Tropical Paradise: Five Islands for a Dream Holiday in Thailand

Marine national parks, wild parties, and quiet beaches. | By Margot Bigg  
Wake up to views of palm-fringed turquoise waters, and the promise of bountiful seafood lunches and snorkelling in the ocean. Photo: iStock.com/IakovKalinin

Thailand has it all covered as far as beach pursuits go from wild party weekends to a quiet place to read, tan, and indulge in massages and cocktails. Use this island decoder to determine which tropical paradise suits you best.

Gulf of Thailand

Koh Chang

Koh Chang is popular in part due to its proximity to Bangkok but there are plenty of reasons beyond just convenience to visit this large island. Along with white sand beaches and a vibrant backpacker and party scene, this large marine national park is full of gorgeous waterfalls, some of which spill into crystal-clear swimming holes.

Koh Pha Ngan

Party lovers should try and coordinate a visit to coincide with a full moon and head to the island of Koh Pha Ngan. It’s known and loved for its monthly Full Moon Party held in the busy backpacker enclave of Hat Rin. Electronic music lovers and anyone with a beach party bucket list won’t want to miss this. Even travellers who’d rather sleep than dance at night are likely to find plenty of opportunities for quiet navel-gazing.

Koh Samui

One of the largest islands in Thailand, Koh Samui has been a tourism hotspot for decades. What started out as a haven for hippie backpackers, is now filled with lots of large hotels and glamorous resorts. In fact, it can get quite crowded in peak season, particularly in Chaweng. It is the island’s most popular beach, lined with posh restaurants as well as casual seafood barbecues. However, once you get away from the main commercial areas, you can easily find gorgeous beaches, quiet rental bungalows, and low-key eateries.

Andaman Coast

Koh Lanta

Popular with families and older couples, Koh Lanta attracts travellers who prefer rest and relaxation over all-night parties. Although it’s got all the requisite white sand beaches and snorkelling opportunities that tourists love, the atmosphere is low-key and less commercial than some of Thailand’s more popular holiday spots. It is a good place to while away the days swimming, getting massages, and sampling freshly caught seafood. Getting to the island requires some dedication however—travellers must first fly to Krabi and then take a ferry to the island.

Koh Lipe

Koh Lipe Thailand

Swimming in Koh Lipe’s shallow, crystal-clear waters is pure joy. Photo: Yvan Cohen/Getty Images

With no cars and only a few motorcycle taxis, romantic Koh Lipe is ideal for a quiet and intimate holiday. The waters off this little island are shallow and crystalline, making it ideal for parents with young children or non-swimmers who want to take a dip safely. For the same reasons, it’s popular with divers and snorkellers, and its nearby reefs are known for their abundance of aquatic life.

Phuket

Connected by a bridge to mainland peninsular Thailand, Phuket—Thailand’s largest island—is suitable for travellers who value luxury; some of the country’s most opulent resorts are situated here. Phuket is popular with package tourists and has plenty to offer families, but certain areas can get loud and crowded during peak tourist season (November-March).

Appeared in the March 2016 issue as part of “Your Own Private Thailand”.

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