Top 10 Very Best Thailand Islands to Visit

by | Nov 23, 2022

Not only is Thailand popular for its mesmerizing temples, high-tech malls contrasted with traditional markets, and fairy-tale sky lanterns, this amazing Land of Smiles is also known for its postcard-worthy islands and beautiful beaches.

Thai islands are nothing less than architectural marvels of Mother Nature. You can always find a Thai island that caters to your specific tastes whether you are a party animal, an adrenaline junkie, an amorous soul, or a vagabond searching for the primordial beauty of nature.

If you intend to visit Thailand anytime soon, this list of the top 10 very best Thailand islands will give you a head start.

thailand islands

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Top 10 Very Best Thailand Islands to Visit: TL;DR

  1. Koh Samui
  2. Koh Lanta
  3. Koh Pha Ngan
  4. Koh Lipe
  5. Koh Chang
  6. Koh Yao Yai
  7. Koh Samet
  8. Similan Islands
  9. Koh Tao
  10. James Bond Island

Top 10 Very Best Thailand Islands to Visit

1. Koh Samui: Provides Something for Everyone

thailand-islands-koh-samui

Koh Samui is the second-largest Thai island adorned with white sand beaches, lush rainforests, luxury resorts, beach clubs, and first-class spas.

Home to the famous Panacea Retreat composed of five enormous hilltop villas each with an infinity pool, Koh Samui is a perfect honeymoon destination.

This Thai island is also a great choice for family vacations because of its family-friendly hotels with childcare facilities.

A former fishermen’s village, Koh Samui has a lot more to offer. From the Secret Buddha Garden to several Buddhist temples, garish cabaret shows, and yoga & wellness destinations – Koh Samui has something for everyone.

Best For: Yoga enthusiasts, amorous honeymooners, first-timers, and families!

2. Koh Lanta: Mingle With Local Communities

koh-lanta

Popular for its coral-fringed beaches, Koh Lanta is perfect for those who dislike crowded beaches.

A cluster of 52 islands with the largest being Koh Lanta Yai and the smallest one being Koh Lanta Noi, Koh Lanta is where you find an intricate system of underwater caves, islets, and reefs, making it one of the best diving sites in Thailand.

Its seductive silky sands, dense mangroves, austere forested hills, and laid-back atmosphere is perfect for those who seek a delicate balance between tranquility and adventure.

If you are interested in the local culture, mingle with the Chao Le or the Sea People whose free-diving skills will put expert divers to shame.

Best For: Considered an all-rounder, this Thai island is for people who cannot decide what they want.

3. Koh Pha Ngan: Dance and Drink During Full Moon Parties

thailand-islands-koh-pha-ngan

Koh Pha Ngan or Koh Phangan shot to fame because of Haad Rin where you will find the famous Sunrise Beach and the Sunset Beach.

Haad Rin’s Sunrise Beach or the Haad Rin Nok is where you go to enjoy the rave Full Moon Parties that happen once every month. But that’s not all. Sunrise Beach is also famous for its Half Moon Parties and the Black Moon Parties.

For a beach famous for such rave parties, it is surprisingly clean. Sunset Beach is a much quieter place if that is what you want.

But Koh Pha Ngan island has so much more to offer. Dotted with mountains, waterfalls, and jungles, it offers a great trekking experience. There are some great scuba diving spots to witness the colorful chaos below the waves.

Best For: Hippies, hedonists, and adventure seekers who love beach bars and ecstatic parties.

4. Koh Lipe: Feel the Romantic Vibes

koh-lipe

One of the best islands in Thailand and lying near the Malaysian border, Koh Lipe is part of the Tarutao National Marine Park.

Often referred to as the Maldives of Thailand, Koh Lipe brings the dreamy combination of luxury hotels, secluded remoteness, and picture-perfect beaches.

Spread over just 4 sq. km., this Thai island is perfect for romantic strolls from the beach to the beach.

From the white sandy beaches of the famous Pattaya Beach to the idyllic and undisturbed Sunset Beach, from scuba diving to snorkeling adventures, Koh Lipe has one of those Thai islands where you can beat the crowd.

