By Merle Rosenstein
Thailand offers up a feast for the senses with its ornate Buddhist temples, deeply ingrained and compelling culture, delectable food, and extreme natural beauty – including some of the best beaches in Asia. Many feature silky sand, jade-coloured water and visually stunning scenery. And there’s a Thai beach for everyone, whether it’s luxury beach resorts or budget-friendly lodgings, secluded seascapes or party spots that rock all night, deep sea adventures or space for quiet contemplation.
With approximately 1,430 islands and 2,500 kilometres of coastline along the Andaman Sea, Indian Ocean and Gulf of Thailand, visitors will be hard pressed to choose just one or two beaches to visit. Here is a sampling of Thailand’s most popular island beaches.
Tourist Authority of ThailandAlong The Andaman Coast
Despite being hit with a major tsunami in December 2004, the Andaman Coast is still a leading destination for visitors to Thailand with its rugged limestone cliffs, mangrove trees, blue-green water, golden beaches and well-developed reefs. With only one third of Thailand’s coastline along its shores, the Andaman Sea has over half of the country’s coral reefs, 210 species of coral, and more than 100 species of reef fish.
Often referred to as “the pearl of the Andaman”, Phuket, Thailand’s largest and most developed island is a favourite beach destination. With limestone cliffs overlooking warm azure waters, in-land tropical forests and dozens of beaches Phuket caters to singles and families alike, boasting a number of luxury resorts and spas to choose from. Close to the mainland, Phuket is a good base for day trips to surrounding islands.
Patong, the most popular beach on Phuket, has a wide range of accommodations and leisure activities to keep visitors coming back. With Patong’s vibrant nightlife, visitors can end a perfect day at the beach in style.
Khao Lak, a quiet upscale seaside resort in Phang Nga province 74 kilometres south of Phuket, is a departure point for scuba diving trips to the Similan Islands.
Krabi is well known for a number of amazingly beautiful islands such as Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta and for some of the most popular diving sites in Thailand. Kayaking, sailing, birdwatching, and snorkeling are also among top activities.
A key island destination in Thailand, Koh Phi Phi, an hour boat ride from Phuket, is a small archipelago that offers both high-end and budget accommodation. Visitors to Koh Phi Phi can choose quiet seclusion or high energy pursuits. Packed with exotic marine life, the islands make an excellent launching point for snorkeling and diving trips.
Visitors looking for peace and quiet head to Koh Lanta, a 25 kilometre-long island with long beaches, relaxed atmosphere, stunning surroundings and numerous coral reefs and underwater caves, that attract many sunbathers, snorkelers and divers.
Tourist Authority of ThailandThe Gulf of Thailand
With a large number of coral reefs and shallow warm water, the Gulf of Thailand is a popular with divers and features some of the best diving in the world. Dive sites offer close-up views of black tip reef sharks, cleaner wrasse, sea cucumbers, sea stars, clownfish, and longnose butterfly fish.
Located in Surat Thani Province off the east coast of the Kra Isthmus, Koh Samui is the third largest island and second most popular destination in Thailand. Perfect for families on a budget, it features great restaurants and many activities including cooking courses, spa treatments, yoga instruction, Muay Thai training, scuba diving and golf.
With its own airport, Koh Samui can be easily accessed by international and domestic flights. It is also close to Koh Tao, an island known for its excellent diving.
Koh Phangan, a large mountainous island located about 100 kilometres off shore and about 15 kilometres north of Koh Samui, boasts some of the most exquisite beaches in Thailand. Less developed than Koh Samui, Koh Phangan suits partiers or families looking for a relaxing beach holiday. Visitors can enroll in wellness programs, yoga, or meditations retreats.
The tiny island of Koh Tao (Turtle Island), 45 kilometres north of Koh Phangan, is best known as a top diving destination and as a centre for environmentally friendly diving practices. The focus of these practices is the preservation of coral reefs and protecting and increasing the number of Hawksbill and Green turtles, that breed here.
For more information on the beautiful island beaches of Thailand, go to www.tourismthailand.org