Almost as soon as you travel south from the capital of Bangkok, the wide selection of Thailand beach destinations and paradise islands begins.
Enjoy the nearby delights of Hua Hin and Pattaya or travel to the more remote islands of Koh Tao and Koh Lanta, where outstanding diving and snorkelling opportunities await.
Famous Thai destinations like Koh Samui and Phuket are sure to enchant you with palm-tree-fringed white sands set against a backdrop of lush jungles and dramatic limestone cliffs.
But how to choose the best Thailand beach resort for you? Here are my top tips to help you plan your Thailand holidays.
Fun for everyone in Hua Hin
Offering a heady cocktail of sea and sun, Hua Hin is Thailand’s original beach resort, with miles of soft sandy shore and chic resorts. Hua Hin holidays have something to suit every traveller, whether you’re a keen golfer, a sun worshipper or a culture lover.
This secluded corner of Thailand’s gulf coast has long been the choice of the Thai royal family for holidays during the warmer months, because you can travel from the heart of Bangkok to Hua Hin in only a few hours’ drive. A wide variety of sophisticated attractions and activities has developed around the resort, from wine tasting to water parks.
Alongside the many Hua Hin beaches such as Khao Takiab, where swimming and sunbathing are the order of the day, the local town itself is fun to explore. There are lively markets where you can taste delicious street food and browse local art galleries. Visit the opulent royal summer palace of Klai Kangwon and the Hua Hin railway station with its intricate wooden architecture.
The region boasts some of the best championship golf courses in Asia, so plan to tee off at the Royal Hua Hin golf course or follow a round of golf with dinner at the Black Mountain Golf Club. Horse riding is also popular with guided trail rides available from quality stables, including riding on the beach.
Uninterrupted peace on Koh Yao
Blissfully unspoilt beaches fringe this jewel in the Andaman Sea, where chic retreats nestle in the luxuriant jungle and azure waters lap the shores. For the ultimate relaxing beach break, travel back to a time before Thailand became the world’s favourite tropical holiday destination by catching a boat to an authentic taste of paradise, Koh Yao style.
Koh Yao is actually two islands – Koh Yao Noi (noi means little in Thai) and Koh Yao Yai (Yai means big), situated around half way between Phuket and Krabi. Fishing villages and rubber plantations are the way of life for the local people, as well as the few Koh Yao hotels and resorts.
Discerning holidaymakers love the peace and quiet of this unspoilt natural environment. It is easy to disconnect from the stresses of everyday life when you are surround by the stunning Phang Nga National Park. Lovely beaches, such as Loh Paret and Loh Jark, are perfect for lazy days. You will find little in the way of nightlife here.
Explore Koh Yao by bicycle or canoe to find refreshing waterfalls, deserted coves and peaceful shorelines – in search of that perfect spot for a romantic picnic. Diving is another important drawcard because the waters surrounding Koh Yao are rich in coral and sealife. Highlights include the Shark Point pinnacles and Anemone Reef, where experienced scuba divers rave about the King Cruiser Wreck. Diving and snorkelling trips leave from the photogenic ferry pier at Loh Jark, setting off to explore secluded coves and scenic dive sites.
Krabi for more than just beaches
Experience the dramatic limestone karst cliffs, glorious palm-fringed beaches and shallow, crystal clear waters of Krabi holidays in Thailand. The jaw-dropping scenery of the most beautiful beaches in the world will only be the start of your idyllic getaway.
Over 200 islands and caves are waiting to be explored in this area of protected marine national park so rent a boat or a kayak from Krabi town or Ao Nang Krabi and explore at your own pace, cruising through mangrove swamps and visiting quiet coves.
For those who love adrenaline-fuelled activities the stunning Railay beach is the setting for world class rock climbing cliffs, as well as the guides and equipment needed to try this exciting sport. Go for a hike in the Thung Teao Forest Nature Park to see exotic birdlife and swim under the waterfall in the crystal lagoon. Head to the south of Krabi province to the famous Klong Thom Hot Springs, where you can soak natural thermal springs before cooling off in the river.
Spend some time in Krabi town for the day for a dose of genuine Thai culture and hospitality. This small settlement has authentic charm and restaurants, shops and guest houses a plenty, as well as quirky street art and colourful night markets. To connect with a more traditional way of life, visit Wat Tham Sua temple complex near Krabi town, where monks live and worship within a labyrinth of natural caves surrounded by forest.
