If you are considering Thailand Island hopping then you are in for a real treat! With hundreds and hundreds of beautiful islands in Thailand, you are going to find the perfect island for you. In fact your hardest decision is going to be working out which are the best islands to visit in Thailand.
Whilst I have visited some of the more popular islands in Thailand, I certainly have not visited them all. So with the help of some travel blogger friends I have put together this mini Thailand island hopping guide covering off on the some of the best islands to visit in Thailand. Hopefully this guide will give you some inspiration when deciding which island to visit in Thailand.
Whether you are after the best islands in Thailand for families, the most romantic islands in Thailand, some of the quiet islands in Thailand of perhaps the cheapest island in Thailand, you will be sure to find it in this guide.
The Thailand Island Hopping Guide – the Best Islands to visit in Thailand
Thailand is a long thing country with the Andaman Sea on one side and the Gulf of Thailand on the other side. The best Thai islands to visit can be found right across Thailand. For island hopping purposes and for the purpose of this guide, I have split the islands into 5 different areas:
- Chanthaburi and Trat Provinces (the islands closest to Bangkok and close to Cambodia),
- The Gulf of Thailand Islands;
- The islands in the Andaman Sea;
- The islands in Phang-Nga Bay; and
- The far southern islands which are just north of Malaysia.
Islands in Chanthaburi and Trat Provinces
The provinces of Chanthaburi and Trat is where you will find the best islands near Bangkok. There are over 30 of these Thailand east islands close to Bangkok in these provinces.
Koh Samet is a beautiful, small island off Thailand’s east coast. It is located about an hour’s drive from Bangkok, followed by a thirty-minute speed boat ride, so it is easy to reach.
The island is ringed by white sandy beaches, beautiful blue sea and swaying palm trees. Koh Samet is the kind of place where you kick back and relax, where you leave your shoes behind (we took ours off on the speed boat and didn’t wear them again until we left!) and spend your time on the beach or in the sea.
Ao Phai Beach, which happened to be where we were staying, is perfect for children with soft sand and calm seas. We stayed in one of the best island resorts in Thailand – The Samed Villa Resort – located right on the beach. The restaurant served a mix of local and Western food and featured a dining area right on the beach with a daily dinner BBQ. We loved the fruit shakes and cocktails..!
Click here to find out more about Samed Villa Resort or to find other accommodation on Koh Samet.
Koh Wai is one of the most beautiful Thai islands. It can be easily reached on a short boat trip from Koh Chang. Ferries depart from Bang Bao, and the ride lasts between 20 minutes (if going on a fast boat) and 45 (on a regular boat).
The striking difference between Koh Wai and all other nearby islands is the complete lack of traffic and, hence, noise. There are no paved roads on the island, but just a small dirt trail that goes around it. Only a handful of people live there, running the few local businesses: a couple of beach restaurants (which serve surprisingly good food); and some bungalow rentals.
Electricity is produced by power generators, so the island is completely dark at night; and there is no wifi other than at one of the restaurants.
To top this already idyllic setting, Koh Wai is blessed with incredibly beautiful beaches, soft white sand lined with palm trees, and clear, clean and blue waters where it is fun to snorkel and admire the local marine life.
The lack of electricity and internet put off many people from visiting, so Koh Wai is one of the more quiet Thai islands making it the perfect place to completely relax away from the crowds that are typical of other islands in Thailand.
Surrounded by thousands of palm trees and pristine beaches is the tiny Thai island of Koh Mak. Stumble upon Buddhist temples, tiny fishing villages and coconut plantations while exploring this beautiful family-friendly island. Koh Mak is Thailand’s best-kept secret, with untouched nature, chilled beach vibes and breathtaking vantage points.
Getting To Koh Mak
- From Laem Ngop Pier (Trat): Travel by speedboat from the Laem Ngop Pier in Trat. In less than an hour, you’ll reach your island paradise for no more than 500Baht. Just be sure to leave Trat before 4 pm as that’s the last ferry of the day!
- From Koh Chang: Koh Chang is just 20 km North of Koh Mak and offers both slow and speedboat services. Both depart daily and cost 400B for the 2-hour slow boat or 600B for the 40-minute speedboat.
Things To Do In Koh Mak
- Diving and Snorkeling: Dive the depths of the Andaman Sea and discover vibrant coral reefs and tropical sea life.
- Cycle Around The Island: The best way to explore Koh Mak is by bicycle. It’s an eco-friendly form of transport and is great exercise too!
- Water Sports: Kayak or paddle board the bays and beaches of Koh Mak. If you’re looking for adrenaline-pumping water sports, why not give windsurfing a try?
- Cooking School: Take a bit of Thailand home with you and learn to cook your favourite Thai dishes at a cookery school.
