Imagine this – a few acres of verdant flora and fauna, soft sands that melt under your feet, crisp and cool air, swaying palms, and crystal-clear waters and hilly ranges all around you. An island like this is a true vacation paradise for beach, water and nature lovers.

You can leave your imagination to be and experience the real thing in Thailand, which is home to some of the prettiest islands around the globe. In fact, there are so many to explore, that vacationers often embark on island-hopping tours around the country.

Some buzzing and some remarkably offbeat, the islands of Thailand are incredibly well-documented, but the actual experience is something else. This handpicked list of Thailand’s best islands will give you a chance to experience the best that nature has to offer.

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The islands are mainly divided into three areas – South-West, South-East and Central. Every area, and every island within that area, is a sight to behold, but you can narrow it down to your own list as per your preference.

South-West Thailand

The islands on the West Coast of Thailand are some of the most popular. They are all quite close together and access between them is relatively easy. Most travellers prefer to use Phuket, which is also on this side of the coast, as their base, and then take day trips to the nearby islands.

Similan: For Diving and Coral Reefs

Yachts and boats bearing divers bob around the Similan Islands, which are made up of nine smaller isles connected by powder-blue waters and rock formations. The chain curves along the sea, and the  diving and snorkeling spots surrounding it are known to have some of the world’s best coral reefs. Koh Similan is the largest island of the lot, and offers unforgettable sunset vistas, best seen while perched on a rock along the beach.

Phi Phi: For An Experience Of Island Life

Phi Phi is an archipelago of which Koh Phi Phi Le and Koh Phi Phi Don are the most popular. Tourists flock to these islands almost any time of the year, but it has still retained its ‘island’ charm. Life on the island is relaxed and laidback. You can spend your days lounging on the beaches, and pep up your nights by devouring great food and drink and going shopping in the local markets.

Quick Tip: A lot of solo travellers prefer Phi Phi over other islands. If you’re planning a trip to Thailand by yourself, Phi Phi is a great destination to meet other travellers and soak up Thai as well as other cultures.

Koh Lanta: For Natural Beauty & Diving

Koh Lanta has everything a vacation should be made of – beyond comfortable accommodation, delectable food, sunkissed beaches, scuba diving and kayaking, beach bars, fishing villages, spas, you name it! It’s made up of a lot of mini-islands, and the water surrounding these tiny cocoons is replete with vibrant ocean life, making it a great spot for diving, snorkelling and whale-spotting.

Koh Yao Yai: For A Taste Of Local Lifestyle

Locals living on Koh Yao Yai have made the island their own, but we aren’t complaining. The island hasn’t been entirely modernised, so small Thai elements remain, giving the island a homely, warm vibe. The beaches are uncommercialised and minimally populated, whereas the internal areas are rife with coconut and rubber plantations tended to by the natives.

Quick Tip: Koh Yao Noi is the sister island of Koh Yao Yai, and is smaller, but more popular. It is frequented by couples and honeymooners, owing to its luxury resorts and seclusion. This has also boosted water activities in the area.

Koh Muk: For Beach & Cave Swimming

Lapping waves softly splash onto the sandy beaches on Koh Muk’s shore, as lazy swimmers embrace the tide. The beaches on the island are great for water lovers. If you’re a bold swimmer, you can venture into the Emerald Cave. Take a quick swim through the darkness and you will be rewarded with a beach wrapped by rocks on three sides. The sight is worth the swim!

Koh Lipe: For Romantics

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There’s no feeling like sailing off into the sunset with your loved one, or taking a long walk along a secluded beach with only the sun, sea, sand and your partner for company. Koh Lipe offers all this and more. The island is quite small, but has a lot of luxury resorts where you can spend some quality time together. The beach is quieter than most others, so you can get all the private time you need.

Quick Tip: En route to Koh Lipe, you can make a quick pitstop at Koh Khai to see the natural stone arch and its egg-like shape.

Koh Bulon Lae: For A Tranquil Setting

Wi-Fi, electricity, and late-night eateries are hard to come by on Koh Bulon Lae, but that only goes to show how serene the island is. You can leave the urbanity of Thailand behind, and rest in one of simple home stays run by friendly local families. The beauty of the island has been sustainably preserved by the residents and you’ll be expected to do so too.

Koh Phayam: For A Slow-Paced, Rustic Holiday

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Time moves leisurely on Koh Phayam island, where you can decide the pace of your holiday. The island remains marginally underdeveloped, in comparison to the other isles around, but it has an untouched appeal that is a great way for tourists to cut off from the urban humdrum. You may find it a little hard to make your way around, since the paths are rugged and electricity is not always reliable, but the simple, natural lifestyle is sure to make up for it.

