The Best Beaches of Southern Thailand
This is a bit of a follow-up to our previous post sharing the Best Islands of Thailand, only this article delves instead into Thailand’s best beaches, through a collaboration of fellow Thai-friendly travel bloggers. The list brings together a mix of the lesser-known beaches of popular tourist destinations, as well as some of the better beaches of the lesser-known beach resorts in southern Thailand. Meanwhile I will link to the relevant information and guides which we have covered in the region through the years. Also, to make it easier, our list of Thailand’s Best Beaches starts in the north with Eastern Thailand, before moving down to the islands and beaches in the southern Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. Most of these beaches will also be found dotted in-and-around the big three island destinations (Koh Samui, Phuket and Koh Chang). And given flights are often cheaper than long-haul buses these days, and with Air Asia including island transfers on their tickets (all island connections here), it does make sense to fly.
Found within easy driving distance of Bangkok, the eastern islands can be found via the piers of Rayong and Trat, and are connected regularly by buses and minivans from Bangkok’s Ekkamai Station. Koh Chang (the 2nd largest island in Thailand) would be the main island in this region of Eastern Thailand (our favourite escapes here), however, there is no airport on the island (Trat being the closest airport) meaning access to the islands is almost always by boat from mainland Trat. From Koh Chang there are then a handful of islands and beaches which can be easily reached by the regular boat services leaving Bangbao Pier in the south of Koh Chang (we shared them here). Although there are the occasional routes by-passing Koh Chang from Trat (our full guide to Eastern Thailand here). Anyway, here are some of Thailand’s best beaches in Eastern Thailand.
By Sophie of The Wanderful Me: Located on the southwestern coast of the island of Koh Chang, Lonely Beach has beautifully soft sand, a friendly vibe, great accommodations (both for those on a budget and who want to splurge!), and an exciting nightlife with bumping bars and cool clubs. No doubt, the best time to spend a few days at Lonely Beach is during offseason. You’ll find it’s nearly secluded; with half the beach (and the fun beach swing near Siam Beach Resort!) to yourself. To get there, coming from the north from Kai Bae Beach, you’ll drive down the mountain and find yourself getting glimpses of the nearby beach through the gorgeous green canopy. You’ll pass by the entrance of the Seaview Resort and, not far afterwards, you’ll start to see Siam Beach Resort with its huts lining the hillside and its main building alongside the beach. Keep following the road and you’ll come across the Nature Boutique Resort and Siam Huts. You can walk through either of these properties to get to the beach and ocean.
By Claudia Tavani of My Adventures Across The World: Koh Wai is one of the best islands in Thailand, as it has some of the nicest beaches in the country. Located off the coast of Koh Chang, from where it can be reached via a 25 minutes boat ride from Bang Bao pier, Koh Wai knows no traffic and noise. Very few people live on the island – just those that work at the two very basic resorts (nothing more than a few beach huts). There’s no cars, but just a dirt path that connects the two main beaches. Of these, Paradise beach is the best one. It has fine, very white sand and incredibly clear waters that get a huge amount of marine life, making it a perfect place for snorkelling.
Ao Tapao, Koh Kood
By Josh of the Lost Passport: Koh Kood might be closer to the Cambodian than the Thai mainland, but it still has some of Thailand’s best beaches. One in particular is Ao Tapao Beach on the island’s west coast. Ao Tapao the beach you wished you had spent your entire two weeks in Thailand on. This one kilometre long stretch of sand is lined by coconut palms, with just a couple of small resorts dotted sparsely in between. You are more likely to find crabs scurrying about the sand, than to see other people on this beach. In the high-season there might be just four or five other people around, while in the low season you can seriously have the place to yourself. But perhaps what tips this over the line as being one of the best lesser known beaches in Thailand are the incredible rope swings hanging off the coconut trees. There’s seriously no better way to enjoy the fantastic sunsets on Koh Kood than on one of these swings!
