The Most Beautiful Islands in Thailand

Koh Phi Phi Le is an uninhabited Thai island of pristine beauty
Koh Phi Phi Le is an uninhabited Thai island of pristine beauty | © YURY TARANIK/Shutterstock
Photo of Sarah Williams
2 September 2021
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Thailand certainly isn’t lacking gorgeous islands. Many people have already heard of, and maybe even visited, the likes of Phuket and Koh Samui, but how about going somewhere different on your next visit to the Land of Smiles? Here are the most stunning islands to add to your Thailand bucket list.

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Koh Phayam, for laid-back island living

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People relaxing on the beach at a beach bar surrounded by trees on Koh Phayam, Thailand
© Cristian M. Vela / Alamy Stock Photo

Off the coast of Ranong, close to the Burmese border, Koh Phayam promises a slow and enticing pace that takes you back to old Thailand. Enjoy simple living on an island where only a few places can enjoy 24-hour electricity. Explore the quiet beaches around the island’s perimeter, hike (or motorbike) along rugged paths through rubber plantations and forests, or simply laze on a hammock in the sunshine. The waters may not be the clearest around this island, but the relaxation, lack of major development, and natural vibe make it beautifully delicate.

Koh Similan, for the best snorkelling and scuba diving

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Colourful tropical fish swimming around a tropical coral reef in the Similan Islands, Thailand
© RDW-Underwater / Alamy Stock Photo

Located in the Andaman Sea, Koh Similan is the largest of the Similan Islands. It has white sandy beaches lapped by striking blue waters – in which you’ll find the best diving and snorkelling spots in Thailand. The island is home to a fascinating array of birdlife, too, and the sunset vistas are incredible.

Koh Yao Yai, for kayaking through mangroves

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An aerial view of a white sand beach and clear turquoise water at Koh Yao Yai island in Phang-nga
© Thailand Travel Photos / Alamy Stock Photo

Koh Yao Yai is developed enough to be comfortable, yet rural enough to still have a rustic charm. Sublime sandy beaches ring the island, with dense patches of mangroves that are perfect for exploring by kayak. Villages are largely comprised of traditional wooden homes on stilts, nestled in between groves and rubber plantations.

Koh Yao Noi, for honeymooners

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The little sister of Koh Yao Yai, Koh Yao Noi appeals best to honeymooners – or anyone else seeking an idyllic escape with stunning views. The resorts are spectacular in their own right, with gorgeous pools and opulent rooms. Away from the flashy accommodation, however, you’ll find a laid-back farming community that still lives according to old traditions. Golden sands sit next to shallow rocky bays, and the island is a great launchpad for snorkelling, rock climbing and kayaking.

Koh Phi Phi Don, for spectacular scenery

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The view of buildings and beaches on the isthmus connecting islands at the Koh Phi Phi Don viewpoint
© DR Travel Photo and Video / Shutterstock
Koh Phi Phi Don is a major tourist destination. It may be hard to fully appreciate the beauty through the crowds sometimes, but hike up to the viewpoint, and you’ll quickly see why the island deserves popularity. A narrow isthmus is a scenic highlight, with two curved sandy bays sitting between verdant mountains. Limestone karsts covered with greenery rise spectacularly from the sparkling waters.

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Koh Phi Phi Le, for seeing Maya Bay

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The smaller of the Phi Phi Islands, Koh Phi Phi Le is uninhabited, and there’s no accommodation. That doesn’t mean it’s quiet, though. Droves of day-trippers make their way here every day, drawn by the seductive beauty of Maya Bay. The tropical beach was made famous in the Danny Boyle blockbuster The Beach (2000). With jungle and jagged rocks behind you and karsts almost enclosing the pristine waters in front, the soft white sands offer striking views in all directions. Traditional long-tail boats add to the sublime scenes.

Koh Jum, for a peaceful lifestyle

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Some rocks and trees along the white sand at Golden Pearl Beach on Koh Pu island
© imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

The charming Koh Jum offers a rare sense of peace and tranquillity when compared with the more popular islands nearby. There are several places to stay, meaning that you can enjoy the scenery and relaxed lifestyle for longer than a quick day trip. The tree-lined beaches have fine, coral-coloured sands that meet clear waters. Long-tail boats may be seen bobbing on the waves in the distance. Take time to explore the mangroves and traditional villages, too, and you’re sure to fall in love.

Koh Lanta, for learning about local communities

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Koh Lanta may not have impressive limestone formations, but it makes up for that with silky stretches of sands and an overall more grown-up air. The rugged forested hills and mangroves offer great views and adventures away from the seductive sands. Take time to learn about the local Moken community. Also referred to as chao le (sea people), the group is especially known for its awesome free-diving abilities.

Koh Muk, for swimming through Emerald Cave

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Looking through the entrance to the hidden Emerald Cave (Tham Morakot) to a sandy beach on Koh Mook island in Thailand
© dave stamboulis / Alamy Stock Photo

Tourism has been fairly slow to reach the gorgeous Trang Islands in general. It’s a shame, but it also lets them keep their natural loveliness. The craggy Koh Muk has picturesque swimming beaches and forests as well as quaint fishing villages. However, the main appeal for many is the sublime Emerald Cave (known in Thai as Tham Morakot). It can only be accessed from the ocean during low tide. Enter the cave and swim through the darkness, while the crashing sounds of waves fill the air, until you eventually see light. On exiting the cave, you’ll find yourself faced with a beautiful sandy beach that’s surrounded on three sides by towering rocks and water gently caressing the fourth side.

