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The best islands in Thailand

Holidays to Thailand have become synonymous with island-hopping. Helped along by Hollywood and – more recently – Instagram, Thailand’s tropical isles are famous for their lush greenery, powdery sands and turquoise seas. Whether you’re looking for incredible snorkelling, romantic beaches or all-night parties, Thailand’s islands have it all.

Thailand has over 1,400 islands, ranging from giants like Phuket to pint-sized spots like Koh Tao. But, of all those options, only about a dozen see the majority of visitors. Some of the most well-known islands can be found floating in the Gulf of Thailand, but the Andaman Sea has its fair share too. And each one has its own distinct personality – so it’s important to do your research. To find the best Thai island for you, think about how you want to spend your time once you’re there.

If you’re looking for excellent snorkelling and diving, you’ve got plenty of choice. Koh Chang, Koh Lanta, Koh Samui and Koh Tao tick all the boxes, while the stunning Similan Islands make a great day trip. Vast Phuket is great for families, with endless activities, bustling towns and over 30 beaches. Couples, meanwhile, can find peace and quiet on the sleepy beaches of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Lanta. There are plenty of luxurious adults-only resorts across Thailand, too.

Some islands – like Koh Phangan and Koh Phi Phi – have earned a reputation as party places. But there are two sides to every story, and you’ll find that a lot of these supposed nightlife hubs actually only have one party-hard area, and the rest of the island is blissfully quiet. So it’s worth taking a look at all your options.

Whether you go island-hopping, or divide your time between an island and the mainland, getting around is extremely straightforward. Thanks to regular ferries and internal flights, you can mix-and-match Thailand’s islands to suit you. Flying to Bangkok gives you easy access to Koh Chang, while flying to Phuket or Krabi means you can easily reach the Phi Phi Islands and Koh Lanta. Plus, Koh Samui has its own airport – so the Gulf Islands are just a short flight from Bangkok, Phuket or Krabi.

Snorkelling

Honeymoons

Families

Nightlife

Best islands for snorkelling and diving

Several islands in Thailand are surrounded by coral reefs and shipwrecks, so the tropical waters are teeming with exotic fish, rays, turtles and more. The smallest of the Gulf Islands, Koh Tao is famous for its snorkelling. The island has a number of nearby dive sites too, including Sail Rock. You can take a day trip to this remote spot, where you’ll find underwater caves and swim-throughs home to fish, crabs and barracuda. Sail Rock is also accessible from neighbouring Koh Phangan, if you’d prefer to use this larger island as your base – it’s just two hours away from Koh Tao.

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Floating off the west coast of Thailand, just south of Krabi, Koh Lanta is another island with fantastic diving. On the edge of Mu Koh Lanta National Park, you’ll find world-class dive sites Purple Rock and Red Rock. As well as their colourful corals – from which they take their name – the sites boast anemones, rays and sharks. The world’s biggest fish, the whale shark, is also seen in these waters in the winter months. Want to explore further? Book a day trip out to the Similan Islands and discover some of the best diving sites in the world.

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Best islands for honeymoons

If you’re planning a romantic island getaway, you have a lot of choice. Most islands in Thailand have several adults-only resorts – or, at the very least, resorts with adults-only areas – where you’ll find peaceful pools, plush suites and therapeutic spas.

Couples searching for some serious beach time should consider going to laidback Koh Lanta or resort-peppered Koh Samui – both islands offer numerous sandy stretches and plenty of luxurious hotels.

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But if it’s variety you’re after, look at Koh Phangan. With rich rainforests, rushing waterfalls and soaring mountains, this diverse island has plenty of things to see and do beyond the beaches – although you could be forgiven for never wanting to leave the untouched sands. Plus, you’ll just be a boat-trip away from sister islands Koh Tao and Koh Samui. You could visit for the day, or even consider combining all three into an island-hopping holiday – you are on honeymoon, after all. 

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Best islands for families

As the largest island in Thailand, Phuket is the best choice for families. The sheer variety here means there’s something for all ages, whatever you’re into. Take your pick from 30 beaches, where you can swim, sunbathe and try out all kinds of watersports. Admire the diverse architecture of Phuket Old Town, which showcases the island’s Chinese, Malay and Indian heritage. And take the kids to see the enormous Big Buddha, one of Phuket’s main attractions. The island also has a number of elephant sanctuaries. If you’re a family of animal-lovers, a visit to one of these is a must – you’ll be able to meet, feed and bathe Thailand’s gentle giants.

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Alternatively, if you simply want to take some time out on your family holiday, consider Koh Samui. With several fantastic family-friendly resorts, and beaches offering watersports and snorkelling, this smaller island is a great choice for beach-focused families.

