There is no shortage of idyllic island escapes in Thailand. But with over 3,000 km of coastline and more than 1,400 islands and islets within easy reach, choosing the perfect koh can be daunting, until now.
Whether you’re into rock climbing, Full Moon partying, scuba diving or romancing, there is a perfect spot for you. If you’re planning a trip to the Land of Smiles and are blinded by the bevy of breathtaking options, our list of the best Thai islands should steer you in the right direction.
For romantics, families and Thailand first-timers
Samui is easy. A quick one-hour flight from Bangkok puts you in the heart of the Gulf of Siam, amidst lush, tropical jungles and soft, powdery beaches. Accommodations range from rustic-chic guesthouses to some of Thailand’s top resorts and boutique island hideaways.
Graced with calm, shallow swimming beaches perfect for families (Taling Ngam, Bang Por) and action-packed beaches (Chaweng, Lamai), too, there’s a good range of eateries and fun island activities throughout, making Samui an ideal choice for just about everyone.
With the only airport in the Gulf, Samui is also the gateway to neighbouring Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, both just a ferry away. Combining a Samui stay with one or both of the other Gulf islands is a popular itinerary giving travellers the perfect package.
Koh Phi Phi
For boho singles, divers & beach bums and DiCaprio film buffs, too!
Comprised of lively Phi Phi Don and peaceful Phi Phi Leh (and four lesser islets), the Phi Phi Islands collectively offer visitors the best of both worlds. Almost entirely rebuilt after the tsunami, staying in someplace new here is easy.
Phi Phi caters to a more refined younger crowd than you’ll find at a Full Moon Party but dancing till dawn isn’t uncommon here. Days can be spent lazing on otherworldly beaches, longtail boating off to Phi Phi Leh (where The Beach was filmed), or hiking up hundreds of steps for a breathtaking view of it all.
The archipelago is also part of the Hat Nopparat Thara-Ko Phi Phi National Park and offers some of the world’s most stunning marine life, making it a haven for divers and rock-climbers alike.
For divers, nature-lovers, hot yogis & cool partiers
Spending decades as a sleepy diving mecca and not much more, gorgeous Koh Tao has organically transformed into an incredibly well-rounded destination, all centred around its pristine nature and warm disposition.
It’s where those looking to get away from the bustle of Samui and Phangan escape to by sea and are richer for it. Today, Koh Tao boasts a range of impressive accommodations, delicious restaurants and well-attended music festivals, alongside its world-class diving reputation.
Sublime al fresco yoga studios rub shoulders with rock-climbing and SUP operators, and jungle hikes to the perfect cliff-diving spot are always on the menu.
For lovers, water babies and the spa-loving well-heeled
Phuket has been on everyone’s list of Thailand’s best forever, and rightfully so. It’s hard to go wrong here, whether you’re with the family, friends or flying solo. There’s a beach and an attitude for everyone and western creature comforts are plentiful.
As the biggest Thai island of them all, Phuket is busy with designer boutiques and world-class eateries (Acqua is a must), 6-star resorts and a polished, cosmopolitan feel, until you turn a corner and find a perfect, secluded beach (Kata Noi).
For epic pampering, head to Shambhala Spa, overlooking Phang Nga Bay, where James Bond’s The Man with the Golden Gun was shot.
For chilled-out hippies, humble hedonists and outdoor enthusiasts
Koh Phangan’s tourism may have been built on its reputation of hosting unreal 3-day parties over the Full Moon, but there’s more to this Gulf of Thailand gem, even a little luxury.
Haad Rin’s Sunset Beach is the loud centre of it all but minutes away lay stunning stretches of sand, divine dive sites and arguably Thailand’s very best beach (Bottle Beach). Recover from the bash with a beach Thai massage and a watermelon shake or escape to the north coast for posh Ayurvana Spa and the uber-exclusive Anantara Rasananda Koh Phangan Villa Resort & Spa, a private boat transfer away.
Still, there’s Koh Chang, Koh Lanta, Similan Islands and Koh Lipe, each with their own flavour and all worthy of a stay. Hey, four more reasons to return!