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Traveller on Thailand beach, Southeast Asia

The Best Thailand Islands For Your Bucket List

Traveller in Nice in the South of France

By Caitlin Spouge

Last updated: 17th November 2023

Thailand is a tropical wonderland in that attracts travellers worldwide with promises of pristine beaches, beautiful landscapes, and vibrant nightlife. Chances are, you know someone who is non-stop raving about Thailand and its incredible islands. Whether you’re looking to soak up the glorious sunshine on soft sands or see what all the hype is about in beach bars, Thailand’s islands have something for you! Keep reading for the ultimate guide to the best way to discover this South East Asia paradise.

1. Koh Phi Phi

Travellers looking out to Phi Phi Viewpoint on Thailand's island, Koh Phi Phi

Best Thailand Island for: Backpackers 🌴

Koh Phi Phi, famous as one of the most beautiful islands in Thailand, is perfect for backpackers seeking an authentic and budget-friendly tropical escape. The bohemian charm makes it easy for those visiting solo to meet fellow travellers, whilst staying in affordable, sociable hostels and enjoying the long strips of vibey beach bars.

With endless, exciting activities, days are best spent swimming, snorkelling, browsing the market stalls and enjoying the beach. At night, the beach bars come alive with affordable drinks, music, and fire shows along the shore. On Thai Adventure, travellers will stay right in the heart of Phi Phi and get to live their best life at the best pool party on the island! 

Of course, no stay here would be complete without tackling the steps up to the iconic Phi Phi viewpoint to watch the sunset across the island. This is a perfect activity for budget travellers as the first stops of the viewpoint are free and offer insane views. Travellers then have the option to pay a small charge to head right to the top.

Plus, enjoy scenic boat trips around Koh Phi Phi. Visitors can stop off at picturesque Maya Bay at certain times of the year, made famous by the movie “The Beach”. Whilst visitors cannot swim in the waters, an aesthetic picture on the beach with this dreamy backdrop is a must. Then, hop back on the boat and snorkel in the nearby turquoise bays. 

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2. Koh Phangan 

I Love Koh Phi Phi sign in the ocean

Best Thailand Island for: Partying 🍹

Koh Phangan is world renowned for the best parties as a result of the legendary Full Moon Party held once a month on Haad Rin Beach. Join up to 50,000 partygoers until the sun comes up, enjoying cocktail buckets, entertainment and electronic music. The energy is contagious as the beach looks like a scene straight out of the 80s - we’re talking neon everything. The party officially finishes at sunrise the next day.

Beyond the Full Moon Party, the island lives up to its reputation pretty consistently throughout the month. Every month, the night before the Full Moon Party, there is a Jungle Experience Festival, which has become legendary in its own right and is considered unmissable for house and techno lovers. Plus, the island hosts Half Moon and Black Moon parties. Truly, the beach bars on Koh Phangan are incredible whenever you choose to visit. 

You’ll spend 3-nights on this lively island on Thai Intro, with the ultimate hangover cure included. After a full night of partying, fall in love with Koh Phangan's idyllic paradise and say ‘I’m never touching another cocktail bucket again’. You’ll unwind with a traditional Thai massage and yoga session, and then probably head out for another night in the bars - when in Koh Phangan! 

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3. Koh Tao

Birdseye view of Sau Nuuan Beach on Thailand's island, Koh Tao

Best Thailand Island for: Diving 🐢

Also known as “Turtle Island”, Koh Tao is a paradise for underwater exploration, with its clear waters and wonderful marine life. Koh Tao is ideal for both seasoned and beginner divers. For those who haven’t dived before, this is the spot where you are sure to get the bug for it as you swim with turtles and schools of fish. It is also a great destination to get certified with your PADI qualification. Diving enthusiasts are sure to have Koh Tao on their bucket list, if they haven’t visited already, and won’t be disappointed with endless magical spots to enjoy.

Whether you’re looking for a social experience or to become an expert, you will find what you’re looking for in the plethora of dive sites doting the coastline, with about 70 schools on the island in total. 

Head to popular Shark Bay to swim with unique corals. More experienced divers will want to journey to HTMS Sattakut, a popular wreck to explore. You may even get the opportunity to swim with Whale Sharks when you dive at Sail Rock! 

If you want to explore the underwater world but are unsure about diving, snorkelling is also amazing in Koh Tao! 

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4. Koh Samui 

Travellers swimming in the sea at Ang Thong Marine Park, Thailand

Best Thailand Island for: Island Hopping

Koh Samui is a gem in the Gulf of Thailand. The lively town offers a vibrant atmosphere, where you can immerse yourself in the local culture and explore bustling markets. Plus, the island is a great base for exploring many pristine islands nearby. 

Beyond the shores of Koh Samui, the nearby Koh Mudsum, affectionately known as “Pig Island”, beckons with its unique charm. A short boat ride transports you to this haven where friendly pigs roam freely on the perfect sands. Interacting with these adorable animals adds a new experience to island life, making Koh Mudsum a must-visit destination for animal lovers. 

For those looking for an adventure, the Ang Thong Marine Mark is a short distance from Koh Samui and boasts breathtaking landscapes. On Thai Adventure, you’ll get to kayak the serene waters and snap endless photos and videos of the stunning scenery. Those who don’t mind a short trek will be rewarded at Pha Jun Jaras Viewpoint with awe-inspiring panoramas of limestone cliffs and vast ocean views.

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5. Phuket 

Landscape of beach on Thailand island, Phuket

Best Thailand Island for: Luxury 🥥

Popular for its relaxed and serene atmosphere, Phuket is Thailand’s biggest island and as a result, offers a varied experience suited to a wide variety of travellers. Whether you’re a budgeting backpacker wanting to visit beach bars, or a couple wanting luxury resorts and infinity pools, Phuket has something for you! Phuket is the easiest island for travellers to get to, with an international airport accessible from major cities worldwide. This accessibility is convenient for luxury travellers looking for a seamless and stress-free journey. 

The island is also spoilt with fine-dining restaurants, a mix of Thai cuisine and international dishes. Plus, it is a great spot to visit a spa and get a traditional Thai massage. 

Our Thai Intro Plus, which offers a “flashpacker” experience of Thailand for those in their 20s and 30s, finishes in Phuket. This is the perfect spot for travellers to wind down after ticking off their Thailand bucket list, with a stay in a boutique 4-star hotel kitted out with a rooftop pool. Whether travellers want to extend their time in Thailand and stay in Phuket, or enjoy an easy flight out of the island, it is an amazing place to finish off. Plus, those on the tour will visit an ethical elephant sanctuary in Phuket to round their trip off on the ultimate high! 

Phuket also serves as an ideal hub for exploring nearby paradise. A short speed boat journey transports you to the Similan Islands, an underwater haven renowned for its stunning coral reefs and marine life. This is the idyllic escape from the mainland,

For those in search of a secluded retreat, the hidden gem of Koh Lanta awaits. A few nights away on pristine beaches and soaking up the laidback atmosphere is unbeatable. Koh Lanta provides the perfect contrast to the vibrant energy of Phuket.

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Whether you’re looking to relax or for a new adventure, Thailand’s islands have what you are looking for. After your time exploring, you too will be raving about it to everyone you meet. A group trip to Thailand is the perfect way to experience these islands in the best way possible. Pack your bags and get ready for the ultimate Thai island adventure! 

Want to know more about travelling to Thailand? Read our Thailand Travel guide

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