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How to Choose from Thailand’s Islands (Your Island Hopping Guide)

By Chris QuanUpdated Feb. 1, 2024

Thailand has more than a thousand islands. They are concentrated in the south of Thailand, scattered along the east (Gulf of Thailand) and west (Andaman Sea) coasts.

There are islands for honeymooners, families, divers/snorkelers, backpackers, and partiers, and you could hop between islands for the ultimate tropical trip.

No one should miss an island experience on a trip to Thailand. But, how do you choose the right islands for an island-hopping trip among so many?

Things You Should Consider When You Pick Islands

Thailand island

When you choose islands for your island-hopping tour in Thailand, there are some points you should consider:

1. Your travel needs: Are you planning for a honeymoon-style trip or a family trip? Islands that are well-developed with all the facilities are probably more suitable for a family trip, like Phuket. Islands with a quieter, romantic vibe are more suitable for honeymoons, like Koh Samui.

2. Rainy season: Thailand's east and west coasts are affected by the monsoon at different times. The rainy season may not affect your trip too much. But if you are seeking a dry and sunny holiday, avoid the wet season.

Islands on the east coast, like Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao, are rainiest between October and December, while east coast islands, like Phuket and Krabi, are wettest between May and October.

3. Budget: Phuket fits all budgets. Koh Samui is more expensive. Krabi is more affordable. Each island is different.

4. Environment: Some people may like a lively vibe with a richness of activities, markets, eating, and entertainment options, while others seek out quiet islands. Here is one thing to be aware of: some secluded islands lack facilities and high-quality hotels. But there are still some islands with a peaceful vibe and great facilities, like Koh Samui and Koh Lanta.

If you still cannot make a decision among the dizzying array of islands, feel free to contact us. We are here to help design an ideal trip based on your preferences, budget, group size, travel time, and other requirements.

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6 Islands for Honeymoons

If honeymoon-style is what you're looking for, read this section, otherwise skip to the next.

These honeymoon destinations, selected from a wide variety of islands, offer a variety of honeymoon resort options: some create a natural romantic atmosphere, and some provide undisturbed private time.

1. Phuket — The Popular Choice

Phuket Kata Noi Beach, Phuket
  • Location: west coast
  • Best times: November to April
  • Getting there: international flights/domestic flights

As the most well-known and well-developed island in Thailand, Phuket's many, many resort choices and activities for couples are the reasons why we recommend it.

Phuket is a place that won't let your honeymoon get boring, with all kinds of water activities, night markets, and bars to enjoy.

Phuket can offer a variety of options for different budgets, which is the main reason it is favored by the most honeymooners.

2. Koh Samui — Luxury Honeymoon

Koh Samui Peace Resort, Koh Samui
  • Location: east coast
  • Best times: July to September, January to March
  • Getting there: international flights/domestic flights

With many luxury beachfront resorts, pristine tropical scenery, and a quieter vibe, Koh Samui ranks high on the list of best honeymoon destinations in the world.

You could enjoy a leisurely and high-quality honeymoon in Koh Samui, with its many romantic things to do, like a superb couples spa, kayaking, and a seaside dinner.

>>>Phuket vs Koh Samui: Which is Better?

3. Koh Yao Noi — Less Crowded

  • Location: west coast
  • Best times: January to April
  • Getting there: ferry from Phuket or Krabi

The island's idyllic setting attracts honeymooners. It is less crowded than Koh Samui. If you want a undisturbed time, you should consider Koh Yao Noi.

The resorts on the island boast gorgeous pools and rooms. You'll also find a laid-back lifestyle and a traditional island community retaining its ancient way of life.

Golden sandy beaches sit alongside shallow rocky bays. The island is also a great spot for snorkeling, rock climbing, and kayaking adventures.

4. Koh Lanta — Cost-Effective

  • Location: west coast
  • Best times: January to April
  • Getting there: ferry from Krabi

With its fine sands, spectacular mangrove forests, and rugged hills, the stunning views of Koh Lanta offer a perfect natural environment for a honeymoon or romantic vacation.

There are not many tourists on the island, and they're mostly from Europe and America. The island has good facilities that are not very expensive. If you like the vibe of Koh Samui but your budget doesn't fit it, you should consider Koh Lanta.

