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It’s no secret that Thailand is home to some of the best beaches and islands in the world. With soft white sandy beaches, crystal clear aqua water, affordable hotels, delicious Thai food and some of the best snorkelling and diving spots in Asia on offer, it’s no wonder why Thailand is so popular for a beach holiday. You most definitely need to have a few beaches and islands on your Thailand itinerary!

best beaches in thailand

But with so many beaches and islands to choose from, you may be wondering which are the best islands in Thailand or indeed the best Thailand beaches for relaxation, diving, partying, outdoor activities, scenery or to travel to with a family.

I have visited many beautiful beaches in Thailand including those on the West and East Coasts but I can’t profess to visiting them all! So I asked a few travel experts about their own opinions. I asked them ‘Which are the best islands in Thailand‘ and here are there responses…

thaialnd beach from above

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If you are visiting Thailand you will no doubt be planning to visit some of Thailand beaches and may be wondering which are the best islands in Thailand for relaxing, partying, diving, snorkelling, rock climbing or to take a family. Here are 12 of the best Thailand islands for all those things, perfect to add to your backpacking Thailand itinerary

Best Thailand Islands for The Restless

Railay Beach by Ellie of TheWanderingQuinn.com

Railay beach in thailand

Railay Beach in Krabi isn’t an island, it’s attached to the mainland however because it can only be accessed by boat, it has a real island feel to it.

Railay Beach is a great place for those who like activities and like to move around because in a relatively small space it offers a lot. It’s towering limestone cliffs offer the best rock climbing in Thailand and Tonsai Beach next door to Railay is the best place to rock climb. If you fancy doing some climbing in a different sense, head up to one of the viewpoints, it’s a steep and tricky route but worth it at the top.

Other activities on offer are kayaking and stand up paddle boarding.

Railay is made up of 3 beaches – Railay East, Railay West and Phra Nang Beach, plus there’s a 4th beach- Tonsai Beach just over the hill. This means you can really mix up your day as it’s very possible to see all 4 beaches in one day rather than needing to spend all day on the same beach.

Railay Beach offers hotels and resorts if you wish to stay there but an alternative option is to stay in Ao Nang on the mainland which has more accommodation options and take day trips to Railay Beach. The boat there is inexpensive, regular and takes just 10 minutes.

Koh Kood Island by Tanya from CanTravelWillTravel.com

koh kood island

Koh Kood Island (also spelt Koh Kut) in the eastern Gulf of Thailand, is located about 50 km west off mainlands of Thailand and Cambodia. It’s still a relatively untouristy island and is perfect for lovers of pristine beaches, jungles and waterfalls; it has something for everyone.

 For those that just want to relax there are some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Thailand chill out on with a book and an icy cold Thai beer or coconut. Then for those who like to keep busy, Koh Kood has plenty of outdoor activities to try. There’s jungle hiking, kayaking, snorkelling and diving, or you could rent a motorbike to explore the hilly island to visit the fishing villages and waterfalls. 

The island doesn’t have a huge amount of nightlife but there’s a fairly good selection of local eateries and restaurants for tasty food and a few drinks as you watch the sunset. Accommodation is dotted around the island mainly near the beaches and main village with something for all budgets and tastes. I can personally recommend the little jungle hideaway of Koh Kood BED’s and the more high-end Peter Pan Resort. 

If you decide you’d like a change of scenery at any point you can also easily island hop to the nearby Koh Mak and more touristy Koh Chang. Koh Kood really is one of Thailand’s hidden gems and is well worth a visit before everyone else finds out about it.

Best Thailand Island for Partying

Koh Phangan by Nate from www.TravelLemming.com

Koh Phangan by TravelLemming.com

Koh Phangan is world-famous for its annual Full Moon Party. The biggest backpacker party in the world takes place on the shockingly beautiful Haad Rin beach once a month.

Can’t make the marquee monthly event? That’s ok! Phangan also plays host to a variety of parties throughout the month. Among others, there’s the Half Moon Party, the Black Moon Party, the Jungle Party, and the Waterfall Party. All are spectacular shindigs worthy of your consideration too!

