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Comprised of white sand beaches dotted with swaying palm trees, the islands off the coast of Thailand are renowned for their laid-back vibes and turquoise waters. Each island has its own distinct personality, where some cater to couples looking for a romantic escape and others are more suited for party crowds. While there are dozens of idyllic landscapes to choose from, here are the best island destinations in Thailand.
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Koh Lipe offers postcard-perfect landscapes that are ideal for couples and honeymooners, as its 51 islands boast a combination of remote settings, white sand beaches and luxury hotels. Small enough to explore on foot, Pattaya Beach is one of the most popular destinations with its buzzing nightlife scene, while those looking for a quiet day out can head to Sunset Beach. Hop on a boat tour and spend a day snorkeling in its crystal clear waters, then chill out at a reggae bar and watch a crowd-free sunset.
Considered one of the best all-around island destinations in Thailand, Koh Lanta is made up of several little islands. You’ll discover nature reserves and remote beaches where you can soak up the sunshine by yourself, while its calm waters make it ideal for families traveling with kids. Your time on Koh Lanta can vary each day, as its range of beautiful beaches, world-class diving, beach bars and seafood restaurants will keep you busy. Hop on a kayak and explore a mangrove forest or explore the ocean life full of manta rays and whales on a boat excursion.
Koh Samui is considered one of the best island destinations for families and first-timers, where accommodation ranges from small bungalows to exclusive villas. The island caters to all types of visitors, from Michelin-starred restaurants to family-friendly hotels, while it lures in plenty of yoga enthusiasts with its abundance of yoga retreats. Its clean stretches of white sand beaches, spas and luxury resorts are hard to resist, and if you time your visit right you can see the annual Buffalo Fighting Festival or Samui Regatta.
One of the most developed islands in Thailand, on Phuket you’ll find everything from celebrity-chef restaurants to five-star resorts with private butlers. While it is one of the busiest destinations, it still retains some of the most beautiful beaches in the islands where you can sit back on a sun-lounger and hop between upscale beach bars. Once you peel yourself from the beach, there are plenty of shopping areas, golf courses and history museums to explore, while longtail boats can take you to day trips to James Bond Island.
Scuba divers flock to Koh Tao looking for the ultimate underwater adventure, as Koh Tao offers the perfect place to join PADI courses and explore vibrant coral teeming with sharks, rays and other marine life. Lined with sandy coves, picturesque lantern-lit restaurants and dive shops, the island also has an excellent nightlife scene. Koh Tao is also a great spot to enjoy outdoor recreation such as rock climbing and hiking, while fishing enthusiasts have the chance to reel in marlin, snapper or barracuda.
If you want to explore Thailand’s eastern islands, head to Koh Chang. Much of its interior is a national park, which makes it an ideal destination for jungle trekking, waterfall chasing and exploring its colorful coral reefs. You can go island hopping from here to see remote beaches like Had Sai Noi or see a traditional fishing village in Salakkok Bay, or simply relax along the picturesque shores of White Sand Beach and soak up its laid-back charm.
You can make Similan Islands your home base if you plan to go island hopping, as Koh Miang and Koh Similan are popular destinations to explore some of Thailand’s most beautiful untouched reefs and white sand beaches. Forming a national park in the Andaman Sea, bamboo bungalows dot the soft sand along turquoise waters. If you want to see whale sharks, take a boat excursion to Richelieu Rock to see one of the best dive sites in the world.
Koh Phi Phi
If you’re traveling solo or with a group of friends, then you’ll most likely make your way to Koh Phi Phi. It’s got a reputation for good times with plenty of outdoor activities on offer, from diving and snorkeling to cliff-jumping. It’s also a popular spot to take day trips to nearby Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Ley, the beautiful islet that was featured in the movie “The Beach”. It boasts a young and energetic crowd, where swimming, sunning and bar hopping is popular.
Sitting in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Phangan is a hotspot for full moon parties along its picturesque stretch of beach. A famous backpacking destination, you can visit here to immerse yourself in the islands natural beauty and explore its stunning rainforests. If you prefer to take it easy you can sit under the shade of a palm tree at the serene Bottle Beach, visit one of the island’s ornate Buddhist temples or pamper yourself with a luxurious spa at one of the resorts.
Koh Si Chang
Perfect if you’re pressed for time, Koh Si Chang is one of the closest beach destinations to Bangkok. It offers a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of the capital city, where you can soak up the relaxed atmosphere and enjoy the beautiful landscapes of green foliage and fishing villages. Gaze at the waves from a sun-lounger or indulge in fresh seafood from a local restaurant, then enjoy outdoor activities such as snorkeling, biking and kayaking.
Sitting within a national park, Koh Samet is a picturesque location lined with white sand beaches just a short jaunt from Bangkok. The island boasts more than 16 beaches, each with its own personality and full of white sand so fine it’s like stepping on silk-feather pillows. Head to Ao Noina, Ao Phutsa or Au Nuan for a serene atmosphere and cozy accommodations, while Hat Sai Kaew and Ao Hin Khok are popular for swimming, windsurfing and nightlife.