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The 9 best islands to visit in Thailand

Thailand's islands offer tranquil beaches, striking viewpoints and scuba diving hotspots. Scattered across the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea, these Thai islands promise cultural experiences and breathtaking natural beauty.
Author: Aimee White - SEO Copywriter at Explore Worldwide
Date Published: 2 July 2024
 

White soft-sand beaches, swathes of lush forest, warm waters rich with marine life... island-hopping around Thailand never sounded (or looked) dreamier. Whether you're searching for remote bays amid picturesque surrounds or opportunities to explore by foot, bicycle or kayak, Thailand's islands have their own unique charm and appeal.

Southern Thailand is home to over 1,400 islands scattered across the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. You can discover the best that coastal Thailand has to offer with our range of Thailand group tours, from hiking through forested national parks to cooking authentic Thai cuisine.

Read on for the 9 best Thai islands to visit:
1. Koh Ngai
2. Phuket
3. Koh Samui
4. Koh Lipe
5. Koh Lanta
6. Koh Phi Phi
7. Koh Samet
8. Koh Tao
9. Koh Yao Noi

Koh Ngai

With green-blue waves lapping forest-fringed beaches, Koh Ngai is one of the nicest Thai islands to switch off from the outside world. Situated off the Trang coast in the Andaman Sea, Koh Ngai may be small, but it's one of Thailand's pricier destinations.

Make the most of your stay with a walk through the national park - keeping an eye out for crab-eating monkeys - and spend a morning at neighbouring Koh Muk, where you'll take in the stunning Emerald Cave (Tham Morakot). 
 

Phuket

Offering something for everyone, Phuket is one of the best Thai islands to visit. You'll instantly notice Chinese- and Portuguese-influenced architecture in the bustling Old Town. As Thailand's biggest island, Phuket has countless incredible beaches, with quieter options towards the north of the island.

Get stuck into a roster of water activities, from snorkelling to windsurfing, or hike through country roads, banana trees and jungle to reach the 45-metre-tall Big Buddha, which sits atop the Nakkerd Hills.

Koh Samui

Koh Samui is Thailand's second-largest island, and the largest in the Samui Archipelago. Situated off the east coast of Thailand, Koh Samui is best reached by ferry from Surat Thani on the mainland, or from neighbouring Koh Tao or Koh Pha Ngan. This popular Thai island is home to world-class spa resorts, but it's ideal for couples as much as it is families.

From Chaweng Beach to coconut plantations, Koh Samui is filled with fun things to do. There's no missing a day trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park; on our Thailand Active Jungle and Beach Adventure trip, we explore remote bays and see dolphins, sea otters and wild pigs.

Koh Lipe

Koh Lipe is one of the southernmost Thai islands, close to the border of Malaysia. You could easily spend up to four days here, and it's a diver's dream destination, with whale sharks, seahorses and rich corals to be wowed by. Back on land, there are busier areas - such as Walking Street - but on the whole Koh Lipe retains a chilled-out vibe, making it well worth a visit.

Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta is undeniably one of Thailand's prettiest islands; it's nicknamed Pulao Satak (Island of the Long Beaches) by locals, thanks to its dozens of gorgeous beaches. Close to the Krabi mainland, Koh Lanta has a few busier areas, but on the whole there's a prominent laid-back atmosphere. Watch the local fishermen haul in their catches, enjoy sundowner cocktails on the beach or take a two-hour kayak to quiet Talabeng Island. 
 

Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi is arguably Thailand's most popular island. This cluster of islands lies between Phuket and Krabi in the Andaman Sea, and is best-known for Maya Bay, which found worldwide fame in Hollywood blockbuster The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

The largest of the Phi Phi islands is Phi Phi Don, where crystal-clear waters surround slivers of white beach; why not experience the best of Koh Phi Phi on our Simply Thailand tour? Rows of long-tail boats bob in the translucent waters, ready to whisk you away to Maya Bay, secluded spots and snorkelling and scuba-diving adventures. 

Koh Samet

 A short boat ride from Rayong, off the east coast of Thailand, lies tranquil Koh Samet. The entire island is a national park, with minimal urban development as a result.

Add our Thailand Beach Extension to your trip to take in this compact island for yourself; cycling around Koh Samet's interior makes for an off-the-beaten-track adventure. One of the best things to do on Koh Samet is to kick back and relax on Sai Kaew Beach, which literally translates as 'Crystal Sand Beach' - pure bliss. 

Koh Tao

Koh Tao is a little slice of paradise. This small island sits off the east coast of Thailand, north of Koh Pha Ngan. It's an affordable place to visit, providing just as many striking views as its better-known counterparts.

Koh Tao translates as 'turtle island' and is one of the best scuba diving destinations in Thailand. Even if you don't spot one of these beautiful marine creatures, you'll still see plenty of colourful fish and coral.
 

Koh Yao Noi

While Koh Yao Noi is close to Phuket, it's one of the quietest Thai islands, despite its proximity to other popular spots like Ao Nang and Krabi. Seek out the natural beauty of the island by hiring a bicycle; on our west coast of Thailand tour, you can also enjoy its serene beaches, join a cookery class with a local chef or take a day cruise through idyllic Phang Nga Bay. 
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