Top 5 Thai Islands for the Adventurous Traveler

Thailand is known for being a gorgeous country of vast diversity, and its islands are especially renowned travel destinations. Easy to get to with a flight and a ferry from Bangkok, and fairly inexpensive to visit especially compared to European islands, Thai islands are true vacation paradises.

But if you’re a Thai first-timer, which island to choose? These top 5 Thai islands are surefire and failproof picks!

Koh Tao

Pretty much the diving capital of Thailand, you can barely walk a few meters without running into yet another dive center. Whether you want to get certified or you’re a seasoned professional, you like traditional diving or you want to try Free Diving, there is a center and a package for you!

Koh Tao is the perfect place to get a front row perspective on laidback island life. You can rent an ATV or motorbike to explore the island with complete freedom, visiting both popular and hidden secluded beaches alike.

With tons of great restaurants, from cheap to expensive, and local to international, you could try a new restaurant every meal of your trip without running out of choices. In addition to the wide range of eateries, there is also a wide spectrum of accommodation picks. From broke budget backpackers to upscale private resorts, every type of traveler will find their ideal room in Koh Tao.

The only downside? The island is yet to have its own airport (unlikely any time soon), and reaching it will require a flight, bus, or train to Surat Thani and a long ferry from the port.

Koh Phi Phi

A beautiful oasis turned into a crazy party island, Koh Phi Phi is very popular with the twenty something partying backpacker set. The island is car free, and every destination is within walking distance to the other, so at least drunk driving isn’t a threat.

The small island caters to tourists, and Western style food is available on every corner. Fruit smoothie stands are ubiquitous, perfect for nursing that Slinky Bar-induced hangover that popped up upon waking. Shops selling sandwiches, slices of pizza, and the ever-available (toned down for tourists) Pad Thai make up the island’s own version of fast food, aimed directly at the taste buds of party animal quarter lifers. The restaurants run super late, available for every type of late night afterparty munchie, but if hunger strikes at 5am, there are also numerous 24 hour shops and 7/11s.

This island isn’t quite the choice for laidback vacationers or families, especially during high season. Party beats sound late into the night and wake you up early in the morning, though the more remote parts of the island (reachable only by boat or an extensive hike through the forest) offer peace and quiet.

Numerous tours run every day from the island (including to “The Beach,” Maya Bay, made famous by the movie of the same name), and open up your possibilities to see more of Thailand without leaving your comfortable home base in Phi Phi. The 3-in-1 tour by Ibex is especially popular, with cliff jumping, snorkeling, and more.

Koh Phangan

This island is like the mullet of Thailand, but this time it’s a party up front and business in the back, or more accurately, the Full Moon Party up front, and serenity up north.

While the Full Moon Party runs away with the reputation of this Koh Tao-adjacent island, and the hedonism truly does go wild on these crazy nights, Koh Phangan is so much more than just one party.

The north side of the island is full of health and yoga retreats, and attracts a much calmer and more health-oriented traveler than the south. If you’ve got a bit of a conflicted personality yourself, and you want to sample all sides of this contrasting island, renting a motorbike is a great way to get around and see it all.

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