Popular beaches in Thailand
When you are talking about choosing a beach, make sure you choose the right island first. There are three big islands with major beach destinations in Thailand, namely Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui. Each of them cater for different types of vacation and some are very much season-related.
Phuket - something for everybody
For most first-timers, Phuket offers something for everybody. Its reputation is well-deserved, as its over 30 beaches grant all types of vacation maker a blast. Together with its 32 offshore islands, Phuket lies off the west coast of Thailand, facing the Andaman Sea. Under influence of the tropical monsoon climate, its temperatures stay between 25°C (77°F) and 32°C (90 °F). The best time for Phuket is from November to early March, with sunshine and mild temperatures, between 28°C (82.4°F) and 32°C (90°F).
Bangtao and Surin
Going half an hour southwest from Phuket airport, you will find a relatively peaceful stretch of white sandy beaches, Bangtao and Surin. Not much action going on there; those two lovely beaches keep a low profile, yet you may find the island’s best resorts, restaurants and antique stores. Tucked away in a bay, the water is calm and warm, good for swimming and some water sports such as sailing and diving.
Khao Lak is not a beach but an island which is located at the far north end of Phuket. Its name became famous through the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, which has taken some 4,000 lives (local unofficial estimates topping 10,000). High buildings and busy streets are hardly seen; instead, your relaxing vacation is fulfilled in a beautifully preserved natural landscape and laid-back atmosphere. Upmarket yet low-key resorts and boutique hotels bring you comfort like at home but in a world far away from it all.
Kata and Karon
For some travelers, Kata and Karon outmatch others because of their best-value stays and their good balance between interesting nightlife, outdoor activities and calmness. Family travelers would love the good range of family-friendly resorts, featuring spacious rooms, kiddie pools and children’s clubs. Not so many hotels own a private beach but most of them are just a few minutes walking distance away from the beach.
Patong Beach is Phuket’s busiest beach, with countless guesthouses, nightclubs, restaurants, malls and shows. Most of the hotels were built during the early stage of tourism, and the people working there are quite sophisticated and speak good English. If you are looking for a budget-friendly, nightlife-rich and noisy-not-a-problem vacation, Patong might serve you well.
Krabi - better value for outdoor lovers and leisure travelers
Just an hour drive north of Phuket lies Krabi, which boasts of numerous islets and a mecca for rock climbers and outdoor adventurers alike. It consists of the main town Krabi and 80 smaller islands, including the famous Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi. The six months of rainy season run from May to November, and are accompanied by heavy rains, yet most are short downpours that bring down the temperature and brighten the sky.
The temperature is between 28°C (82.4°F) and 32°C (90°F), however, Krabi enjoys a milder climate than Phuket due to its location being nestled in the bay. Limestone rocks, mountains and national parks add interesting experiences to a common beach vacation.
Among Krabi’s famous beaches, Klong Muang is situated at the west end of Krabi and to the north of the busy Ao Nang Beach. It comports the idea of a genuinly relaxing holiday with its bucolic landscapes, wide-open views of the Andaman Sea, as well as some fine beachfront resorts. Not yet succumbed to mass tourism, Klong Muang is the very place that you find a slice of paradise at a fairly reasonable price.
Limited and somewhat troublesome transportation seem no problem for passionate travelers who love Koh Lanta. It is an hour by boat or car from Krabi town. With more than 70 smaller islands dotting the coastline, plenty of forest, coral reefs and under-water life, Koh Lanta is known for a perfect combination of diving, island-hopping, water sports and simply doing nothing. Most travelers would make their stay at least three nights to enjoy all its best.
Ao Nang Beach
With the most convenient transport between the airport and other islands, Ao Nang Beach reflects the past of the now over-developed Patong Beach in Phuket, yet with not that many touristic haggles. It is the starting point of most day tours and excursions and it has a cluster of accommodation of all rankings. The beach is moderate per se, yet its best draw goes to the good value of a 3-day holiday.
Railay is actually a small peninsula with four beaches, and it is famous for rock-climbing and diving. Less tourism-oriented, there are no roads, no buses and no cars, only boats and footpaths that lead you to limestone mountains, soaring cliffs and steep jungle valleys. That being said, some decent 4-star hotels present active travelers with a delightful chill-out.
Koh Samui - Ideal for Seasoned Travelers With a Heart for Peace
Due to the long flight distance and relatively costly accommodation, Koh Samui might not be on the hot list for first-timers to Thailand. The Thai government has been doing a great job in protecting this island from being spoilt by tourism and over-development, which might be the reason why it stays shy under tourism radar.