Thailand is home to hundreds of islands and knowing which ones to go to can be a real struggle due to the sheer quantity of them, luckily due to the diversity of the islands there will always be one that matches your personality. The choices vary from party islands, secluded islands, islands with beautiful beaches and the islands that have a mix of everything.
When compiling this list I tried to come up with a mixture of everything to cater for all tastes, so without further hesitation let’s find out the 25 best islands in Thailand.
1. Ko Chang
Ko Chang is the second largest island in Thailand, the island itself is a tropical marine national park. Sitting to the east of Thailand in the province of Trang it now has its own airport making traveling to this island easier than ever before. Famed for its endless white sandy beaches, marine life, coral reefs, awesome rain forests and beautiful wildlife it is easy to see why it has become a must visit island. The island offers something for everybody with accommodation ranging from beach side bamboo huts to high-end all-inclusive holiday resorts.
2. Ko Phi Phi Don
Sitting in the Krabi province is Ko Phi Phi Don, possibly the most famous of all the islands in Thailand, thousands of tourists flock here every day. To get to the island you have to take a ferry from either Phuket or Krabi. The island started to become a tourist hot spot after the film ‘The Beach’ was shot here in 1999, from that day forward life on the island was never the same again. There is gleaming white sand, cliff faces shooting straight out of the sea and Limestone Mountains in the island interior, this island has everything a tropical paradise should have and more.
Phuket is the largest of the Thai Islands and is also the most popular beach destination in Asia, with nearly 400,000 inhabitants and having a land mass similar to the size of Singapore, everything you could need when on holiday is on the island. The beaches in Phuket have silky soft white sand and palm trees lining the fringes. From here you can go scuba diving in the Andaman Sea at one of the world famous dive spots, play golf at championship standard courses or explore the tropical rainforest. This is not an island to visit for just a day or two as there is just too much to do.
4. Ko Racha Yai
The Racha islands are two islands sitting about twelve miles from the south of Phuket, The islands are Ko Racha Yai and Ko Racha Noi, The island of Ko Racha Yai is inhabited mainly by farmers and fishermen. When you arrive at the island the best place to head to is Ao Tawan Tok, it is a u-shaped bay where the sand is as white as snow and has the same consistency as talcum powder. The islands has become very popular with tourists visiting for the day before heading back to Phuket in the evening, however there are some bungalow resorts and restaurants in the area. At night the island gets very dark which gives stargazers some amazing views of the stars.
5. Ko hHae
Just to the south of Phuket is ko Hae known more commonly as Coral Island, the island provides excellent snorkeling as well as beautiful beaches. The island itself is only 2.5km long and has a choice of two excellent beaches on the north side and a smaller one on the south side. The middle of the island is full of dense vegetation but not much more. The best beach to visit is Long Beach where you can relax and top up your tan on the beautiful sand or play volleyball with friends due to the wide beach area. There are quite a few bars and restaurants sitting on the beach front as well as a few bungalows should you wish to stay the night.
6. Koh Lanta Yai
Sitting in the Andaman Sea in the Krabi Province is Koh Lanta Yai, a peaceful inhabited island that has spectacular beaches and a laid back attitude. The beaches are sometimes empty, allowing you plenty of space to yourself if you want to escape the busyness many of the islands provide. There is a national park and an elephant camp to explore whilst you are here. The best way to get around is to hire a scooter and go out exploring. Long Beach is the liveliest part of the island where you can sit on the white sandy beach, or relax with a drink and dinner at one of the many beach side bars whilst watching a fire show. There is a lot of accommodation choices to be had from basic beach huts to five star resorts.
7. Koh Lipe
Koh Lipe is situated about 60km from the Thai mainland and is the most southerly of all the islands. From the island you can look out and see Langkawi Island in Malaysia which is actually closer than Thailand. Koh Lipe is part of a cluster of islands that make up the Adang Archipelago and the only one that is inhabited. There is a good infrastructure here with concrete roads and motorbike taxis available to take you from one place to another. The island is worth exploring for a couple of days as there is some great snorkeling sites as well as excellent restaurants selling traditional Thai food.
