Thailand has a rich culture, beach huts aplenty, tantalising local food and adventures galore, and all are available at often staggeringly low prices. It is home to an astonishing array of islands offering all manner of diving, swimming and sunbathing opportunities all year round. The hardest part for any visitor is singling out Thailand's best islands among the hundreds. Here is our pick of 20 of the best islands in Thailand.
The island is popular with package tourists, but it’s still possible to find accommodation to suit most budgets. Although the beaches may be busy, there are plenty of places to swim or snooze under a palm tree.
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Find more accommodation options to stay at Koh Chang.
For most visitors, the days are spent indulging in a few watersports or just lying on the beach waiting for the next drinks-seller, hair-braider or masseur to come along. For something more active, you should not miss the almost supernatural beauty of the Ang Thong National Marine Park, which comprises many of the eighty islands in the Samui archipelago.
Find more accommodation options to stay at Koh Samui.
The atmosphere created by thousands of folk mashing it up on the beautiful, moonlit beach, is a real buzz. Unfortunately, drug-related horror stories are common currency here, and many of them are true, so be careful.
Find more accommodation options to stay at Koh Pha Ngan.
Its 14 small but dazzlingly white beaches are breathtakingly beautiful, lapped by pale blue water and in places still shaded by coconut palms and the occasional cajeput (samet) tree that gave the island its name. The beaches are also, however, rather overcrowded and developed to full capacity, so don’t come here expecting a secluded break.
Find more accommodation options to stay at Koh Samet.
Explore the accommodation options to stay at Koh Mak.
Swathes of shoreline are fringed by scrub and mangroves rather than broad sandy beaches, and those parts of the island not still covered in the virgin tropical rainforest are filled with palm groves and rubber plantations. Koh Kood is a surprisingly pleasant place to explore on foot (or kayak), especially as the cool season brings refreshing breezes most days.
Find more accommodation options to stay at Koh Kood.
The 21 squared kilometres of granite in between is topped by dense forest on the higher slopes and dotted with huge boulders that look as if they await some Easter Island sculptor. There are rough trails inland that are great for exploring but Koh Tao is most famous for its great scuba diving. For those looking to learn how to dive on holiday Koh Tao has ranked as one of Thailand's best islands.
Find more accommodation options to stay at Koh Tao.
The pace of life here is very slow and for the relatively small number of tourists who make it to the island, the emphasis is strongly on kicking back and chilling out. Bring your own hammock and you’ll fit right in.
Because of its roads, Koh Phayam has a slightly more developed feel than neighbouring Koh Chang, underlined by a low-key beach-bar scene – all hand-painted signs and driftwood sculptures – and the presence of a significant number of foreigners who choose to spend six or more months here every year.
Lipe’s main drag is Walking Street, a paved path lined with tourist businesses between the eastern end of Hat Pattaya and the south end of the village. It lies on east-facing Sunrise, an exposed, largely featureless beach that gives access to some good snorkelling around Ko Gra.
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Find more accommodation options to stay at Koh Lipe.
It’s very much an outdoor experience, with most of the bulk of accommodation in national park tents, no commerce on the island at all, and twice-daily snorkelling as the main activity.
The underwater scenery is nothing short of overwhelming here: the reefs teem with coral fish, and you’ll see turtles, manta rays, moray eels, sea snakes, red grouper and possibly white tip sharks, barracuda, giant lobster and enormous tuna.
Nights are low key: it’s paraffin lamps and starlight after 11 pm at places off the main grid, and many places don’t even provide fans as ocean breezes are sufficiently cooling.
Measuring about 12km at its longest point, it’s home to some four thousand islanders, most of whom earn their living from rubber and coconut plantations, fishing and shrimp farming. While the beaches don’t have that same wow factor as many of the other best islands in Thailand, tourism here is low-key so it’s a peaceful escape.
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Many people base themselves here for their entire holiday fortnight. The island is especially popular with families, in part because of the local laws that have so far prevented jet skis, beachfront parasols and girlie bars from turning it into another Phuket.
Find more accommodation options to stay at Koh Lanta.
The gently sloping, fine white sand beach here runs unbroken for 2km and there’s some good snorkelling in the shallow, clear water off the island’s southeastern tip.
An offshore reef to the north has a great variety of hard coral. Such beauty, however, has not escaped the attention of day-trip boats from Koh Lanta, who often turn the beach into a lunchtime picnic ground.
Find accommodation options to stay at Koh Kradan.
A flat sandy isthmus connects the hilly east and west halves of the island, scalloped into the much-photographed symmetrical double bays of Ao Ton Sai and Ao Loh Dalum. The vast majority of the tourist accommodation is squashed in here, as is the island’s wild nightlife, with just a few alternatives scattered along the eastern coasts. Phi Phi’s few indigenous islanders mostly live in the northeast.
Find more accommodation options to stay at Koh Phi Phi.
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