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Thailand is famous for its tropical islands. The beaches, the parties, the bungalow retreats, the exotic dives –that’s just the beginning of things you can find on these islands.
Thailand counts with three main sets of islands: The Andaman Sea islands group, the southern Gulf of Thailand islands group, and the east of Bangkok islands group.
Believe it or not, Thailand counts with 1430 islands, more islands than what you can visit on a regular trip. That means, that in order to visit the best ones, you have to be selective. So, which ones should you visit?
It is hard to decide what are the best islands you should visit. They are very diverse in shape, nature, development, activities, and vacationing style.
But, here are the best islands to visit within each geographical group – with a short description of activities and vacationing style.
Koh Phi Phi – Made famous by the movie “The Beach”, this island offers great diving and snorkeling spots. Although devastated by the 2004 Tsunami, it has slowly redeveloped itself to become a thriving destination. Guesthouses and hotels are more expensive than on other islands with the same features. Maya Beach is a must but is very touristy.
Phuket – This is Thailand’s most developed island and is the only one with an international airport, making it really convenient to visit. You will find some great resorts and a great variety of things to do. There is also an ethical elephant sanctuary in Phuket if you’d like to have that up-close experience with elephants. On the other hand, it is overpriced and heavily touristed.
Phuket is also a great jumping point to do a day trip to the Similan Islands in Thailand.
Koh Lipe – This popular small island has a great mix of beach activities, like snorkeling, and party scenes. There is a good variety of budget accommodations.
Koh Muk – Rent a motorcycle and travel around this tiny island to see its natural features and beautiful sunsets. Visit the heavily touristed Emerald Cave, which leads you into an amazing hidden beach. There are a couple of mid-range resorts and cabins. This island is a good base for day trips to other surrounding islands.
Koh Rok – A twin island natural reserve that is great for camping. Spend your day snorkeling or just laying on the beach. A great “out of the grid” experiences.
Koh Phayam – Considered and “off the beaten path” island. Accommodations range in the budget and mid-priced range. Beaches are still pristine and almost deserted.
East of Bangkok
Koh Lan – Probably one of the best islands closest to Bangkok where you’ll find soft white sand beaches, watersports, restaurants, and amenities. This lightly developed island is only 3 hours away from Bangkok, so it could even be visited on a day trip. But, should you decide to stay, there are a handful of hotels by the beach available.
Koh Samet – This island has a full range of accommodations, from budget to high-end. Although it is overdeveloped, you can still find some great scenic beaches and landscapes.
Koh Kood – A popular destination for the “typical” tourist. It is focused more on the “tour package type” tourist than the independent backpackers. Accommodations are in the mid-range.
Koh Chang – It is considered Thailand’s “next big thing.” You will find dozens of beaches, bays, and amazing landscapes like jungles and waterfalls. It is still budget-friendly on accommodations and shopping expenses.
The Gulf of Thailand
Koh Samui – Like in Phuket, you will find everything here, from backpacker hostels to six stars resorts. Being Thailand’s second most developed island, it is heavily touristed and overpriced. But still, there are great deserted beaches to have a fun time and relax.
Koh Tao – One of the best islands to dive. Diving in Koh Tao is a must for any scuba enthusiast – plus, the price is decent. There is an excellent variety of accommodations, beaches, and party scenes. And, Koh Nang Yuan is just next to it, and it is gorgeous!
Koh Phangan – Extremely popular island among backpackers thanks to its wild parties. The Full Moon Party is a beach party you must experience. It is cheap, but it still offers a lot of the commodities found on more expensive islands. Koh Phangan is well known for having great beaches. Some of them are somewhat developed while others are more pristine and deserted.
As you can see, one of the common features of most islands is the quality of their beaches.
Without a doubt, Thailand offers a great variety of beach experiences that can be combined with other activities according to your ideal itinerary, budget, “scene,” and island of preference.
What are your favorite islands? Or, which one would you love to visit?
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