1 Ko Pha Ngan
Sponsored: Ko Pha Ngan in Thailand has its fair share of beautiful beaches, but with much of the interior covered by tropical forest, this is an island which is great for those who like to trek or connect with nature.
The island also has a reputation for being a spiritual location with a number of yoga, meditation, and detox centres on the island. Ko Pha Ngan is also famous, some would say infamous, for the Full Moon Party. Enjoy the party, but do keep your wits about you and exercise caution.
2 Ko Lanta
Ko Lanta is an island at ease with itself. This is a destination that welcomes tourists, but never feels overwhelmed by them. Ko Lanta has retained a strong sense of community amongst the local population and the relaxed pace of life here is infectious.
Although the island is already known to tourists, Ko Lanta doesn’t see anything like the same number of visitor numbers as nearby Phuket or Krabi. This has enabled Ko Lanta to retain its charm and low-key atmosphere. Whether you are a solo traveler looking for adventure, a couple in search of a romantic retreat or a family looking for fun by the beach, Ko Lanta is an excellent all-round choice for your Thai holiday.
3 Ko Lipe
Given the outstanding natural beauty of Ko Lipe, it’s perhaps a surprise that it remained off the main tourist trail for so long.
The main reason for that may have been the isolated location the island enjoys in the southern Andaman Sea. Improved transport connections has resulted in a rise in development and tourism in recent years. Although Ko Lipe may no longer be the untouched paradise it once was, it remains a beautiful island to visit.
4 Ko Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai
The twin islands of Ko Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai sit in an enviable location with glorious views of the magnificent limestone karsts of Phang Nga Bay. The location and tranquility of the islands make them ideal if you want to explore nature.
Hire a bicycle and ride along traffic-free roads past rubber-tree plantations and local villages. Jump in a kayak and paddle around Ko Yao Noi pausing only to admire the scenery and relax on hidden beaches. But visitors to Ko Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai need to be careful; the charm of these islands can be addictive. You have been warned!
5 Ko Samed
The attractive island of Ko Samet offers some lovely white sand beaches and a relaxing atmosphere. Ko Samet is often quiet in the week, but can get busy on weekends and public holidays with city-dwellers from Bangkok heading to the beach.
6 Ko Kradan
With its soft sandy beaches and warm aquamarine waters, Ko Kradan lives up to its romantic reputation.
It’s to this bijou tropical island where couples gather every February to symbolically tie the knot under the sea in the annual ‘Trang Underwater Wedding Ceremony‘.
Further south along the coast from Chumphon, delightfully laid-back Khanom is the sort of destination you may just want to keep to yourself. With miles of soft sand to walk along there are times when it feels like you have your own private beach. With most travelers in this part of Thailand heading to Ko Samui, it means that tourism in Khanom remains agreeably low-key. Visitors who come to Khanom tend to be those who have already explored other islands and resorts in Thailand and who prefer a quieter beach experience away from the main tourist trail.
2 Bophut, Ko Samui
Bophut Beach is one of the most charming places to stay on Ko Samui. As with Bangrak, the beach at Bophut rates as average by Samui’s high standards, but the views are pleasant and there is a local feel here thanks to the Fisherman’s Village. Although the area has attracted more development in recent years, Bophut retains much of its original charm. With a small shopping mall, a range of accommodation options and a selection of cafes and restaurants, Bophut is an excellent choice for families or couples.
3 North Pattaya
The north end of Pattaya Beach towards the Dolphin Roundabout is an excellent location and this is where you will find the Dusit Thani and Amari Ocean hotels. From here it’s easy to catch a songthaew to Central Festival shopping mall and Walking Street in one direction or Naklua and North Pattaya in the other. You are also within comfortable walking distance of the shopping mall that locals refer to as ‘Big C’.
4 Hua Hin and Cha Am
With a selection of soft-sand beaches, a host of family-friendly attractions and a well-developed infrastructure, the Hua Hin area is an excellent choice for a seaside holiday. The twin resorts of Hua Hin and Cha Am have been a popular beach escape for Thai tourists for almost a century. It was the arrival of the railway in the 1920s which would transform Hua Hin from an unassuming fishing village to Thailand’s first seaside resort. The area remains as popular as ever with Thai tourists and although it is now also an established destination for international tourists, Hua Hin and Cha Am still manages to retain plenty of its local atmosphere.
Centara Grand [pictured above]
5 Ao Nang, Krabi
Ao Nang is the most popular resort area in Krabi and home to the broadest range of accommodation and restaurants. Ao Nang may be too developed for some tastes, but there are plenty of advantages to staying here with a scenic location and convenient access to Krabi Town, the offshore islands, and nearby beaches.
The sand at Ao Nang beach isn’t as soft or as white as you will find at Railay or the nearby islands, but the scenery is stunning and sunsets here can be spectacular. Relax with a late afternoon beachside massage and then pull up a chair and order a cool drink at the Last Fisherman Bar as you gaze out on the Andaman Sea and watch the sun dipping below the horizon. More incredible beaches can be found on the nearby island of Ko Poda, a short boat ride from Ao Nang.
6 Kamala, Phuket
There has been development in recent years on Kamala Beach, but it has managed to retain its quiet charm and remains a solid option for families. You’ll find some good local and international restaurants here and Kamala is an excellent choice for anybody seeking that happy balance of a peaceful location without being completely isolated.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand is a client of Gay Star News.