5. Koh Munnork — A Private Island

  • Location: east coast
  • Best times: December to April
  • Getting there: ferry from Koh Samet

If you're especially looking for a unique natural atmosphere with nothing but the sea and the two of you, Koh Munnork can fulfill your dreams.

It is a private island, with only one resort. The resort's private boats are the only way to get to and from the mainland.

Surrounded by primitive forests and white sandy beaches, the peaceful and serene atmosphere on the island would allow you to enjoy an intimate time without being disturbed.

6. Koh Samet — A National Park

Koh Samet
  • Location: east coast
  • Best times: October to April
  • Getting there: ferry from Bangkok

The whole of Koh Samet is a national park. The island is full of lush jungles and lush coconut groves. White sandy beaches and bays are good for rest and water sports.

The island is not expensive. You can find many economical hotels and meals. It is suitable for young couples who seek a quiet environment on a low budget.

4 Islands for Families

These islands are best for a family trip. You can choose based on your budget, travel time, and preferences.

1. Phuket — Rich in Activities

  • Location: west coast
  • Best times: November to April
  • Getting there: international/domestic flights

As talked about above, Phuket is a strong competitor on many fronts. Its plentiful activities and facilities can well match the needs of a family trip.

You can find many all-inclusive resorts, which can save trouble in organizing things separately. Both adults and children will find things to do.

2. Koh Samui — For a Leisurely Holiday

  • Location: east coast
  • Best times: July to September, January to March
  • Getting there: international/domestic flights

Koh Samui is more suitable for a slow-paced family holiday. It has a peaceful and less commercial atmosphere. Just staying at a comfortable resort with the surrounding sea views will make you feel cozy and relaxed.

3. Koh Chang — Nature & Adventure

Koh Chang
  • Location: east coast
  • Best times: November to February
  • Getting there: ferry from Bangkok

If your kids are teenagers and like to explore nature, Koh Chang is a nice option. Koh Chang is Thailand's second largest island. It has a greater variety of landscapes than other islands, such as forests, waterfalls, and hills.

The clear, unpolluted waters are perfect for snorkeling and fishing, while the tranquil, traditional fishing villages are a great place to experience the daily life of local fishermen and taste seafood firsthand.

4. Koh Kood — Nature & Peace

Koh Kood
  • Location: east coast
  • Best times: November to February
  • Getting there: ferry from Koh Chang

Koh Kood is more suitable for families seeking nature and peace. There are no shops, night markets, or bustling crowds.

As the fourth largest island in Thailand, it is a hidden treasure. All you will see there are pristine white beaches, crystal clear waters, coconut palm forests, and relaxing beach bungalows.

5 Islands for Snorkeling and Diving

Renowned as one of the world's best diving destinations, Thailand offers many excellent dive spots.

1. The Phi Phi Islands — Most Popular

The Phi Phi Islands
  • Location: west coast
  • Best times: November to April
  • Getting there: ferry from Phuket/Krabi

The Phi Phi Islands are a popular dive destination in the Andaman Sea. Because they are accessible from Phuket and Krabi, they attract lots of visitors.

The currents at the islands are generally mild to medium, suitable for divers of all levels.

The unspoiled environment makes the Phi Phi Islands rich in marine life. You can see many corals, seahorses, and tropical fish.

2. The Similan Islands — World-Renowned Diving

Similan Islands
  • Location: west coast
  • Best times: December to March
  • Getting there: ferry from Phuket / Khao Lak

Ranking among the world's top 10 dive sites, the Similan Islands' abundance of diverse marine life and spectacular coral reefs provides a world-class underwater paradise for deep-sea divers. Whale sharks and manta ray are the big creatures that many look forward to.

The average tourist would choose a day trip to the Similan Islands. However, diving enthusiasts often choose the liveaboard way. Then, they can enjoy diving in a variety of Similan Island dive sites over several days.

3. Koh Tao — World's Diving Factory

Koh Tao
  • Location: east coast
  • Best times: January to March, July to September
  • Getting there: ferry from Koh Samui

Koh Tao offers the most cost-effective diving and snorkeling courses, so it is popular with beginners. It is said that more than 60% of the world's diving permits are issued there every year!

There are also plenty of challenging diving sites, such as HTMS Sattakut, lying on the sea bed in 30 meters (100 feet) of water.