8. Koh Tao
Also known as ‘Turtle Island’ Koh Tao is a diver’s paradise with its crystal clear waters and excellent marine life. The island is quite small at 21km in length but has over 100,000 visitors each year arriving to take a look at its spectacular beaches and laid back way of life. The island started its inhabited life as a detention center for political prisoners but none remain today.
9. Koh Pha Ngan
Famous for full moon parties that last for days and attract 30,000 revelers, Kho Pha Ngan is a must for all backpackers and young couples as the experience and memories of the party will keep you going for years. The island is not just a party zone though and the opposite side of the island has a couple of quiet beaches, one of which can only be reached by boat. The island has a lot of activities that you can try whilst you are there including archery, elephant riding, diving, free diving and Muay Thai.
10. Koh Samui
One of the more famous Thai islands, Koh Samui attracts a real mixture of travelers, from the low budget backpacker who rents a small beach hut to the multi-millionaire taking his annual vacation in one of the upmarket five star exclusive resorts. The island has picture postcard beaches that are some of the best anywhere in the world but there is also a whole plethora of attractions to keep you busy whilst you enjoy your time on the island. The Big Buddha temple is the island most famous tourist hotspot where a 12 meter tall statue of Buddha sits. Traveling to Koh Samui is easy as there is now a domestic airport with regular flights arriving and departing.
11. Koh Phi Phi Leh
Sitting just over a kilometer and a half away from Phi Phi Don is Phi Phi Leh, an uninhabited island that has incredible vertical cliffs and small sandy beaches. On the south side of the island is Loh Sama where there is nothing to do except go snorkeling in the crystal clear water, here you can expect to find beautiful coral and tropical fish. One of the attractions to the island is Viking Cave, a cave that has various swifts nests inside and paintings on the wall that look like Viking ships, the paintings are a couple of hundred years old although stories are told that they are far more ancient than that.
12. Koh Samet
Popular for weekend breaks with people who live in Bangkok is the island of Koh Samet. The island forms part of the Khao Laem Ya – Koh Samet National Park and sits only 5km off the coast of Rayong, there are plenty of resorts, bars and restaurants here as tourists have been coming to this island for many years to see the powdery white sand and appetizing warm waters. With fourteen beaches to explore the island will offer something for everybody and after only a few hours you will realize why the same people keep flocking back time and again. The island has no water source of its own, so the use of water should be as minimal as possible when visiting.
13. Koh Mak
Voted by the Sunday Times as one of the ten best beach locations in the world Koh Mak is still relatively new to tourism and a well-kept secret, it is also the biggest privately owned island in Thailand. 10,000 palm trees sit on the island as does a Buddhist temple, a health center and various resorts, the marine life in the area is supposed to the best that Thailand has to offer. This is an island perfect for romantics as the party lifestyle does not exist but there are still an assortment of nice restaurants and bars to enjoy your evenings in.
14. Koh Yao Noi
Koh Yao Noi gained popularity shortly after the millennium when it won the World Legacy Award for Destination Stewardship, an award that you can win if you are Eco-friendly. The island is a quiet place with no banking facilities. The locals on the island like to preserve the island the way It is so dressing respectfully is a must, as is only drinking alcohol in the resorts and restaurants. A small road circles the island which you can drive around by renting a scooter or tuk tuk. There are no particular landmarks worthy of special attention but life here is simple and everything done at a pace that western visitors will not be used to. A real gem of an island where you can forget life’s worries as you take things slow.
15. Koh Phra Thong
Known as Golden Buddha Island, Koh Phra Thong received its name from a local legend, legend has it that a golden Buddha was once buried on the island by pirates but nobody has ever recovered it. The island is a very peaceful place with 15km of sandy white beaches and hardly a tourist in site. From Koh Phra Thong you can travel to the Surin Islands which are one of Thailand’s best diving areas to see tropical fish and a variety of hard coral.
16. Khao Phing Kan
Fondly known as ‘James Bond Island’ because of its use in the classic film ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ Khao Phing Kan is a must stop at island if you are in Phuket and decide to book yourself a tour. There are two islands that make up Khoa Phing Kan and both are covered in forest, there are a couple of caves here which regularly flood in high tide and two sandy beaches to explore. The only way to really explore this area is through a prebooked tour package and these sell out quickly due to the iconic status the film has given the area, a half day tour is sufficient to capture everything you could want.
