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best islands and beaches in thailand

Thailand is every backpackers dream, or at least it should be. The tropical islands of Thailand are each home to the common yet welcome cliches such as white-sand beaches, beautiful coral reefs, and turquoise water.

However, there is more to many of these than a pretty view. All of the islands feature delicious restaurants, a variety of attractions, and many interesting people.


Psst. . . Looking for more tips for your trip to Thailand? Check out my other posts.

Know Before You Go (FAQ)

When is the best time to visit Thailand?

If you’re trying to avoid hot temps and/or rainfall (aka monsoon season) then plan on visiting between November and February.

Beware though – if you’re backpacking on a budget, this time will have the highest prices since the weather is cool thus attracting lots of visitors.

How much does it cost?

Thailand is super cheap compared to other countries, especially countries around Europe. Backpackers can easily get by on $50 per day in Thailand.

If you’re looking for a little luxury here and there or the whole trip, then prepare for $150-200 per day. I think Nomadic Matt does an excellent job of breaking down the cost.

Pros to Backpacking Thailand

  1. Transportation is cheap
  2. Food is cheap (and delicious)
  3. Accommodation is cheap
  4. Tours are cheap
  5. The beaches are freakin’ GORGEOUS

It sounds like paradise to me. Backpackers can’t go wrong with any of these islands, but the best selection will depend on the type of vacation they are desiring. Once they have decided if they want fun or a relaxing vacation, they can choose the best island that will meet their unique needs.

Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan is particularly popular among young backpackers thanks to the island’s famous Full Moon Party.

Besides the super fun parties, there are other factors that contribute to the island’s popularity such as meditation retreats, relaxing massages, boat trips, and cooking class.

PRO TIP: The best spot to snap pictures of beautiful sunsets is Amsterdam Bar. While a DJ is playing in the background, travelers can enjoy breathtaking views, a cool drink, a swimming pool, and interesting people.

Speaking of fun. Check out these super fun party hostels in Koh Phangan:

  • Jaya Party Hostel: Going to Full Moon Party? This is where you want need to stay. You will be right in the action.
  • Slumber Party Koh Phangan: This hostel is both fun, CLEAN, and in a great location. I love it when all my search criteria are met. Checking the box one after another.
  • Good Time Beach Backpackers: This property feels more like a resort than a hostel with direct beach access, onsite bar, and swimming pool on property. Oh, and WIFI too! But honestly, I won’t stay anywhere that doesn’t have wifi unless I’m truly trying to fall off the grid.

seeking neverland

Koh Samui

One of the most visited islands in Thailand is Koh Samui. This festive island boat parties every night, dozens of fancy resorts, street fairs, and tons of activities in.

From solo backpackers to families with children, Koh Samui has almost every type of accommodation imaginable and attractive activities to do both indoors and outdoors.

The best places to eat in Koh Samui include Sweet Sisters Cafe, Takhoe Bang Po Seafood, and Horm Lamai Coffee House.

PRO TIP: Travelers should consider seeing the mountains that offer fantastic views and wildlife.

seeking neverland

Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi has earned second place in the competition for Thailand’s most popular islands. Often referred to as love at first sight, this runner-up is home to a notable site known as the Viking Cave.

The island was featured in the 2000 popular movie “The Beach,” which starred famous actor Leonardo Dicaprio.

For more planning tips read this post on 17 Best Things to do in Phi Phi.

PRO TIP: Seafood is definitely the highlight of the island as many restaurants present the day’s catch as a way to attract customers. Travelers who love seafood will truly enjoy the gems of this island.

seeking neverland

Koh Yao Noi

Koh Yao Noi is the best island in Thailand for relaxing. Contrary to many of the islands above, Koh Yao Noi is a less touristy destination.

Surrounded by beautiful landscapes of coconut groves, life is definitely simple here yet there are many things to do in Koh Yao Noi like adventurous and retreat activities.

For those who despise crowds, this island may be the perfect long weekend getaway.

PRO TIP: The only way to Koh Yao Noi is to take a ferry from Phuket, Phang Nga, or Krabi. There are many boats that depart these islands a day. The famous activities include kayaking, rock climbing, bike trails, yoga, and meditation.

seeking neverland

Koh Lipe

Known as a quaint and enchanting island, Koh Lipe is a peaceful place with few tourists.

Along with the super chill vibe, the primary highlight here is the natural splendor of the island. Koh Lipe offers colorful coral reefs, crystal clear waters, and a flourishing rainforest.

Since there are not many cars on the island, the only way to get around is by foot.

In addition to other islands in the Andaman coast like Koh Lanta, Koh Poda, and the Bamboo island, Koh Lipe is part of the best island hopping route in Thailand.

PRO TIP: Situated akin to Tarutao National Park, the development of new attractions has been banned so that the spot remains peaceful. Choose this island to escape the hustle and bustle of life.

seeking neverland

Koh Chang

Despite Koh Chang being the third largest island in Thailand, this extremely mountainous spot has a quieter atmosphere than Koh Samui and Koh Phi Phi.

The island is most known for its natural beauty featuring picturesque beaches, waterfalls, coral reefs, and rainforests.

Since the island is situated near the border, most people tend to visit Koh Chang en route to Cambodia.

PRO TIP: During the cold season from around October to April, Koh Chang is an amazing place to dive and snorkel.

seeking neverland

What to Bring: Men & Women Packing Essentials

If you plan to visit places of worship then men and women both are expected to cover shoulders and knees.

Than means men: long pants and shirts.

Women: long pants, skirts, and at the very least a sarong to cover your top. Honesty, it’s hot so men, feel free to wear a skirt too and keep the air flow going.

Tanks and dri-fit active wear are great options to combat the humidity. Plus, they are easy to wash!

Raincoat if you plan on visiting during monsoon season and this handy-dandy wet bag to keep the wet stuff separate from the dry clothes when packing and moving around.

The best shoes to wear in Thailand would be comfy sneakers and slip on sandals.

Collapsible water bottle

Bug spray. Humidity + bugs = no bueno. The power of bug spray repels them! Don’t forget it.

Bathing suit. Duh

Anti-diarrhea pills. With crazy food unlike most American dishes, you never know what you’re body will reject. Best to come prepared if you know what I’m sayin’.

What NOT to Bring

Gum. Honestly, gum should be banned everywhere. In most of Asia though, it’s serious. DO NOT BRING GUM.

Plastic. Keep the plastic use to a minimum. Bring only what can be re-purposed and not thrown away after one use.


seeking neverland

Though there are many more islands from which to choose, the inclusive list of places described above offers the best of both worlds. Deciding to visit a particular island is largely based on the kind of atmosphere that the travelers want to experience. For those who desire a touristy place filled with festive fun, consider visiting the first three islands on the list.

Other travelers may want a truly relaxing vacation so they might want to go to Koh Chang, Koh Yao Noi, or Koh Lipe to decompress and rejuvenate. Regardless of the chosen island, there will most likely be something of interest to virtually anyone. Consider this list when planning a tropical vacation. Travelers will not regret visiting one of these islands.

Psst. . . Looking for more tips for your trip to Thailand? Check out my other posts.

Have you ever backpacked Thailand? Share your memory in the comments below!

About the author: Riya is an inspired writer, passionate about traveling, lifestyle and encouraging startups. As a freelancer, she understands the importance of productivity at work. Riya never stopped finding new ways to create her work productivity. Twitter, @sanderriya.

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission (at no cost to you) when you purchase through these links, which helps me keep my lights on and order pizza from Dominos! I am extremely grateful. Thank you.

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