Phuket and Koh Samui serve as ideal base for intrepid travellers that want to discover the pristine treasures of Thailand’s more remote islands.
In addition to a balmy climate, diverse landscape and intriguing culture, another of Thailand’s many blessings includes the plethora of idyllic tropical islands that lie off its emerald framed coastline.
Thailand’s ever popular Andaman Sea coast lies to the west, where travellers can use Phuket, the Kingdom’s largest and most visited island, as a convenient base from which to explore smaller destinations like Koh Racha, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Ta Chai.
Over on the east coast off Surat Thani province lies Koh Samui, which takes pride of place at the centre of Thailand’s stunning Ang Thong archipelago, making it the perfect jumping off point for travellers that want to check out islands like Koh Tao and Koh Phangan.
Starting in the Gulf of Siam, below are some highlights for island explorers in Thailand.
Colourful Koh Phangan
Situated midway between Koh Samui and Koh Tao, Koh Phangan boasts some of the best beaches in Thailand. Ao Nai Wok, also known as Baan Manali Beach, is positioned in a serene bay and has become a popular spot with many visitors who want to try out a spot of wind surfing, kayaking or sailing. Alternatively, Haad Chao Phao is one of the island’s quieter beaches and a perfect spot to enjoy sunset with a fruity cocktail. More active visitors might want to get involved in the island’s burgeoning yoga scene, or even take a hike to one of its hidden waterfalls. Koh Phangan is home to seven waterfalls in total, including Sramanora (pictured), Phaeng, Thaan Prapaad, Thaan Sadet, Wangsai, Paradise and Thaan Prawes. To enjoy the tropical scenery at its best, pick a sunny morning after the wet season when you know the falls will be brimming with water.
Koh Tao is a 90-minute speedboat ride from Koh Samui and apart form its teeming sea life, the best thing about this island the relaxed, easy-going pace of life and lack of intense tourist development. Most bars and restaurants are concentrated along the island’s eastern coast along Hat Mae Haad and Hat Sairee. Scuba diving and snorkelling are the main draw, however, as Koh Tao’s inshore reefs are home to a vast and colourful array of corals and marine species. Visitors that want to see a little more of the island’s underwater treasures can take a snorkelling excursion around the whole of Koh Tao’s perimeter, stopping off at every bay to drift on the surface of the glassy waters while thousands of fish swim past below the surface.
The twin islands of Koh Racha Yai and Koh Racha Noi are perfectly positioned in the azure waters of the Andaman Sea, just off the south eastern coast of Phuket. An impressive spectacle of marine life fills the waters surrounding Koh Racha, which means the islands have attracted keen snorkelers and scuba divers for many years. With jet skiing and para sailing officially banned, Koh Racha is also one of the best destinations to simply get away from it all form Phuket. Visitors can stroll through coconut groves and pad along the powder white sand, before dining on local seafood just metres from the lapping waves.
Perfect Phi Phi
Since “The Beach” became a box office hit back in 2000, Koh Phi Phi has been the global poster child for Thailand’s tropical islands. Situated 25 miles south of Phuket, the Phi Phi archipelago comprises a collection of six islands that boast impressive limestone cliffs, golden beaches and a kaleidoscope of marine life. Like the majority of Thailand’s islands, scuba diving and snorkelling are the most popular activities around the islands, but they are also home to a burgeoning yoga and wellness scene, with a number of courses on offer to help cleanse the body and clear the mind. Thanks to its topography, Koh Phi Phi is also becoming one of Thailand’s most popular rock climbing destinations.
Until quite recently, Koh Tachai was one of Phang Nga province’s best kept secrets; a small island in the Mu Koh Similan National Park that’s home to one, long pristine beach and some of the most stunning island scenery in Thailand. A mere one-hour by speed boat from Phuket, the island is definitely a must for anyone with a Robinson Crusoe fantasy. According to the National Geographic Society, Tachai is also among the world’s top ten dive destinations, so its underwater treasures are well worth discovering during trip to these now famous islands. Swimming, lounging and beach hiking are the main activities on offer and keen eyed adventurers may even spot baby sharks swimming around the rocks at the far end of the bay.
by Wayne Hue