So many tropical beach paradises in Thailand, so little time. You kind of can’t go wrong on any beach in Thailand but we picked a few of our favorites anyway, including entire islands with multiple beach options.
Want to stroll for miles along deserted stretches of silky, white sand? Snorkel, dive, and surf just offshore? Party under a full moon until dawn, or just hide away from the rest of the world? There’s a beach—and islands filled with a variety of beach options—for that in Thailand.
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This tiny car-free island is comprised of jungle, rubber trees, a few guesthouses and resorts, and that’s pretty much it. Somehow, the locals haven’t gone tourist crazy so it’s a true escape from more popular areas and just a great place for sunbathing, afternoon napping, and listening to waves lapping on the shore. There are no ferry piers or docks, so long-tail boats go to retrieve guests a few times a day from the big ferry boats out at sea.
No roads, no cars, just paradise. Railay is a peninsula between Krabi Town and Ao Nang and can only be reached by boat so it is remote, laid-back, and much quieter than its neighbor, Ao Nang. Railay’s craggy limestone karsts attract climbers from all over the world, while the pristine, white sands and the lack of vehicles attract vacationers desiring a blissfully relaxing destination. It’s the kind of place to read a book, swim multiple times a day, take a long-tailed boat ride and island-hop, or just chill and soak in the stunning setting. If you get antsy, hop on a boat to Ao Nang where there’s a little more going on. Or don’t.
An energetic and sporty family-friendly spot in Phuket, Kata Beach offers clear seas, white sands, plentiful accommodation options, lots of good food, and endless activities. There’s a wave park right at the beach entrance where you can rent surfboards or SUPs (Stand Up Paddleboards) and take lessons. Try acro-yoga on the beach then take to the water to snorkel, surf, and scuba dive. The south end of the beach is more relaxed if all that activity just seems too…active.
INSIDER TIP If the kids need a break from the sand, there’s a community park just across from the beach with jungle gyms.
One of Phuket’s prettiest little beaches, this is tucked around the horn from Nai Harn; it’s not a huge beach and has lots of places for shade. There’s a decent little restaurant a few steps away so you can easily spend a dreamy day sunbathing, snorkeling, and swimming, barely moving from your spot for pretty papaya shakes and drinks and a light lunch of crab curry.
INSIDER TIP Allow time to explore. There’s plenty to see in this area, including the Big Buddha, Karon Viewpoint, Promthep Cape, and more.
Another Phuket beauty, Ya Nui in the south of Phuket Island is a tiny beach that is split into two bays by a rock formation. It may be small but there are a few different sections to choose from: a cove to the left, a flat stretch in the middle, and some rocks to the right (where you’ll find good snorkeling). The water is that perfect blue-green, the setting features an island backdrop and grassy slopes, the attitude is relaxed and easy, and tiny thatch-roof restaurants serve up drinks and ice cream—what more could you need?
At the southern tip of Phuket, almost two hours from the airport, this crescent of pristine white beach is off-the-beaten tourist track (which makes it worth the trek); think, “jungle-covered mountain backdrop, sailboats anchored in the distance when it’s season, a high-end resort on one end, and a lookout point with a windmill marking the other side.” The water is calm and clear with an occasional gentle wave. There are a few beachside restaurants where you can grab a coconut and bring it right down to the beach, or sit around in lounge chairs sipping Singhas with locals. There’s beach volleyball in the evenings, and sunset happy hour at the Rock Salt. It’s an easy, gorgeous spot to holiday for a while, and we recommend renting mopeds to explore the surrounding area.
This hidden cove is accessible only by boat from Surin Beach (because the neighboring landowner doesn’t want tourists traipsing through his trees!). As small as this beach is, there are still lounge chairs and boogie boards for rent, in addition to a restaurant with decent food and drinks complete with very pretty views. Even on a cloudy day, Laem Singh feels tropical, with trees hugging the beach and turquoise waters lapping at the shore. When the waves are up, it makes a stellar spot for a bodyboarding.
INSIDER TIP If you want to get a look at this spot from above (and snap an excellent selfie), get on a scooter and stop at the Laem Singh View Point.
Koh Yao Noi
Remarkably untouristed despite its location just an hour’s boat ride from Phuket, Koh Yao Noi is the remote beach you’ve been dreaming of. While there’s internet in many of the guesthouses, this is a destination where you’ll find it easy to disconnect—fall asleep to the sounds of gently lapping waves, not a pumping bass. Rent a scooter and explore the island. Check out the little beach shacks along the beach, where you can get a simple lunch and have a dip in the calm waters. Find deserted stretches of beach that you can have all to yourself. Explore mountains and rainforests in the center of the island, and stop to photograph rubber plantations, rice paddies, palm trees and water buffalo. Stay at a backpacker-ish yoga shala for a weeks’ retreat, or kick it up a notch and stay at the Six Senses.
