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Best Islands in Thailand: Which Island Is the Best to Visit in Thailand?

There is no better place to enjoy the exotic, tropical environment of Thailand than on some of its beautiful islands. With everything from vibrant party islands to secluded, hidden getaways, which one should you choose? Here’s a list of the 8 best islands to visit in Thailand to help you find what you’re looking for.

There Are 8 Best Islands in Thailand Available to Explore

Thailand has 1430 islands scattered around its coastal regions. Many of them are great holiday tour destinations, but a few have risen above the rest. Some, like Phuket and Koh Samui, have become popular due to well-developed attractions for tourists and exciting nightlife. Others, like Koh Lanta and Koh Yao, attract visitors for their seclusion and undisturbed environment.

Overall, 8 islands stand out as the best, and worth considering on any trip to Thailand. Whether for a few days beach trip as part of a larger tour of the country, or a 1-2 week stay to get deeply immersed into the island culture, the islands below are not to be missed.

Phuket: The Biggest and Most Developed Island of Thailand

Phuket is the largest and one of the most famous islands in Thailand. Located in the Andaman Sea, off the southwestern coast of Thailand, its size and popularity mean facilities and attractions for tourists are well-developed.

Lounging on one of the beautiful beaches like Patong, Karon, or Kata Beach is a great way to spend a 3-4 day long weekend. At least a week is needed to go island hopping to the Similan Islands or Phang Nga Bay (James Bond Island) or to explore some of the cultural attractions like the Big Buddha of Phuket, and Old Phuket Town, known for its charming Sino-Portuguese architecture.

The peak season falls between December and February, but the good weather of the dry season starts in November and lasts until April, so consider going at the beginning or end of the season to avoid the larger crowds. Phuket International Airport has numerous domestic and international flights, making it a convenient entry point for travelers. See more details about when is the best time to visit Phuket.

Thailand Phuket Island
Thailand Phuket Island

Koh Samui: The Second Largest Island with Beautiful Beaches

Koh Samui is one of Thailand's most popular and beautiful islands, known for its stunning beaches, lush landscapes, and vibrant culture. Sitting in the Gulf of Thailand, 700 km south of Bangkok, Koh Samui is the second largest island in Thailand and offers a diverse blend of relaxation, adventure, and cultural experiences.

Popular beaches there such as Chaweng Beach, Lamai Beach, and Bophut Beach all have a unique character and are great places for swimming, sunbathing, and beachside dining. Koh Samui also features several cultural sites including Wat Phra Yai (Big Buddha Temple), and Wat Khunaram, which houses the mummified body of Luang Pho Daeng.

Ideal weather for traveling comes in the dry season from December to April. You’ll want to spend at least a week there to fully explore the island. The island is served by Samui International Airport which has frequent domestic flights to Bangkok, Phuket, and other major cities, as well as some international flights.

Similan Islands: One of Thailand's Most Beautiful Places, Island Hopping and Scuba Diving

The Similan Islands are a group of stunning islands located in the Andaman Sea, off the western coast of Thailand. Known for their exceptional natural beauty, rich marine life, and excellent scuba diving opportunities, the Similan Islands are considered one of Thailand's most beautiful destinations.

Designated as a national park, people travel to the Similan Islands for its unique ecosystem featuring diverse wildlife including exotic birds, monitor lizards, turtles, and rays. To protect the local environment, the islands are only open to tourists from 15th October to 15th May.

Currently, it is not possible to stay overnight on the island. Some tour operators offer overnight stays on liveaboard boats anchored off the shore, but most people choose to visit the Similan Islands as a day trip. The closest international airport is Phuket International Airport. Tourist boats from Patong Beach take 2.5-3 hours to get there.

similan-islands-diving-into-the-deap-sea
Similan islands diving into the deap sea

Phi Phi Islands: Exquisitely Beautiful but Over-developed

The Phi Phi Islands are a group of stunning islands located in the Andaman Sea, part of Thailand's Krabi Province. They have become a popular destination for tourists seeking tropical paradise, adventure, and water activities. Popularity has a downside, however, as some now feel the islands have become overdeveloped. A surge of development, particularly in the Tonsai village area, has led to some congestion, and a loss of some of the peaceful atmosphere.

People are still drawn to the beautiful beaches there, including the famous Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh, which gained worldwide recognition after being featured in the movie, "The Beach." Phi Phi Don has a vibrant nightlife scene, with beach parties and bars offering entertainment options for those looking to enjoy the evenings.

You will find the best weather between November and April, but peak season also brings the largest crowds. During the rainy season, it will be less busy, but heavy rains can limit access to some water-based activities.