Irresistibly entertaining Pattaya
Chaotic, frenzied and utterly entertaining, the Thai beach town of Pattaya offers an exhilarating cocktail of sun, sea and good times. With international golf courses, fun-filled water parks, colourful markets, and exciting dining and nightlife options, Pattaya holidays have everything you need for an outrageously congenial getaway.
Couples, singles and family groups enjoy Pattaya Thailand thanks to the extensive facilities of this buzzing resort town. No fewer than three water parks will keep the kids happy and everyone cool on hot days. A range of world-class golf courses offer epic fairways and elegant drinking and dining onsite. From Pattaya hotels and resorts it’s easy to arrange excursions and water sports activities for all ages to enjoy.
Pattaya nightlife is legendary and attracts a wide array of holidaymakers to its party vibe and happy hours. It is a popular winter sun getaway because the best time for perfect Pattaya weather is between November and March.
Shop for souvenirs at the colourful Four Regions floating market, which brings together the architecture, handicrafts and food of the north, south, east and west of Thailand. The 100,000 m2 bazaar has a cultural show every day and the food tasting opportunities from the many waterborne vendors are extensive and delicious.
Sun-kissed shores in Koh Samui
The soft white sand and alluring blue waters of the best beaches in Koh Samui have long attracted discerning holidaymakers to this tranquil island. Exclusive resorts amid this natural beauty ensure that Koh Samui holidays are just as relaxed or action-packed as you choose.
There is plenty of choice when it comes to choosing a Koh Samui beach to relax on, ranging from bustling to deserted. Chaweng Beach on the east coast is one of the most popular, with watersports, bars and beach parties. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Taling Ngam in the west of Koh Samui is virtually footprint-free and backed by virgin jungle.
Beyond the beach, the island also offers a taste of appealing Thai culture, from mouth-watering cuisine to cultural sites, including impressively decorated temples and unusual rock formations that have become part of local legends.
There is no shortage of things to do in Koh Samui – explore the island on hiking and cycling trails, go kite surfing on the calm, blue waters surrounding the island, or spend an afternoon or evening shopping at Fisherman’s Village walking street in Bophut, in the north east.
The island is part of the Chumphon archipelago, which also includes the perennially popular Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. Each has its own individual style and ambience so why not visit all of them!
Tropical Koh Pha Ngan paradise
An idyllic tropical cocktail of stunning sandy beaches, swaying palm trees, lush green jungles and clear turquoise waters, Koh Phangan offers the perfect island paradise. Like all of Thailand’s many islands, it has its own unique character that draws visitors back again and again.
Many Koh Phangan holidays are planned around attending the legendary ‘full moon party’ held at Haad Rai, but the real focus of this beautiful island in the Gulf of Thailand is relaxation. Luxurious Koh Phangan hotels and resorts are tucked away in quiet corners offering spa escapes and yoga retreats. Of course, there will be plenty of time to lie in a hammock with your book, enjoying the perfect Koh Phangan weather without a care in the world.
When you have had your fill of relaxation, hire a scooter and explore the forested interior, including some very beautiful waterfalls. Spend a day snorkelling in secluded coves as you traverse the coastline by boat. There are hiking trails for outdoorsy types and even a number of zipline treetop adventure centres for thrill seekers. It is quite remote but the journey to Bottle Beach is worth the effort, whether by boat taxi from Chaloklum Beach or on a scooter if you are confident.
Part of the Chumphon archipelago, Koh Samui to Koh Phangan is only a short boat ride, and some of the best diving in Thailand is to be found at Koh Tao, which is similarly very accessible. Koh Samui has the nearest airport, otherwise, Bangkok to Koh Phangan travel is by train and ferry so make sure you include a few days of sightseeing and shopping in the vibrant capital city in your Thailand itinerary.
Outstanding Koh Tao diving
Koh Tao, which translates locally as “Turtle Island”, is a place of many delights. There are beaches of golden sand, secluded bays with clear water, and the incomparable Koh Tao scuba diving paradise.