The Eastern Islands are also on the Gulf of Thailand, but it is a fair distance from them before reaching the better-known islands of the southern coastline. And these islands include Koh Samui (a touristy tourist destination), Koh Tao (a scuba/snorkelling mecca), and Koh Phangan (the original full moon party destination). And between these three island destinations, there really is something for everyone. So to reach them, the best route from Bangkok is through flights to Koh Samui, however, Koh Samui Airport is owned by Bangkok Airways, meaning low-cost carriers have been snubbed along this route. Making it the most expensive island resort to access. Otherwise these islands can be easily accessed via the ports of Chumphon, Surat Thani, and Nakhon Si Thammarat, where island transfer is relatively simple via Lomprayah Catamarans which do regular circles between these three islands. Anyway, here are some of Thailand’s best beaches in the Gulf of Thailand.
By Jess of Unearth the Voyage: Koh Samui is one of the bigger islands located off the coast of Thailand. But don’t let that deter you from visiting! Because of its size there are plenty of undiscovered, beautiful beaches hidden along its shoreline. When arriving it can seem like Koh Samui is overpopulated and lacking those beautiful beaches everyone comes to Thailand to explore. One of the best ways to solve this problem is to rent a motorbike and go off exploring on your own! While exploring around the island be sure to stop for the day and explore the gorgeous secluded Coral Cove beach. Coral Cove is sandwiched between large boulders that block off anyone from walking to this beach. Enjoy the day lounging in the soft sand without tourists or touts around to bug you, also make sure to spend some time snorkelling! If coming south from Chaweng beach, the beach is located at Lamai in the Bay View Village area. If you pass The Cliff Bar and Grill you’ve gone too far!
Sairee Beach, Koh Tao
By Julia of The Freckled Tourist: Sairee Beach on the island of Koh Tao is a must when visiting Thailand. To get here, take a ferry from Koh Samui and upon arrival at the pier you’ll be greeted by minibuses and motorbikes offering to take you to Sairee Beach. Once you’re settled, spend the day sunbathing, relaxing with a Thai massage, and enjoying the mouth-watering food at the open-air restaurants. During the day you’ll enjoy an almost entirely empty beach with the softest sand you’ll ever feel. If you’re here for several days, take a ten-minute long-tail boat ride to the tiny island of Koh Nang Yuan where you can hike to an amazing viewpoint and snorkel the incredibly clear waters. Back on Sairee Beach, you’ll find a party after sundown where local backpackers and guests gather to lounge on bean bags, sip cheap drinks, and watch the local men put on a fire show. After staying on Sairee Beach, you’ll never want to leave! It’s a true hidden paradise in Thailand.
By Tasha of Backpackers Wanderlust: The beautiful beach of Haad Salad in Koh Phagan is certainly one of the lesser known beaches in Thailand that you need to visit! Rather than heading north of Bangkok to Chiang Mai, head south to the beautiful islands in the Gulf of Thailand. The infamous full moon party place of Koh Phagan may not often be associated with serenity and peacefulness, but there are some lesser known beaches which make this place paradise. Haad Salad is a personal favourite of mine with gorgeous white sand and a palm tree-lined shoreline. It is the perfect place to relax with fewer crowds than many of the other beaches around, this slice of paradise will be your number one spot while in Koh Phagan. There are a handful of restaurants and hotels along the beach front ranging in price from backpacker budget to high-end luxury. There is also a small township consisting on one single main street with a mini-mart and ATM. Haad Salad is basically located on the complete opposite side of the island in relation to the party place of Haad Rin. Though it is easy enough to hire a scooter for the day to make your way to paradise, and trust me it’s worth it. Enjoy a $6 massage on the beach while sipping a cold beer and watching the gorgeous turquoise waters hit the white sandy shore. Haad Salad is a must visit in Koh Phagan, especially if you love to explore the lesser known beaches in Thailand.
I have split the Andaman islands into different regions, as various islands can be easier accessed from different coastal destinations. There are then two busy travel hubs for the region, in Krabi and Phuket, which are obviously huge destinations in themselves. So starting with Krabi (our guide to the region here), where travel is relatively easy to through the region, as island transfers can be found on arrival to the airport, as well as throughout the travel hubs of Krabi town and Ao Nang beach. And there’s also Railay, a peninsula separated by towering limestone cliffs from the mainland, which is a popular option for nearby beaches (although it is fairly touristy these days). As Railay is only a quick 15-minute longtail ride from near Ao Nang. Anyway, below are some of Thailand’s best beaches in Krabi’s Andaman Sea.
