A Guide to Choosing the Right Thai Islands to Visit

written by local expert Anna Faustino

Anna is a co-founder of Adventure in You and has been traveling the world for the last 9 years. She has spent time living in Thailand, Mexico, Indonesia, and Spain and is our local expert in these areas. Her expertise on travel, gear, and building businesses have been featured on Foundr, Business Insider, Yahoo Travel, and more.

It is no secret that people flock to Thailand mainly to be able to frolic in warm sunny beaches with crystal clear waters. I mean, after all, Thailand is a pretty perfect destination for this given its many coastal islands and paradise like places to visit. However, one thing that you will find when you begin looking into where to go is that there are too many islands to choose from. To help make things easier for you, here is a guide which we put together to help you choose which island is right for you. Step one is to ask yourself…

What Do You Want to Do?

Okay, first things first. What do you want to do while you’re on your seaside holiday? Deciding on what you want to do will greatly affect which island you head towards as different islands have different vibes and things to do. Think- Would you like to go to a quiet castaway type of island where there’s no one else but you and a few other off-the-beaten-path travellers? Would you like to party it up with other backpackers? Try to be as specific as possible without going down the whole, “I just want a pretty beach to sunbathe in”. Please do note that no matter what you choose, more often than not, you will find what you’re looking for as the Thai islands are very diverse! A lot of the islands are popular for specific things so as soon as you’ve decided on what you want to do, you can now create a shortlist of which islands to go to. To help you out, I’ve outlined some activities and which islands you can find your solace in.

Read: Guide to Planning Your Dream Trip to Thailand

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Thai Islands to Visit if You Want to Scuba Dive

Hands down, if you want to get your scuba diving certification, everyone will point you towards Koh Tao Island. Legendary for its affordable diving courses and beautiful dive sites, Koh Tao is definitely not one to be missed for water enthusiasts. When you’re in Koh Tao, take a day off from the underwater world and explore the nearby Koh Nang Yuan Island which is a pretty spectacular day trip in itself.  What I love about Koh Tao is that it has a little bit of everything. It has a vibrant night life as well as a few quiet coves to check out when you want to get away from people.

Resources: Check out Ultimate Guide to Koh Tao Island, Thailandand read Best Places to Stay in Koh Tao for tips on where to stay in Koh Tao.

Fish and a coral reefThe diving here is very enjoyable and is one of the best sites in Thailand. Apart from Koh Tao is the famous Similan islands which is home to the Mu Koh Similan National Park. In the Similan islands, you will find around 25 different dive sites that are every divers dream come true! From long coral lined swim throughs to large reef areas full of large fish and sharks, the Similan islands is a must for diving enthusiasts.

Other Thai Islands that offer Diving: Ko Phi Phi, Ko Lanta, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Samui, Ko Chang and Ko Lipe.

Read: Best Diving in Thailand: Must Dive Places

Thai Island to Visit if You Want to Party

If you’re looking for a place where you can dance all night long while you’re barefoot in the sand, there are loads of islands to choose from. Naturally, the infamous home to the Full Moon Parties, Koh Pha Ngan tops the list. Although the Full Moon parties are sort of a rite of passage for every backpacker, please remember to party responsibly. I have seen way to many heart-breaking photos of trash littered all over the beach after those legendary parties.

After you’re done dancing the night away in your neon getup, consider heading to Ko Phi Phi or Koh Samui which also have lots clubs to keep you entertained. Please note that despite gaining popularity as party islands, even these places have their own hidden slices of paradise which you can get to. Simply hop on a bike and explore the islands to find hidden beaches and coves. Plus, it’s a proven fact that swimming is a GREAT hangover cure- at least in my books!

Resources: If you’re heading to Koh Pha Ngan, make sure you check out 10 Awesome Things to do in Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand and The Best Places to Stay in Koh Phangan.

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Thai Islands to Visit if You Want R & R.

If you’re looking for some down time in luxurious resorts, there is no shortage of them in Thailand. Almost every island has an upscale 5 star or boutique resort where you can spend hours of your time tanning by the pool drinking cocktails. The best part? The value for money in terms of accommodations in Thailand are AMAZING! If some rest and relaxation is what you’re looking for, head on over to Koh Lanta or Koh Samui to indulge in the many high end resorts. Koh Samui is also an ideal place for travelers with families due to the various facilities. However, like I said, most of the popular islands have a few high end places to enjoy. 

Resources: For tips on Koh Lanta, read about the Top Adventurous Activities in Koh Lanta, Thailand, and Best Places to Stay in Koh Lanta
Thai islands

Thai Islands if You Want to Be Alone

To those of you that are massive fans of the book (and movie) The Beach, you would be thoroughly disappointed to find out that Maya Bay in Koh Phi Phi is no longer the picture of paradise that we all have in our heads. Often crowded by hoards of tourist boats, skip this place if you’re looking for some down time. Sorry Leo, it’s no longer paradise!

Although a lot of the islands that I am listing here are those that are rather popular, there are literally loads of undiscovered off-the-beaten-path places where you can live out your own castaway fantasies. Head over to Koh Kradan, Koh Mook and Koh Lipe for a few days of peace and quiet as these islands are far less developed compared to the ones mentioned above.

Other Thai Islands to check out: Ko Rok, Ko Phra Thong, Ko Ra, Ko Phayam, Ko Chang Noi and Ko Tarutao. (As you can see, there are quite a few!)A Thai islandSo apart from considering what you want to do, your time frame and budget is something to consider as well as some of the islands are pretty spread out. Some would have to involve you flying or taking long trains. Although you can now fly towards the South to head to the islands, you will still have to factor in getting to the airport, transfers to the pier, and boat rides to the islands. My recommendation, decide on two or three islands that you really want to see and just relax! Enjoy your time there rather than hopping from one island to the next. So there have it, folks! I hope this guide has helped you choose a couple of islands or two where you can watch amazing sunsets as you stare out in the open sea as you unwind and soak in your tropical holiday.

Looking for Other Tips on What to do in Thailand? Check these tips and reviews out.

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19 thoughts on “A Guide to Choosing the Right Thai Islands to Visit”

  1. This is awesome! My favourite is Koh Lanta but heard Koh Sumai is also very beautiful island and so are many on western side of Thailand.

  2. I’ve always gravitated towards Koh Samui, especially because there are now so many wellness hotels, yoga places and upscale hideaways (although I used to just go to party! Oh, how I’ve changed), and I’ve done the full moon parties on Koh Pha Ngan. I guess I must want to be alone now because now I’d love to give your suggestions of Koh Kradan, Koh Mook and Koh Lipe a try.

  3. This is a great guide. I did not get a chance to see any of these islands you mentioned while I was in Thailand. My family and I did visit Krabi. Which island would you think is the best for families?

  4. Great guide. I am searching for scuba diving in London, and plan to visit Thailand soon. Do you have any idea how much it will cost if I do it in Koh Tao?

  5. Great post – have pinned to our favourite South East Asia board. We personally love LOVE Koh Lipe a lot. We are really into our scuba diving. We got our Open Water in Koh Tao in 2012 and loved the place. However we returned 3 years later to get our Advanced certification there, but the place had changed for the worse. it was over run with tourism and most of the coral was dying. Our best diving moments in Thailand were the islands around Koh Lanta.

  6. Great guide! It’s good to know that Koh Phangan is also perfect for quite time, nature and relaxation, you simply have to know when and where to go. The north of the island away from the Full Moon Party is where I go to relax, do yoga, visit some of the most beautiful beaches in South East Asia and eat amazing food.


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