Many individuals fantasize about going island hopping in Thailand’s Gulf of Thailand. Nothing compares to sitting on the sun-drenched deck of a boat, gazing out at the mesmerizing turquoise waters and dreaming of the adventure that lies on the next island.
Scattered like pearls across the shallow inlet in the southwestern South China Sea, the islands in the Gulf of Thailand are charming and exciting. While there are many beautiful islands in the area, the star attractions are Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao. These islands are less than a three-hour boat trip from each other, making them a great island hopping combination. Travellers with extra time usually add Koh Chang and Koh Mang to their island-hopping list as well.
Koh Samui is one of the largest islands in Thailand. Most people tend to skip this island and only make it their starting point before heading out to other islands around the area. However, if you have time, Koh Samui actually offers everything that makes an island gateway so good. The island boasts breathtaking views, white sand beaches, and thriving marine life. If you like water activities, the island is located near Ang Thong National Marine Park, so you can go snorkelling and diving.
For a taste of Thai culture, spend your evening at the Fisherman’s Market in Bophut or visit the Big Buddha statue. The island is also known as one of the most established islands in terms of infrastructure, making it a great destination for families. You can find extravagant 5-star resorts, high-end spas, world-class restaurants, and chic bars with sunset views here. Plus, it’s easy to reach various cities in Thailand.
Koh Phangan is mainly known for its beer-infused beach parties. Up to 30,000 party-goers travel to the island every month to attend the infamous Full Moon Party on Haad Rin beach. The party can last all night, and along with DJs blasting electronic music, you’ll encounter fire shows and watch fireworks. Besides the parties, Koh Phangan actually has so much more to offer than partying. So even if you’re not into wild parties, you can still enjoy a great time on this island. Venture out the popular spots, and you’ll find semi-hidden coves, waterfalls, and even beautiful temples.
If you want to truly relax, stay in the north end of the island. Here, you’ll find pristine beaches with some of the clearest waters in the Gulf of Thailand. Spend your days lounging in a hammock, sunbathe with a good book, or swim the clear blue ocean. If you like snorkelling or scuba diving, Koh Phangan also has some incredible diving sights. The Thong Sala Night Market is also a must-visit before departing the island.
From Koh Phangan, continue your island-hopping journey to Koh Tao. Koh Tao is much smaller than Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, but it’s just as beautiful. Although there’s a lot of parties going on on the island, it still has a very laid back vibe perfect for relaxation and soothing of the soul. Koh Tao is particularly known as the most affordable destination to learn how to scuba dive. There are lots of cheap diving facilities here, making it great for first-timers. In addition, the island is surrounded by some of the best diving sites in Thailand.
If you prefer to snorkel, there are a myriad of bays with plenty of colourful coral and beautiful marine life to see just a few metres from the water’s surface. Those who love hiking will be delighted that the island has some epic viewpoints to explore, such as the John Suwan Viewpoint. From this viewpoint, you can enjoy the postcard-worthy scenery of the island.
Despite being the third largest island in Thailand and located just six hours away from Bangkok, Koh Chang is one of the lesser-visited islands in the country. It’s significantly quieter and more laid-back than other islands on the Gulf. The island is filled with natural beauty, from majestic mountains and lush forests with waterfalls to beaches and coral reefs. Koh Chang National Park is located right in the heart of the island. It’s a nature reserve full of hiking trails, rugged jungle terrain, and picturesque waterfalls. The main beach on the island is White Sand Beach. However, there are lots of unspoilt beaches for visitors to discover here.
Despite growing more and more popular each year, Koh Mak is still a sleepy island with quiet beaches and a laid-back atmosphere. It’s located south of Koh Chang and north of Koh Kood. It’s a really great island to visit for anyone who wants to escape the crowds. The beaches on the island are relatively empty, so you can relax without having to be interrupted by other people. The main beaches are Ao Kao and Ao Suan Yai, where you’ll find most bungalows on the island.
Are you ready to experience a thrilling island hopping experience in Thailand? While travelling during the Covid-19 pandemic is still difficult, there’s nothing wrong with planning early! So be sure to keep this article to use when travelling is finally safe and easy again!
If you want to know more about island hopping in Thailand, check out our Island Hopping Insider Guide article.
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