Best For: Honeymooners and hopelessly romantic people.

5. Koh Chang: Stare at Bordering Cambodia

thailand-islands-koh-chang

Sitting close to Cambodia, Koh Chang is a secluded mountainous island. Thick jungle cover the lofty mountains that can be found towards the middle of the island.

Much of the island’s interior is a national park, and is a popular jungle trekking destination.

Though full of rugged mountains, the island has some incredible beaches and photo-worthy picturesque waterfalls.

The Salakkok Bay at Koh Chang will bring you face-to-face with the charm of a traditional fishing village and the Had Sai Noi Beach is where you will enjoy the experience of a bohemian beach bar.

Best For: Those who want to explore the secluded and beautiful islands on Thailand’s eastern side.

6. Koh Yao Yai: Soak in the Rustic Charm

koh-yao-yai

Koh Yao Yai (big long island) and Koh Yao Noi (small long island) are twin islands that are collectively known as the Koh Yao islands.

While Koh Yao Noi is more developed, Yao Yai is where people go to escape the tourist biz of southern Thailand.

Dotted with sleepy fishing villages, both the islands have a few paved roads and dirt tracks that crisscross the patchwork of rice paddies and rubber plantations.

Yao Yai has dense patches of mangroves that you can explore while kayaking and Koh Yao Noi is where you can find a few deserted beaches occasionally visited by water buffalos.

Best For: People who want off-the-beaten-track adventures.

7. Koh Samet: Marvel at the Magical Fire Shows

thailand-islands-koh-samet-fire-show

Fringed by coral reefs, Samet is located off the coast of Rayong. Clear waters make it a heaven for people who love scuba diving and snorkeling.

Below the waves, you can interact with diverse marine life and on dry land, you can stroll on its beautiful beaches.

The beaches look prettier during the sunset and the plenty of restaurants and bars will keep you entertained for as long as you want.

The bronze mermaid at Na Dam Pier is an interesting attraction, but the evening fire shows are the real showstoppers that will transport you into a magical world.

Best For: Diving and snorkeling enthusiasts and people looking for a tranquil escapade.

8. Similan Islands: Experience the Island Paradise

similan-islands

Numbered one to nine from north to south, Similan Islands form a national park in the Andaman Sea.

Turquoise waters lapping the soft and sparkly white sandy beaches, the untouched coral reefs below the gentle waves, and the vaulted sky kissing the deep blue waters on the far horizon, make it a perfect island paradise.

Number Four or Koh Miang is where you will see simple bamboo bungalows. Number Eight or Koh Similan is the largest of all nine, and an insanely famous spot among scuba divers and snorkelers.

Best For: Island hopping, scuba diving, and snorkeling.

9. Koh Tao: Enter the Holy Grail of Scuba Diving

thailand-islands-koh-tao-pier

Roughly translated as Turtle Island, Koh Tao is the Holy Grail of scuba diving. Littered with lantern-lit restaurants and sandy coves, this is one of those Thai islands where you can learn scuba diving at dirt-cheap prices.

The sheer number of dive shops competing for customers will amaze you, and that should explain why diving lessons are so cheap there.

But if you are not into diving, Koh Tao will still enchant you with its irresistible charm and full-moon parties that are far more mature than the ones in the neighboring Koh Pha Ngan.

Best For: Snorkelling and diving enthusiasts.

10. James Bond Island:

james-bond-island

Koh Khao Phing Kan is one of the most famous landmarks in Phang Nga Bay. The world knows it as James Bond Island after some scenes of the film “The Man with the Golden Gun” were filmed here.

One of the most distinctive features of James Bond Island is the limestone tower karsts jutting out of the emerald water.

The 20-meter-high Koh Tapu is the most famous attraction here and is usually known as the James Bond Rock because it housed a laser gun in the movie. The rock stands only 40 meters from the shores of Koh Khao Phing Kan.

Best For: People looking for boat excursions and day trips.