Also read: How to Get from Koh Samui to Koh Tao (& Vice Versa)

4. Koh Lipe — Less Commercial

  • Location: West Coast
  • Best times: November to March
  • Getting there: ferry from Hat Yai / Malaysia's Langkawi

Koh Lipe is the southernmost island of Thailand, very close to Malaysia. Koh Lipe was developed late, so if you like a primitive vibe with less commercialization, then it is recommended for you.

Less wind, calm seas, clean water, and rich marine life make Koh Lipe very suitable for diving. No one will miss schools of tropical fish and colorful coral in the water.

Another highlight is its glowing beaches. Koh Lipe's Sunrise Beach enjoys a magic glowing plankton, which glows with a blue light and pulsates in the dark with the waves.

5. Koh Rok — Off the Beaten Track

  • Location: West Coast
  • Best times: December to February
  • Getting there: ferry from Koh Lanta

If you want to find a quiet, pristine, and less-known place to dive in Thailand, Koh Rok fits perfectly. It will give you a pleasant diving experience as if you were on a private beach.

There is a shallow water area of nearly 300 meters in front of the beach. The very transparent water allows you to see the beautiful coral reefs and various shapes and colors of tropical fish swimming past you. Simply put your face in the water.

It is also a paradise for professional deep-diving enthusiasts. The original sea environment shows you the real "Finding Nemo".

4 Islands for Backpackers

These islands are more natural and some are off-the-beaten-path. They are more suitable for people who like to explore and discover.

1. Krabi — Well-Known

Krabi Krabi's forest
  • Location: west coast
  • Best times: December to March
  • Getting there: flights/ferry from Phuket / Koh Phi Phi

Krabi lies across the sea from Phuket. With beautiful and amazing scenery, it offers an adventure playground for those who like to get "out and about". Rock climbing, kayaking, sailing, bird-watching, snorkeling, island-hopping, and sightseeing — you can do it all there.

2. Koh Mak — Small but Stunning

  • Location: east coast
  • Best times: December to March
  • Getting there: ferry from Trat

Koh Mak is a neighbor of Koh Chang. There are no crowds on the island. Hotels on the island are nice and not expensive. Out of the window is a beautiful view of the sea.

Cycling is a good way to explore the small island. This is a perfect place to empty yourself.

3. Koh Phayam — Primitive

  • Location: West Coast
  • Best times: December to March
  • Getting there: ferry from Ranong

If you want to try returning to primitive life, you can go to Koh Phayam. The tranquil atmosphere and slow pace of life there seem to bring you back to the seaside village life of times gone by.

You won't find a car on the island. All transportation is motorbikes or bicycles. Electricity may still only be available at night — there is no power station on the island.

4. Koh Tarutao — Adventure

  • Location: west coast
  • Best times: November to April
  • Getting there: ferry from Pak Bara Pier (Satun)

Koh Tarutao used to be a place for prisoners. You may find many abandoned prisons and shrines hidden in the jungles. Some people make seeking these out as one of their adventures on the island, but many are more enamored with the pristine scenery. At sunset the beach is unmatched, and the sky and sea turn smoky red.

An Island for Parties

Although many islands in Thailand have colorful parties and nightlife in bars and clubs, there is an amazing party on an island that attracts partying girls and boys from all over the world — the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan.

Koh Phangan — Full Moon Party

  • Location: east coast
  • Best times: January to April, July to September
  • Getting there: ferry from Koh Samui

As the name implies, the Full Moon Party is held on the night of the full moon every month on the island of Koh Phangan. Backpackers and electronic-music fans from all over the world gather to celebrate, covered in fluorescent paint and dancing under the moonlight.

Island-Hopping Itineraries

We recommend that you choose 3–4 islands for your island-hopping tour, so that you can fully enjoy different island scenery at a leisurely pace. Choosing too many islands may lead to aesthetic fatigue, which can also strain the body.

Phuket, Koh Samui, and Koh Chang are the three popular islands to carry out a island-hopping tour from. Most islands can be reached from these islands.

  • Islands near Phuket: Phi Phi Islands, Krabi, Similan Islands
  • Islands near Koh Samui: Koh Tao, Koh Phangan
  • Islands near Koh Chang: Koh Mak, Koh Kood

Popular Island-Hopping Itineraries

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