base to explore Railay, the national parks and to scuba dive the local Aonang islands

Best things to do in Ao Nang: sign up for some rock climbing nearby at Railay, go into the impressive bat cave, explore national parks and the emerald lagoon, go scuba diving

Thailand Island Hopping Tip: Wait for the boat to fill up and take a 20 minute long tail boat to Railay when it’s quieter. At night time only private long tail boats run which are more expensive. A shared boat is 200 baht return (at the time of writing in 2022).

Cheapest way to get to Ao Nang from Bangkok: Night bus to Krabi, local songtaew from bus station to Ao Nang  Book your night bus tickets here now. 

Fastest way to get to Ao Nang from Bangkok: Fly to Krabi, minivan from the airport to Ao Nang (approx 150 baht), no need to book the minivan in advance and they will drop you at your hotel. You will see the minivan tour operator as you exit the airport in the terminal.

Best Thai Islands: East Coast of Thailand

How to pick Thai island – Koh Chang

koh chang Thailand Islands
Lonely Beach in Koh Chang

Koh Chang has a really chilled back vibe to it, a small party backpacker crowd and some decent diving. This is one of the first islands I travelled to alone and I immediately met backpackers as it has a more intimate feel to it than other islands like Koh Tao or Koh Phi Phi. Lonely Beach is the main backpacker area and White Sand beach is a little more upmarket. I have stayed at a few places but none to rave about. There is also one creepy bartender who has followed a few solo females home so be aware and try to always walk in groups or with someone late at night.

Best Thailand Island for: daytime chilling

Things to do on Koh Chang: enjoy the backpacking party scene

Cheapest way to get to Koh Chang from Bangkok: Big bus or minivan from Ekkamai, Bangkok, songtaew (truck) to the pier then ferry- often a car ferry. You can book your tickets here

Fastest way to get to Koh Chang from Bangkok: Fly to Trat then ferry

How to pick a Thai island – East Coast of Thailand – Koh Mak

Photo of the best bar in koh mak
Sunsets from Blue Pearl Bar Koh Mak

A lovely relaxing Thailand island near Koh Chang. I spent 4 days here and absolutely loved it and I wrote a full Koh Mak island guide here. It’s one of Thailand’s quietest islands and it has the best pier with a bar at the end of it. The dive sites were also enjoyable! Rent a bicycle or motorbike and explore the small island.

Best Thailand Island for: relaxing with a spot of scuba diving

Best things to do on Koh Mak: hang out at the bar at the end of the pier, cycle around the island, go scuba diving

Cheapest way to get to Koh Mak from Bangkok: Big bus or minivan from Ekkamai, Bangkok, songtaew (truck) to the pier then ferry. You can book your tickets here

Fastest way to get to Koh Mak from Bangkok: Fly to Trat, then transfer to the pier, then ferry

How to pick a Thai island – East Coast of Thailand – Koh Kood or Koh Kut

Dancing along one of Koh Kood’s beautiful beaches

Another contender for the best quiet islands in Thailand, Koh Kood has gorgeous white sand beaches, lovely range of accommodation and some great restaurants. Having stayed there in 2022, I wrote a full Koh kood guide and review here. I love staying at these gorgeous bungalows a short walk or even shorter motorbike drive to the closest beaches. Click on the bungalow to compare Koh Kood hotel accommodation prices on Agoda

Best East Coast of Thailand Island for: relaxing with a spot of scuba diving

Best things to do on Koh Kood: exploring by motorbike, visiting different beautiful beaches, going to a waterfall

Cheapest way to get to Koh Kood from Bangkok: Big bus or minivan from Ekkamai, Bangkok, songtaew (truck) to the pier then ferry. You can book your tickets here

Fastest way to get to Koh Kood from Bangkok: Fly to Trat then transfer then ferry.

Best luxury resort in Koh Kood is Soneva who fly their guests into Koh Kood itself, click on the image below to check out Soneva Kiri on Agoda:

Read here for Bangkok’s closest islands and beaches 

More islands information about Koh Similan, one of Thailand’s most beautiful islands can be found here

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