Accommodation At Koh Mak
Soak up the sun on your own private beach at the Seavana Koh Mak Resort. They have all the beach equipment you could hope for available on site and breathtaking views of the island. Enjoy your free daily breakfast on the beach before exploring the incredible island of Koh Mak.
Gulf of Thailand Islands
There are over 60 islands found among the southern islands in the Gulf of Thailand. The islands are best reached either by flying to the largest island in the region Koh Samui and taking a boat across to the other islands, or alternatively if you make your way across the mainland to the Surat Thani and you can take a boat from here.
Koh Samui is one of the top islands in Thailand for a holiday with kids. Koh Samui is much quieter and more laid back than its Thai island cousin Phuket. It boasts stunning white sandy beaches, a good selection of excellent restaurants and a large choice of family friendly Thailand beach resorts.
If you are a beach-loving family, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to finding a gorgeous beach to hang out on for the day. But there is more to Koh Samui than just beaches and you will find plenty more to do to entertain the kids.
Kayaking and snorkeling in Ang Thong Marine Park is a popular day trip for island hopping and exploring lagoons. There are also two fun water parks to choose from on the island, plus canopy adventures, go-karting and crazy golf. Don’t miss a visit to the famous Big Buddha temple to visit for a morning of culture.
We love to stay on Bophut Beach, as it is relatively quiet, with calm shallow water and the Fisherman’s Village here has a good range of restaurants and bars to choose from. We particularly love Coco Tam’s beach bar with its swings at the bar! People who want more action should head to Chaweng or Lamai beaches.
You can fly to Koh Samui directly from Bangkok, Phuket, Singapore and Hong Kong, among other cities.
Koh Pha Ngan
While Ko Phangan may be best known for its monthly full-moon parties, there is so much more to the island. When travelling with kids, plan to visit the island away from the full-moon party, and you will find quiet and calm beaches, a pristine jungle and a sleepy island feel.
Grab a budget beach bungalow on the northwest side of the island at Haad Yao with its seaside restaurants lit up every evening. We really liked the chilled-out atmosphere of Seaflower Bungalows and the family beach bungalows right on the beach at a very affordable rate. Or indulge in some of the newer up-market Thailand Island resorts where you can find friendly service and amazing amenities.
If you can tear yourself away from the beach, head inland to explore the jungle including deserted waterfalls and swimming holes. The night markets offer delicious Thai snacks, and the kids will love the Banana Rotis cooked right in front of them. There are lots of opportunities to explore the pristine waters of Ko Phangan and neighbouring islands by boat.
To get to Ko Phangan, fly to Ko Samui and take the 45 minute ferry over to the island or take a ferry from the mainland.
Southern Islands – Phang Ng Bay
Home to perhaps the most beautiful Thailand beaches and islands, as well as some of the most popular islands in Thailand, are the islands around Phang Ng Bay. This is a great area for the first-timer who wants to see as many of the best Thailand islands as possible as the area is easily accessible by plane and many islands are close together. In fact it is even possible to see a few islands in a single day trip.
There’s so much to do and see in Phuket that it’s hard to know where to start!
Our main criteria was to be away from the main party town of Patong. After visiting, I was pretty glad we made that choice! We ended up staying near Bang Tao beach in a lovely hotel but that was a bit far from the beach. If you can afford to, I would recommend staying on the beachfront as the hotels looked incredible. We were still very happy with our hotel – the Angsana Villas Resort Phuket.
You can do as much or as little as you want in Phuket. There are many stunning beaches to choose from and lovely hotels to hang out in. If you want to venture further afield, we enjoyed Phuket Old Town and the Dinosaur Crazy Golf. You can easily do a bit of Phuket island hopping as there are a few islands near Phuket. Islands around Phuket include the Phi Phi islands, which I really regret not doing.
If you’re wondering about going to Phuket, I would completely recommend it!
Koh Phi Phi Le
Koh Phi Phi Le is an uninhabited island in the stunning Andaman Sea, with Maya Bay being made famous by the film The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
The limestone cliffs and mountains are a sight to behold and well worth the effort even if you do not get into the water. This gives a great way of experiencing Phi Phi Le without adding to or dealing with the excessive crowds. It is a highly recommended activity and I encourage you to add Phi Phi Le to your itinerary when you are in Thailand.
The beauty of Phi Phi Le and its surroundings is undeniable. Sadly, it is a victim of its own beauty and popularity. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit this area, although you do need to plan a visit accordingly to avoid the hordes of tourists and minimise your impact.
Activities in the area include swimming, snorkelling, diving and sunbathing. Boating around the entire Phi Phi archipelago is a breathtaking experience. You should avoid fish feeding and encourage any boat captains to not use an anchor on the coral areas.
