Island hopping in the Andaman sea of Thailand: A guide

PHOTO: Andaman Sea by Sonaal Bangera via Unsplash

If you’re looking for the perfect island hopping destination, Thailand’s west coast is an excellent option. Stretching along the Andaman Sea between Malaysia and Myanmar, the area is dotted with breathtaking islands. Some islands are quieter than others, but they all have their own charm. From islands renowned for their beautiful marine life to islands catering for party lovers, there’s something for everyone here.

With so many islands, planning an island hopping trip on Thailand’s west coast can be pretty overwhelming. So, to help you with your planning, we’ve compiled the best and most popular islands for island hopping on Thailand’s west coast.

A guide to the Andaman sea

1. Phuket

As the biggest and most famous island in the Andaman Sea, Phuket is usually the destination to fly to in order to begin your island hopping trip in Thailand. Although Phuket focuses on nightlife and entertainment, the island’s huge expanse ensures that there is something for everyone. If you like to party, the infamous Patong has some epic nightlife venues. However, if you prefer something more quiet and peaceful, you can visit the stunning Mai Khao Beach, Haad Sai Kaew beach, or the beaches in the north of Phuket. Besides beautiful beaches and lively nightlife, you can also check out the temples around the island or explore Phuket Old Town. Enjoy Phuket for a few days to nearby small islands before heading to your next destination. You can check out our partner’s website ‘Agoda‘ to find the best hotel.

Island hopping in Thailand's Andaman Sea
PHOTO: Patong Beach by by Somchai Sumnow from Pixabay.

2. Phi Phi Islands

From Phuket, your next stop should be Koh Phi Phi. It’s possibly the most famous island hopping destination in the Andaman Sea, and for good reasons. It offers breathtaking beaches, jagged cliff formations, and clear blue waters. Leonardo DiCaprio’s film, “The Beach,” also helped put Koh Phi Phi on tourists’ radar. In addition, there’s a regular ferry service between Phuket and Koh Phi Phi, making it easier to reach than most other islands.

Koh Phi Phi is actually an archipelago of 6 islands, with Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh as the two main islands. Phi Phi Don is where everything is: the main town, the landing pier (Tonsai Bay), all the hotels, and the famous parties. Although Phi Phi Don is mainly popular for its parties, there are several quiet beaches you can visit if you need a break from the booze. Koh Phi Phi Leh is smaller and more peaceful. It’s home to Maya Bay (currently closed), Phi Leh Bay, and the Viking Cave. You can travel between the islands using long-tail boats. Besides parties, some of the must-try activities in Koh Phi Phi are climbing up one of the island’s viewpoints to get dazzling views of the Andaman Sea or going on a snorkelling tour to explore the underwater world.

Island hopping in Thailand's Andaman Sea
PHOTO: Pileh Blue Lagoon at Phi Phi Island by diana.grytsku from freepik.

3. Koh Lanta

Catch a ferry to Koh Lanta from Koh Phi Phi to take a break from all the partying and escape the crowd. The atmosphere in Koh Lanta is as laid back as it can be. Although it’s pretty popular among tourists, it feels less touristy compared to Koh Phi Phi and Phuket. Life in this beautiful patch of paradise moves slower, allowing you to spend your days lounging in hammocks by the beach with no distractions at all. Besides relaxing and sunbathing, there are numerous fun activities in Koh Lanta. You can explore the beautiful fishing villages that line the coast, swim in the clear ocean, or wander through lush jungles. If you’re into diving, Koh Lanta is home to the Koh Lanta Marine Park. It’s an incredible place for kayaking, snorkelling, and scuba diving. Whale shark sightings are incredibly rare, but if you’re lucky, you might encounter these massive fishes while diving.

While Koh Lanta is relatively quiet, the island still has some jungle parties and bars to fill your time after dark. There’s also a quaint night market on the island, which is a great spot to try some skewered food and buy local souvenirs. A wide range of fantastic accommodation options is available on the island, from budget beach shacks to high-end resorts.

Island hopping in Thailand's Andaman Sea
PHOTO: Koh Lanta by AdrienBe from Pixabay.