To get to the Phi Phi Islands, you'll typically start your journey from either Phuket or Krabi. In Phuket, ferries are available from Rassada Pier and take 1.5-2 to two hours. Krabi ferries operate from Ao Nangand Ao Nam Mao and take 2 hours.

get-a-panoramic-view-of-phi-phi-islands
Get a panoramic view of Phi Phi Islands

Koh Lanta: Suitable for Getting Away from the Crowds

Laid-back Koh Lanta is a tranquil getaway spot that’s a favorite for travelers seeking relaxation, nature, and a slower pace of life. Situated in the southern part of Thailand, off the west coast of the Malay Peninsula, it is part of Krabi Province and is comprised of several islands, with Koh Lanta Yai being the largest and most developed.

The clear waters around Koh Lanta are teeming with marine life, including vibrant coral reefs, tropical fish, and occasional sightings of whale sharks. Inland, the island is characterized by lush tropical rainforests, rugged hills, and serene mangrove forests.

The high season from November to April is the best time to visit. The weather is pleasant and dry, and Koh Lanta remains quieter than other Thai tourist destinations throughout the year. The closest international airport is Krabi International Airport, from there you can take a taxi or shuttle to the island. Ferry journeys with scenic views of the Andaman Sea are also available from Krabi Town, Ao Nang, or Phuket.

Thailand Koh Lanta Island
Thailand Koh Lanta Island

Koh Lipe: One of the Most Beautiful Thai Islands for White-Sand Beaches and Clear Sea

Located in the southern part of Thailand in Satun province, Koh Lipe is an idyllic, tropical paradise. Often referred to as one of the most beautiful Thai islands, it is a stunning destination of white-sand beaches, clear turquoise waters, and vibrant marine life.

With its pristine environment, Koh Lipe is the perfect place for spending time in the water. The surrounding waters of Koh Lipe are home to vibrant coral reefs and a diverse array of marine life. Snorkeling and diving enthusiasts can explore the underwater world and encounter colorful fish, turtles, and coral formations. It is also an excellent base for island-hopping adventures. Nearby islands like Koh Adang, Koh Rawi, and Koh Tarutao are great places to explore.

The coastal town of Pak Bara is where to catch the ferry to Koh Lipe. To get to Pak Bara, you can fly into Hat Yai International Airport, or travel by bus or minivan from nearby cities in southern Thailand. You’ll find the best weather is between November and April when the seas are calm, and rainfall is minimal.

thailand-koh-lipe-sunset
Thailand Koh Lipe sunset

Koh Yao Islands: Rarely Visited, a Great Place to Relax

Koh Yao is a pair of serene islands in the Andaman Sea, off the coast of Thailand between Phuket and Krabi provinces. The smaller island, Koh Yao Noi, is the more developed of the two, while Koh Yao Yai is the more pristine.

The islands are known for their commitment to sustainable tourism and eco-friendly practices that preserve the natural beauty of lush jungles, stunning limestone cliffs, pristine beaches, and clear waters. It is a great place for rejuvenating in the peaceful environment or engaging in outdoor activities such as kayaking, hiking, or bird watching.

November to April is the dry season for Koh Yao and is considered the best time to visit. The easiest way to get there is to fly to either Phuket International Airport or Krabi International Airport. From there, ferries or speedboats are available to Koh Yao Noi or Koh Yao Yai.

Consider staying for at least a week to unwind and enjoy the tranquility of these islands. Longer is recommended to explore more of the local culture. Koh Yao Noi, in particular, has opportunities to experience the local Muslim culture.

thailand-koh-yao-islands
Thailand Koh Yao islands

Koh Phangan: With Beautiful Beaches, Authentic Local Culture, and Wonderful Accommodations

Koh Phangan is a stunning island in the Gulf of Thailand famous for its legendary Full Moon Parties. Held every month on Haad Rin Beach, these parties attract visitors from all over the world who come to dance and enjoy the music under the full moon.

The island is also renowned for its beautiful beaches like the secluded paradise of Bottle Beach, an ideal spot to escape the crowds. When you’re not sunbathing, you can experience the rich, authentic local culture on island tours to local communities, or at Buddhist temples like Wat Phu Khao Noi and Wat Pho.

Visit during the dry season between December and April for the best weather. Ferry service is available to the island from the two closest airports, Samui Airpot on Koh Samui, and Surat Thani Airport on the mainland. If you’re traveling from Bangkok, you can take a bus or train to Surat Thani and then transfer from there.

There are many great hotels to choose from including beachfront resorts, eco-friendly lodges, and yoga retreats. Plan to stay for 1-2 weeks to be fully immersed in the island’s charm, but if you’re mainly going for the Full Moon Party, then a few days to a week will be enough.  

Conclusion

From the bustling beaches of Phuket to the tranquil shores of Koh Yao, these eight best islands in Thailand provide an array of experiences to suit every taste.

Whether you're a nature lover, an adventure enthusiast, a culture seeker, or simply in pursuit of relaxation, there's an island worth adding to any tour of the country. Read more about when is the best time to enjoy a beach holiday in Thailand.

Check out some of our Thailand tours, or contact us to start planning your next adventure.

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