Other Best Thailand Islands to Visit

1. Phuket: A Busy Holiday Destination

thailand-islands-phuket

Phuket is the most popular Thai island and of course, the most crowded. Sitting at the tip of Phang Nga on the west coast of Thailand, Phuket is the perfect starting point for island hopping.

Colorful shorelines, thrilling watersports, golden sand beaches, and many cosmopolitan diversions make it one of the world’s most popular beach holiday destinations, and hence, heavily crowded.

Quiet beaches or secluded beaches are a far cry, but if you don’t mind the crowd, book a beach resort for a thrilling experience.

2. Koh Phi Phi Islands: Beach and Island Hopping

koh-phi-phi

Sitting alone in the Andaman Sea, Koh Phi Phi is an archipelago with Phi Phi Don being the only permanently inhabited island there. Koh Phi Phi Lee featured in Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie, The Beach.

Other major attractions of the Koh Phi Phi Islands include Maya Bay, Koh Mai Phai, Koh Yung, Koh Bida Nok, etc.

3. Koh Muk: Swim Through the Emerald Cave

thailand-islands-koh-muk-emerald-cave-entrance

Image Credit:Uncharted25, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the best Thai islands, Koh Muk is home to quaint fishing villages and postcard-worthy swimming beaches. The true attraction, however, is the Emerald Cave and you can swim right through it during low tides.

4. Koh Hae: A Day Trip from Phuket

koh-hae-coral-island

Also known as Coral Island, Koh Hae is a granite island with the primary attractions being Long Beach, Banana Beach, and Freedom Beach. Just offshore is a coral reef worth exploring.

5. Koh Tarutao: Teeming with Legends & Old Architecture

thailand-islands-koh-tarutao

Image Credit: Argenberg, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tarutao National Marine Park’s largest island, Koh Tarutao is covered with jungles, but inside you can find sacred shrines and prison ruins. Many animals, including various snake species, call it home. Sunset views are awesome here, but the beaches are a bit sub-par.

Best Time to Visit Thailand Islands

The dry season that starts in November and lasts till March and sometimes till May is ideal for visiting this country in Southeast Asia. However, avoid the lower gulf (Koh Tao, Koh Samui, and Koh Phan) where it is the rainiest from October through December.

November through February is the High or Peak season with cool weather, clear waters, and lush green scenery. This is also the time for the major Thai festivals. The best time to visit the islands on the east coast is between January to March and July to September.

March and April get a little hotter, but this is when the crowd gradually thins out and prices drop. April is when festivals are aplenty, the crowd is minimal, and the summer rains won’t show up for a few more weeks. Also, the prices hit rock bottom.

Where to Stay in Thailand’s Islands?

There is no shortage of hotels, hostels, or Airbnb on popular islands of Thailand, so it completely depends on your requirements and budget.

I use booking.com as my preferred hotel booking app. I have tried many over the years and booking.com consistently offers me the best deals.

If however, you’re looking for super budget accommodation try hostelworld.com.

Here are some of the best accommodations available on popular Thai islands:

Siray Green Resort: $30/night [Phuket]

A 2-minute walk from Siray Bay, this resort offers a private terrace, outdoor pool, free Wi-Fi, and free parking. All rooms are air-conditioned and offer en suite bathrooms, TV, and refrigerator.

Idyllic Concept Resort: $169/night [Koh Lipe]

Standing along Sunrise Beach, it offers sweeping views of the Andaman Sea and comes with an outdoor pool, a fitness center, and indoor & outdoor rain showers.

Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui: $940+$3 taxes/night [Koh Samui]

Overlooking the Gulf of Siam, and surrounded by tropical gardens, it is a luxury resort with a private beach area, fitness center, spa & wellness center, free parking, and more.

Recommended Tours & Trips

There is no shortage of trips and tours to make the best use of your time in this beautiful country. However, here are some suggested trips I recommend you explore further.