By Veronika of Travel Geekery: Ao Mai Pai Beach, also known as the Bamboo Bay, is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen in my life. This deserted beach is hidden away from the crowds and is relatively far from the most famous beach in Koh Lanta, the Long Beach. The beach features light, nearly white, sand. There are a few palm trees looming over the beach but other than that, there’s just the ocean and the greenery. The water colour is perfect turquoise. While there’s a resort located near the beach, at the time of our visiting, most guests were hanging out in the pool and the beach was absolutely empty. To get there, take the west coast main road towards the South, as if you were going to the National Park Mu Ko Lanta. Turn right just before reaching the National Park. Signs to a Bamboo Bay Resort will lead you there.
By Harriet of Hats off World: If you’re looking for a secluded island in the middle of the nowhere, then head to Krabi and hop on a private boat to the tiny island off Koh Mahk, near Phang Nga Bay. There’s physically nothing here apart from a tiny spot of sand, as the island only emerges when it’s low tide. The rest of the time, it’s hidden under the water so is very much still a secret island. We took a few beers and speakers with us so we could watch the sunset alongside some chilled music, but after the battery and drinks ran out…it was just us on our own, peacefully enjoying the sunset!
By Mikkel of Sometimes Home: We had limited time in Thailand during a two-week trip. It was our first time visiting this beautiful country and decided to stick with some big cities and do day trips, hopefully to smaller towns to discover more about the culture of the Thai people. I’m not a rock-climber but friends recommended a wonderful guide to us for a private excursion to Railay Beach and it was a win-win. We were game for adventure and discovery of a small beach we’d heard wonderful things about from friends who had visited Thailand many times over the years. It was gorgeous! We wouldn’t have ventured to this remote area due to the time and “hoops” you have to jump through to get there from Phuket: we had to take a two-hour car ride to a long-tail boat, that delivered us to the sandy shore of Railay Beach. The beaches are beautiful and not swarming with crowds, the rock climbing was amazing and our favourite activity during our entire trip, and we adored the food at small local-run restaurants.
By Sam of Something of Freedom: Whilst tourists flock to the famous Railay beach, the more astute travellers enjoy the beautiful beach at Koh Poda. This small island is home to a stunning white sand beach, with an imposing karst rock formation emerging from the sea just offshore. It’s impossible to resist diving into the brilliant turquoise waters to cool off from the heat! Getting to Koh Poda is easy. A return boat trip from Ao Nang costs just 300 baht – although you’ll have to wait for at least 6 people to be making the same trip before you depart. Alternatively, a private boat costs 1,700 baht and gives you much more flexibility. As Koh Poda is a stop off on the popular 4-island tours, it’s worth renting a private boat so that you can decide when you visit. The afternoon is generally quieter, as the tours have moved on and there are few other tourists left to share this wonderful beach with!
We would actually travel to Phuket more than most islands, simply because there is a diverse range of luxury get-aways nearby, and most of the time they are ridiculously cheap (there’s a lot of competition in Phuket). However it can be a frustrating island to navigate, not only due to its massive size (it’s not much smaller than Singapore), but local ‘taxi mafias’ make it hard to travel throughout the island. So travel between beaches is both limited and expensive. And it’s really just not a backpacker destination. However the islands in the surrounding Phang-nga region are surprisingly peaceful, where even the nearby islands are relatively undeveloped despite the regions obvious popularity. And we share our own guide to escaping tourism in Phuket here. Anyway, below are some of Thailand’s best beaches in Phuket’s Andaman Sea.
Lam Haad Beach, Koh Yao Yai
By Kristin Addis of Be my Travel Muse: If you are looking for a Thai island with lots to explore and few other tourists, Koh Yao Yai fits the bill. Unlike its neighbours, Phuket and Krabi, Koh Yao Yai receives far fewer visitors and isn’t set up specifically for tourism, which lends itself well to getting beaches all to yourself. My favourite beach on the island was Lam Haad Beach, a unique sandbar beach that I set a hammock up between the palm trees and spent all day watching the tides and waves play their game. It’s the perfect beach for reading a book, sipping on fresh coconut water and taking an afternoon snooze. To get there, simply rent a scooter or even a bicycle (it’s a small island!) and follow the road sign.
