Looking to explore Thailand’s famous islands but not sure where to start? Maybe you want to delve deeper into Thailand and discover for yourself what’s beneath its tropical surface. Our handy Thailand island hopping guide shows how to combine Thailand’s tropical beaches, azure waters and luscious rainforest with authentic and meaningful travel experiences.
Try our village life homestays, ethical elephant experiences, community-run sustainable lodges and national park tours before capturing that castaway feeling on Thailand’s less-discovered islands. From the rustling palms on the coral island of Ko Raya to the cosy beach bungalows on Ko Hai, there are some great alternatives to the crowds of Ko Phi Phi and Ko Samui – the most-visited islands in Thailand.
Whether you want to create your own itinerary using our bite-sized trips or make the most of our travel specialists’ insider knowledge (leave them to do all the leg work!) – your Thailand island hopping adventure is just around the corner. Take a look at our Planning Your Thailand Holiday for different types of Thailand travel if you’re after something a little different.
South West Thailand Islands
Season: November – April
Ko Yao Yai – The Undiscovered Paradise
Of all of Thailand’s islands and beaches, Ko Yao Yai is possibly the least developed. Located just off the coast of Phuket, Ko Yao Yai offers tranquillity, beautiful beaches and great snorkelling all within easy access from the mainland.
There are a few shops and restaurants on the island but take enough cash or a credit card with you, as there are no ATMs here. Its limestone cliffs, secluded white beaches and a beautiful lagoon make Ko Yao Yai one of the top spots for an authentic Thai island experience.
Where to go next: If you’d like to continue soaking up the sun, why not take a break on the sandy shores of Ko Raya, with a one night stay in Phuket in between?
Ko Hai – Peaceful and Authentic
Ko Hai is easily accessible from Ko Lanta or from Trang on the mainland and is also known as Robinson Crusoe Island– a deserted island fantasy. This tiny island only measures 4 kilometres long and 2 kilometres wide and is covered by tropical forest indented with rocky headlands and beautiful bays with glistening white sands, turquoise seas and very few tourists (except for the occasional crab-eating monkey). This is a peaceful and authentic tropical Island and a “get
away from the crowds” experience; a perfect way to relax and unwind.
Where to go next: Most people choose to end their Thailand holiday on the hidden island of Ko Hai. However, if you’re searching for more sunshine elsewhere, we suggest discovering the flavours of Ko Lanta where you can show off your culinary skills in a local cookery class and stay in a beach bungalow.
Ko Lanta – Phi Phi’s Laid-back Neighbour
Ko Lanta is a protected island, great for snorkelling and is considered by many to be one of the best dive spots of all of Thailand’s islands. This diverse island is known for its idyllic long stretches of white sand beaches, dense mangrove forests and caves and lagoons perfect for exploring. It also has lots of adventure activities to try if you do get restless! You could try an introductory cookery or massage course, or simply put your feet up and relax with a fruit shake and a good book!
Where to go next: If you wish to continue island hopping from Ko Lanta, we recommend heading to the turquoise bay of Ko Phi Phi or the castaway shores of Ko Hai where you can wake up to lapping waves from your cosy beach hut.
Ko Raya – Tranquil Coral Island
Located just 45 minutes by speedboat from Phuket, this small coral island offers a departure from the more developed area of Thailand. There are no ATM’s or roads here so it’s the perfect place to relax and get away from it all. Siam Bay offers sandy shores and glistening waters whilst some of the other bays offer great coral to snorkel amongst. Popular with day-trippers, this island can be fairly busy during the day but after sunset it becomes a lovely relaxing place to enjoy a delicious meal and a few cocktails.
Where to go next: If you want to continue your Thailand Island Hopping trip to another tropical destination, we recommend heading to the island of Ko Yao Yai from Phuket.
Ko Phi Phi – Something For Everyone
Situated off the west coast of Thailand between Phuket and Krabi, Ko Phi Phi is one of the travel hotspots of Thailand. Its white sandy beaches, turquoise seas, and swaying palm trees have rightfully put it on the map.
The vibrant main town at Tonsai Bay has many bars, restaurants, and shops to keep you busy. The island is home to a bit of a party scene, but some of the more remote beaches offer a real postcard-perfect paradise away from the hustle and bustle. Go to the dreamy cove of Maya Bay in early morning to avoid the daytrippers and you may just have the place to yourself.
Meaningful twists to an Island Hopping itinerary
Whether you’re planning on heading South West or South East there are great opportunities to travel with meaning during your island hopping adventures. Some of our faves include…
Khao Sok – Giant Trees and Lakes
Venture to the giant trees and lakes of Khao Sok National Park – a must-see for nature lovers and jungle explorers alike. Staying in community run lodges – built with sustainability top of mind – and enjoying river canoe trips and guided tours in the National Park. The lodge and tours are all run by the community, helping to boost the local economy and employment.
Khlong Noi – Learning About Local Life
A relatively undiscovered area just 30 minute drive from Surat Thani lies Khlong Noi. Stay with a Thai host family and take a trip up the river to discover for yourself all the work that goes into cleaning up the river and the mangroves by the local community. There’s all sorts to try out from shrimp fishing to carpentry. It’s a great way to understand more about the daily lives of the warm and welcoming people of Southern Thailand.