Thailand had been on my bucket list for many, many moons before I was able to pack my bags and head over to this epic Southeast Asian country. And let me tell you, it was worth the wait! As a self-proclaimed island girl, you already know that Thailand showed up and showed out for me.

Seriously, when was the last time you splattered some neon paint on your face and danced all night long on a beach with some of the coolest people from all over the world? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

The full moon parties on Koh Phangan are only a fraction of the epicness that awaits you in Thailand. With over 1,500 to choose from, any and every kind of vibe is found on the islands in Thailand, and I’ve rounded up the best of them!

From lazy days on Koh Mook to temple hopping on Koh Samui, this list of the BEST islands in Thailand will have you jumping from boat to boat to see them all.

A landscape view of a sunset over the ocean with colorful skies and islands in the distance.
Getting just 8 on this list was a mission!
Photo: @joemiddlehurst

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    The Best Islands in Thailand

    You’d be hard-pressed to find a travel itinerary in Thailand that doesn’t include at least one island. And for good reason! The islands in Thailand are truly a paradise on Earth, offering something for every type of traveler.

    1. Koh Lanta

    A long-time favorite of backpackers in Southeast Asia (me included), Koh Lanta is one of the most beautiful islands in Thailand. It’s so much more laid back that some of the other Thai islands and beaches are absolutely gorgeous.

    A white lighthouse on a cliff overlooking the ocean in Mu Ko Lanta Park, Thailand
    Koh Lanta is one of the best islands in Thailand.
    • Why visit: The island is perfect for anyone looking to relax, unwind, and soak up some sun.
    • When to visit: January-April
    • How to get there: You can get here by either taking a ferry from Phuket or Krabi or using the bridges and driving in. (I recommend the ferry.)

    One of the best things about Koh Lanta is that a lot of travelers end up staying for longer than the intended amount of time. If you need somewhere to stay, I can personally recommend El Pillax Lanta Resort because the staff treated me so well, that I promised I’d tell my friends. So there you go, friends.

    Which, in turn, gives you more time to explore and then pass on the best things to do. And that would be spending the day at Nui Bay. It’s a mini paradise tucked in a cove with crystal clear waters, and it’s an absolute dream for beach lovers.

    2. Koh Phangan

    The famous island of Koh Phangan is known for one thing and one thing only: the Full Moon Party. That’s right, everything you’ve been waiting for. Get the glow-in-the-dark paint, take off the majority of your clothes, and get ready to trip balls.

    A man performing a fire show during a Full moon party in Koh Phangan, Thailand
    Chilled beach days and wild party nights.

    Every full moon, thousands of travelers flock to Haad Rin Beach to party until dawn. This full moon party has influenced the entire world. I’ve been to them in Nicaragua, Mexico, and even South Africa (do I party too much?), but nothing quite compares to the OG one in Koh Phangan.

    • Why visit: FULL MOON PARTY BABY!
    • When to visit: Every full moon each month.
    • How to get there: Koh Phangan is reached via Koh Samui Airport or Surat Thani Airport. Or you can take a quick ferry ride from Koh Samui that takes around 30 minutes, or the journey from Donsak Pier on the mainland takes approximately 2.5 hours.

    If you happen to be traveling to Thailand when there isn’t a full moon, honestly tragic, but don’t stress about it. You can still visit Koh Phangan.

    There is quite the hippie community here, so instead of putting toxins into your body like most people do during the full moon parties, you can go on a bit of a detox—I could probably use this as well.

    3. Koh Samui

    Koh Samui is the poster child for islands in Thailand. The beaches are that beautiful turquoise color, the palms sway high in the air, and the number of temples you can give thanks to is endless.

    Golden statue of Buddha on top of a staircase in Koh Samui temple, Thailand
    Wat Phra Yai, the Golden Temple.
    • Why visit: To enjoy the resort life and check out some of the incredible Buddhist temples.
    • When to visit: December – February
    • How to get there: Fly into Koh Samui Airport from Bangkok or take the ferry from Surat Thani.