By Bruno Carvalho of Amass. Cook: Along the road that takes you to the tip of Cape Panwa, Phuket, you’ll find a hidden beach that is off the beaten path. In the middle of nowhere, this small sliver of sandy shore offers unbelievable views over the Cape and Ko Lon. Right at the foot of a Naval base, this little beach is deceptively inaccessible. It’s not a postcard beach with palms, people, and parasols. You’ll probably find no one at all. Its privacy makes it ideal for calm contemplation, as the gentle waves of clear-blue waters lap at your feet. Somehow, looking outwards into the vast bay, the surrounding tropical forest and the floating longtail boats, you might think you’re in paradise. It is the perfect place for observing the sunset in absolute tranquillity. Also, you’ll find several pleasant restaurants a few meters ahead. To get there, follow the 4129 highway until the Third Naval Area Command. GPS: 7.806256, 98.40426
By Alex of the Swedish Nomad: Koh Racha is one of the lesser known islands in Phuket, but the beach here is fantastic. You can go here on a day trip or overnight at one of the hotels. From Phuket mainland, it’s about 40 minutes by boat. The island is small enough to walk around, but you could also catch one of the minibuses going from the hotel and the boat. If you come here on a day trip, you’ll most likely be dropped off right at the beach of Koh Racha, but if you’re coming by a regular boat, you’ll most likely be dropped off at the other side of the island, which is about 20 minutes walking to the beach. This beach is one of my favourites in all of Thailand, and it’s even more beautiful in real life compared to the photo. The temperature in the water is perfect as well since the beach is located in a bay. The sand is white and clean. The only people living on Koh Racha permanently are the staff of the hotels. Otherwise, it’s uninhabited. From the beach, you can also go out by boat and snorkel in the nearby reefs. And next to the beach, there’s also a lovely local restaurant with a view over the sea. For accommodation, I suggest the fabulous Racha Resort which is located just above the beach.
I have included Trang in this section, although the region can also be accessed via the travel hubs of Krabi and Phuket. However I would look for direct flights to Trang to make it easy. Otherwise it is a fair stretch to reach the southern border islands, and Koh Lipe, which was relatively unheard of until recent years, simply because it was hard to reach (it would be a 40mile/5 hour ride by speedboat from Phuket). So these islands have always lacked the same tourist infrastructure as other islands and archipelagos of Thailand, which is a good thing. But this has changed recently, when cheap flights to Hat Yai, with island transfers via Satun, made the journey a lot simpler. Even from Bangkok. However we normally arrive to these southern islands from the opposite side of the border, as you can pretty much see them from Langkawi (a duty-free island) in Malaysia. Although, due to tides, these routes are seasonal, and it’s best to check before travelling (ferry times here). Anyway, here are some of Thailand’s best beaches in the southern borders on the Andaman Sea.
By Laurence of Finding the Universe: My submission for one of my favourite, but less well known, beach areas in Thailand, is in the Trang region, in the south west of the country. Whilst many tourists don’t quite make it this far south, it is a popular spot for locals to holiday, and it’s not hard to see why. From rugged limestone cliffs, much like you’ll find in the busier areas of Thailand, through to gorgeous and less-trafficked islands, the whole Trang region is a real wonder to explore, with massive waterfalls, national parks, and of course, those stunning beaches. Pak Meng is a good beach to start from, there are a number of bars along the beach, and from here you can catch the ferry to the islands. Being on the west coast of Thailand, it’s also a truly fantastic place to watch the sunset.
By Raymond Walsh of Man On The Lam: It may be the largest island in Trang province, but it’s certainly not the most visited — there are only four accommodation options on the island. To get there, take a flight, bus or train to Trang, then make your way to Hat Yao pier. Buses can take you directly from the airport, train or bus stations, and the ferry runs every few minutes until 16:00 PM daily. If the seclusion of the beach isn’t a big enough draw for you, perhaps the wildlife you can spot there will be — Koh Libong is one of the few places in Thailand where you can view rare dugongs (sea cows.)
