For relaxation, good food, broad smiles, grand beaches and bustling markets, there’s every reason to get stuck into a Thailand adventure.
Its mainland bristles with possibilities, but with both temperatures and good times soaring in the south, it’s the islands that draw holidaymakers to this destination time and time again. Of course, with hundreds of islands to explore, it could be overwhelming to plan which ones to add into your itinerary.
However, we’ll get you started with a few pointers on those islands’ best kept secrets. Settle in as we explain island hopping around Thailand ahead of your grand exploration in the east.
Beginning in Phuket
As one of the largest islands in Thailand, as well as being a tourism centre in its own right, it makes sense to begin your island hopping adventures in Phuket.
Indeed, it’s likely you’ll be flying into Thailand via this island in the sun, and it’s got plenty of appeal as a standalone holiday destination. Phuket City itself comes highly recommended for its spicy restaurants and spicier nightlife, as well as its closeness to impressive Buddhist monuments that overlook the community from up high.
Of course, the beaches here are a big selling point too, and although the major attraction is the lively revelry of Patong, more serene experiences can be had at hidden coastal coves such as Mai Khao Beach or Karon Beach.
As a general rule of thumb, Phuket is a party destination in the south and a relaxing escape in the north, and the region is large enough that the two don’t meet. Either way, Phuket is an excellent springboard to greater adventures, so hop onto that ferry and make your way to our next recommendation.
Savour the secret retreat of Koh Racha
If you hop on a boat in Phuket’s south, especially from Chalong Pier, you’ll be a short ride across sumptuous seawater from the shores of Koh Racha. Verdant and largely unspoilt, it’s an island that’s seen plenty of appreciation from travellers in the know, so with our help you can ensure you’re one of them.
Popular activities on Koh Racha include snorkelling, cycling through the hills at the island’s heart, and of course, lots of sunbathing on the beaches. The ones in the west grant the greatest sunsets, while the beaches in the north are the most crowded, if you can ever consider this peaceful little island crowded.
And if utmost seclusion really is your thing, head to the south and east of Koh Racha to encounter fewer of your fellow holidaymakers who’ve taken the boat down from Phuket for the day.
Treat yourself to stunning Koh Phi Phi
This is one of Thailand’s most famous island clusters for a reason, having featured in numerous movies, including The Beach. You can visit that locale yourself by heading to Maya Bay on Phi Phi Lee, although it’s likely that plenty of other holidaymakers will have had the same idea.
Luckily, Koh Phi Phi offers plenty of ways to spend your time, and even a slow boat journey around the island chain makes for a magical day out. The locally beloved outlook known only as The Viewpoint gives you a brilliant perspective on the green forests, golden beaches and crystal blue sea of your surroundings.
If some precious alone time and a paddle in the sea appeals to you, you can head to Pileh Lagoon, tucked among the trees and with water so pristine it begs you to get immersed.
Alternatively, head to Monkey Island to play among the primates at this special reserve. Being such a popular stop-off, Koh Phi Phi also has its fair share of beach parties, so you can expect cocktails and revelry long into the night.
Take a pitstop at Bamboo Island
Also known as Koh Mai Phai, this island is nice and close to the Koh Phi Phi cluster. It’s a cosy little island where you can discover unspoilt Thailand at its finest.
Indeed, with its strip of shoreline and glorious sea surrounding it, it’s the kind of place no photos could do justice. Your time on the beach will be topped up with snacks and drinks from the nearby pop-up bar, and lazy shacks prop up the coastal scenery.
Boats come and go from this island a lot, and visiting in the late afternoon guarantees some sublime sunsets.
Reflect on your journey on Ko Hai
When the time comes to wind down your adventures on land and sea, authentic Thailand hospitality doesn’t come finer than you’ll find on Ko Hai. In fact, because of how tucked away it is and the almost castaway style with which you can get lost from the world here, some have taken to calling this place Robinson Crusoe Island.
Beach huts decked out in tropical flair line the beaches here, yet it’s not so touristy that it loses that classic Thai chic. In fact, at just two kilometres wide and four kilometres long, Ko Hai is a retreat that promises rich tropical forests and lazy days under the sun.
It’s a well-kept secret that ensures that most of the time your only fellow diners on the beach are the cheeky monkeys from the woodland, so you can savour the fact that you’re finalising your journey at one of Thailand’s most hidden treasures.
Of course, our recommended routes factor in only a handful of Thailand’s sensational islands, and hopping from one to another is a true holiday joy. If you’ve any favourite island memories to share, or your own recommendations to put forward, don’t be shy in letting us know in the comments.