Thailand is known for its big city, Bangkok, but the country’s white-beach islands have just as much culture, fun, and relaxation to offer. Spend a few days soaking up the experiences of one, and then keep things fresh by simply “island hopping” to another. It’s easy and can be done on a budget.
Visiting off-season, after April and through October, is very inexpensive. The best weather is during the shoulder seasons: May – June, then October. There’s some heat, but you’ll avoid monsoon season.
Take the public ferries between islands to save cash; larger islands also have airports and flying domestic can be even cheaper. Avoid eating at resort restaurants if you’re looking for low prices and incredible local flavor; small restaurants and street vendors offer the most authentic experience.
When planning where to stay, check hotel booking sites like Booking.com (our personal favorite) to get the best prices. Some places close during the off-season so it’s best to check ahead, but even beautiful resorts will be inexpensive during that time.
Here are 10 of the best islands to visit in Thailand:
Best known for its wild Full Moon Party on its southern beaches– thousands of people come together to let their hair down at this party! If partying under the full moon isn’t your thing, the island is quiet and relaxing at other times of the month, and the northern beaches are calmer. The Haad Yao Bayview Resort & Spa is both friendly & affordable.
Named for its shore-lounging sea turtles, Ko Tao is best known for its 30+ dive sites and affordable scuba certification. You may even spot a giant, gentle whale shark! The off-season offers the best chance to see them.
This island is home to laid-back beach bars, amazing seafood, and gorgeous beaches. Sadly, rapid development has left Ko Lipe worse for wear; it’s crowded and not uncommon to see garbage piles being burnt for lack of proper disposal options.
Ko Yao Yai
A wonderful destination for enjoying the peace and quiet of nature, it has been preserved from development by its friendly local people. Many of them are Muslim, so it’s respectful to wear more modest clothing away from the beaches, but you’ll be warmly welcomed to this enchanting island.
Ko Lanta offers good swimming, kayaking, and plenty of places to eat, play, and get a massage. It’s well-developed with good roads and has accommodations appropriate for those who enjoy high-end resorts, backpackers who like to rough it, and everyone in between.
It’s a quick trip to this island from the mainland, making it a popular weekend getaway from Bangkok, but remains lushly green despite that. It sports pristine beaches and crystal waters with just enough development to be comfortable.
A great destination for rugged adventurers, Ko Chang has jungle peaks and plenty of wildlife. It’s got great snorkeling and diving as well, and a lively party scene for those who seek one.
Koh Phi Phi
One of the most popular destinations due to its gorgeous beaches and jungles, the island is a party paradise for people who don’t mind crowds. It also has some accommodations—like ATMs—that the smaller islands lack.
It’s actually two islands! Racha Yai offers places to stay in bungalows or resorts. Racha Noi has no accommodations but is a great place to dive and bask in nature. Both have great beaches.
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Photo Credit: Mark Fischer