Koh Kradan, for lazy beach days

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Another of the Trang Islands in the crystalline waters of the Andaman Sea, Koh Kradan is picture-perfect. It’s a dream that comes with coral-coloured sand, lush foliage and shading palms. Wade out far enough, and you can snorkel right from the beach. Laze in a hammock, relax on the sands, soak up some rays, lap up the views of nearby islands, and enjoy the good life.

Koh Adang, for hiking and waterfalls

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A tropical bird with a large yellow beak on a branch
© Utopia_88 / Shutterstock

Koh Adang is part of the Tarutao National Marine Park. Hike up the challenging paths, and you’ll be rewarded with splendid views of nearby islands, as well as a glistening ocean stretching as far as the eye can see. There are several waterfalls to admire, too, and the island is home to diverse wildlife. When it comes to beaches, it’s likely that there will only be a few people on the white sands; enjoy the peace and tranquillity. Somewhat unusually for a Thai island, Koh Adang also has a black beach as well.

Koh Khai Nok, for picture-perfect views

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Koh Khai Nok is the largest of the three Khai islands between Phuket and Ko Yao Yai. Although it gets relatively few visitors, the pale sands and blue waters quickly prove striking to anyone. There’s no accommodation on the island, and it’s usually visited en route to Koh Lipe. The postcard-worthy views, however, make the effort of getting here well worth it.

Koh Lipe, for underwater adventures

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Clear turquoise water, a sandy beach, and rocks with trees on Koh Lipe island in Thailand
© RAYphotographer / Shutterstock

Word of the splendour here has spread fast, with the island now seeing large numbers of tourists. As part of the Tarutao National Marine Park, it’s a good starting point for awesome diving and snorkelling adventures. The island has a good selection of accommodation, restaurants and bars. It should go without saying that it also has splendid beaches.

Koh Tarutao, for ancient architecture

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The largest island in the Tarutao National Park, Koh Tarutao is steeped in legend and olden architecture. Explore the jungles, and you’ll come across ruined prison buildings and sacred shrines. However, the island has never drawn large crowds of tourists or settlers like others in Thailand. As a result, numerous creatures call it home, including several species of snakes, so keep your eyes peeled. Although the beaches are somewhat sub-par when compared with other islands, real joy comes from the jungles and sunset views.

Koh Phangan, for partying into the night

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On the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Phangan is known for being Thailand’s main party island. That doesn’t mean it’s not also an eye-catching island with plenty of natural wonders. Move away from the beach bars and party hot spots, and you’ll find pristine beaches, photogenic coastal rocks, waterfalls, forests and terrific lookout points.

Koh Tao, for colourful marine life

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Brightly coloured fish and underwater sea life
© Takashi Images / Shutterstock

While the beaches on Koh Tao are great for sunbathing and swimming, the true beauty lies in the surrounding waters. Explorers can expect a colourful array of marine life at this hugely popular diving and snorkelling location. Aquatic creatures include barracuda, grouper, scorpionfish, clownfish, eels, coral, sea turtles and even whale sharks.

Koh Khram Yai, for a location near Pattaya

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Easy to access from Pattaya and close to Bangkok, Koh Khram Yai is often overlooked by tourists heading down the eastern Thai Gulf. That means, if you visit on a day trip, you’re likely to have the place to yourself. Nobody lives here, and there are no resorts. It’s a sea turtle breeding site with excellent swimming, diving and sunbathing opportunities.

Koh Samet, for evening fire shows on the beach

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Located off the coast of Rayong, Koh Samet is surrounded by coral reefs that are in good condition and attract diverse marine life. The clear waters make snorkelling and diving a joy, but, if you prefer to spend your time on dry land, there are lovely beaches, too. Plenty of bars and restaurants promise a lively time after hours, while the evening fire shows on the beaches add another magical dimension to your trip.

Koh Munnork, for an exclusive island experience

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Rocks and a sandy beach with turquoise water, and a thatched roof on a seating area, on Koh Mun Nork
© MR. KHATAWUT / Shutterstock

A private Thai island off the coast of Rayong, Koh Munnork is the place to go if you want something truly exclusive. There’s just one resort, and the only way of getting to and from the island is by private boat. Virgin forest and bright white sands surround the luxury resort, the atmosphere is serene, and the views are incredible.

Koh Chang, for access to Cambodia

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Close to the Cambodian border, Koh Chang has beautiful beaches, as well as rugged mountains in the middle of the island. Although thick jungles cover the range, there are several picturesque waterfalls to behold. There’s a wide range of accommodations and entertainment options to enjoy after dark, letting you prepare for the next incredible day of island life.

Koh Mak, for cycling between beaches

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Three people kayaking on two red kayaks through rocky gorges
© Ditty_about_summer / Shutterstock

A neighbour of Koh Chang, smaller Koh Mak is covered in tropical fauna and edged with white beaches. The families that own the land work hard to keep it in great condition, encouraging sustainable tourism that’s beneficial for the community without harming the island. Rubber and coconut trees can be found outside the accommodations, while there are plenty of opportunities for adventures, exploring and relaxation. Cycling is a great way to appreciate the abundant beauty.

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These recommendations were updated on September 2, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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