If Thailand is on your bucket list this year, great! If not, add it now because you should totally spend some time on the many beautiful islands the country has come to be famous for. Though there are many to choose from, the following ten islands in Thailand – packed with dreamy beaches and thrilling watersports opportunities – take the cake. Finally, somewhere else to go besides Bangkok.
Located off the coast of Thailand within the Krabi Province, Ko Lanta is a group of little islands, of which Ko Lanta Yai is probably the most visited. Filled with pristine waters and sandy white beaches perfect for soaking up the sun, snorkelling, and scuba diving, accommodation on Ko Lanta runs the gamut from basic to super swanky.
Getting to Ko Lanta: Passenger ferries are probably your best bet. Take a taxi from Krabi Airport to the pier in Krabi Town for 350 baht (15 minutes), or to the pier in Ao Nang for 600 baht (30 minutes). You can take a ferry from there.
A very small yet enchanting little island first occupied by sea gypsies, Ko Lipe is located in the Adang-Rawi Archipelago, southwest Thailand. Just outside the Tarutao National Park, any form of development has been banned, making it an extremely peaceful and non-crowded place to relax and explore. Don’t worry, there are several small accommodation options along the main beaches.
Getting to Ko Lipe: Fly to Hat Yai or to Trang Airport. From Hat Yai to Pak Bara, take a minivan or taxi (90 minutes). Then, catch a ferry or speed boat to Ko Lipe. The last boat is at 4pm so make sure you arrive with plenty of time. For more information, see here.
Situated less than an hour away by boat is Ko Tarutao, which is also the largest of 51 islands that belong to the Tarutao National Marine Park. Enjoy a digital detox amidst rugged mountains, limestone cliffs, and wildlife. Do note that there’s a one-time fee of 200 baht for foreigners entering the national park. Accommodation is also owned and operated by the park management so expect to be camping or staying in a no-frills bungalow.
Getting to Ko Tarutao: Speedboats stop at Ko Tarutao on the way to Ko Lipe if notified in advance. You can also get a ferry from Ko Lipe itself or Pak Bara. Ferries only run during the day, so arrive with plenty of sunshine left in the day.
If you’re making your way down this list, the islands we’ve mentioned are mainly accessible only from the south (ie. Phuket or Krabi) Ko Samet, on the other hand, is an easy getaway for those looking for a quick break from Bangkok. White sand beaches, impeccable sunsets each night, and an endless list of activities help to draw in the crowds.
Getting to Ko Samet: Buses to Ban Pae pier are available from Ekkamai Bus Station, Suvarnabhumi Airport, and Khao San Road in Bangkok. Once you arrive at Ban Pae pier, there is a ferry. For more information, see here.
With accommodations of all types and sizes, parties every single night, street fairs, and dozens of activities to partake in, it’s no wonder that Ko Samui is one of the most visited islands in all of Thailand. It might be one of the most touristy on this list, but whether you’re going as a solo backpackers or going with young children, there’s a piece of Ko Samui for you.
Getting to Ko Samui: Direct flights from Bangkok, Singapore and Southeast Asia cities. By sea, take a bus to the port at Surat Thani, then ferry. See here for full details.
Ko Yao Yai
Located just east of Phuket, Ko Yao Yai, by comparison, has significantly less tourist infrastructure. Instead of villages and towns filled with tourists, Ko Yao Yai maintains just a few dozen resorts and they’re pretty much all scattered around the island. Thus, it’s a fantastic long weekend trip without the crowds and sleaze of Phuket’s mainland or other more crowded Thai islands.
Getting to Ko Yao Yai: From Phuket airport, take a taxi to Bang Rong Pier. There are several boats going to Ko Yao Yai everyday. Full details available here.
Gaining in popularity year after year, Ko Tao has become a great destination for the adventure seekers, scuba divers, hikers, and rock climbers looking for a challenge. The increased tourist population has brought about new resorts, restaurants, bars, and clubs in the area, making it all the more attractive as a holiday destination.
Getting to Ko Tao: Take a ferry from Surat Thani or Ko Samui.
Located halfway between Ko Samui and Ko Tao, this island is known as a backpacker’s paradise, partially in thanks to its world-famous Full Moon Party (there’s even a Half Moon Party now) every month. Besides the crazy parties, there are also other factors that contribute to us voting Ko Phangan into the top 10, including its many fantastic spas and meditation retreats.
Getting to Ko Phangan: The nearest city is Surat Thani so once you arrive there, you can take a ferry from the passenger terminal. If you are arriving at Ko Samui, you can also get a boat from there.
The third largest island in Thailand, Ko Chang is a very mountainous place that has become well known for its incredible coral reefs, rainforests, and waterfalls. Located near the Thai-Cambodia border, people usually stop heading in or out of Cambodia. With a much quieter atmosphere than that of Ko Samui or Phuket, people go to Ko Chang for its many attractive beaches and natural beauty.
Getting to Ko Chang: Closer to Bangkok than other islands, it’s possible to take a bus from Khao San Road (Bangkok) to go pretty much directly there,a lthough you’ll need a ferry at Trat. Click here for detailed info on getting there.
Ko Phi Phi
In close competition with Ko Samui, as far as popularity goes, Ko Phi Phi is a place filled with stunning resorts and indescribable turquoise waters teeming with marine life. Famous for its appearance on the 2000 hit film, ‘The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, it is no surprise to find that the beaches are truly some of the most beautiful you will see throughout Thailand.
Getting to Ko Phi Phi: The ferry is the most popular method. Ferries leave from Phuket, Krabi and Ko Lanta.