Planning a visit to the best islands in Thailand? Well, you should know that you’re in for the experience of a lifetime! Over the years we’ve been to many of the Thai islands and discovered that they truly hold something for every traveler. So what is the best Thailand Island to visit for you? Here are some of our favorite destinations and how to make your Thai island dream comes true!
How to Get to the Islands in Thailand
One of the best parts about Thai island hopping is how easy and affordable it is. There are several ways to get around depending on the distance, time you have, and your budget.
We always use 12go to start our island-hopping search! It’s a popular website similar to Skyscanner, but for transportation in Southeast Asia. Of course, you can always book at a local ticket counter or from your hotel. Either way it’s a great tool to get an idea of routes and travel times.
Unless you’re on a longer backpacking trip, you may want to stick to specific areas and island groupings to make it easy on yourself. Below are the 4 modes of transportation to choose from in the Thailand islands!
Getting Around the Thai Islands
Longtail Boat: These traditional longtail boats are iconic around the islands in Thailand and something every traveler should experience! They’re perfect for shorter trips between Thai islands or boat tours and the rates are often negotiable. However, for longer rides you will want to check out these other options.
Fast Ferry: The ferries are something we utilize regularly in Thailand as they are fast and efficient. From the bigger Thai islands you’ll find larger and smoother rides, while smaller boats can be fast and bumpy. Make sure to emphasize that you want fast ferry if booking through your accommodation.
Slow Ferry: The slow ferries are something we always try and avoid, but they’re certainly available! Many can take double or triple the time as the fast ferry and some are even overnight. If you’re on a tight budget you can try it out. Just know that you’re likely wasting an entire day on the boat instead of on the best islands in Thailand.
Flight: Most of the small islands in Thailand don’t have airports. However, regular flights go from Bangkok to the bigger islands like Phuket and Koh Samui. From there, you can take boats to pretty much any of the surrounding destinations.
9 Best Islands in Thailand
1. Exploring Koh Lanta
From our first moments arriving on Koh Lanta it instantly became one of our favorite Thai islands. The rugged and beautiful beaches take you back to a different time in the now touristic country. While some islands in Thailand feel overcrowded, Koh Lanta has the perfect balance of nature and beachfront hotels.
Some of our favorite memories have been just cruising around on a motorbike and exploring Koh Lanta. You can also check out the National Park or go beach hopping down the beautiful west coast. It has accommodations to fit any travel style, from budget hostels to luxury 5 star resorts.
2. Amazing Phuket
Phuket is the largest Thailand island, with that comes endless activities, hotels, and beaches! Is it touristy? Yes. Yet, don’t that scare you away from traveling to this amazing Thai island.
Once you get outside the party zone of Patong Beach, there are so many different places to explore. Our favorite area of Phuket is the south as that’s where the nicest beaches are. You can also visit an elephant sanctuary, check out the digital nomad zone in Rawai, and make the trip to Big Buddha.
3. Phi Phi Islands by Boat
The Phi Phi Islands have become notorious over the years for both their beauty and legendary parties. It draws in all types of travelers, especially backpackers looking to have a good time! After you’ve had your taste of Chang beers and Thai bucket cocktails, make sure to take a boat tour.
The most popular way to see these islands in Thailand is to take a longtail boat to Phi Phi Leh, and the world famous Maya Bay. You may know this from the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach.” Maya Bay was only recently reopened to travelers after 3 years of being closed.
While this boat tour is why many come to this part of Thailand, don’t forget to explore the main island of Phi Phi Don. This is where the town and all the hotels are located. You can hike above the town to the scenic viewpoints, or even take a an epic boat tour around Phi Phi Don.
4. Taking it Easy on Koh Lipe
Now that you’ve heard about some of the more well known Thailand islands, we have a gem for you! In the Andaman Sea near the coast of Malaysia is the Thai island of Koh Lipe. It’s nicknamed the “Maldives of Thailand” for it crystal clear water and great snorkeling.
The unique part about this destination is that it’s very walkable! Due to the islands small size, everywhere is within walking distance or a quick tuk tuk ride. Hang out on the lively walking street, spend the day floating in the turquoise sea, and then finish with a sundowner at Sunset Beach.
With its close proximity to Malaysia, a popular route is to take the ferry to Langkawi. So your Thai island hopping can even take you to a whole other country!
5. Diving on Koh Tao
If you’re ready to get into the water then you’ll love this next Thai island! Koh Tao is world renowned for its diving spots and colorful marine life. This little island is part of the Chumphon Archipelago on the western part of the Gulf of Thailand.
The walking street is a mix of new age cafes and hotels with a cool hippy vibe of the past. Around Koh Tao you’ll find many stunning and unique beaches to explore. At night, the island is known for its fire shows and beach parties that go until the early morning.
So when you’re not out on a boat tour snorkeling or diving, there is plenty to do on one of the best islands in Thailand! Set right in between Koh Samui and Koh Phangan (more about those soon), it’s also super easy to include in your Thai islands itinerary.
6. Full Moon on Koh Phangan
Ever heard of a full moon party? While they are held in many places in Southeast Asia, the biggest is on Koh Phangan. Once a month, partygoers from around the world ascend to this Thai island for the party of a lifetime.
However, that’s not all there is to do on Koh Phangan! We loved exploring this island and really enjoyed our time here. Staying on the more quiet northwest coast, we spent our days exploring the unique beaches, remote working at funky cafes, and seeing a more peaceful side of it.
7. Relaxing on Koh Jum
Koh Jum is one of the lesser visited places on our islands in Thailand list. Yet, don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind destination! Being just 25km from the beach town of Ao Nang Krabi, it’s easy to get here by boat.
This is the island to go to if you’re looking for some relaxation. You won’t find the crowds and tourism of Phuket and Phi Phi. Instead, slow life, good local food, and paradise-like beach bars await you.
8. Adventure to Koh Muk
Speaking of unspoilt destinations… Koh Muk is another one of those amazing islands in Thailand! Part of the Trang region, Koh Muk is one of the islands that feel untouched in comparison.
Get ready for dreamy white sand beaches, stunning nature, and relaxing days. This island is slightly off the typical travel route ,but more than worth the adventure to get here!
9. Luxury Resorts on Koh Samui
Last but not least, we have Thailand’s 2nd largest island! Honestly, Koh Samui wasn’t our favorite to visit. Yet, if you’re traveling with kids and looking for a nice resort then it could be for you. We’ve heard many travelers say it’s their absolute favorite and definitely get the appeal of Koh Samui.
The one thing is it’s absolutely massive. Not as large as Phuket, but you still won’t find a small island feel. Koh Samui does have some of the best luxury hotels in Thailand. So it’s a good option if you are looking for the luxury resort life.
What is the Best Island in Thailand?
After seeing so many amazing islands in Thailand it’s hard for us to pick just one. However, what’s for certain, is that this country truly has something for everyone.
When planning your trip it all comes down to your own personal travel style, interests, and what makes sense for your route. At least now you know some our own favorite islands in Thailand to help you make your choice!
Have any questions about this article or want to share more of the best islands in Thailand? Leave us a comment below.
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
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Thailand Travel Planning
Transportation: While traveling through Thailand 12Go is where we find all our ferries, trains, buses, and transfers! You can find everything from island hopping speed boats to the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide to find activities all over Phuket! You can find everything from a James Bond island luxury sunset cruise, to Phuket Old Town 15-taster food adventure, and 5-hour island tour!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.