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Beaches & Islands

thailand beachThailand’s islands are often postcard perfect: palm trees, clear blue water, white sand. Some are covered in jungle and mountains, while others are a veritable city. Others still are national parks and have nothing but a few bungalows run by the government.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Thailand’s islands is between December and March. It rains heavily during May and October  on the west coast, while the east coast has less rain but the wet season lasts longer: from June to December.

Here’s a short guide to  well-known island destinations in Thailand.


Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and the most popular beach destination. Given its popularity, Phuket can be an expensive place: from accommodation to food and recreational activities, you will pay more than anywhere else in Thailand. However, you’ll also have more services at your disposal: feeling hot? Go to the mall and take in a blockbuster movie at an air-conditioned theater. Tired of lying around? Go jet-skiing, paragliding, or banana-boating.

There are a few secluded beaches where you can camp alone, away from the hustle and bustle of the crowded beaches with hotels, restaurants and everything else on them.

>>more information on Phuket

Ko Samui

Samui (alternative spelling:  Koh Samui) is in the Gulf of Thailand on the country’s east coast. There’s an international airport on the island and countless ferry connections to the mainland and other islands. It’s a possible spa and resort destination, and you can splurge as much as you like here.

The most popular beaches on the island include:

  • Chaweng Beach: the busiest beach on the island, and  also the best for surfing. It’s also filled with places to stay for any budget.
  • Lamai Beach: the second major beach on the island but never too busy. It’s supposed to have the finest sand on the entire island.
  • Bophut Beach: white, sandy beach in a nice location
  • Maenam Beach: is popular among backpackers and those looking for a luxury resort. It’s the best place to stay if you are not fan of the nightlife.

Ko Samet

Samet (alternative spelling:  Koh Samet) is a small island located close to Bangkok, and popular with weekenders escaping the city.  It’s a relatively rural island, with unpaved roads, but  during the weekends the beaches are crammed with Thais and international tourists alike.

The most popular beaches on Samet are:

  • Hat Sai Kaew, which literally means Crystal Sand Beach. Here you can  swim, sunbathe, jet ski, windsurf, or scream from the back of a banana boat.
  • Ao Wong Deuan is the second largest beach on the island and is popular all year long. It’s a great beach with lovely accommodation and restaurants where you can enjoy great seafood.
  • Ao Noi Na is quieter and is perfect for those looking for a relaxed holiday.
  • Ao Prao is the only beach on the west coast of the island and is one of the quietest beaches on Ko Samet.

Ko Chang

Part of namesake Mu Ko Chang National Marine Park, Ko Chang is Thailand’s second-largest island. It’s very close to the Cambodian border, on the Upper Southern Gulf, and is easily reached by a five-hour bus ride and a one-hour ferry. Though development hasn’t escaped it, the island’s interior is covered with mountains and impenetrable jungle.

The west coast is the most developed and offers the most accommodation. On the east coast you’ll find fishing villages, mangrove forests, and a couple of nice beaches.

The most popular beaches on the island include:

  • White Sands Beach On the northern side of the west coast, this beach is the most developed and the most expensive. There are still bungalow hideouts; walk up the beach to the north for a semi-secret enclave of budget huts.
  • Lonely Beach A small-ish beach, this west coast location has the most budget accommodation on the island, as well as some decent backpacker-oriented nightlife.
  • Long Beach On the very southern tip of the island, but only accessible from the the east, sits quiet, clear long beach. Shallow blue water make this a snorkeler’s favorite, and there are a few budget huts smattered around.

Other destinations

Other popular island and beach destinations in Thailand include:

  • Hua Hin & Cha-Am
  • Pattaya
  • Ko Kut
  • Ko Lanta
  • Ko Lipe
  • Ko Mak
  • Ko Pha Ngan
  • Ko Phi Phi
  • Ko Tao

More information:

Snorkeling in Thailand
Introduction to Ko Chang
Introduction to Phuket
Cheap flights to Phuket