Best Thailand Islands To Visit – Tips for Digital Nomads or Long Term Travelers

  1. The best way to get around on different Thai islands is to use local transport which includes rental cars, taxis, scooters & motorbikes, etc. However, do remember that some transport options may not be available on smaller islands. For the big islands in Thailand like Koh Samui, Phuket, etc, I recommend hiring a car or scooter for maximum flexibility.
  2. Wi-Fi connection is pretty good on almost all Thai islands except for secluded beaches. During island hopping, connectivity might be an issue while you are out in the open sea.
  3. Thailand’s currency is the Thai Baht and for the best exchange rates its best to pay in their local currency. Always carry some cash, as street vendors and markets will expect cash (although many now accept payment via QR code if you have a local bank account or apple pay etc.) Technologically, Thailand is pretty savvy, even on the small islands.
  4. Depending on how long you’re staying and the kind of phone contract you’re on, it might be worth getting a local SIM when you get there. Most times when I travel, a local sim is the cheapest option. A travel SIM from TrueMove will cost 599 Baht with 8GB of internet and approximately 50 minutes of talk time. You will have to top up in 15 days. It’s worth checking roaming fees with your phone company before traveling.
  5. If taking money out of an ATM, always choose the ‘convert from your own bank’ option, rather than the convert from the ATM option. This is a golden rule worldwide. I have tried multiple ATM’s in multiple countries and the bank conversion is always without fail cheaper than a local ATM conversion.
  6. Also when paying with your travel credit or debit card, always choose local currency. If you choose your own currency, the conversion will be done then and there by their bank. When choosing local currency, the conversion is done by your bank and will be cheaper. Not by much, but every little helps!

Booking/Trip Resources

It’s tough when organizing your travels to know which companies offer the best deals and can be trusted with your credit card details!

The following resources are companies I have consistently used over my 11 years of travels and who I believe are the best in the business. I’m constantly updating this list as I find new and improved services.

Rome2Rio – a fantastic app which will show you the best routes to get from city to city or country to country. Simply enter where you’re traveling from and too, and they’ll show you how to get there via planes, trains and automobiles!

Skyscanner.net – always my first port of call when looking for the best flights. Easy to use and consistently highlights flights I can’t find anywhere else, they’re the best flight resource there is. Plus an easy to use app.

Flight Aware – a free, handy app showing flights around the world. I use this to track family or friends when they’re flying, to check whether my flight has left on time on previous days so I can be prepared for delays etc, and just to double check my own flight details as and when I’m traveling.

Trainline (for Europe) – I used to use this just for UK trains, but nowadays you can book trains all over Europe using their services. Cheap, reliable and with a great refund policy for canceled or delayed trains, they’re highly recommended.

Booking.com – I have tried all the other hotel booking sites and without doubt booking.com has consistently offered the best deals. One caveat to this, is always to just check the hotel website directly before finalizing your booking as sometimes they’ll have specialized deals.

Getyourguide.com – the easiest and most reliable activity booking agent. I haven’t had a bad trip to date with them. Plus an easy to use app which tracks all your bookings and includes the meeting point, trip details and everything else you need to ensure your activity goes smoothly.

Discovercars.com – Easy to use website to find rental cars in over 145 countries around the world. Pick up from one location, drop off in another. Find the best deals with the best reviews.

Safetywing – quite simply the best insurance for digital nomads and long term travelers. See my Safetywing insurance review for more details, but with cheap monthly plans and an easy to use claims process, you won’t find better on the market.

Light Packing Guide

I’m generally a very light packer so for a summer trip here is what I would usually pack, with a maximum weight of 7 KG;

Clothes

Swimming costume or bikini
Light Beach dress
2 x pairs of shorts
2 x summer skirts
3 x t-shirts
1 x ‘going out’ dress
2 x night shorts & tee
14 x underwear (I always take a lot as I hate washing underwear in hotel sinks)
1 skin color plunge bra (can wear under black or white, and with posh dress or t-shirts)
1 x flip flops or thongs or sandals (depending where you’re from in the world)
1 x trainers/sneakers (which I generally wear when traveling from place to place or hang off the back of my bag
3 x trainer socks
1 x leggings
1 x light cardigan

