The Best Islands in Thailand
Jungled hills march over the spine of Thailand's second-largest island—much of it left rugged, thanks to Mu Koh Chang National Park. Villages pocket the sweeping, mostly sandy bays off the western coast.
Push beyond Phuket to this popular day-trip spot famed for its shallow, snorkeling-friendly coral reef. Skip the packaged tour and hire a longtail boat to this 1.5-mile-long granite island that's wreathed in jungle.
This calm, culturally rich island mainly attracts European travelers. Hire a moped and visit the rainforested slopes and coves of Mu Koh Lanta National Park, home to the Chao Le: the nomadic sea people.
Rumored to have Thailand's best beaches, this southeastern island is an outpost in the Koh Tarutao National Marine Park. Expect healthy coral, blizzard-white beaches, and a growing scene of novelty-seeking visitors.
Feeling all wild-child? Hit the massive Haad Rin Full Moon Party, which can lure up to 20,000 hedonists. But the march of the upmarket villas has begun and tranquil hideaways already abound.
Koh Phi Phi
Azure seas cradle this gorgeous destination, fringed by coves of milk-pale sand. It attracts a hard-charging but sophisticated crowd: diving and cliff-jumping by day, then partying at beach bars by night.
Koh Khao Phing Kan
The area took a star turn in the 007 flick The Man with the Golden Gun, earning the nickname "James Bond Island." Hop on a day tour from Phuket. The options include speedboats, longtails, and even junks.
Snorkelers and scuba divers dig this set of two islands: Noi ("little") and Yai ("big"), home to Muslim farmers and fishermen. The area has a few bungalow resorts, along with the five-star Racha.
Reggae infuses the crescent-shaped beach at Chaweng, possibly Thailand's most iconic island outpost. Discovered by travelers in the 70s, Koh Samui has its game perfectly honed now with family-friendly hotels and a yoga-and-spa retreat ranked among the world's best: Kamalaya.
Koh Si Chang
A two-hour trip from Bangkok, this popular weekend getaway, the longtime darling of Thai royalty, has a lush green interior edged by fishing villages. Visit Saan Chao Pho Khao Yai (Shrine of the Father Spirit), a sacred cave.
Koh Yao Yai
Take a 20-minute speedboat from Phuket to the larger of the Yao islands. There, dirt roads lead to eco-luxury resorts like the Santhiya, set amid the dramatic limestone pinnacles of Ao Phang Nga National Park.
Koh Yao Noi
Footprint-free sand still edges this sanctuary, which fronts Phang Nga Bay's iconic cliffs and sea stacks. Retreat to the five-star Six Senses Resort for pampering, which could include aerial yoga and massages fragrant with ginger, turmeric, and lemongrass.
The "pearl of the Andaman Sea" is big and bustling. Jet-setters flock to high-end spa resorts, while beach-aholics party in Patong. Nature-lovers should head north to Sirinat and Khao Phra Thaeo national parks.
The Similan Islands
Fish dart among soft corals in the cyan-blue waters of this 11-strong archipelago, treasured by scuba divers. Koh Miang (called "#4") houses the national park headquarters and most facilities, though visitors can also stay on Koh Similan ("#8").