 The parties will be more fun if you approach it with these few tips in mind: consume responsibly, don’t go barefoot as glass finds its way into the sand, stay close to a friend as it’s easy to get lost, and make sure you have insurance cover for Thailand

Oh, and pace yourself so that you can stay up and watch the sunrise when the party cools down to a nice chill level! 

Not much of the party type? Well, believe it or not, Koh Phangan still may be your paradise! The entire northern half of the island is secluded and quiet even during the full moons, and it offers dozens of tropical beaches nestled against lush forests –  peaceful retreats for families, couples, or anyone who just wants to nurse their hangover from the night before! 

Looking for somewhere to stay near the action of Haad Rin but away from the noise? Book your stay at the tasteful Moonstone Studio, where you’ll enjoy great ocean views from your room.

Koh Samui by Cazzy from DreamBigTravelFar.com

big buddah in koh samui

Koh Samui is one of the more famous islands in Thailand. It’s got an airport which makes it super easy to get too, or you can there via boat! Either way, if you’re looking for pristine beaches, a big buddha and a great party, then Koh Samui is the beach for you.

There is quite a bit of variety when it comes to partying in the area. If you want classic cheap buckets of cocktails on the beach, then the Chaweng Beach area is the party central in Koh Samui. Or, if you want classic Thai dancing, or to experience the famous transgender cabaret shows, then you’ll find that too. Probably the most well-known bar/club in Koh Samui is the Soi Green Mango, and I recommend it! Nightlife in Koh Samui runs to around 2 am, but you’ll often find some bars are happy to have you party onlonger.

After you’ve experienced the epic nightlife, you can relax on the beautiful beaches during the day, or chill at some of the brilliant beach clubs on offer including, Nikki Beach and Beach Republic. Plus there are plenty of restaurants serving cheap and delicious food to help soak up the alcohol!

Best Thailand Island for Diving  

Phi Phi Island by Ben from HorizonUnknown.com

koh phi phi island in thailand

Phi Phi Island is well known as one of the best places in Thailand to Scuba Dive – the popularity is well justified. Reefs on the island of Phi Phi are filled with marine life. The amount and diversity of the creatures living in this underwater world are staggering.

A short ferry ride from Thailand tourist hubs of Krabi and Phuket finds you on the picturesque island of Koh Phi Phi. There are plenty of other activities to do above the water, but if getting acquainted with the abundance of life underneath the waves, there are plenty of companies to choose from.

Personally, one company is above all the others. Helping in educating divers and keeping the waters clean, Princess Divers is a great company to dive with. Whether you’re a beginner learning the ropes of diving or an expert, there is something for every level under the waves of Phi Phi.

Apart from the crystal clear waters offering outstanding visibility, there’s many caves and narrow swim-throughs to explore as you soak in the surroundings of this relatively unknown world.

It’s hard to visit such a beautiful place of the world as Phi Phi Island and not appreciate and love the sight of the vast, seemingly endless water. Submersing yourself into this world is an experience you’re unlikely to ever forget.

diving in thailand coral reef

Surin and the Similan Islands by James from TravelCollecting.com

Similan Islands Thailand

The absolute best diving I have done anywhere (and I’ve dived off the coast of 6 continents) was in the Surin and Similan Islands.  It is here that I saw manta rays for the first time, plus reef sharks, leopard sharks, moray eels, blue-spotted rays, octopi and so many colourful tropical fish that it is impossible to name them all. 

The dives are a combination of drift dives with strong currents and regular dives with little or no current.  Some of the sites are like swimming in an aquarium, they are so calm, so full of fish and with such perfect visibility. 

The islands are located off the coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea, too far off shore for day trips. They are mostly uninhabited, so the only way to experience them is on a live-aboard boat

Trips are typically four days/ three nights or seven days/ six nights and visit multiple tiny islands and dive sites over the course of the trip.  There are many boats available, most leaving from Khao Luk (which is closer to the islands) or Phuket.  Most boats run from October to May, through March is the best month for visibility.  This is when I did it and it was incredible!

Koh Tao by Ann from EcoConsciousTraveller.org

Koh Tao, thailand beach

Koh Tao is famous for being the best island in Thailand for diving. You have a wide range of options once you’re there and you can choose which course you want to do and they vary in length of time.

