8 of the most popular islands in Thailand

There are countless islands to choose from in Thailand. They all offer something a little different so the answer to what is the best island will depend on what it is you are looking for. In this round-up of Thai islands, we list some of the most popular. And they are popular for good reason. Whether it’s the ease of access, the quality of the beaches or the range of accommodation available, they all represent an excellent option for anyone visiting Thailand.


Phuket is the largest and best-known island in Thailand. With its choice of beaches, scenic location and abundance of accommodation, Phuket attracts plenty of overseas tourists.  Despite being an island, Phuket is also the name of the province that comprises over 30 smaller islands. With an international airport and a road bridge that connects it to the mainland, Phuket is also one of the most easily accessible Thai islands.

Big Buddha, Phuket
(Photo: Shutterstock)

While Phuket’s beaches are the primary attraction for many visitors, there are many other things to see and do beyond the sand. Regardless of where you stay on the island, it’s worth taking the time to explore Phuket Town. Take a stroll around Thalang Road to admire the elegant Sino-Portuguese heritage buildings, appreciate the vibrant street art, and experience the local atmosphere that offers a pleasant contrast to the beach areas.

Ko Samui

Ko Samui is another of Thailand’s best-known and best-loved islands. Samui’s inviting beaches, wide range of hotels, and easy accessibility make it perfect for families, couples, and solo adventurers alike. A testament to the island’s popularity is the fact it attracts visitors who return year after year to relax on the soft sands and enjoy the warm, clear waters. 

Crystal Bay Beach, Ko Samui
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There is plenty to see and do on Ko Samui with one of the highlights being a boat trip to the breathtaking Ang Thong National Marine Park. This group of islands off the coast of Samui was once home to pirates, but now attracts tourists in search of natural wonders with its secluded beaches and hidden caves.

Ang Thong National Marine Park, near Ko Samui
(Photo: Shutterstock)

Ko Pha Ngan 

Ko Pha Ngan is the neighbouring island to Ko Samui with both islands combining to make a wonderful twin-centre holiday. Regular boat connections link the two islands and although it’s possible to visit Ko Pha Ngan as a day trip from Samui, you need to spend more time here to appreciate it.  

Had Khuad (Bottle Beach), Ko Pha Ngan
(Photo: Shutterstock)

Although Ko Pha Ngan is most famous for being the location of the Full Moon Party, there is so much more to this picturesque little island. With quiet beaches and a thriving health and wellness scene, Ko Pha Ngan is a great choice for a relaxing holiday.

Ko Tao

Ko Tao is regarded as the diving capital of Thailand. With its colourful marine life and coral reefs, Ko Tao is a paradise for scuba divers and snorkelers. 

Snorkelling at Ko Tao
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The island is beautiful above the waves too with a number of scenic vantage points where you can appreciate the views. One of the best is John Suwan Viewpoint. It’s only a 10-minute walk away from Freedom Beach, but it does involve some effort to clamber over some of the rocks on the way, but that effort is rewarded with spectacular views over the island. Nearby Ko Nang Yuan is another location where you can enjoy sublime views and swim in turquoise waters.

John Suwan Viewpoint, Ko Tao
(Photo: Roy Cavanagh)

Ko Chang

As the second largest island in Thailand, Ko Chang is the best-known island on the East Coast. Whether you’re travelling solo, with your partner or with your family, Ko Chang is a great choice for a Thai beach holiday. The island also makes the ideal base to explore the other smaller islands that make up the Ko Chang archipelago.

Ko Chang
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Much of the island’s interior is covered by lush jungle and rainforests while the west coast of Ko Chang is home to a string of attractive beaches. Ko Chang’s beaches are the star attraction, but visitors should take time away from the sand to explore the interior, hike the nature trails and cool off in the waterfalls.

Sample a taste of local life on Ko Chang’s east coast at Ban Salak Khok. The fishing village is home to a number of fabulous seafood restaurants and a lovely location to relax and see another side of island life. From Ban Salak Khok it’s also possible to arrange a kayak trip or take a traditional reua mat boat through the mangrove forests with the money raised directly supporting the local community.   

Traditional reua mat boat at Ban Salak Khok, Ko Chang
(Photo: Vassamon Anansukkasem / Shutterstock.com)

Phi Phi Islands

Located in the Andaman Sea between Phuket and Krabi, the Phi Phi Islands are an attractive collection of islands characterised by vertiginous limestone cliffs, gorgeous beaches, and turquoise seas.

Viewpoint at Phi Phi Don
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There are actually six islands which form the Phi Phi Islands. However, only one island, Ko Phi Phi Don, is inhabited and allows overnight stays. Out of the other islands, it is Phi Phi Leh which is the most famous thanks to the 2000 movie, The Beach, which featured Maya Bay. 

The Phi Phi Islands are a popular day trip destination from Phuket and Krabi and do get busy. To avoid the day-trippers, you can stay on Phi Phi Don for a few nights. The island is home to a wide selection of accommodation covering a broad range of budgets from backpacker to luxury.

Ko Lanta 

With its laid-back atmosphere, lovely beaches, and excellent seafood, Ko Lanta is an ideal place for a relaxing holiday. While Ko Lanta is popular, it doesn’t see the same number of visitors as nearby Krabi or Phuket making it a good choice for a holiday getaway.

Khlong Dao Beach, Ko Lanta
(Photo: Shutterstock)

With a good selection of hotels and lots of beaches to choose from, Ko Lanta is a popular choice for a family holiday, but also ideal for couples. The island offers a range of activities including hiking, kayaking, and scuba diving. Within easy reach of Ko Lanta are some of the best dive sites in Thailand, including Hin Daeng, Hin Muang, and Hin Bida where you can spot a variety of marine life. 

Leopard shark and schools of yellow-tail snapper at Hin Bida, near Ko Lanta
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Away from the beach, discover local culture at Lanta Old Town where you will find traditional wooden houses and shops. This is also home to some of the best restaurants on the island with an array of local dishes to sample. 

Ko Samet 

The pretty little island of Ko Samet (also spelt Koh Samed) is located on Thailand’s east coast just a few hours’ drive from Bangkok. Proximity to the Thai capital makes it a popular getaway spot for Bangkokians on weekends and public holidays.

Ko Samet
(Photo: Shutterstock)

With its white-sand beaches and warm waters, Ko Samet enjoys a sheltered location which means it sees significantly less rainfall during the rainy season compared to other east coast islands like Ko Chang. This makes Ko Samet an option even during the low season months. 

Most of Ko Samet’s beaches are located on the east coast including the most popular, Hat Sai Kaew. You may notice various statues of mermaids, pipers and sea creatures as you travel around Ko Samet. These are in tribute to Thailand’s most famous writer, Sunthorn Phu whose family were from Rayong province where Ko Samet is located. The statues feature characters from a famous Thai poem from the 1800s, Phra Aphai Mani, which featured Ko Samet in the storyline.

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