Koh Tao is a much smaller island than its neighbours in the Chumphon archipelago, and this is reflected in its charming, laid-back atmosphere. Facilities are increasingly upmarket as discerning travellers discover its stunning beauty and friendly welcome.
Koh Tao scuba diving is some of the best in the Gulf of Thailand and local and international environmental organisations are working to protect the ecosystem and keep it that way. As well as being a significant breeding ground for hawksbill and green turtles, there is a chance to see whale sharks and bull sharks around the Chumphon Pinnacle dive site.
Koh Tao holidays are not just about water-based wonders. Visit the Wat Koh Tao Buddhist temple where you can meet the monks and get an insight into their serene way of life. Go jungle hiking to reach amazing view points such as John Suwan and Koh Nang Yuan for unbelievable vistas of the island. You can even add rock climbing and bouldering to the list of things to do in Koh Tao.
The ferry from Koh Samui to Koh Tao only takes about one-and-a-half hours so enjoy a Thailand beach island hopping holiday.
The best of beachlife on Phuket
Spend your Phuket holidays drinking in the breathtaking landscape of white sand backed by lush jungle, and limestone cliffs jutting out of crystal clear waters. This corner of Thailand has the ideal mix of romantic paradise and vibrant culture because lively local towns and markets are never far from the 30 world class Phuket beaches.
Enjoy a perfect winter escape on Phuket holidays, with never a dull moment, just absolute relaxation. Go for romantic walks on quiet beaches and enjoy the extensive range of luxurious spa and wellness centres. Explore Phuket’s many dining opportunities, from top chefs to authentic Thai street food.
There are plenty of opportunities to have adventures too, with excursions to uninhabited islands and excellent scuba diving and snorkelling. Tour the coastline by boat to discover your favourites among the best beaches in Phuket.
Away from the beach on Phuket island, take jungle walks to cool waterfalls, or hire a scooter to explore villages and plantations. Visit the Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Conservation Centre where a remnant of primeval rainforest shelters exotic wildlife such as Asian Fairy-bluebirds, gibbons and Malayan black giant squirrels.
Unspoilt nature on Khao Lak
For deserted white sands, crystal clear waters and lush jungle, Khao Lak is hard to beat. This stretch of coastline on the Andaman Sea coast is a hidden gem with its natural beauty and luxurious resorts. A holiday on Khao Lak beach is like being tucked away into your own corner of paradise.
Only an hour north of the perennially popular resort of Phuket, Khao Lak holidays offer untouched beauty and hideaway bliss with miles of astonishing beaches. The resort area is surrounded by the jungle-clad, mountainous landscape of the Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park.
When you’ve had enough beach time at your Khao Lak resort, there is no lack of other things to do in Khao Lak. Go on a day hike to the Chong Fa waterfall and enjoy a cold plunge in the pools. Then plan an overnight stay at Elephant Hills luxury tented camp, where you can observe the giants of the forest in their wild habitat on a jungle safari.
Or book a scuba diving trip to the pristinely beautiful Similan Islands where the sea life is nothing less than extraordinary. Enjoy an evening shopping and eating tasty street food at the Bang Niang night market. There are also colourful markets during the day, near the Tsunami Memorial.
You’ll never want to leave Phi Phi
When people think of Thailand, the image they most often have in mind is of Koh Phi Phi. Those improbable limestone karst cliffs rising from a sparkling turquoise sea. A strip of dazzling white sand backed by lush green jungle. Travel to this Andaman Sea retreat for a true tropical island paradise.
Phi Phi’s beauty is only the start of its allure. The small group of islands is part of Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, protected from overdevelopment and nurturing an atmosphere of calm and contentment. Uninhabited Phi Phi Leh, and the larger Phi Phi Don where you’ll find your own personal slice of heaven, are the perfect antidote to the stresses of everyday life. It’s hard to imagine a more laid back place than Phi Phi island.
Phi Phi is particularly known for its fantastic diving opportunities, with a wide range of dive sites for everyone from novices to the most experienced divers. When you drop beneath the waves you’ll soon feel a million miles away from the rest of the world.
It’s only a short boat ride from Phuket to Phi Phi and day-trippers flock to see the indescribably beautiful Maya Bay and James Bond island where the perfect beach is surrounded by towering jungle-clad limestone cliffs. The only way to reach this beach is to walk from the other side of Phi Phi Leh island.
