Thailand has more than 1,400 large and small islands (according to The World Factbook) located in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea (a maritime area to the west of Thailand and south of Myanmar). Among these, there are some well-known names for Vietnamese tourists, such as Koh Samet, Koh Samui, Koh Phuket, and Koh Phi Phi. In the Thai language, ‘ko’ (written as เกาะ) means island, which when transcribed into Latin characters becomes ‘Koh,’ ‘Ko’ (the most common), and ‘Goh.’ ‘Đảo’ (‘island’ in English) comes before the island’s name, so when you encounter ‘Koh Phi Phi,’ it means ‘Phi Phi Island’ in English.
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of urban life and return to nature with the soothing sound of waves, lush coconut groves, and azure blue seas, you’ll be delighted by the beauty of Thailand’s islands and seas.
Here, I’ll list the top 10 most beautiful islands based on personal opinions as well as the objective assessments of numerous tourists:
1. Koh Phi Phi
This cluster of islands is renowned in Thai tourism for its natural beauty. It boasts not only blue seas and golden sands but also karst landscapes and dense forests. With its karst terrain, there are limestone mountains and caves. Many images of tourists kayaking, boating near caves, and limestone cliffs are captured here.
In this cluster of islands, only Phi Phi Don has a resident population and has started developing in recent years. Despite that, the island still offers all the necessary services for tourists such as restaurants, beachside bars, and shopping. It is the largest island with a population of around 2,000 to 3,000 people, mostly Buddhists.
As night falls, the island becomes vibrant, especially during full moon nights when tourists celebrate through the night. Other activities on Koh Phi Phi include snorkeling or visiting Koh Phi Phi Leh, which was famously used as a backdrop in the movie ‘The Beach.’
2. Koh Chang
Koh Chang is the second-largest island in Thai tourism after Phuket, and due to its less popularity as a tourist destination, traveling here independently can be a bit more challenging. I’ll have a review and guide to Koh Chang later. The terrain here is more rugged compared to other islands, mainly consisting of hills and mountains. Therefore, it is more suitable for adventurous travelers. Koh Chang features several waterfalls and beautiful temples. Of course, there are also many outstanding beaches.
We cannot overlook the largest island in Thai tourism. Phuket is well-known, and as a result, everything here is quite comprehensive. If you’re looking for an island with beautiful scenery, long white sandy beaches, clear blue seas, easy transportation, and various entertaining activities, frankly, no other island in Thai tourism surpasses Phuket. There are numerous high-end hotels as well as budget accommodations to cater to every traveler’s needs. However, there are still some untouched areas where adventure tourism such as trekking, mountain climbing, and kayaking is developed. Phuket’s nightlife is also lively with bars, clubs, pubs, and restaurants.
4. Koh Lanta
Big, wide, belonging to Krabi province—these are descriptions of Koh Lanta. While Krabi has seen much development, Koh Lanta has been preserved from excessive development currently seen in southern Thailand. Therefore, Koh Lanta is suitable for families who prefer resort vacations over lively activities. The island boasts around 9 beautiful beaches and some remote areas that travelers can explore by motorcycle. To reach Koh Lanta, you can fly to Krabi Airport and purchase an Express Transfer ticket, which includes a car and a high-speed boat ride to the island in about 2 hours. The island is well-equipped, providing all the basic necessities for tourists. Thanks to its convenience combined with well-preserved natural beauty, Koh Lanta attracts many ‘sun seekers.’
5. Koh Lipe
Since 1990, Koh Lipe has gained attention and become famous in Thai tourism for its beautiful pristine beaches and incredibly fresh seafood delivered straight from fishing boats. Situated in the southern part of Satun province, Koh Lipe is part of the Adang-Rawi archipelago near the Thailand-Malaysia border, within the Tarutao National Park (another island here). Since Koh Lipe came into the spotlight for tourism, it has undergone rapid development to serve tourists, which led to some illegal waste disposal incidents. However, this has not marred the beauty of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand here, although the illegal waste dumping has decreased and is better managed now. The island is renowned for snorkeling due to the proximity of the coral reefs to the shore across all four main beaches.
6. Similan Islands
The Similan Islands are located off the coast of Phuket, part of the National Marine Park, and only allow tourism activities from October to May. Protected by the national park, there are no hotels built here, and large-scale fishing is prohibited, helping to preserve its pristine state. It takes about an hour and a half by boat from the mainland to reach the world’s most beautiful diving spots. In return, the infrastructure on the island is quite basic, similar to visiting Nam Du or Ba Lua islands in Vietnam.
7. Koh Samui
Koh Samui is quite famous in island tour programs in Thailand. What makes this place so popular? Koh Samui has good infrastructure and facilities, stunning beaches, and even large shopping areas. The eastern part of the island is livelier with numerous bars and pubs. It can be quite fascinating sipping a cocktail while enjoying the sparkling lights amidst the music. In this area, there are mostly mid-range hotels. However, in secluded bays, there are luxurious 5-star resorts awaiting those who prefer something sophisticated and dislike the hustle and bustle.
8. Koh Samet
This is an island that locals in Thailand often visit, especially those from Bangkok. Because of its proximity and beautiful beaches, as well as many affordable hotels and guesthouses, Koh Samet is like Vung Tau to Saigonese in Vietnam. In the evenings, it gets crowded with various types of bars, pubs, and nightlife. Apart from locals, there is also a significant number of foreign tourists, mostly backpackers.
9. Koh Phangan
This is a beautiful, bustling, and fairly developed island. Many consider Koh Phangan a perfect example of contrasts with its vibrant events and all-night parties juxtaposed against serene and secluded spots. There is a substantial foreign community living on the island, yet it still retains its inherent local charm. The terrain mainly consists of granite rock mountains, hills, lush forests, and many quiet beaches, with up to 20 diving spots. If you enjoy liveliness, don’t forget to visit the towns of Thongsala and Haad Rin.
10. Koh Tao
If you like lazy days enjoying a relaxed atmosphere and don’t want to go anywhere else, this is a fantastic place for you. One reason why Koh Tao (meaning ‘Turtle Island’) is among the favorite destinations is because it offers many beautiful dive sites and diving schools. It could be considered the best place in the world for learning diving with instructors speaking almost all common languages. The beautiful, large, and colorful coral reefs here will undoubtedly satisfy you.
Source: Compiled from the Internet.