    Koh Samui is popular for its incredible yoga retreats. Some are located near the beaches, others are in jungles or rural mountainous areas. Think about what natural surroundings are best for you.

    If you love some luxury and desperately need a Thai massage—aren’t we all? Head to Koh Samui. The island is a bit of a resort island are there are so many great hotels here. I can recommend Rawi Warin Resort because you can sit by the pool with a sea view and you can’t beat that.

    Koh Samui’s a bit more expensive than some other islands in Thailand, but the experiences you’ll have there are worth every penny. And let’s be real, it’s Thailand, expensive is relative.

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    4. Phuket Island

    I definitely pronounced Phuket wrong for most of my life, so here’s a tip: it’s “Poo-ket,” not “Fuk-it”.

    Phuket is the largest island in Thailand, and it’s also one of the most popular. You’ll find everything from luxury resorts to wild nightlife and some of the most stunning beaches on this island.

    A landscape view of Phuket coastline with its lush greenery, white sand beach and turquoise water.
    Look at that consistency!
    • Why visit: If you like to party like you’re 18, or maybe you are 18, Phuket’s got the goods.
    • When to visit: November to April (Definitely the best time to visit Thailand.)
    • How to get there: Fly into Phuket International Airport or take a ferry from the mainland.

    But I can’t lie to you, there are also parts of Phuket that get two thumbs down, but with mass tourism, we can’t expect every place to be perfect. That being said, it’s not a “best islands in Thailand” list without Phuket.

    If you can get to Phuket outside of high season and escape to some not-so-popular beaches, like Banana Beach, it’s a beautiful island. On the flip side, if your idea of a good time is drinking mass amounts of shitty alcohol out of buckets while dancing to covers of 2010 pop songs at a bar, then Patong Beach is your spot.

    5. Koh Phi Phi

    I already know Koh Phi Phi is on your list of must-visit places in Thailand, and trust me, I get it. The pictures we see on Instagram are drool-worthy, BUT if you think you’re going to get lush, untouched beaches and nature all to yourself… I hate to burst your bubble.

    Koh Phi Phi is a tourist haven, I swear people are just foaming at the mouth to get to “The Beach” like Leo. But I like to keep it real, so I’m not going to tell you to skip it… I’m just going to tell you to lower your expectations, ha.

    A boat floating on the ocean with rocky formations in the background in Koh Phi Phi, Krabi
    Famous for a reason… Just look at it!
    • Why visit: Solo travelers unite in Koh Phi Phi. It’s one of the best islands to find some travel buddies and have a good time. Plus, the island-hopping tours are pretty epic.
    • When to visit: November- March
    • How to get there: To reach the Phi Phi Islands, you have two options: speedboat or ferry. From Phuket, the ferry journey takes approximately two hours, while from Krabi or Koh Lanta, it takes around 90 minutes.

    If you’re a solo traveler, Koh Phi Phi is a great stop. Over the years, tourism has definitely catered to broke backpackers who are looking for a good time.

    Spend your days doing boat tours and hanging out on beaches, and spend your nights drinking beers and dancing at the beach bars. You won’t even notice the other tourists, ha!

    6. Koh Tao

    It’s time to head underwater in Koh Tao, the diving mecca of Thailand.

    But if you’re like me and have zero experience diving, don’t worry! You can take a three-day PADI Open Water Course for around $300. If you don’t know anything about diving, that’s super cheap! It’s actually one of the cheapest places in the world to get PADI certified.

    A girl scuba diving in Komodo, Thailand
    Koh Tao is the PERFECT spot to scuba dive.
    • Why visit: Incredible scuba diving and cheap PADI certification.
    • When to visit: December- February
    • How to get there: Koh Tao can only be reached by boat. You can either catch on from the mainland (Chumphon and Surat Thani) or from the neighboring islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.

    Koh Tao is a scuba diving hub! The days and nights really run together here. Because everyone is diving or getting certified, it’s really easy to feel like one big family.