By Melissa of Thrifty Family Travels: Out of the three main beaches located on Koh Lipe ( a stunning tiny island located between Thailand and Malaysia), Sunset Beach would have been the most isolated and less explored. Sunset Beach is located on the northern side of the small island and is accessible by foot or by kayaking from a different point of the island. Here you will find only a handful of hotels including luxurious villas and the more rustic traditional style Thai bungalows. Like most of Koh Lipe, Sunset Beach is absolutely stunning, with a beach swing or two to get your Instagram worthy photograph. However the reason I love Sunset Beach is due to the fantastic snorkelling to be found right from the beach. Here you will find plenty of colourful tropical fish. If you take a kayak you can also paddle around until you find your own private little cove. Sunset Beach, as the name suggests has fantastic sunsets, so it is highly recommended that you find a quiet beach bar and get in prime position for mother nature’s free entertainment.
Ao Son Beach, Koh Tarutao
By Stefan and Sebastien of Nomadic Boys: One of our favourite lesser-known beaches in Thailand is Ao Son on Koh Tarutao in Thailand. Koh Tarutao is the largest island in the Tarutao National Marine Park and a former concentration camp for political prisoners. Ao Son is located around 6km away from the entry point on Koh Tarutao called “Ao Phante Malacca”. We rented mountain bikes and visited as a day trip. When we got here we were so surprised. We had it entirely to ourselves. It was totally isolated, so beautifully raw. It was particularly stunning with the sunset. Just behind it is Koh Tarutao’s dense jungle which gives Ao Son beach more privacy. We loved coming here to just hang out for the day. However, you have to be careful to leave after sunset, because when it starts to get dark and the tide comes in, the Ao Son beach almost disappears, then returns in the morning when the tide goes out.
- ^ Best Islands of Thailand (www.live-less-ordinary.com)
- ^ flights are often cheaper than long-haul buses (www.live-less-ordinary.com)
- ^ all island connections here (www.airasia.com)
- ^ Bangkok’s Ekkamai Station (www.live-less-ordinary.com)
- ^ our favourite escapes here (www.live-less-ordinary.com)
- ^ we shared them here (www.live-less-ordinary.com)
- ^ our full guide to Eastern Thailand here (www.live-less-ordinary.com)
- ^ The Wanderful Me (www.thewanderfulme.com)
- ^ best islands in Thailand (www.myadventuresacrosstheworld.com)
- ^ Koh Kood (www.thelostpassport.com)
- ^ a scuba/snorkelling mecca (www.live-less-ordinary.com)
- ^ Lomprayah Catamarans (www.lomprayah.com)
- ^ Unearth the Voyage (unearththevoyage.com)
- ^ The Freckled Tourist (thefreckledtourist.com)
- ^ Bangkok to Chiang Mai (www.backpackerswanderlust.com)
- ^ our guide to the region here (www.live-less-ordinary.com)
- ^ Railay (www.live-less-ordinary.com)
- ^ Koh Lanta (www.travelgeekery.com)
- ^ Global Stroll (aglobalstroll.com)
- ^ Hats off World (hatsoffworld.com)
- ^ excursion to Railay Beach (sometimeshome.com)
- ^ Ao Nang (somethingoffreedom.com)
- ^ Phang-nga region (www.live-less-ordinary.com)
- ^ escaping tourism in Phuket here (www.live-less-ordinary.com)
- ^ Be my Travel Muse (www.bemytravelmuse.com)
- ^ Amass. Cook (www.amasscook.com)
- ^ Racha Resort (www.swedishnomad.com)
- ^ 40mile/5 hour ride by speedboat (www.phuketferry.com)
- ^ via Satun (www.live-less-ordinary.com)
- ^ Langkawi (a duty-free island) in Malaysia (www.live-less-ordinary.com)
- ^ ferry times here (www.directferries.co.uk)
- ^ Finding the Universe (www.findingtheuniverse.com)
- ^ Man On The Lam (manonthelam.com)
- ^ Thrifty Family Travels (thriftyfamilytravels.com)
- ^ Koh Lipe (www.gettingstamped.com)
- ^ Nomadic Boys (nomadicboys.com)