Less than an hour’s boat ride from Rawai on the southeast coast of Phuket, Koh Bon is one of the smaller islands of the Similan Islands but delivers big on the basic necessities for a great beach day, with natural beauty, pristine sands, swings, and palm trees. Bring some supplies from a mini-mart in Rawai and just ask (offer to pay) your longtail driver to hang out for a few hours (he most likely will, closely moored to the other drivers, happily having a chat with his feet up). You might share this stretch of beach with some picnicking locals or a few couples posing for wedding photos, but otherwise it’s likely all yours.
Arrive by boat to this secluded cove known as the best beach on Koh Phangnan, a lifetime away from the raging Full Moon Parties on the south side of the island. Spend days snorkeling, kayaking, or hiking through the hills behind the beach, and your evenings just chilling and soaking in the serenity. (Long-tail boats deliver day tourists, but in the evening they depart and this end of the island empties out.)
INSIDER TIPThis beach can also be accessed by motorbike, but it’s difficult, dangerous, and not recommended. Take a boat instead!
The polar opposite of Haad Rin and its banging Full Moon Parties, Haad Salad is just a tiny, quiet cove, perfect for snorkeling and lazing the day away, waiting for the perfect pink splash of sunset. The beach here is perfection: white sandy bay with shallow, crystal-clear waters, shouldered by green cliffs. A great place to spend your time before and after the Full Moon Party and an even better place to just avoid it altogether.
Koh Samui has plenty of long white sandy beaches populated with resorts, restaurants, massage parlors, and nightlife, but if you want a little break from the tropical hustle and bustle, visit Silver Beach, also known as Thong Takian Beach. Located in Crystal Bay Cove, between Lamai and Chaweng, Silver Beach is calm and quiet; its silver-white sands are dotted with boulders, and it’s bordered by jungle. Activity options include snorkeling, kayaking, and getting a relaxing massage under the shade of a tree on the beach.
Koh Tao’s Beaches
Koh Tao, meaning “turtle island,” is the place for all things diving and getting your PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certification, but it’s also known for its spectacular beaches. Spend some time on Shark Bay Beach and snorkel with blacktip reef sharks and green turtles in turquoise water. Sai Daeng Beach is one of Koh Tao’s best beaches for marine life, as is Ao Leuk, which has a small entry fee (but it’s worth it for the lounge chairs, cold drinks, and pretty beach).
INSIDER TIP In December and January, there are tiny jellyfish that populate the coast, but the little guys are harmless.
A backpacker-favorite for decades, Lonely Island on the eastern side of Thailand, has become slightly more upmarket, and it’s not so lonely anymore. The beach is beautiful, clean, uncrowded, and fringed with palm trees so it’s the perfect place to refine your beach bum skills. There’s a nightlife scene if you want to partake, with a few funky cocktail bars, and, if you’re lucky you can float in phosphorescence under the moonlight (a particularly popular pastime here).
The fifth largest island in Thailand, but still relatively undeveloped, Koh Kood (also known as Koh Kut) is in the Gulf of Thailand, north of the maritime border with Cambodia. The island’s main beaches are spread out along the west and south coasts and while there isn’t one agreed-upon best beach, favorites include the lively Klong Chao and the picturesque Ao Noi. Snorkel, sunbathe, swim, and just snooze and when you tire of that, hike to Klong Yai Ki Waterfalls, or venture around the island to Ao Salat or Ao Yai fishing villages for barbequed fresh catches.
Just off Trang Province, this island is picture-postcard Thailand. Here, you’ll find powdery white sand and views across calm waters to the islands Ko Ngai, Ko Muk (which is a nice place to visit to explore the Emerald Cave), Ko Libong, and a few karst islets like Ko Lao Liang and Ko Phetra. Most of this island is part of the Hat Chao Mai National Park, and so it’s undeveloped. There are no cars or ATMs, just a few resorts, bungalows, and beaches galore. One of the most noteworthy is Ao Chong Lom Beach, or Sunset Beach, which is memorable for its—you guessed it—gorgeous sunsets.
INSIDER TIP Visit (or avoid) Koh Kradan around Valentine’s Day for its annual Underwater Wedding Ceremony, when couples from around the world swim up the aisle together. To participate, you and your partner must be certified divers.
Koh Mai Phai
Located between Krabi coast and the Phi Phi islands and also—misleadingly—known as Bamboo Island (the main flora here are Casuarinas trees), this tiny, heart-shaped island is home to a quiet and beautiful beach that gives off desert-island feels. Snorkel in the reef with hawksbill sea turtles, lionfish, and leopard sharks, and then head back to the bar shack on the north side for some nibbles and a cold beer.