With hundreds of gorgeous islands scattered along the coast of Thailand, it is becoming increasingly difficult to decide which islands to include in your Thailand island hopping itinerary. Each offers idyllic beaches, beautiful sunset spots, delicious restaurants and a number of cool activities, BUT each is just as dreamy as the next.
So how’s a traveller to choose?!
Hopefully I can help 🙂
Thailand Island Hopping: ANDAMAN
What: Ok, so not technically an island, but a destination to fly to to begin your Thailand island hopping trip. The south of Phuket (Patong Beach way) is where you will find drunk tourists, bars and buckets (of alcohol not sand), the north of Phuket is where you will find relaxing beaches and quieter hotels / resorts.
Good for: Beginning your trip, partying, 5* resorts, shopping
Get there: Fly into Phuket airport (HKT)
Do: Head to Phuket Town for culture, traditional markets and sometimes festivals, get to the giant Buddha up on the hill for epic views, rent a moped and bike to one of Phuket’s beaches (try Nai Harn or Karon Beach)
EAT: The Cove for chic beach dining
What: A very small island off the south coast of Phuket – one of the lesser known islands that many people overlook when creating their Thailand island hopping itinerary. The island’s main hotel is The Racha however there a few other hotels on the island that are a little cheaper.
Good for: Total relaxation, exploring on bicycles, snorkelling
Get there: Koh Racha is just off the south of Phuket, so assuming Koh Racha will be your first island to visit, take a boat from Chalong Pier.
Do: Borrow bicycles and head to the palm-tree-covered centre of the island, relax on the beach doing absolutely nothing, head to the west of the island for the spectacular sunsets
Eat: Raya Resort for stunning sunset views across the bay.
*The law in Thailand states that no beach is private, so many day trippers take the boat over to Koh Racha for the day to use the beach. If this is something you want to avoid, borrow a bike and head to one of the beaches on the other side of the island – these are less well known.*
KOH YAO YAI
What: One half of two of the more quieter islands in this area. Both Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi are muslim islands so you will find less to do in terms of nightlife
Good for: Quiet, getting away from it all, back to nature feel, getting off the beaten track, including a lesser visited island in your Thailand island hopping itinerary
Get there: Most ferries travelling from Phuket and Krabi pass by on their routes so the two islands are fairly easy to get to
Do: Take an ATV tour through plantations, forests and incredible scenery, try mangrove forest kayaking at Pak Klong (in the south of Koh Yao Yai), visit a rubber plantation, rice paddies and a marine lobster farm on a village tour
Eat: Saiitara Restaurant for amazing views, sunset vibes and an infinity pool
KOH YAO NOI
What: Koh Yao Yai’s little sister (slightly more developed than Yao Yai)
Good for: Getting away from it all, back to basics, escaping crowds
Get there: Most ferries from Phuket and Krabi pass by on their routes so the two islands are fairly easy to get to
Do: Take a boat trip or two out to Phang Nga Bay, visit the Muay Thai boxing training camp, try Mina’s Cooking Classes for a group or private cooking class with fresh and locally sourced ingredients
Eat: Chaba Cafe for relaxed, backpacker vibes
KOH PHI PHI
What: Maybe one of the most famous islands that is usually in everyone’s Thailand island hopping itinerary, Phi Phi is known for its parties – you will find a throng of backpackers here
Good for: Partying, drinking alcohol from buckets, white sand beaches with turquoise water
Get there: Phi Phi is very well linked so it is easy to get a ferry from most islands. If you’re on a small island (Koh Racha for example) you may have to head back to Phuket or Krabi to connect a ferry
Do: Take a private long tail boat trip out to Maya Bay early in the morning (to miss most of the tourists), kayak around the gorgeous bays, hike up to Phi Phi Viewpoint for breathtaking views, meet the infamous monkey in a waistcoat
Eat: The Mango Garden for scrummy, fruity breakfasts and delicious desserts
What: A popular island, slightly more cultural however due to it’s large size it feels less touristy – you can be sat on a huge beach and not feel like there are many people around at all. Koh Lanta isn’t known for it’s white sand and turquoise water but the feel of the island makes up for this.
