Thailand has hundreds of islands to choose from, and many have been overtaken by crowds of rowdy tourists and loud, thumping nightlife. However, a discerning visitor still has a wealth of good choices for a quiet getaway. With a little careful planning, it is possible to spend heavenly days exploring the more offbeat, tranquil, and unspoiled islands that Thailand has to offer. Many islands still retain local character and have avoided the pitfalls of commercialisation and development. Here are a few of the best.
Koh Kradan is a nature lover’s dream island. Located in the Andaman Sea to the south of the mainland, this 4 km long paradise is surrounded by an untouched coral reef. Almost 90% of the land is protected for conservation, so visitors can benefit from a peek into an almost unsullied natural landscape. Koh Kradan is the most spectacular of all the islands in the Trang archipelago, and the long white powder beach on the east side of the island will be the ideal spot for an uninterrupted snooze. Kayaking around the entire island only takes three hours, and is the best way to enjoy the scenery.
Where to stay: Reef Resort is a welcoming collection of bungalows right next to the beach. With easy access to the coral reef, it is unlikely that much time will be spent in the rooms, but the hotel facilities are friendly and charming.
221/2 Moo 2, Koh Kradan, Tambon Koh Libong, Amphur Kantang, Trang, +66 86 948 8559
Koh Yao Noi
Koh Yao Noi is within easy reach of Phuket or Krabi, located within the Phang Nga Bay, only 30-60 minutes away by boat. Measuring about 12km and home to roughly 4000 residents, Koh Yao Noi offers a quiet haven for visitors. Koh Yao Noi has the usual options for swimming, kayaking, boating, and snorkeling, but a unique pleasure of this island is exploring the peaceful interior. Intrepid travelers can become familiar with the local landscape. A ring road offers the perfect route to circle the island, and many trails within the lush forests give an opportunity for immersion in nature and sightings of monkeys and spectacular birds. The island’s pastoral feel will lull visitors into a slower, friendlier pace of life. To pick up the pace, visit one of the rock climbing or diving shops on the island. Local shops provide gear, advice on the best spots, and can arrange transport as needed.
Where to stay: Coastal Escape is a lovely resort of oceanfront villas with an infinity pool overlooking the waves of Phang Nga Bay.
54/1-4 Moo 5, Koh Yao Noi, Amphur Koh Yao, Phang Nga, +66 81 270 6988
On the larger size, Koh Lanta is 6 km wide and over 30 km long and is known for its delicious local shrimp and relatively unspoiled luscious landscape. Previously a hidden secret of backpackers, Koh Lanta is now more commonly visited by mid-range and luxury travellers. The island has a well-paved network of roads, so one fun excursion is to rent motorbikes and speed around the island for a quick tour. Diving is another popular activity, with several good spots nearby, and those trekking inland can visit the Khao Mai Kaew caves. Koh Lanta boasts nine good beaches, and has a bit more to offer in terms of nightlife, with its assortment of bars and restaurants.
Where to stay: Crown Lanta Resort and Spa is one of the most popular options for accommodation with modern villas, great views, a spa, and a lively reggae bar.
15, Sala Dan, Koh Lanta District, Krabi, +66 7562 6999
Koh Mak is one of the best quiet islands in Thailand. Still a secret from most visitors, this small, sleepy island is the best spot to hide away and unwind. Koh Mak is 40 km away from the mainland and is located in the National Marine Park in eastern Thailand. This island has virtually no nightlife, and visitors should be ready to spend the days outdoors and the nights swinging quietly in a hammock. Koh Mak is a great place to learn to dive, with the local diving school, as well as offering hiking, a cooking school, and a Buddhist temple in which to enjoy a quiet moment of contemplation. With an absence of crowds, you will feel as though the island is your own private kingdom.
Where to stay: Ao Kao White Sand Beach offers low-key bungalows with rooftop lounge areas. Situated on one of the nicest beaches on the island with a beachside bar and the option to rent trimarans and kayaks.
60/1 Moo 1 Sudhidhanakul Rd., Koh Mak, Trat, +66 83 152 6564
Koh Bulon Lae
Koh Bulon Lae is a magical spot in the Andaman Sea, suspended in time as a backpacker haven. A carefree break from the modern world, twenty-four-hour electricity is limited, so visitors should be prepared to rough it and truly step back into a simpler time. Tiny Koh Bulon has one particularly exceptional beach along the east coast, and an assortment of beach bungalow accommodations to choose from. Monitor lizards rule the island, and a nature walk through the small jungle is highly recommended. Most guesthouses can arrange fishing and snorkelling trips to nearby islets. With a fishing village and immaculately fresh catches to devour, the seafood here is delicious. Despite the hidden feel of Koh Bulon Lae, there are still opportunities to unwind with a beer or cocktail at one of the guesthouse restaurants or the island’s popular open-air Coconut Bar.
Where to stay: Pansand Resort is one of the best guesthouses and offers spacious rooms near the pristine beach. With inviting gardens and light, spacious bungalows the Pansand will be a perfect base for days of doing nothing.
33 Moo 3, Koh Bulon, Pak Nam, Amphur La Ngu, Satun, +66 7521 8035
The lesser known islands of Thailand still give visitors a chance to enjoy the best that Thailand has to offer. A little persistence and a willingness to enjoy a slower pace of life is essential, but a traveller to one of these islands is sure to be delighted with the incredible beaches, local flavours, and friendly atmosphere. Travellers can spend a few days partying on the mainland or on one of the more developed islands, before retreating for much-needed rest, recovery, and contemplation on the quiet sands of these island sanctuaries.