Make time to explore the small town on Phi Phi Don and book onto one of the island’s many Thai cooking courses to take the authentic taste of your Thailand beach holiday back home. There are a number of pretty walks through the forested interior and of course you will want to spend plenty of time relaxing on those picture perfect beaches.
Blissful beaches on Koh Samet
Tranquil beaches with paradise landscapes and a laid back atmosphere makes it all the more surprising that it is so easy to get to Koh Samet in Thailand. The east coast of this long, thin island is studded with dazzling white sand beaches lapped by transparent, turquoise seas and backed by lush tropical jungle.
Koh Samet is a small island within the Khao Laem Ya-Mu Ko Samet Marine National Park in the Gulf of Thailand. It boasts some of the most beautiful coastlines in the country despite its diminutive size. This is an ideal choice for those who love fishing and watersports on unspoilt beaches.
A good range of accommodation, beachside bars and restaurants, create a relaxed vibe on Koh Samet holidays. Sit with your toes in the sand while having dinner and watch the locals perform fire shows in the evening. The sunset from the dramatic cliff side locations along the southwest coastline is another sight not to be missed.
When you have had your fill of enjoying the warm Koh Samet weather on the beach, visit the southern part of the island – Ao Karang – to observe traditional life with local residents.
You can travel from Bangkok to Koh Samet in just a few hours by road so the unspoilt natural environment and good range of facilities for watersports make it the perfect beach break as part of your exciting adventures in the Far East.
The dazzling island of Koh Lanta
Visitors always wax lyrical about the beaches on Koh Lanta Thailand, and with good reason. From the wide, soft sandy Klong Dao to the pristine beach of the Mu Koh Lanta National Park, everyone seems to have their own favourite.
This remote archipelago is made up of 52 islands in the south-west of Krabi province, with the biggest island being Koh Lanta Yai. Set yourself up in a hammock by the beach with some fresh coconut juice and a good holiday read. It’s a world away from the crowds of some other resorts.
When you’ve properly relaxed, rent a scooter for the day and explore the secluded coves, dense mangroves and lush jungles of the national park, which stretches out into the Andaman Sea. A short boat ride away are the twin islands of Koh Rok, where coral-white beaches and crystal clear water make for amazing snorkelling.
Away from the beaches, visit the old lighthouse on the western cliff tops for the best views on the island. Then explore Koh Lanta Old town, where the traditional Thai-Chinese shophouses, built of teakwood on stilts and decorated with brightly-coloured lanterns, are a charming place to shop and dine.
In the evening people gather at Khlong Nin to watch the sun go down from the beachside bars and restaurants. Lounge on a bean bag with the sand between your toes and raise a glass to the infinite colours bathing the sky. Experience feeling far removed from the bustle of everyday life – this is a Thailand beach where you can truly relax.
Krabi to Koh Lanta is an easy ferry ride so combine a few different Thailand beach destinations on your trip itinerary.
Koh Chang’s paradise beneath the waves
Koh Chang holidays often feel a world apart from the rest of Thailand, let alone the everyday world. This quiet, palm-fringed paradise island is in the heart of the Mu Koh Chang National Park, where tropical forests and plentiful marine life rub shoulders along sparkling white sand beaches.
Koh Chang is the third largest island in Thailand but less well known than its bigger sisters Phuket and Koh Samui. There is a party scene but overall this island is more laid back and unspoilt. It’s also very mountainous, with jungle-clad hillsides soaring above the curving stretches of beach.
A good network of hiking trails allow visitors to explore the island, reaching spectacular viewpoints as well as secluded coves. If you only do one hike, make it to the beautiful cascading tiers of Klong Plu, where a cooling swim will be welcome in the hot and humid Koh Chang weather.
Snorkelling and diving is a big focus on Koh Chang, with a number of well-run dive centres and dive sites for everyone from beginners to experts. Keen divers often visit specifically to dive the HTMS Chang shipwreck, as well as for the opportunity to dive with whale sharks, the world’s largest fish.
A twenty-minute boat ride away is Koh Wai, where you can see reef sharks basking on the seabed. Koh Wai is also perfect for families because children and less confident swimmers can snorkel over a reef with gardens of staghorn coral right from the beach.
Have you been on a Thailand beach holiday? What do you recommend?
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