Good for: Renting mopeds, diving with manta rays and (potentially) whale sharks, relaxing with little to no hustle and bustle but with plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from
Get there: Take the ferry from Rassada Pier, Phuket (this goes via Phi Phi), or take the ferry from Krabi / one of the other islands
Do: Hire mopeds to get around (this won’t break the bank – you’re looking at 200 – 300 THB), bike to Khao Yai viewpoint restaurant for great views, head to Moloko Lanta beach club for sunset and chilled music, take a trip to Old Town for traditional wooden buildings and cheap and delicious thai food
Eat: Frog restaurant in Saladan (the main touristy town) for a fairy-lit, hidden gem often with live music.
What: Not technically an island but a central town in the Krabi province. Ao Nang is a perfect place to base yourself if you want to head out to different (and smaller) paradisiacal white-sand-blue-water islands each day (Read more about this here —-> Why Ao Nang Should Be On Your Island Hopping Itinerary).
Good for: Backpackers, bars, those who want try Thailand island hopping but aren’t keen on moving from island to island by ferry, those who have a limited amount of time in Thailand
Get there: Fly to Krabi (KBV) and take a transfer or bus to Ao Nang (around 1.5 hours)
Do: Take a longtail boat out to a different island each day (Poda island, Chicken island, Railay Bay) rather than the 4 islands boat tour (tourity and rushed), try a rock climbing tour, walk the monkey trail over jungle-covered hillside
Eat: Lae Lay Grill for a cliff side restaurant with great sunset views
Thailand Island Hopping: GULF
What: A medium sized Thai island found north of Koh Phangan. Probably one of the islands that most fits the ‘perfect island paradise’ conception and is also well known for diving
Good for: World class diving instruction, free diving (with no oxygen tank), hiking, a choice of many turquoise beaches, yoga
Get there: Take the ferry from Donsak Pier near Surat Thani
Do: Try Hin Wong Bay for great snorkeling, head to Shambhala yoga centre for a yoga class set in a gorgeous wooden studio, take a 15 minute longtail boat to Koh Nangyuan Island for a little piece of paradise, hike up to the infamous Koh Tao viewpoint
Eat: The Whitening for great sunset views
What: One of the more well known islands that again is usually in everyone’s Thailand island hopping itinerary, Koh Phangan hosts the famous ‘full moon’ and ‘half moon’ parties but also has a beautiful and quiet side to it as well
Good for: Partying, buckets of alcohol, backpackers, waterfalls
Get there: Take the ferry from Donsak Pier near Surat Thani
Do: Head to Thong Sala night market for atmosphere and delicious street food (try the seafood!), try Thong Nai Pan Yai beach to escape the crowds, check out the gorgeous waterfalls – Wangsai, Thaan Prapaad, Paradise and Than Prawes
Eat: Pura Vida for healthy breakfasts and delicious smoothies
What: Known more as the ‘romantic island,’ Koh Samui has more luxury hotels and posh spas than it’s neighbours. Like Koh Lanta, Koh Samui isn’t known for it’s white sand and turquoise water, but it is still beautiful and there are loads of things to do
Good for: Beaches, snorkelling, romance, luxury hotels, yoga retreats
Get there: Take the ferry from Donsak Pier near Surat Thani or FLY! Samui has it’s own airport
Do: Head to Hat Chaweng beach and Hat Lamai beach, take a boat trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park (an archipelago of 42 idyllic islands) and explore the waterfalls and hidden coves, get to the beautiful and quaint Fisherman’s Village in Bophut
Eat: Try Jungle Club for a meal in a sala suspended from a rock face + amazing views. Jungle Club also offers to pick you up in a 4×4!
Although there are many islands to choose from, all of them offer a slightly different experience to the next. 🙂 Most first timers usually stick to one group (either Andaman or Gulf) for their trip as it can take as long as a whole day to get between the two.
Although often a good idea to get your first night or two accommodation booked, Thailand isn’t a place where everything needs to be pre planned and booked before you travel. If you are backpacking, you can literally not book anything at all (including accommodation) and book it all on the day/ a day or two beforehand. This also gives you complete flexibility and means you can go where the wind takes you.
Other posts you may enjoy if you’re planning a trip to Thailand:
Heading elsewhere in Asia?
If you hadn’t noticed already:
Koh: island above water
Hin: island below water (usually referred to in terms of diving sites)
Most islands have a ‘yai’ and ‘noi’ version which I guess is kinda cute really. <3