    Some of my best Thailand memories are of Koh Tao, late nights drinking on the beach, and dancing at the bars, quickly turning into early morning dives. (Nothing quite cures a hangover like the ocean!) At the time, I was exhausted, but looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

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    7. Koh Lipe

    OK, if I tell you about this one, you have to promise not to tell everyone. This island is on the southern end of Thailand and is a bit difficult to get to, so it’s kept its charm.

    A landscape view of boats lining at the shore in Koh Lipe, Thailand with a lush forest
    • Why visit: You’ll be visiting the hot spot before it becomes the hot spot, if you know what I mean.
    • When to visit: November-May
    • How to get there: There are many ways to get here, and they are not the best options. You can grab a speed boat from Phuket or Krabi, but these are expensive and take time. Or you can come from Malaysia on a 90-minute ferry. Either way, it’s totally worth the effort. The cheapest and least favorable option is from Bangkok. Take a domestic flight to Trang or Hat Yai. After reaching Trang or Hat Yai, you can take a 1.5h minibus to Pakbara Pier in Satun. From Pakbara Pier, you can continue your journey to Koh Lipe by speedboat. (1.5 to 2 hours)

    Sunrise Beach is one of the most beautiful places in Thailand. You’ll see everything from fishermen coming in with their daily catch to locals out for a sunrise swim. And if you walk just 15 minutes down the beach, you will find yourself at Sunset Beach, I bet you can’t guess what that one is famous for…

    The island has cute little beach bars along the soft sands, and one thing I love about this unique island in Thailand is the lack of big resorts. It’s mostly small bungalow-style accommodations, which makes it all the better, IMO.

    8. Koh Mook

    Another less touristy island in Thailand is Koh Mook, or as the locals call it, “Pearl Island“. It’s a tiny island between Krabi and Trang that is sadly often overlooked. I got “stuck” here for a few weeks because I couldn’t seem to leave.

    A small island in the middle of the ocean with a house and palm trees located in Koh Mook, Thailand
    Pearl Island in Thailand.

    It’s known for its breathtaking Emerald Cave, which can only be accessed by swimming through a dark tunnel with a light at the end. Sounds scarier than it is.

    Once you reach the other side, the cave opens to a hidden beach surrounded by limestone cliffs. It’s gorgeous, but as it’s the island’s #1 attraction, you’ll also be visiting with hundreds of others. Boooo!

    • Why visit: To chill out and relax for a few days—perfect after one too many days of partying on some of the more popular islands.
    • When to visit: November-May
    • How to get there: The easiest way to get to Koh Mook is to fly to Trang City and arrange a taxi and boat transfer to Kuan Thung Khu Pier. Then it’s just about 30 more minutes away.

    But for me, the island was just a vibe. I don’t know how to explain it, but it was so much chiller than other islands I’ve been to in Thailand.

    The island is small, so most people walk, bike, or take tuk-tuks to get around. The beaches are pristine, and you can be completely alone on some of them. It’s also a great spot for snorkeling and diving, with plenty of colorful coral reefs to explore. Every day feels like magic here.

    Don’t Forget Insurance for the Islands!

    As with any trip, it’s always wise to be prepared for the unexpected. Investing in good travel insurance can save you from all kinds of mishaps.

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    Final Thoughts on the Best Islands in Thailand

    You could spend years traveling around Thailand and still not see all of the incredible islands it has to offer. And honestly, I hate when I hear others say Thailand is overrun and over-touristic.

    And trust me, I get it. No one wants to be packed like sardines on the beaches, but there is seriously so much more to the islands in Thailand than that.

    If you’re willing to venture a little off the beaten path, you can discover some true gems that will give you everything you’re hoping Thailand will be.

    But if you don’t have as much time to island hop, then I have to vouch one more time for Koh Lanta as the absolute best island in Thailand.

    It has a little bit of everything. You’ll still have those stunning beaches and insane nature (without all the people), and the bars at night will still be poppin’ with a fun crowd. The locals are so friendly, and I just know you’ll have a blast.

    Snorkeling in Koh Tao Thailand
    Enjoy the journey folks
    Photo: @maxpankow
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