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Islands In Thailand For First Time Visitors

Updated on September 12, 2013

Great choice destinations for the first time visitor

The islands of Thailand are a very popular destination and it's not surprising why. Beautiful sandy beaches, clear warm seas and lush interiors, coupled with great places to eat and stay, Thailand's Island destinations are deservedly a great choice for holiday makers and travelers alike. I have had the good fortune to have explored many of the Thailand islands as a traveler and on holidays. Here are four islands that are great for anyone travelling for the first time or looking for a holiday break in one of the world’s most exciting destinations.

Patong Beach, Phuket
Patong Beach, Phuket | Source


On the Andaman Coast, the largest of Thailand's Islands and the most established.Getting there is easy with connecting flights from Bangkok. Phuket has everything. Large, loud beach resorts with European style pubs, bars and restaurants, to deserted beaches with only fishermen and the occasional dog lazing under the shade of a tree. Phuket Town is well stocked with shops, markets and malls, as well as cinema and western style fast food restaurants if you need a fix of home after months of travelling. Phuket is a perfect destination for someone taking their first venture to this part of the world and who has limited experience of different cultures but wants to dip their toe in, pushing their boundaries, or wants to gain experience at a slow pace rather than going head first into a completely alien experience.

Koh Samet
Koh Samet | Source

Koh Samet

A lovely small island with clean, white sandy bays in the Gulf of Thailand. The main places are Hat Sai Kaew and Ao Wong Duan which have the greater choice of places to stay and eat. Koh Samet is a national park, but this hasn't stopped the building of the bungalows and restaurants on the island though it is still a far cry from the built-up areas of larger, more popular islands. It is still a low key place to visit, so if it's chilled out bars and restaurants with tables on the beaches that are wanted, then this is the place to go. Accommodation ranges from simple huts to air-conditioned bungalows. The further you travel from the main drop off points for the island, the quieter and smaller the beaches and their accommodation become.

The great asset to Koh Samet is it's proximity to Bangkok. Ban Phe, the mainland port connecting the island is about three hours by road from Bangkok, and a 30 minute boat ride to the island. The island gets very popular with Thais during the national holidays and although the guide books say it also gets busier at weekends, I never notice much difference. Although it is becoming more popular on the holiday destination list, it still holds more of a get-away-from-it-all feel than some of Thailand 's other island destinations.

Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta | Source

Koh Lanta

Another of the lesser known islands that benefits from not being on the well trodden holiday destination list. Situated next to the better known Koh Phi Phi, (famous due to the book and subsequent film The Beach), Koh Lanta's strength is it's long and fine sandy beaches, it's friendly and relaxed feel, and laid back atmosphere. And, it also has amazing sunsets! I have spent many evenings laying on mats on the beach, having eaten a tasty green curry or pad thai and with a Beer Chang in my hand, watching the most amazing scenes as the sun sets on the Andaman Sea. The island is easy to get to with regular boats from the mainland and Phuket. The main port on the island is the village Ban Sala Dan. This is where most provisions can be sourced and is also a great place to eat. Many of the restaurants are on a shaded jetty and give great views. There certainly is something magical having a meal here in the evening, listening to the gentle lap of the sea underneath.

Koh Pha Ngan
Koh Pha Ngan | Source

Koh Pha Ngan

World famous as a party island, thanks to it's full moon parties, but this is an island of two halves. Yes it does attract thousands of travelers looking for the party experience of their lives, but it also has sublime beaches, away from the party beach Hat Rin, such as Ao Thong Nai Pan and Hat Khuat (known as Bottle Beach) where chilling is the most strenuous activity that takes place. Koh Pah Nagn has all varieties of accommodation but isn't as developed as its larger, more well known neighbour, Koh Samui. Regular boats make the journey between the two islands plus there are direct services from Surat Thani on the mainland which is served by train links to Bangkok .

Which Beach To Choose In Phuket Thailand

Phuket is Thailand’s largest and established Island. It is easy to get to with a bridge connecting it to the mainland and its own airport, as well as boats from the mainland and neighbouring islands. It has a wonderful array of beaches to choose from and caters for all types of visitors. Package holiday makers, travellers and backpackers will all find a beach that best serves their own idea of a perfect beach getaway

Patong beach. This is the most popular and the most built up beach resort on Phuket. If lots of nightlife, western style bars and restaurants are your thing, then this is the beach for you. The beach is beautiful, with lovely sand and lots of shade if the sun gets too much. Water sports fans will not be disappointed by the choice of activities available. The beach vendors can be annoying, being hassled to buy cold drinks, fresh fruit, and sarongs or have a Thai massage can get tedious, but on the plus side, you will be well catered for without having to leave the comfort of your beach lounger. There are plenty of places to stay, from top quality hotels to basic bungalows.

Karon beach. Along the coast from Patong, Karon beach is a lot more relaxed than its neighbour. There is a good range of quality hotels, but also a better choice of guest houses that will appeal to backpackers and holiday makers avoiding the package holiday feel. The beach is long with good sand but does feel exposed, and during the monsoon season between May and October the sea becomes dangerous to swim in due to a strong undertow. Places to eat are plentiful and offer a good variety of choices.

Mai Khao beach. The longest beach on Phuket at 12km long, this is the ideal place to stay if peace and quiet is you reason for going to Phuket. It is a very quiet beach where long walks along it can be taken without passing many other people. There are not many places to stay which keeps the number of visitors low. This beach is part of national park due to giant marine turtles laying their eggs here. It is easy to get to, being the nearest beach to the mainland and closer to the airport than most of the other beaches.

Kata Yai and Kata Noi. The sister beaches of Yai and Noi are two small bays protected by rocks outcrops that provide a safe place for swimming. The Kata beaches are relaxed but due to their size and popularity can be quite busy. They are well provided by shops, bars and restaurants. Kata Yai and Kata Noi are not suited to the budget traveller due to the lack of cheap accommodation but, as there are good connecting services to the other beaches on Phuket and to and from Phuket Town, these beaches are still worth a visit even if staying there is not within the budget.

The Islands of Thailand

Whichever islands in Thailand you chose; you can expect a friendly welcome from the locals, great food, breathtaking scenery and amazing experiences. The islands of Thailand are plentiful and varied so you are sure to find you're ideal destination.


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    • jasmith1 profile image

      Adrian Smith 5 years ago from UK

      Hi ellebyam - do it! You won't regret it. :) The great thing about Phuket is that there is beaches to suit all tastes (beaches with shops/bars nearby and isolated beaches too). thanks for the vote up.

    • jasmith1 profile image

      Adrian Smith 5 years ago from UK

      Hi Paul, I have found similar situations on Koh Sumet too and found it sometimes the case in Thailand when entering temples. I have also found that when I had bought a ticket for a boat ride, that I was charged additionally to be taken to the boat via dinghy. Thanks for sharing - I haven't been to Koh Chang yet either, it sounds like a nice place.

    • ellebyam profile image

      ellebyam 5 years ago from North and South Poles

      Thank you for sharing a very informative hub. One of my dream places to visit is Phuket. I wish to go there before I turn 80 years old. :) Voting all the way up.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      This is a very useful hub introducing some good islands and beaches in Thailand. I have been to Koh Samet many times, and it is a lovely island not too far from Bangkok. The thing I didn't like about Koh Samet was being charged at least 200-250 baht to enter the island while Thais were only paying 20 baht. I have also been to Patong Beach on Phuket and enjoyed the nightlife. There is another island towards the Cambodian border called Koh Chang which is very big. I haven't been there, but I have heard it is nice. Voted up and sharing.