5 must-visit islands on your first trip to Thailand

Stock photo via Elite Havens

First-time travellers to Thailand may have seen its stunning islands in a travel guidebook. And, it is a great idea to visit the islands when you arrive. As Thailand has many types of islands for every type of traveller, it is easy to find a tropical oasis upon landing. From upscale islands such as Koh Samui and Koh Phi Phi to the more rugged, bohemian islands of Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Chang, our list of the top 5 islands includes the most popular in which to see.

Thailand’s Top 5 Must-Visit Islands On Your First Trip

1. Phuket

Known as the largest island in Thailand, Phuket is extremely popular for its plethora of fun activities and sights. Although it is a bit pricier than other areas in the country, the trade-off of amazing scenery is worth it. With plenty of white sand beaches, nature lovers can relax on the beach or visit national parks.

Patong is a great place to visit for travellers wanting to socialise and see the epic nightlife of Phuket. Here, there is plenty of shopping to be had as well as delicious street food. Moreover, if you are looking for something more upscale, Patong also has it. For those who want a more laid-back atmosphere, try Surin Beach or Kata Noi Beach as they offer a more exclusively serene island atmosphere. The Big Buddha, Wat Chalong, Phuket Old Town and other exciting attractions make for an interesting, culture-rich day. Additionally, the Siam Niramit show is great for those wanting to learn a bit about Thai folklore. For kids, there is plenty to do and see. From the Phuket FantaSea theme park to the Phuket Trickeye Museum, Phuket offers something for the little ones. And, for adults, don’t forget to take a stroll down Bangla Road, as it is a great way to enjoy the nightlife vibe.

PHOTO: Phuket by Mike Swigunski from Unsplash
PHOTO: Phuket by Mike Swigunski from Unsplash

2. Koh Phi Phi

This iconic Thai island has been featured on many postcards and travel sights, with many placing a trip here on their bucket lists. Known as one of the most beautiful islands in the world, the island is a large tourist attraction, but it is worth seeing. The Phi Phi viewpoint is something that you don’t want to miss, as it provides a spectacular view of the curved, twin bays.

Beach-goers can experience stunning, white sands and swim in crystal-clear waters. Moreover, many companies will offer to take you out for a tour of the surrounding islands. Here, make sure to bring your camera as the views are epic. And, if you want to snorkel or dive, taking a tour is the best option. Maya Bay is one sight you can choose on your tour, which was featured in the movie The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio. Additionally, daredevils may choose to try rock climbing which has its own set of amazing views. As Koh Phi Phi hosts a wide range of travellers, it is easy to find budget accommodations or upscale, luxurious hotels in which to stay. The boat ride from Phuket island is about 45 minutes so be sure to plan and check times when the boats return to Phuket.

PHOTO: Koh Phi Phi by M o e from Unsplash
PHOTO: Koh Phi Phi by M o e from Unsplash

3. Koh Samui

Koh Samui is the largest island in the Gulf of Thailand and is also the most developed. Here, many expats choose to set up roots as it is easy to live on this majestic island. As it is a top spot for honeymooners and upscale tourists, Koh Samui offers some incredible hotels and accompanying beaches. With jungle-covered peaks and farmland, it is a diverse island with many things to see. The locals are very friendly and it isn’t uncommon to see monkeys out and about climbing up palm trees to get coconuts. Hin Ta and Hin Yai are among the most popular attractions as they resemble male and female genitalia. Known in English as the grandfather and grandmother rocks, this is one natural sight you don’t want to miss.

The famous Fisherman’s Village is another great attraction as it features many boutique shops and great nightlife. The Big Buddha and Laem Sor Pagoda are other popular sights. And, the island also features a mummified monk that is held at the Wat Khunaram. Golf enthusiasts will find the Santiburi Golf Course and others to offer upscale greens in which to play the sport. And, perhaps the best part of Koh Samui is its world-class spas where you can truly relax in style.

PHOTO: Koh Samui by Yavor Punchev from Unsplash
PHOTO: Koh Samui by Yavor Punchev from Unsplash

4. Koh Pha Ngan

Although this island is quite famous the world over for its Full Moon parties, it is also equally famous for its hippie, laid-back vibe. A playground for hedonists, Koh Pha Ngan offers an alternative lifestyle with plenty of eclectic activities to be had. Young travellers enjoy coming here to experience a different atmosphere while meeting other travellers. However, the beaches on this unfamiliar island, are perhaps, some of the best in the world. With stunning white sands, and hardly anyone sunbathing, Koh Pha Ngan is the place to go if you want to feel like you are on a tropical island.

For more adventurous times, check out the Challenge Pha Ngan, which is a water park that promises an exciting time. Yogis will also find the island to be full of yoga and detox centres as it is considered the new Bali. Nature lovers will also enjoy the unfamiliar waterfalls of Thaan Prapaad, Sramanora, Wangsai and others. Here, you can hike to the waterfalls and enjoy a day in nature. Thong Sala night market is the best place to go for a cheap bite to eat, and souvenir shopping as it is a mecca for locals and tourists alike.

PHOTO: Koh Pha Ngan by Philipp Potocnik from Unsplash
PHOTO: Koh Pha Ngan by Philipp Potocnik from Unsplash

5. Koh Chang

This large island is located in the Gulf of Thailand, with beaches lined by palm trees. The island features a jungle and mountain terrain, making it great for hikers. As the island isn’t as developed as the other islands of Koh Samui or Phuket, it has a more rugged feel. However, it still has enough facilities and amenities to make your stay comfortable. Bars and restaurants of all prices are available, as well as accommodations for every traveller. Kai Bae, Bailan, and Klong Prao Beaches are the best in which to visit as they offer stunning views and sands.

Klong Phu, Klong Nueng, and Kongoi are all excellent waterfalls to visit when hiking. Moreover, the rich, mangrove forests are a unique thing to see. The local temples will surely take visitors back in time as will the sleepy local villages. Here, it is a great place to see how locals have lived for decades. If you are into fishing, you can take a boat trip to find some fresh seafood, prepare it, and have it for dinner by the beach. Koh Chang is a great island for first-timers to Thailand as it features a bit of everything without being affected by mass tourism.

16 Incredible things to do in Koh Chang: best beaches and travel guide - Love and Road
Koh Chang

Travelling to Thailand’s iconic islands is surely to be a treat for first-time travellers. Here, you can create your island-hopping itinerary, with easily bookable ferries. From the Andaman Sea islands to the Gulf of Thailand islands, each spectacular piece of land offers party-goers, nature lovers, and those in between an epic trip that they won’t forget and also check out our partner’s website ‘Agoda‘ to find the best hotel for your trip.

Things To Do

Ann Carter

Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.

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