They involve reading, watching videos and of course diving. The underwater scenery is just incredible and you can even spot some great shipwrecks while you’re down there. You can also spot whale sharks and colourful reef fish. Generally, 3-day courses cost upwards of 300USD.

I was actually surprised that Koh Tao is so beautiful seeing as I associated it so much with diving and didn’t know much about the island itself. If you have time after your diving experience definitely spend a few days enjoying the beaches on the island taking in the sunset.

As you know divers are pretty cool people which is one reason that the Koh Tao pub crawl is such an experience as you get to mingle with people from different dive schools and dance the night away with them. There’s a pub crawl on four days a week so you’ll be sure to catch one while you’re there.

thailand koh tao

Best Island in Thailand for Scenery

Koh Lipe by Hannah from www.GettingStamped.com

Koh Lipe island thailand

We have spent over a year living and travelling around Thailand and there is no beach anywhere in Thailand or Southeast Asia that compares to Sunrise Beach on Koh Lipe. There are a ton of gorgeous islands in Thailand but none have the turquoise waters and white sandy beach like Koh Lipe. There are three main beaches on the small island but Sunrise Beach is the jewel.

 Koh Lipe is often referred to as the Maldives of Thailand, and if you’ve been to the Maldives or googled them you know the bar is set high. We spent 6 weeks in the Maldives and can say Koh Lipe definitely competes with the Maldives and has way better food. Not only is Sunrise Beach gorgeous to look at but it’s home to the best Thai restaurant in the world IMO. Sunrise Beach Restaurant (fitting name) has the best Penang Curry & Papaya salad and it will only set you back $5 for both.

There are luxury hotels and basic beach huts for rent on the beach. The island is small enough you can walk anywhere, you could spend an hour walking the entire Sunrise Beach. We’ve spent over a month on the island on three different trips, make sure to check out our Koh Lipe Island guide with all of our favourite restaurants, bars, hotels, and day trips. 

Best Beach in Thailand for Peace and Quiet

Ao Nam Mao by Chris from BecomingADigitalNomad.com

Ao Nam Mao beach thailand

We lived in the Krabi area for six months as digital nomads and enjoyed a lot of the beaches in southern Thailand. Ao Nam Mao is my favourite in the Krabi area, being isolated despite being smack dab between two more-travelled destinations in the area (the Ao Nam Mao pier and the Shell Fossil Beach). It’s a beach that’s still isolated and raw. There’s no one around, no artificial lights, and no one selling anything.

Why is it so isolated? I have two guesses: 1/ It’s between two more popular destinations. 2/ The closest buildings around are older and residential and don’t look like they’re going anywhere. For all the money going into Thailand’s beaches, it seems it’s all going elsewhere. 

How to get to Ao Nam Mao: If coming via scooter from Krabi, head west towards Ao Nang, then turn left onto route 4204 at the gas station with a 7-11. Head south towards the roundabout, turn left onto route 4203. Go about 2 kilometres and slow down when you see the orange fish on your right. You’re looking for Laemphopattana soi 2 – it’ll be one of the only blue street signs around. If you pass a mosque on your right, you’ve gone too far. Head down this side street until it dead-ends, then park and walk to the beach. 

Best Thailand Beach for Relaxation

Surin Islands by Greta from GretasTravels.com

Surin Island in Thailand best beach for relaxation

If you’re looking for the best beaches in Thailand for a quiet relaxing break away from the crowds, the Surin Islands are the perfect place for you. The Surin Islands are an archipelago of five islands approximately 60km away from the Thai mainland. They are characterised by clear turquoise water, vast marine wildlife, mangrove forests, white sand beaches and are a very popular snorkelling spot in Thailand.

It takes around 1 hour to reach the Surin Islands by speed boat. You can visit them on a day trip from the Thai mainland, but if you want to have a truly relaxing experience, why not stay at the Surin Islands overnight? There are a number of different types of accommodation on the islands, ranging from tents to bungalows.

 Whatever you chose, by staying overnight you will get to experience sunset and sunrise at these beautiful beaches in peace, once the day trip crowds leave. The beaches at Surin have lots of swings and hammocks where you can relax, read a book or sip on a coconut. Alcohol is banned at the Surin Islands so you can be sure there won’t be loud, drunk, party-seeking tourists to spoil your quiet beach holiday!