4. Koh Lipe

From Koh Lanta, make your way to Koh Lipe. Boats run from Koh Lanta to Koh Lipe around twice a day. Koh Lipe is the southernmost island in Thailand, close to Malaysia. It’s a small and dreamy island, with perfect white soft-sand beaches and turquoise water. Here, you’ll find three lovely beaches: Sunrise, Sunset, and Pattaya. Start your day by watching gorgeous sunrises on Sunrise Beach and end it with refreshing mojitos while watching the sunset on Sunset Beach. The island is part of the Tarutao National Marine Park, and it’s known for its top-notch snorkelling and diving spots, such as Stonehenge. Koh Lipe is one of the less-frequented islands in Thailand, so it can feel like you’re on your own private beach sometimes. It’s the perfect island to unwind, live the tropical life, and disconnect from the rest of the world for a few days.

Island hopping in Thailand's Andaman Sea
PHOTO: Snorkelling Koh Lipa from

5. Krabi

Make your way to Krabi from Koh Lipe as the end of your island hopping destination. Krabi is technically not an island, but it has some of the best beaches in Thailand. Make sure to stay in Ao Nang, the central town in the Krabi province, if you want to be close to the ocean. While Ao Nang itself doesn’t have any great beaches, it’s within a short boat ride to some of the most breathtaking beaches in the world, such as Railay. You can only access Railay by boat since it’s separated from the main island by limestone cliffs. There are many activities you can do in Railay, such as rock climbing and kayaking.

Alternatively, you can also stay in Krabi Town, which has plenty of great accommodation options and markets for food. However, it’s a bit far from the beach.

Island hopping in the Andaman sea of Thailand: A guide | News by Thaiger
PHOTO: Krabi by tawatchai07 from Freepik

Side trip options

Various small islands across the Andaman Sea are great for side trips. Some of the best are as follows:

1. Similan Islands

If you have some extra time, you should add Similan Islands to your island hopping list. It’s close to Phuket but a bit far from other islands in the Andaman Sea. Visiting this tiny archipelago is totally worth your time, especially if you love diving. The water around the Similan Islands provides some of the best diving sites in Southeast Asia. The marine life is incredibly diverse – you can come across barracuda, manta rays, and even whale sharks if you’re lucky. Also, the coral reefs here are very colourful, certainly a feast for the eyes and an experience you’ll remember forever. On land, the islands are full of rainforests, rare birds, reptiles, and stunning white-coral beaches. There are no hotels in the Similan Islands as it is a national park. However, you can stay o a campsite or bungalows if you want to stay the night.

Island hopping in the Andaman sea of Thailand: A guide | News by Thaiger
PHOTO: Marine life in Similan Islands by by Surachai Olarikded from Pixabay.

2. James Bond Island

While you’re in Phuket, be sure to go on a half day trip to James Bond Island (also known as Khao Phing Kan and sometimes Koh Ta Pu). It was featured in the 1974 James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun, hence the name. Located north of Phuket, this island is part of Phang Nga Bay. One of the most distinctive traits of James Bond Island is the limestone cliffs that vertically jut out of the water. It’s bizarre but definitely scenic and offers a great photo opportunity.

Island hopping in the Andaman sea of Thailand: A guide | News by Thaiger
PHOTO: James Bond Island by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay.

3. Coral Island

Also known as Koh Hae, Coral Island is a beautiful destination located around 3 km southeast of Phuket. You can find two main beaches here: Banana Beach and Long Beach. Both beaches offer lots of water sports activities, including canoes, banana boats, and snorkelling. Snorkelling in Long Beach is particularly thrilling since you can discover impressive coral reefs.

Island hopping in the Andaman sea of Thailand: A guide | News by Thaiger
PHOTO: Coral Island by Rohi Sen from Pixabay.

We can continue to add more islands in the Andaman Sea to this list. However, we think that the islands above provide a great start for a fantastic island hopping trip in Thailand. But if you want to extend your island hopping trip and add more islands, Koh Yao Yai, Koh Yao Noi, Koh Kradan, Koh Mook, and Koh Racha are worth considering.

Still don’t know how to start planning your island hopping trip in Thailand? Check out our Ultimate Thailand Island Hopping Guide!

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Cita Catellya

Cita Catellya is a journalist and writer who covers a range of topics from medical and property to leisure and tourism. Her career began as a copywriter 5 years ago, where she worked with several brands in Indonesia to help them increase their online presence. Cita writes in both English and her native Bahasa Indonesia

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