A longboat is an option from Phi Phi Don, an inhabited island 1.5km away. However, a longboat is not recommended if there is any swell, as they are more prone to tip over. Longboats are not used during the Monsoon season from June to October. Hiring a longtail boat from Phi Phi Don is the thriftiest way to see Phi Phi Le.
Koh Phi Phi Le is one of the islands near Krabi and also one of the islands off Phuket, so most people come via an organised boat tour from Phuket or Krabi.
If Goldilocks had a favourite Thai island, it would probably be Ko Lanta. Popular enough that it has plenty of hotels, restaurants, and beach bars. Yet not so over-touristed that you can’t find your way to your own special strip of sand.
As Koh Lanta is one of the islands around Krabi it is easily accessible via a drive and short car ferry from Krabi, or via a longer ferry if you’re coming from Phi Phi or Phuket, Ko Lanta is just far enough out of the way to keep the crowds from overwhelming it. And, as one of Thailand’s largest islands, there’s plenty to explore. You can trek through the jungle to a waterfall, go snorkelling to take in underwater life or visit the Emerald Cave.
And, of course, Ko Lanta has plenty of incredible beaches. The aptly named Long Beach is the most popular and the closest to the ferry. But here’s a tip for your Thailand adventure: if you can find your way to the southern end of the island, you’ll be rewarded by several small but stunningly beautiful and unspoiled beaches.
There are plenty of guest houses and hotels abutting Long Beach. Those who like to stay in luxury Thai island resorts will love Layana Resort, while the more-budget-minded should check out the Thai House Beach Resort. Wherever you stay, you’re sure to enjoy this beautiful Thai island.
Koh Ngai is perhaps one of the most underrated islands in Thailand. A small island that is a part of the Karabi district but ironically closer to Trang. It is not the typical island party destination as many have known, but a place for relaxation and tranquillity for couples and families. With barely a handful of establishments in sight, this area relies on its beautiful scenery and recreational activities at the beach. Just over 10 kilometres away from the south of Ko Lanta, this place should be added to your itinerary when visiting Ko Lanta.
How to get there:
- Ferry -Daily departures are available during peak season(November-May) from Pakmen Pier(in Trang district)- Koh Ngai during peak season. It takes almost an hour by ferry and 30 minutes by speedboat. A One-way ticket by ferry costs under 400 THB.
- On Peak season only: The ferry trip starts from Baan Saladan Pier at Koh Lanta and on to Koh Ngai. The whole trip is about 2 hours long.
- Express boats: Koh Lanta-Koh Ngai Resort Pier – If you want the luxury of being picked up in the comfort of your hotel in Koh Lanta and on to Koh Ngai Resort Pier, then Express boats are the way to go. The ticket for the air-conditioned boat costs 700 THB.
Things to do:
- Take a walk on the beach – If you think “long walks on the beach” is too cliche, think again. Top it up with holding hands with the love of your life while enjoying the view is an experience you never forget.
- Rent a Kayak and roam the seas.
- Go snorkeling: The best spot for snorkeling without a doubt is the southern part of the island. Expect to see lots of tropical fishes and colourful reefs as they await you to enter the blue waters of Ko Ngai.
Best place to stay? Tanya Resort
Is Koh Ngai expensive? Yes
Where to eat? Sea Taste, Koh Hai Seafood
There are barely any bars but Light My Fire Society Bar is the closest thing that’s ever a bar. If you fancy a “hippie vibe” sitting around campfires while enjoying music with the rest of the guests, this could be for you.
Far Southern Islands
One of our favourite Thai islands is Koh Tarutao in Thailand.
Koh Tarutao is the largest island in the Tarutao National Marine Park and a former concentration camp for political prisoners. It’s heavily protected by the Thai government with very few facilities.
You can reach Koh Tarutao via a 1 hour speed boat from Pakbara, which costs around 450 bahts per person each way. The entry point is at Ao Phante Malacca in the north of the island, which is where the camping ground base is.
Ao Son beach was our favourite on the island, located around 6km away. We rented mountain bikes and visited as a day trip. When we got here we were so surprised. We had it entirely to ourselves. It was completely isolated, so raw – simply stunning. Just behind it lies the island’s dense jungle which you can easily get lost in.
Koh Tarutao is perfect for adventure seekers where you can also do snorkelling, kayaking and trekking. Thankfully, it’s heavily controlled by the Thai government to prevent it being destroyed by tourism. As such, there’s not many facilities on the island, with only a few restaurants and huts to sleep or areas to pitch your tent.
We absolutely loved Koh Tarutao. It is one of the places we will always remember from our travels and definitely crave to return to one day.