The Best Thailand Island Tours

Koh Phangan remains one of the most popular islands to visit in Thailand
Koh Phangan remains one of the most popular islands to visit in Thailand | Photo by Max Böttinger on Unsplash
Photo of Chloe Thrussell
Production Assistant14 October 2021
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Separated from Central Thailand by the Kra Isthmus, the narrowest part of the Malay Peninsula, Southern Thailand is a paradise of islands, from the famous Phuket and Phi Phi in Phang Nga Bay to the Surins in the Andaman Sea. Here we break down the best way to explore this region, with our pick of the top bookable island tours in Southern Thailand.

Life’s a beach: the best of Southern Thailand

This trip takes in Southern Thailand’s finest: snorkelling in the Andaman Sea, a sunset cruise through Phang Nga Bay, kayaking through limestone caves and mangrove forests, and dining on authentic local Thai food. Spanning 10 spectacular days, this exclusive trip is led by our Local Insider, and takes you to destinations such as Phuket, Hong, Yao Yai, Ao Nang and Khao Sok Lake. Every detail has been taken care of – from accommodation to meals and local transport – giving you maximum time to enjoy your adventure.

Phi Phi, Bamboo & Rang Yai Islands snorkel trip

Pileh Cove | © Danita Delimont / Alamy

On this full-day tour, you’ll depart from Phuket Boat Lagoon and skim across the rolling waves of Than Bok Khorani National Park. You’ll stop at Bamboo and Rang Yai Islands, snorkel in the emerald water of Pileh Cove, and bask in the sunshine of Monkey Beach and Maya Bay. Mix up the pace of your day with speedboat rides and leisurely swims, all with an expert local guide at the wheel.

Phang Nga Bay sea cave canoeing and James Bond Island

Paddle your way through limestone caves | © Ivoha / Alamy

This full-day tour takes in the Panak, Hong and James Bond islands via boat and sea canoe paddled by a local guide. You’ll be taken to remote caves lined with nesting birds, plus the coastal mangrove canopies of Phang Nga Bay, passing limestone karsts as you cruise through motionless water. Make the most of your trip with a swim at Lawa Island and savour a fresh seafood lunch on board.

Off-road trip in Koh Phangan

If you want to travel off the beaten path while in the Gulf of Thailand, spend your day with a local guide and their sturdy 4×4 on this small-group, off-road tour. You’ll traverse the knockabout terrain of Koh Phangan, exploring mountain trails, taking in jungle vistas and stopping off at hidden beaches along the way. You’ll even get the chance to meet and feed some elephants; just hold on tight.

Sightseeing boat tour in Phang Nga Bay

If you’d prefer to keep your tour accessible and easy-going, opt for this buoyant full-day cruise. You’ll be able to lounge on deck as some of Southern Thailand’s most spectacular natural sights pass you by – including sea caves, limestone karsts and jungle-capped islands. Your boat will gently glide over the emerald waters that divide this stunning archipelago; perfect for cooling off in after a laid-back island hike.

Early bird Similan Islands snorkel tour from Khao Lak

Snorkeling in the Similan Islands | © Zoonar GmbH / Alamy

Skip the crowds with a 6am start for a full-day visit to the far-flung Similan Islands deep in the Andaman Sea. You’ll speedboat your way over in less than 80 minutes and reach powdered white-sand beaches, luscious forest canopy and crystalline waters where you’ll snorkel amid teeming reefs. Recent conservation efforts have capped the number of daily visitors to this archipelago, so you’ll get to enjoy the pristine surroundings in peace.

Coral Island and Racha Island snorkel tour from Phuket

Thailand coral reef | © Benny Marty / Alamy

Coral and Racha islands offer excellent snorkelling conditions off the southern coast of Phuket and make for a serene escape from the bustle of the main island. Small enough to circumnavigate by foot, the islands contain hidden coves and unspoiled beaches lapped by turquoise waters. Beneath the surface, you’ll spot vibrant coral, pufferfish, giant starfish and rainbow trout.

Surin Island snorkelling

About 55km (34mi) from the Thai coast in the Andaman Sea, you can discover the secluded beauty of the untouched Mo Ko Surin National Park. Visitors are drawn to the shallow, 200m-wide (656ft) sea corridor between the main islands of Surin Nuea and Surin Tai that offers unparalleled snorkelling and diving scenery. This tour will take you to three different snorkelling spots across the islands and leaves ample time for relaxing on the shady, hidden beaches far from tourist crowds.

Sea cave kayaking and starlit Loy Krathong ceremony

Spend an afternoon exploring Phang Nga Bay by kayak – paddling through limestone karsts, Tidal Nape Sea Caves and hidden hongs with a knowledgeable guide. Later, after the sun has set, partake in a Loy Krathong floating garland ceremony lit by starlight, fireflies and phosphorescent plankton. This tour offers the rare chance to experience the region by night and to share in a local spiritual tradition.

Deep mangrove and canyon kayak tour in Krabi

Kayaking in the mangrove jungle | © Nick Fox / Alamy

If you’re looking for a morning-only tour from Krabi, opt for this drifting lilt through the ever-green scenery of Phang-Nga Bay. You’ll paddle by iconic limestone cliffs, deep jungle and mangrove forests, populated by hiding monkeys. Your soundtrack will be nothing but the soft coo of birds and the ripple of paddles in the water. With an early start, you’ll be able to enjoy the scenery with minimal exposure to other groups.

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