Koh Turatao: For A Forested History

Koh Tarutao is not a popular tourist spot, but it sure is the only one of its kind.

Contrary to most other islands, Tarutao is known for its forests rather than its beaches. Hidden amid these trees are ruins of shrines, temples and even prison buildings that housed criminals many years ago. You can take a day-long walk in the cool canopy of trees and emerge onto the shore to catch the gorgeous sunset.

South-East Thailand

While the West Coast has a host of islands to explore, the East Coast has fewer, but equally popular islands. Those along the East Coast are closer to Krabi, which makes it a base for travellers looking to explore that part of Thailand.

Koh Samui: For A Holistic Island Experience

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Koh Samui is one of the most visited islands in the country, by families, honeymooners, party animals, and yoga fanatics. Evidently, there’s something for everyone here. There are affordable stays, luxury hotels and beach clubs, kid-friendly activities as well as spas and eateries to keep you occupied for days. There are several natural sights, local festivals and cultural must-dos that make this the ideal spots for holidaymakers.

Quick tip: A lot of tourists prefer to stay in Koh Samui to explore the surrounding areas. You can make a day trip to Ang Thong National Park, which is a national park spread across 42 islands in an archipelago. This stunning area is studded with beaches and tropical forests.

Koh Tao: For Adventure Activities

Smooth grey rocks jut out of thick vegetation on the island of Koh Tao, which is home ground for adrenaline junkies to pump their holiday up by several notches. You can spot wildlife and marine life while rock climbing, hiking or scuba diving. There is a mix of developed and lesser-developed areas for you choose from, so you can also decide to make a more relaxed visit.

Quick Tip: The island, often called Turtle Island, is especially renowned for diving, for both experts as well as newbies. You can take a beginner’s course or an advanced course in night or shark diving.

Koh Pha Ngan: For Open-Air Parties & Nightlife

A party destination for dance and music lovers, Koi Pha Ngan is the indisputable champion of full-moon and half-moon parties as well as nightclubs. The all-night beach bashes are notoriously wild, and being part of the raging crowds here can give you quite a rush.

Full-Moon-Party-Koh-PhanganFull Moon Party Koh Phangan

During peak season, throbbing mobs descend on the island, turning it into an open-air nightclub. The next morning, shake off that hangover with a massage by the beach as a light breeze brushes against the tall palms. Although the island does come alive at night, it is as pretty as a picture during the day as well.

Central Thailand

The islands along central Thailand are located quite close to Bangkok. Koh Samet is probably the most popular, but a handful of others are worth a visit for an insight into the Thai people, their lifestyles and the beauty the country’s been endowed with.

Koh Samet: For Beaches

Koh Samet is lined with beaches, one after the other, with each one boasting whiter sand than the next. No matter what kind of beach bum you are, Koh Samet will have a beach for you. There are water sports, beach clubs and restaurants with seating digging into the sand, and hotels, all positioned along the beaches. All you have to do is pick one that suits your fancy, perch yourself under a sun umbrella and watch the world go by.

Koh Chang: For The Quintessential Thai Experience

Koh Chang is probably one of those islands where you’ll feel closest to a local holiday experience. Quaint fishing villages, eateries with home-cooked meals, sharp mountains and waterfalls inhabit this island. You can make your way into the jungles for a brisk walk, go kayaking through mangroves or simply sunbathe on the beach.

Koh Khram Yai: For Privacy

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be alone on an island? Well, this is your chance to experience it. Despite its beauty, Koh Khram Yai is often ignored by tourists and is uninhabited, but is safe enough for you to visit. Take the opportunity to soak up some sun, swim, or just spend time with your loved ones. The island is also known to be a turtle-breeding site, so keep your eyes peeled for tiny footprints in the sand!

Koh Kut: For Natural Beauty

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The glorious landscape of Koh Kut is largely untouched, so the thickly grown forests seem to have a life of their own. Most of the luxury hotels and restaurants are nestled together, creating a sort of hub on one coast and rawness on the other. The crowds are limited, sometimes even during the peak season, so you can be sure to enjoy the beauty of the island freely.

Quick Tip: There are very limited accommodation facilities, so make sure you make your bookings in advance.

Koh Si Chang: For Fewer Crowds & Proximity To Bangkok

Koh Si Chang is quite popular among the residents of Bangkok as a weekend break. Located only two hours away by boat, Koh Si Chang has some glorious greenery and fresh seafood. It can get busy sometimes, and it is not one of the most beautiful around, but it can be a good break if you want to explore something other than the city in a day’s time.