The Best Beaches in Thailand
There are certain things that characterize a Thai beach experience—clear waters, white sand, and the iconic longtail boats that dot the shore. No matter where you go, you’ll find vendors peddling food, drink, souvenirs, or massages. There will be plenty of ice-cold beverages (frozen mixed cocktails, coconuts, or local Singha beer). And most likely, you’ll be elbow to elbow with other people.
It’s pretty much impossible to avoid crowds at Thailand’s most popular beaches, but if you’re willing to go a bit further off the beaten path, you might actually find room to stretch out on your towel. Our advice: ask one of the longtail boat vendors to bring you to one of these more isolated islands for a day, where you can sun and play in (relative) peace. And best of all, once you’re well-rested, you’ll be able to return to the resort areas and mingle away at night, as the islands are known for their party scene.
From romantic spots known for their sunsets to incredible adventure destinations where you can zipline between islands and amazing resort beaches, our list has it all. It’s a wonderful time to visit Thailand—the food scene is growing, Bangkok is quickly becoming more than just a stopover city—and no trip is complete without at least a few days at the beach. Here is our guide to the best of the best—some well-known, some completely remote—that will keep you more than busy on any trip.
Railay Beach, Krabi
This pristine beach in Krabi, one of Thailand’s most beautiful areas, is surrounded by limestone cliffs and is absolutely stunning. It’s only accessible by (an admittedly choppy) boat ride, but once you get there, it almost feels like a private island—complete with plenty of hidden coves. This is also the ideal beach for the active, with rock climbing, snorkeling, kayaking, and more. On West Railay Beach, there’s a promenade with a few shops and restaurants, as well as ferries that will take you to Ko Phi Phi and Phuket.
Phra Nang Beach, Krabi
Part of the Railay Peninsula, this broad beach is flanked by two huge cliffs. It’s incredibly remote—you’ll have to take a longtail boat here from Ao Nang, but it’s a great option. Visitors can rent sea kayaks, explore caves, or even take rock climbing lessons.
Koh Libong, Trang
Despite its beauty, Trang remains one of Thailand’s most undiscovered places. It’s got an amazing coastline and white sand beaches, as well as many uninhabited islands. The largest island, Koh Libong, has a population of endangered dugongs. Ask your hotel to set up a boat excursion so you can watch them graze in the shallow waters.
Koh Kradan, Trang
Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi is an island you absolutely can’t miss, especially if you’re traveling alone. It has something for everyone, from water activities to a young crowd of partiers. Make sure to take a boat trip to Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Ley, where Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Beach was filmed. The bay is surrounded by cliffs on three sides, and has impossibly colorful underwater marine life. Go for a day trip, as there aren’t any hotels on this tiny islet.
Haad Rin, Koh Pha Ngan
This undeveloped beach is famous for one thing—its full moon parties. Every month, the entire beach plays host to an all-night blowout with tens of thousands of people. Even if you’re not there for the full moon, the party atmosphere trickles over to the rest of the month, and you’ll always find lots of music, dancing, and drinking here. If you’re looking for a bit more of a low-key atmosphere, head to Haad Salad or the gorgeous Bottle Beach to take a break from the crowds.
This island, which is just a one-hour flight from Bangkok, is ideal for those who don’t have weeks to spend island hopping. It’s an amazing combination of wild jungle and clear beaches. The resort there, Soneva Kiri, has incredible design with Thai accents. Splurge on a villa, with an incredible infinity pool and a personal electric buggy to take you around the property.
Koh Yao Noi
This island, in Phang Nga Bay, is a 40-minute ferry ride from Krabi. The star property here, the Six Senses Yao Noi, has elevated villas and rooms overlooking lush landscaping. Here, you can do just about any watersport you can dream of, and take a Muay Thai boxing lesson as well. Those looking for a place for a destination wedding should consider Ani Villas, a private retreat with 10 bedrooms along the beach.
Sunset Beach, Koh Lipe
This remote, romantic beach is completely unspoiled. Also known as Pramong in Thai, it’s known for its fantastic seafood, and of course, the sunsets it is named after. Pick any restaurant with outdoor seating to enjoy the views over dinner. Go here to relax—it’s not crowded, and a wonderful place to spend the day.
Lamai Beach, Koh Samui
Koh Samui is no longer off-the-radar in any way, but all the new infrastructure means that it’s actually a great place for families. The Four Seasons Koh Samui has wonderful family villas for those traveling with a brood. Lamai is slightly quieter than Chameng, the main resort area, and has a great balance of activities, restaurants, and shops.
Kata Noi, Phuket
Phuket is indisputably the most popular island among foreign travelers, so it’ll be hard to find a quiet stretch of beach here. Avoid the high season (particularly around the Christmas and Chinese New Year holidays), and head to Kata Noi, which is one of the few laid-back beaches left on the island. It’s only a few miles away from Patong Beach—which is bustling year-round—but it has plenty of palm trees, warm waters, and great waves.
Koh Nang Yuan, Surat Thani Province
This private island is the ideal place for divers. It’s a short boat ride from Koh Tao, and great for a day trip. The activities here are unparalleled, with snorkeling excursions and even zip-lining between islands. There’s also a path on the island that takes you to the highest peak—it’s just a 15-minute walk—with a jaw-dropping view. Should you want to stay, the Nang Yuan Diving Resort—the only one on the island—has amazing diving excursions, and they’ll plan over-the-top tours for anyone who is certified.