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Thailand Islands Guide

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The many beautiful islands, famous for their white sandy beaches, tropical scenery, and turquoise waters, make Thailand one of the most sought-after island destinations in Southeast Asia. Are you confused about which island to go to for your vacation in Thailand?

Here we’ve compiled a list of the 5 most charming island gathering areas including Phuket, Krabi, Koh Samui, Similan, and Pattaya, as well as their surrounding outlying islands, and pointed out the highlights, suitable people, accommodation conditions, and accessibility. We’re sure you’ll get something to help you clear the confusion on how to choose the right Thai islands after reading this article.

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1. Phuket

For the crowd: First-timers to Thailand, families

Highlights: Well-developed, complete facilities, rich scenery

Recommended visiting time: 4-5 days

Visitor density: ☆☆☆☆☆

Known as the “Pearl of the Andaman Sea”, Phuket is the largest island in Thailand, which is much more than just the blue sea and white sand. The island was developed earlier, with easy access, a wide choice of hotels, and complete entertainment facilities. Compared with other Thailand islands, Phuket is the most popular and has the most resources for fun. So basically, all first-time visitors to Thailand will come here for vacation.

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Popular outlying islands: Coral Island, Emperor Island, Koh Khai

Located in the southeast of Phuket, Coral Island is named after its rich coral ecosystem. The island is one of the best places in Phuket for water activities such as snorkeling, water parachuting, surfing, and sea walking.

Emperor Island, lying on the south side of Phuket, is a newly-developed attraction in Phuket, favored by many tourists for its exquisite and stunning scenery, unpolluted water and sandy beaches, relatively isolated location, luxurious supporting services, and fun-filled snorkeling sports.

Koh Khai, aka Egg Island, is only 30 minutes away from Phuket by speedboat. The seawater here is very shallow, basically knee-deep, suitable for visitors with the elderly or children. Schools of fish can be seen from the shore.

2. Krabi

For the crowd: Rock climbing enthusiasts, jungle lovers

Highlights: More than 500 climbing routes, mangrove forest

Recommended visiting time: 3-5 days

Visitor density: ☆☆

Krabi in the south of Thailand, across the sea from Phuket, is the most beautiful place in the Andaman Sea. The island’s best feature is the limestone cliffs that rise above the coast, making it the perfect natural rock climbing place for adventurers. Mangrove forests are one of the great sights of the Krabi River. Take a kayak or long-tail boat through the well-rooted mangrove forest and feel the fun of paddling while looking for cute little animals.

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Popular outlying islands: Phi Phi Islands, Koh Lanta, Koh Hong

Phi Phi is the star island of Thailand, consisting of two main islands – Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Le, covered with azure waters, silvery sand, and colorful corals. The island is full of resorts, restaurants, bars, and various entertainment venues. One of the interesting experiences is a boat trip to visit the Viking Cave.

Located at the southernmost tip of Krabi, Koh Lanta is a national park dotted with several beautiful islets and surrounded by coral reefs. With clear water and lots of fish, it is the best place for snorkeling and swimming in the Krabi area.

Surrounded by mountains on three sides and virtually no wind or waves, Koh Hong is a top destination for family trips in Krabi. The long-tail boats here are rated as the most beautiful in Thailand. Remember to climb to the island’s hidden vantage point to capture the panoramic view of Koh Hong.

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3. Koh Samui

For the crowd: Couples, diving enthusiasts, party lovers

Highlights: A Holyland for honeymoon, diving resort, Full Moon Party

Recommended visiting time: 4-5 days

Visitor density: ☆☆☆☆

As the third-largest island in Thailand, Koh Samui is a honeymoon island with crystal water, soft white sand, swaying coconut trees, as well as strange rocks, forest waterfalls, and seaside temples adding to its charm. Late in development, but Koh Samui has a lot to offer. Visitors can experience diving, motorboating, paragliding, and other water sports on the island’s beaches such as Chaweng and Lamai. Also don’t miss the lively beach bars, mouth-watering coconut products, and relaxing Thai massages.

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Popular outlying islands: Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, Nang Yuan Island

Located in the northern waters of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan is known worldwide for its Full Moon Party. Every month, more than 20,000 young backpackers come here to dance until dawn on the fine, soft white sand. However, Koh Phangan is not just for glow sticks and parties. Its beaches are also some of the best in Asia.

Koh Tao is also known as “Turtle Island” because it resembles a turtle. The colorful coral reefs and abundant marine life provide an excellent diving environment. Koh Tao is the home base for diving instruction in Thailand and even Southeast Asia.

Nang Yuan Island, next to Turtle Island, is one of the icons of Koh Samui. This island is distinguished by its distinctive herringbone beach. Unlike the lively beaches of Turtle Island, Nang Yuan Island is very quiet, which is ideal for meditation.

4. Koh Similan

For the crowd: Scuba diving enthusiasts, tourists looking for a secluded place

Highlights: Primeval and natural landscape, diving resort

Recommended visiting time: 1-2 days

Visitor density: ☆

Koh Similan is an archipelago of 9 islands with some of the world’s most beautiful, unspoiled islands. Rich and diverse Marine life and spectacular coral reefs provide a world-class underwater paradise for deep-sea divers. It’s rare for visitors to see giant fish underwater, but here you may come across a jaguar shark and even a whale, as well as some live, luminous objects.

Even untrained divers can enjoy the fish-watching experience. The water here is incredibly buoyant. People who can’t swim can float on the sea simply by lying flat on the surface of the sea, arms and legs straight.

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5. Pattaya

For the crowd: Friends

Highlights: Floating market, Tiffany show, Near Bangkok

Recommended visiting time: 2-3 days

Visitor density: ☆☆☆

Pattaya is a popular seaside resort in Thailand, just 1.5 hours’ drive from Bangkok. The 40-kilometer-long sunny Pattaya beach, with blue sky and green water, is a good beachfront swimming area. Once a small, sparsely-populated fishing village, Pattaya is now a world-renowned tourist night city. The Tiffany Show is the first true ladyboy show in Southeast Asia, with shows featuring classics from Broadway in New York. It is one of the not-to-be-missed events in Pattaya.

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Popular outlying islands: Koh Larn, Koh Samet, Koh Sak

Also known as Coral Island, Koh Larn is a famous diving mecca in Pattaya. Tourists can enjoy the underwater wonders and sunbathe on the beach here. There are many water recreation programs such as banana boats and motorboats, and visitors can also try the new and exciting sea parachute.

Koh Samet, located in the Gulf of Thailand, forms a national marine park with the surrounding outlying islands. The east coast of the island has several natural beaches, while the west coast is famous for its sunsets. Visitors can enjoy the pristine tropical scenery and first-class seawater bathing, as well as the unique and inexpensive tropical fruits and seafood.

Shaped like a horseshoe, Koh Sak is a small islet in Pattaya with an area of only 0.05 square kilometers. It has two beaches, among which the northern beach becomes a good place for diving due to its unique location. Besides, swimming and fishing in Koh Sak are also some good ways to relax. If you want to avoid the noise of motorboats, perhaps diving for underwater exploration can satisfy your expectations of peace.

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