Features

A Definitive List Of Thailand’s Best Six Islands

Take me there now.

Brought to you by Contiki

Contiki is about unexpected adventures, inspiring places & lifelong friendships. Most of all, it's living life out loud #NOREGRETS

Sometimes a place only has to exist to make you feel better. Sitting at work through a smudgy Australian spring, just knowing there’s a galaxy of Thai islands out there, and that you could potentially be belly up on one of them within a few hours, is enough to pull you through. But when you finally decide to go, the proximity – the ease and spontaneity of hastily bought cheap-flights – often mean you don’t plan for Thailand trips the same way you do bigger, broader adventures.

Here are the best, lesser-visited Thai islands with beaches so perfect your friends will be avoiding your Instagram for weeks.


#1 Ko Jum

10248055113_a004856c30_k

(Photo: Natasha McLenahan/Flickr)

Stationed between Krabi and Ko Lanta, Ko Jum refers to the southern part of the island, while the northern mountainous side – all rainforest and rubber plantations – is Ko Phu. The west coast of the islands has a string of places to stay and the coral reefs have some of the best snorkelling in Thailand. It’s a little more happening than some of the more deserted islands but balances out with quiet days on the Andaman coast.

Good to know: No ATMs, no bars, take plenty of reading material!


#2 Koh Kood

Thick wet jungle crashing into the clean blue sea; Koh Kood (aka Ko Kut) waits patiently by Cambodia in the eastern Gulf of Thailand. While there’s river kayaking and amazing dive and snorkelling spots, there are also plenty of perfect do-nothing-at-all beaches.

Good to know: There are no ATMs or convenience stores on Koh Kood, so remember to take cash and supplies. Hook up a flight to Trat and then transfer to Koh Kood by ferry.


#3 Ko Lanta

20687147716_45c9a24ae6_k

(Photo: Jean-Paul Navarro/Flickr)

The largest of a gaggle of tiny islands in the Krabi province, Ko Lanta Yai is a long stretch of white-sand beaches on the west coast lined with bungalows and small bars. If you’re serious about scuba diving, you’ve probably already heard of Ko Lanta. Whales, rays, sharks and huge schools of tropical fish hang out off the long coral reef. But the most beautiful part of the island is on dry land, in the rare remnants of an ancient Thai rainforest.

Good to know: The Yang Garden Restaurant has arguably the best BBQ in Thailand.


#4 Koh Surin

The densely jungled Mu Koh Surin islands are a part of Thailand’s marine park group, the Edenic, whose only full time dwellers are the Moken “sea gypsies”. The snorkelling here is on a whole different level, due to the specially designed underwater trails that are completely clear of coastal run-off. Take a day trip out to the nearby Richelieu Rock, which attracts whale sharks, an array of rays and hammerhead sharks.

Good to know: Accommodation is limited to tent sites and you have to book well ahead. There are also a handful of bungalows near the park headquarters on North Island. Speedboats depart from Khuraburi and the islands are open November to May.


#5 Moo Ko Surin National Park

5924066125_61ec32af26_o

(Photo: Axel Drainville/Flickr)

The Moo Ko Surin Marine National Park is made up of five small, but very hilly, islands in the Andaman Sea. Close to the Burmese border, the isles are overgrown with evergreen forest that is home to monkeys, monitor lizards giant crabs, and about a billion different tropical birds. It’s like a cheap version of what you’d imagine Galapagos to be. The reefs that ribbon between the islands have the best turtle populations in Thailand and you can jump aboard the twice-daily longboat snorkelling trips to check them out.

Good to know: Electricity on the islands stop at 10pm every night and accommodation is either tents provided by the park or forest bungalows on Koh Surin Nua. The Surin Islands are only accessible from October to April.


#6 Ko Kgai

Ko Ngai, also called Ko Hai, is tiny. Four kilometres by two kilometres of obscene perfection, it’s not even big enough to have roads and the perennial jungle is home to crab-eating monkeys and prehistoric looking giant lizards. You can take short, lazy hikes up the low-slung mountains or snorkel around the close to shore coral reefs. It’s such a condensed version of an island holiday that it’s especially great if you don’t have much time away.

Good to know: The nearby island of Ko Mook has a very explorable cave system called the Emerald Caves which are definitely worth a day trip.


#7 Koh Phayam

Koh Phayam — pronounced “pie-am”— is one of Thailand’s most closely kept secrets. The west coast has the magic Aow Yai beach, which is perfect for just floating around in. While the island does have a few relax-maxed bars and a surprisingly good internet connection, there are no cars or roads and a conspicuous lack of backpackers on mushy-shakes that want to spend three hours explaining the evils of mouthwash to you. It’s heaven.

Good to know: It’s a 40-minute speedboat from Ranong and you should stay at the Bamboo Bungalows.


#8 The Ko Yao Island Group

The magical twin islands of Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai have the distinction of being relatively untouched by mass tourisim while being in rather close proximity to Phuket. Both are inhabited by a small, predominantly Muslim population. Tiny Ko Yao Noi has both a world-famous yoga retreat and a serious Muay Thai training camp that you can wander around.

Koh Yao Yai, the bigger but less developed island of the two, has really good, cheap end accommodation and is probably one of the quietest islands in Thailand when it comes to the full-moon partiers. You get around both islands by bicycle or motorbike, passing uninterested water buffaloes and lush rainforest.

Good to know: The islands are renowned for their eco-friendly homestay programs offered by its local residents

(Lead image: Contiki)


Travel to exotic Asia with Contiki. It’s fun, unique and simply unforgettable. Contiki includes authentic experiences, more free time to explore, the best local guides and to top it all off – amazing stays in unique accommodation. Contiki Asia for 2016/17 dates are out now and perfect for smaller group adventures.