Ko Chang by Wendy from TheNomadicVegan.com

Sunset on Ko Chang

My husband and I are not into the party scene, so we went looking for a quiet and peaceful island where we could celebrate my birthday while we were in Thailand. We found exactly what we were looking for on the small, forested island of Ko Chang on the Andaman coast.

This is not to be confused with the more popular Ko Chang on the Gulf coast! I’m talking about the one in Ranong district, near Burma, which is very undeveloped, with no cars and sporadic electricity. 

Access is via long-tail taxi boat from Ranong, which is a pleasant journey that takes about 2.5 hours. The boat driver will drop you off at the bungalow of your choice. There are no large hotels here, just little bungalows made out of bamboo or wood.

Ko Chang doesn’t quite fit the typical image of a paradise beach. Nearby Ko Phayam has whiter sand and therefore attracts more tourists. But if you’re looking for a peaceful place where you can swim in the gentle, warm waters of the bay, eat delicious Thai food and sip cocktails while watching beautiful sunsets, this is the place.

Best Thailand island for families

Ko Lanta by Jenny from TravelynnFamily.com

KoLanta with kids

For a family holiday in Thailand, Ko Lanta ticks all the boxes, especially Klong Dao beach on the north-west tip of the island.

Here, the golden crescent of the beach has a very gentle gradient, and as such, the water is shallow and perfect for a paddle. Towards the southern end of the beach, there are rocks for rock pooling and the sand is the perfect consistency for some serious sandcastle-building.

I also like that that the island It’s not overly developed, and has retained its rustic charm; there are very few buildings taller than two stories.

There are lots of family-friendly restaurants on the island, many that spill on to the beach so the kids can play in the sand whilst parents enjoy a sundowner. An added bonus, particularly with the restaurants in along Klong Dao beach, is that many of the restaurants have toys to play with (some have slides and hoppers) and a separate kids’ menu (serving both Thai and Western dishes).  

Kids will also love exploring the colourful markets of Sala Dan by the ferry terminal and make sure you take speedboat tour out to explore the other islands.  

To get to Ko Lanta, you need to use a ferry (there is also a car ferry). There is no airport, but you can hire airport transfers from Krabi Airport on the mainland.

Frequently Asked Questions about visiting Thailand’s Islands and Beaches

When is the best time to visit Thailands beaches?

The good news is that the rainy season is different for the East and West Thailand islands meaning there’s always somewhere sunny and dry to visit (unless you get really unlucky!)

That said, I visited during the rainy season and had glorious weather so if it’s the only time you have to visit Thailand beaches and islands, don’t let it put you off too much. Your likely to have short heavy downpours but plenty of sunshine between.

On the West coast, avoid the months of April to October if you can when the rainy season occurs. The East coast, however, gets most rain between September and December.

What should I wear on the beaches in Thailand?

The dress code is fairly relaxed on most Thailand islands so you are fine to wear a bikini on the beach. However sunbathing topless or in very skimpy swimwear may offend locals and should be avoided.

Pull on a beach dress or sarong if you are leaving the beach ad if you go to visit any of Thailands temples, make sure you cover your shoulders to knees.

Can I take a sailing trip to visit Thailands Islands?

Absolutely! I took a 7-day sailing trip from Phuket and it was awesome – I’d definitely recommend this as a way to see lots of Thailands best islands!

If it’s snorkelling you are after, I’d recommend checking out G Adventures and Intrepid Travel for affordable trips with a brilliant reputation! (I’ve travelled with G Adventures 8 times and Intrepid Travel twice on both land and marine based trips.) If you’re not sure which to choose, check out my G Adventures vs Intrepid guide.

If you want to take a trip where you have opportunities to dive most days, then LiveAboard is an excellent choice with affordable boats at a reasonable price.

Check out sailing and dive trips here…

Thailand long tail boats

Hopefully, this has given you an idea about which is the best Thailand Island for your trip whether you want peace and quiet, world-class diving or a non-stop party!

Which Thailand Island or Beach has caught your attention? Tell us in the comments below!

Further Reading

Here’s a few other articles about Thailand or other exotic island destinations you may want to read next…

In the meantime, here are some pretty pins for your Pinterest boards…

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