Wondering how to plan your Thailand island-hopping trip? This is our go-to guide on getting around.
You’ve likely heard of Phuket and Koh Samui, but did you know there are 1,430 islands in Thailand? Some are uninhabited and tiny, others are large and have multiple cities and towns, but all are stunningly beautiful. Thailand’s best islands are exactly what most people picture when they think of paradise: jagged limestone cliffs framing gentle bays of white sand and clear, blue water. Emerald jungles teeming with wildlife, hiding ancient temples and secluded cascades. Small villages full of friendly locals who want to share their culture and history.
How to choose Thailand's Best Islands: With so many islands, it can be difficult to choose which ones to visit. We’re here to help narrow it down and explain how to get to Thailand’s best islands.
Discover where to stay on Thailand's best islands here.
Phuket is Thailand’s largest and most-visited island, with up to 10 million tourists a year. Consequently, this spectacular island is geared towards putting smiles on visitors’ faces, making it the perfect destination if you want the ultimate Thai island experience.
Fringed by fabulous beaches, including the popular Nai Harn Beach, Phuket offers a plethora of activities and attractions. A must-see is nearby Phang Nga Bay, with its stunning cliffs, mangroves and grottos. There’s the 45-metre-tall Big Buddha, Chalong Temple (Wat Chalong) and Old Phuket Town for some history and culture. You can also go see the elephant, tiger, gibbon or tropical bird sanctuaries, visit an aquarium, or enjoy modern attractions like water parks, city shopping and nightlife districts.
How to get to Phuket: You can fly direct to Phuket International Airport (HKT) from Australia.
Like Phuket, Koh Samui is one of Thailand’s most visited island paradises. It’s home to the perfect Maenam Beach, Lamai Beach and many other calm-watered wonders. There are many impressive waterfalls, rock formations and other natural wonders to explore, as well as fauna, including elephants, monkeys and reptiles. The nearby Ang Thong National Marine Park is simply thriving with sea life.
Koh Samui has its own giant Buddha too – a gold, 12-metre-tall wonder. Alternatively, view the 16-metre-tall, colourful Guan Yu Shrine. There’s also the fascinating Secret Buddha Garden, Wat Plai Laem temple and many other religious sites, including the famous mummified monk. You can step back in time at the Fisherman’s Village and its night markets or embrace modernity with exciting nightlife adventures.
How to get to Koh Samui: You can fly directly to Koh Samui International Airport (USM) from Australia.
Phi Phi Islands
The breathtaking Phi Phi Islands group consists of the largest island, Ko Phi Phi Don, Ko Phi Phi Le and a series of small, limestone rock islands. This is the location to head to if you want to see spectacular jutting cliffs covered in lush vegetation and cobalt oceans lapping white-sand beaches.
Activities here are mostly leisure-based, but you can visit local village markets, participate in the nightlife scene or watch Muay Thai, fire shows or other performances.
How to get to the Phi Phi Islands: from Australia, take a flight to Phuket International Airport (HKT) or Krabi International Airport (KBV). The islands are reached via ferry from Phuket (two hours) or Krabi town (90 minutes).
Pristine Ko Lanta island is another quiet retreat that’s perfect for getting away from the tourist traffic – but there’s still plenty to do here. Visit Mu Ko Lanta National Park and its lighthouse, the Emerald Cave lagoons (Koh Muk) or Khlong Chak Waterfall. Go island-hopping and diving to see the colourful coral and sea life.
Tour Ko Lanta Old Town, shop at the night markets at Saladan Pier or enjoy the soft sands of Klong Khong beach. Need a companion? Help out the Lanta Animal Shelter by volunteering to take one of their puppies for a walk. End the day by watching sunsets and fire shows on the beach – delicious cocktails highly recommended.
How to get to Ko Lanta: from Australia, take a flight to Phuket International Airport (HKT) or Krabi International Airport (KBV). The island is reached via ferry from Phuket (1.5 hours) or Krabi (just over an hour).
Ko Pha Ngan
The gorgeous little island paradise of Ko Pha Ngan is well-known for its nightlife. Every full moon and half moon, the island comes alive with all-night parties featuring cheap drinks, dancing, glow sticks and fire displays. This isn’t the island’s only attraction, though.
There are glorious temples such as Wat Nok, Wat Khao Tham and Wat Pho, and nearby islands with great diving locations. Gain spectacular views from Khao Ra Mountain’s 627-metre peak. Spend a day at Slip N Fly water park or Thong Sala’s street markets, then end the evening at an outdoor cinema.
How to get to Ko Pha Ngan: Fly direct to Koh Samui International Airport (USM) from Australia. From Koh Samui, take a speedboat to Ko Pha Ngan (30 minutes).
The small, calm island of Ko Tao features some seriously visually appealing locations such as John Suwan Viewpoint and the nearby Ko Nang Yuan island. Ko Tao is teeming with sea life, including a significant population of green turtles and hawksbills, so kayaking, scuba diving and snorkelling are a must.
There’s a King Rama V Monument and Wat Koh Tao temple on Sairee Beach and, nearby, a whale skeleton that was apparently found inexplicably on the top of a mountain. The island also has a lot of great restaurants, bars and night markets, as well as a fun mini golf course.
How to get to Ko Tao: Fly direct to Koh Samui International Airport (USM) from Australia. From Koh Samui, catch a ferry to Ko Tao (three hours).
Discover where to stay on Thailand's best islands here.
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