Phuket, "Pearl of the South" is Thailand's largest and best known island. It has superb beaches, excellent facilities, and has long been a favourite destination of holiday makers from around the world.
Koh Samui is rapidly catching up to Phuket in terms of accommodation and facilities. The island is encircled by fine sandy beaches most of which have bungalows or hotels.
Those seeking a less developed resort should try:
Koh Lanta not far from Krabi have some excellent white sand beaches and shallow water coral reefs. Excellent diving facilities can be found on the Similan Islands.
Koh Larn is one of several islands located off the coast of the popular resort of Pattaya. There is daily boat service. Accommodation is limited, and it is best to check with the boat operators before setting out.
Koh Samet is a beautiful island full of scenic bays and gently shelving beaches of fine white sand. The most popular, Sai Kaeo and Wong Duan, have a good selection of accommodation from basic thatched cabins to good quality air conditioned rooms. The boat operators at Ban Phe will be able to advise about accommodation. The island has plenty of restaurants serving Thai food and the occasional western dish.
Boats leave for Koh Samet from Ban Phe, 17 km east of Rayong. It is about 60 minutes drive from Pattaya. The normal boat trip to the island takes about 30 minutes and costs 120 Bahtper person return. Songthaews transport visitors from the jetty to beaches around Samet. If you want a faster ride, then speed boats are available and these can take you directly to the beach of your choice.
Part of the island is a National Park and you will be charged a 200 Baht admission fee. Please honour the park by not leaving litter and not taking anything out, such as the coral.
Glass bottom boats offer trips to see the coral on the reef. You can also snorkel from these boats to get a better view.
Koh Chang is Thailand's second largest island and lies about 10km offshore in the Gulf of Thailand near Trat. The centre of the island (Koh Chang National Park) is heavily forested with towering hills and a spectacular waterfall. White sandy beaches fringed with coconut palms line the western side of the island. The clear blue waters on this side of the island are ideal for swimming and snorkeling. The island is being developed rapidly.
From Trat take a songthaew for the 18km ride to Laem Ngop Pier. The boat takes about 45 minutes to reach the east side beaches of Tharn Mayom, Dan Mai or Sapparot, and about 3 hours to the western beaches. You can also travel across the island from Sapparot Pier, which is much quicker than taking the boat.
Koh Phangan is located 20km north of Koh Samui, and is surrounded by several smaller islands. The clear waters are home to an abundance of marine life and coral reefs. Several of the beaches have bungalows which provide comfortable accommodation. Boats and scuba diving equipment are available for hire.
During the monsoon period from October to January the island experiences strong easterly winds and is unsuitable for tourism.
Express boats leave from Ban Don near Surat Thani every morning and afternoon and take about 2½ hours to reach Phangan. Boats from Koh Samui take about 40 minutes.
Koh Turatao is part of a group of 51 islands in the Andaman sea which form a national marine park. The island has mountains, waterfalls, steep cliffs, and long white sand beaches. Several areas around Turatao are suitable for diving, and many have active coral reefs. Charake Cave can be reached by boat along the Malacca Canal.
Accommodation is available at Ao Phante Malacca and Ao Son on Koh Turatao, and Laem Son on the nearby island of Koh Adang.
Boats to Turatao leave from Pak Bara which is about 70km east of Had Yai and 150km south of Krabi.
This group of small islands can be reached by tour boat from Phuket or fishing boat from Thap Luma on the mainland. The islands are renowned for their underwater beauty and are rich in marine life and coral. Soft white sand beaches and a lush interior make the Similans an ideal retreat from the outside world. Best time to visit is late December to February when the climate is at it's best and the water is clear.
Koh Lanta National Park is a group of 10 islands located 80km south of Krabi. The islands have some excellent white sand beaches, the best located on Koh Lanta Yai, and several have shallow water coral reefs.
The islands of Koh Phi Phi Le and Koh Phi Phi Don are 40km from Krabi and about the same distance from Phuket. They feature limestone cliffs surrounded by beautiful curved bays and emerald waters. The marine park is home to some perfect coral formations.
Tour boats do not run to Koh Phi Phi during the south-west monsoon period from June to mid November.