Thailand has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. In total, the country counts over 1,400 islands that all have they unique features and highlights. If you are like us, you want to make sure to get the most out of your stay and choose the island that suits you and your vacation goals the most.
Also, it depends on the time of the year, which islands are best and open to visit for tourism. During our stay in November, for example, the islands along the East coast were closed due to monsoon season. We have explored the Eastern islands and summarised our resume below.
This island is reportedly the closest you can get to paradise! It’s relatively small, hence no cars or scooters and everything can be reached by walking. Crystal clear turquoise water, beautiful sunsets, romantic beach huts, and honeymooner candle light dinners by the beach.
Koh Lipe is only one hour by boat away from the island Langkawi, which makes it an ideal entry into Thailand from Malaysia. However, you should keep in mind that as Koh Lipe is located rather far in the West of Thailand and does not have an airport, your onward journey can be a bit lengthy by boat back to the main land or next major island in Thailand, for example Koh Lanta.
Also, given Koh Lipe’s exclusive geographical location, it has a bit of a luxury flair and accommodation and restaurant prices are relatively higher compared to other places or islands in Thailand.
Although Koh Lanta does not enjoy the same fame as many other islands in Thailand, and is definitely less known than its other three competitors in the West, it was by far our favourite island! We have seen the most amazing sunsets of our lives there! Koh Lanta is less touristy and crowded, and still holds a lot of authenticity, which many other places in Thailand have lost a long time ago. You can be sure to be always welcomed with lots of politeness and smiles.
There are many local restaurants where you can find delicious meals for 1-2 EUR (be careful with the chillis though! The spiciness of food is definitely not touristy here either!), and the many white sand beaches are wide and gorgeous. A little disclaimer, when we were there in the beginning/mid November, we had some wind and rain and the water was clear to mercury, not crystal clear. However, we heard and read that later in the season in December to February the water becomes clearer.
Don’t worry though! We definitely recommend you to go on a snorkelling trip to the island Koh Rok and Koh Haa. There you will have a guarantee of crystal clear turquoise water and amazing coral and fish to swim with in Koh Rok! There are many agencies offering these popular trips. We went with Opal Travel and had a wonderful day! Check our diary post on our snorkelling trip here.
Moving around is easy by tuktuk or renting a scooter. The roads are generally wide and safe, although sometimes the street lighting could be better in the evening.
Koh Phi Phi
Are you single and ready to mingle? Then Koh Phi Phi is the place for you! Party all day, every day. So much of it, that we had to escape after three days! 😀 The island is rather small and you move around by foot as there are no cars, tuktuks, or scooters in Koh Phi Phi. The water is amazingly see-through everywhere and the surrounding mangroves and bays, which you can see by going on a half or full day long tail boat snorkelling trip, are beautiful. However, you will definitely not be the only one trying to enjoy the leftovers of the nature of Koh Phi Phi. The island is flooded by tourists, many of them coming especially for the infamous party scene.
Make sure to choose a hotel far enough from the beach in order to get some sleep as the beach parties blast music easily until 2 AM every night. There is a really high imbalance of price and quality for accommodations, so you best make sure to book in advance or pick your place to stay on the spot so you can have a look at the place before committing to avoid negative surprises. Another minus point for us was the very narrow strip of sand by the main beach as restaurants and hotels moved so far into the sand that by the evening, when the tide is high, the beach disappears and you walk in the water up until your ankles and lower thighs.
Phuket is the biggest and probably most famous island in Thailand. In fact, it is so big that the word ‘Koh’ , meaning island in Thai language, in its name was dropped. Phuket offers many beaches to choose from with the most famous being Patong beach, a Phuket Old Town, some temples and other sights, and an airport. Hence, it is convenient in terms of getting there and away. And probably while being there, you won’t even get the chance to explore everything around the island. Renting a scooter is possible, however it’s not necessarily advised to conquer the highways with it, as those are large and busy and accidents happen frequently.
Phuket used to be a Portuguese colony, which is evident until today by the architecture of the buildings in the Old Town. If you have time, the Old Town is definitely worth a visit. Also, if you get the chance, see the Old Town on a Sunday, as that’s the day of the weekly food and souvenir market, which is truly spectacular there!
One of the main questions would be which beach to settle for. We stayed at two beaches, Kata beach and Patong beach. The water quality is the same throughout the beaches, however Kata beach has shallower water which is more pleasant to go into the water, especially if you have children. Patong has market swimming areas and significantly more people on the beach and in the water. We surely had a more beach quality time by Kata beach. One minus point for Kata beach is that it is majorly populated by Russian tourists, and when street signs and menus are all written in Russian, the place loses a large amount of authenticity. Patong beach in turn is the infamous party area with a large party street with strip clubs, ping pong and sex shows, and lady boys. It’s fun to experience this vibe, which you also have at Kao San road in Bangkok, for once, however the question is whether this is the type of vacation you would like to sign up for.
Overall, Phuket is a very touristic place and you can oftentimes feel it in the offering and the way of interacting with locals.
We rated the four islands based on the main criteria we regard as important when choosing our beach destination. We hope this is helpful for you and we are happy to answer any further questions you might have in the comments section below.
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