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Best islands for partying

Thailand is famous for its nightlife, but Koh Phangan’s Full Moon Party is the headline act. Once a month, an all-night extravaganza takes place in the town of Haad Rin, where the beach fills with fire-eaters, DJs and thousands of backpackers. If you want to experience Thailand’s biggest party, this is the place to be – but you’ll have to plan your holiday very carefully to align with the right date.

Alternatively, stay in Patong on Phuket. The life and soul of the party is Bangla Road, where you’ll find packed-out bars and huge clubs. Patong hosts plenty of festivals and beach parties throughout the year, too.

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Last, but by no means least, there’s Koh Phi Phi. After starring in hit film The Beach, the Phi Phi Islands and their paradisiacal beaches shot to fame. Years later, backpackers and sun-seekers flock to the largest isle, Koh Phi Phi Don. You’ll find lots of bars, shows and parties here, centred on Loh Dalum Beach and Tonsai Bay.

Show More
Show Less

Snorkelling

Best islands for snorkelling and diving

Several islands in Thailand are surrounded by coral reefs and shipwrecks, so the tropical waters are teeming with exotic fish, rays, turtles and more. The smallest of the Gulf Islands, Koh Tao is famous for its snorkelling. The island has a number of nearby dive sites too, including Sail Rock. You can take a day trip to this remote spot, where you’ll find underwater caves and swim-throughs home to fish, crabs and barracuda. Sail Rock is also accessible from neighbouring Koh Phangan, if you’d prefer to use this larger island as your base – it’s just two hours away from Koh Tao.

Show More
Show Less

Floating off the west coast of Thailand, just south of Krabi, Koh Lanta is another island with fantastic diving. On the edge of Mu Koh Lanta National Park, you’ll find world-class dive sites Purple Rock and Red Rock. As well as their colourful corals – from which they take their name – the sites boast anemones, rays and sharks. The world’s biggest fish, the whale shark, is also seen in these waters in the winter months. Want to explore further? Book a day trip out to the Similan Islands and discover some of the best diving sites in the world.

Show More
Show Less

Honeymoons

Best islands for honeymoons

If you’re planning a romantic island getaway, you have a lot of choice. Most islands in Thailand have several adults-only resorts – or, at the very least, resorts with adults-only areas – where you’ll find peaceful pools, plush suites and therapeutic spas.

Couples searching for some serious beach time should consider going to laidback Koh Lanta or resort-peppered Koh Samui – both islands offer numerous sandy stretches and plenty of luxurious hotels.

Show More
Show Less

But if it’s variety you’re after, look at Koh Phangan. With rich rainforests, rushing waterfalls and soaring mountains, this diverse island has plenty of things to see and do beyond the beaches – although you could be forgiven for never wanting to leave the untouched sands. Plus, you’ll just be a boat-trip away from sister islands Koh Tao and Koh Samui. You could visit for the day, or even consider combining all three into an island-hopping holiday – you are on honeymoon, after all. 

Show More
Show Less

Families

Best islands for families

As the largest island in Thailand, Phuket is the best choice for families. The sheer variety here means there’s something for all ages, whatever you’re into. Take your pick from 30 beaches, where you can swim, sunbathe and try out all kinds of watersports. Admire the diverse architecture of Phuket Old Town, which showcases the island’s Chinese, Malay and Indian heritage. And take the kids to see the enormous Big Buddha, one of Phuket’s main attractions. The island also has a number of elephant sanctuaries. If you’re a family of animal-lovers, a visit to one of these is a must – you’ll be able to meet, feed and bathe Thailand’s gentle giants.

Show More
Show Less

Alternatively, if you simply want to take some time out on your family holiday, consider Koh Samui. With several fantastic family-friendly resorts, and beaches offering watersports and snorkelling, this smaller island is a great choice for beach-focused families.

Show More
Show Less

Nightlife

Best islands for partying

Thailand is famous for its nightlife, but Koh Phangan’s Full Moon Party is the headline act. Once a month, an all-night extravaganza takes place in the town of Haad Rin, where the beach fills with fire-eaters, DJs and thousands of backpackers. If you want to experience Thailand’s biggest party, this is the place to be – but you’ll have to plan your holiday very carefully to align with the right date.

Alternatively, stay in Patong on Phuket. The life and soul of the party is Bangla Road, where you’ll find packed-out bars and huge clubs. Patong hosts plenty of festivals and beach parties throughout the year, too.

Show More
Show Less

Last, but by no means least, there’s Koh Phi Phi. After starring in hit film The Beach, the Phi Phi Islands and their paradisiacal beaches shot to fame. Years later, backpackers and sun-seekers flock to the largest isle, Koh Phi Phi Don. You’ll find lots of bars, shows and parties here, centred on Loh Dalum Beach and Tonsai Bay.

Show More
Show Less

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