Toiletries

Travel size all in one Shampoo/Conditioner (sacrilege to some women, but hey I want to travel light)
Travel size shower gel
Mascara
Bronzer
Makeup wipes
Small battery powered toothbrush (with cap)
50ml toothpaste
Travel size sun lotion
50SPF lip balm
Hairbrush
Travel size body moisturiser
Deodorant
Hair scrunchies

Medical

Antihistamines
Paracetamol
Ibuprofen
Tiger Balm – bites, sore muscles, etc.
Plasters
Ear Plugs
Eye mask
Mask
Hand Sanitizer

Technical

Adapter & chargers in a handy cable organizer
Phone – iPhone
Computer – Macbook 12” Notebook
Kindle
FitBit Versa 3

Useful Extras

Ziplock bags – for anything and everything!
Travel Bags – for separating tops/shorts/underwear etc, and also great for laundry
Combination padlock

My husbands bag usually weighs less than mine and he takes;

Clothes

2 x shorts (Both double as swim shorts)
2 x tees
7 x socks
7 x boxers
1 x ‘going out’ shorts & tee
1 x croc flip flops
1 x trainers/sneakers
Travel size shampoo
1 x razor
Toothbrush
Deodorant
Phone
Kindle
Computer

Best Thailand Islands To Visit – FAQ’s

Where is Thailand?

Thailand is in the middle of Southeast Asia. The country is bordered by Myanmar in the northeast, Laos in the northeast and north, Cambodia in the east and southeast, and Malaysia in the south. The Andaman Sea is on the southwest side and the Gulf of Thailand is on the southeast.

Is Thailand Safe?

Thailand is a very safe city even for solo female travelers.

As with all popular tourist destinations you’ll need to watch out for pickpockets and keep your valuables hidden, plus for females, use your common sense and don’t go wandering on your own in the middle of the night plus be careful when drinking in bars/clubs. (Sad but true across the globe).

But on a general scale compared to the rest of the world, for tourists visiting Thailand it would be considered a very safe city, for solos, couples & families alike.

Nevertheless, always ensure you have travel insurance wherever you go as it will protect you against theft, injury, illness, or cancelations. Use the form below to get your personalized quote.

What’s the Currency in Thailand?

The official currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB) and you must pay in their local currency. Though you can use international travel credit and debit cards that will allow paying in Thai Baht, it is suggested that you carry a some local currency, because certain remote places and local shops may not accept cards.

What Language is Spoken in Thailand?

The Thai language is the official language, however, many people speak English, especially in major tourist destinations.

What Time is it in Thailand?

Throughout the year Thailand follows Indochina Time (ICT), which is seven hours ahead of the UTC or the Coordinated Universal Time. Daylight Saving Time clock changes are not followed in Thailand.

Why Visit Thailand?

Apart from its many beautiful temples, massage centers, night markets, exotic Thai cuisine, and the Royal Palace, Thailand has pristine natural beauty to offer that I can’t possibly describe using just words. You need to experience it for yourself.

The country is teeming with life, rich cultural history, and friendly Thai people who always wear a smile on their faces (hence the land of the smiles)

From train rides to boat cruises, rock climbing, snorkeling, scuba diving, island parties, and magnificent temples, this country has something for everyone.

Top 10 Very Best Thailand Islands to Visit: Summary

Thailand has many incredible islands.

They are a treasure trove of nature’s pristine beauty but are still teeming with beach bars, beach bungalows, and world-class restaurants

Some of the best Thai islands I’ve explored include Samui Island, Koh Chang, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Similan Islands, Coral Island, Phuket, etc. Each one of them has managed to cast a spell on me with their phenomenal beauty.

For more tips on visiting Thailand, see the following articles;

Top 10 Things to do in Thailand
Top 10 Things to do in Bangkok
35 Epic Things to do in Phuket
Top 10 Things to Do in Pai, Thailand

I hope you’ve found this list of the best Thailand Islands to visit useful for your travels. Let me know how you go!

Have fun!

 

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Disclaimer: Please note this post may contain affiliate links, from which, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. I only recommend products and services I’ve used or would use myself. If you choose to purchase from any of my links, thanks so much for your support! 😊