17. Koh Larn
Referred to as the Coral Island and sitting of the coast of Pattaya in the Gulf of Thailand, is the beautiful island of Koh Larn. A small island that is about 4km long and 2km wide, the terrain is mostly covered in heavy vegetation as you go in land but most people are here for the six main beaches of the island. All the beaches have white sand and clear azure looking water, you can participate in many water sports whilst here such as parasailing and boat riding. The most popular way to get to the island is the Koh Larn Ferry which is incredibly cheap and leaves from the mainland.
18. Ko Mai Phai
Koh Mai Phai or ‘Bamboo Island’ is about 20 kilometers west of Pattaya City, The Island is completely uninhabited and the only structure on the island is a light house that sits at the top of the forest hills. The Thai Navy own the island and they make sure that the beautiful beaches stay that way, a result of this is the small entrance fee to the island which is well worth its cost as an afternoon spent here will leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. You can snorkel in the clear waters where lots of tropical fish hang out or go a little deeper and find some vibrant coral reefs.
19. Koh Panyee
Not your typical island, Ko Panyee offers something a little different. It is a small island that is mainly tall limestone rocks and cliffs, but that is not why you should go there. Sitting on stilts in the surrounding sea are hundreds of wooden huts, restaurants and houses where the villagers live. The villagers started off here earning their money through fishing but now they make their money through the tourists that come to see this extraordinary place. There is a school here as well as souvenir shops and a mosque. Various bungalows have been built offering cheap accommodation for those wishing to stay the night and become immersed in all the island has to offer.
20. Ko Kham
Located near to Ko Mak is this small island. You can reach it by kayak from Ko Mak or by walking across the water in low tide. There are plenty of nice places to snorkel and black lava rocks jut out of the white sandy beaches. The island is no more than 500 meters in length and is owned by a private buyer. The sand is some of the whitest and most powdery you could ever wish to see, unbelievably there are even staff who are paid to sift the sand and remove any dirt.
21. Koh Wai
The smallest of the islands in the Koh Chang region, Ko Wai is only 2 kilometers long and a similar width. The interior of the island is full of untouched forest whilst the perimeter has some beautiful, unspoiled beaches. The island has no shops, villages, roads, electric or vehicles. However it does have various places to stay. The places to stay each have their own pier and a small path runs between each one. There are a couple of restaurants on the island with a strong selection of fresh fish. If you plan on walking along the footpaths in the evening a torch is recommended as without electricity the paths will be almost pitch black.
22. Koh Rang Yai
This small island located to the west of Koh Chang in the Gulf of Thailand, Covered in tropical rain forest and boasting the longest beach in the area it is very popular with tourists. The sand here is white and powdery and the water is crystal clear. The main wildlife on the island are reptiles and birds. Camping is permitted on the island as long as you receive prior consent from the ranger office, there are however no shops or restaurants so you will need to bring your own food.
23. Koh Khram Yai
Sitting just a few kilometers of the coast of Pattaya is Koh Kram Yai, the island is uninhabited and about as secluded as you can get. There are no shops, bars or restaurants. Instead there are a couple of stunning beaches that you can enjoy all on your own. Development will never be possible on the island due the sharp rocks and cliff that cover almost every part. A ferry runs from Sattahip to the island dropping off the occasional visitor. It is worth checking in advance of making any travel plans because the island is closed at certain times to allow for the turtle breeding program.
24. Koh Kret
Koh Kret is an island that sits in a loop in the Chao Phraya River, it has effectively been man made by attempts in the 17th century to increase the flow of the river. The island is occupied by the Mon immigrants who have lived here for over two hundred years. There are no roads or vehicles on the island but there are some pretty wooden houses at the side of the river. Whilst on the island you can purchase traditional earthenware pottery as well as visiting several temples and a museum.
25. Koh Bida Nok
Bida Nok translates to mean outer father and is a small island located a couple of kilometers away from Koh Phi Phi Lae, it is the southernmost island in the group of islands that make up the Phi Phi Islands. At the north of the island you can do some excellent wall diving as the limestone drops thirty five meters into the water. The island itself has nothing much to see but the animals in the water will more than make up for that. On a good day you can see Giant moray eels, turtles, lionfish, barracudas and many more.