The Best Beaches in Thailand

I’ve been to Thailand 8 times since I first went in 2005, this is a collection of some of the best beaches in Thailand that I’ve visited during my trips. Thailand is one of my favourite countries.

I like to take in the full experience so there should be something here for everybody, from quiet relaxing beaches to busy beaches with bars and babes sunbathing in bikinis, backpacker party beaches, off the beaten track destinations and regular tourist attractions. During my trips over the years I’ve indulged in all of the above, Thailand has it all.

Keep in mind that I haven’t been to every beach in Thailand, and these are only my personal experiences. Feel free to get involved and leave your opinion, or favourite beaches in the comments below.

Without further ado here’s my list, complete with instructions of how to get there and where you can stay once you’re there.



Sunrise Beach, Koh Lipe


Sunrise Beach, Koh Lipe

Sunrise Beach, Koh Lipe

Sunrise beach is the largest beach on the island of Koh Lipe, as with many large beaches, there’s a few different ‘spots’ or territories along the coast which have different features and atmosphere.

Along this stretch of beach there’s a mix of all different kinds of accommodation, a section of lively places to stay with beach bars to the south, and quieter areas to the north.

Location

Sunrise beach stretches the entire length of the east side of the island. Koh Lipe is in the Andaman Sea, off the coast of southern Thailand in the Satun Province.

How to Get There

You can get to Koh Lipe a number of different ways, you can take a boat from other Thai islands such as Koh Lanta, Phuket and Phi Phi, or hop on a boat from somewhere on the mainland like Satun or Krabi.

You could actually make Koh Lipe your first port of call in Thailand, there’s no airport on the island but you can get a boat over from Langkawi in Malaysia, they have passport and immigration facilities on the island. Keep in mind that you’ll only get a 15 day visa stamp if you’re going overland.

Once you’re on Koh Lipe, getting to Sunrise beach is simple, the island is so small you can walk to any of the beaches. If you don’t feel like walking or have a lot of luggage, there’s a couple of guys there that have motorbikes with racks attached who can take you around the island.

Where to Stay

There’s a variety of places to stay on Sunrise Beach, from very basic but fun backpacker beach huts like Lipe Beach Resort for 500 THB, to more expensive places up to the north like Mountain Resort for a few thousand Baht per night.



Thong Nai Pan Noi, Koh Phangan


Thong Nai Pan Noi, Koh Phangan

Thong Nai Pan Noi, Koh Phangan

Aside from the crazy Full Moon Party antics down at the Haad Rin Beach area, the island of Koh Phangan is mostly well-kept and fairly quiet, there’s quite a contrast in ambiance here. The island is large and a drive from south to north will take around an hour.

I’ve been to Thong Nai Pan Noi twice, three years apart in 2005 and 2008. Although the area has probably changed somewhat, I know for sure that the same resort I stayed in is still there, and the prices haven’t changed all that much, which is a good sign that the beach area has much the same relaxed vibe as it did a few years ago. I’d visit Thong Nai Pan Noi again in a flash.

Location

The beach is located in within Thong Nai Pan Bay on the north-east corner of Koh Phangan, which is in the South China Sea. Thong Nai Pan Noi lies to the north of Thong Nai Pan bay, along with Thong Nai Pan Yai beach to the south.

How to Get There

You can get to the island from the mainland or the other islands nearby, such as Koh Samui. Backpackers on a budget will usually take the sleeper train from Bangkok to Surat Thani, then take a bus to the pier and arrive on a ferry that stops in Koh Samui first. There’s also the option of flying into Samui, as they have an airport which caters for domestic and international flights.

Either way you decide to get to Koh Phangan, you’ll be arriving by boat since there’s no airport on the island itself.

Once you’ve got yourself on the island, to get to Hat Sai Kaew Beach you’re looking at a minibus ride that takes around an hour, the drive is quite scenic though, and you may spot some monkeys and other wildlife on the way.

Where to Stay

My favourite place to stay on Thong Nai Pan Noi is Baan Panburi Village Resort. I’ve stayed at the resort twice and was very pleased with the location just behind the beach, the food at the restaurant is outstanding and they serve some good drinks.

The price of Baan Panburi has changed only a little since I first went, so today it’s still really great value for money. You can get a beach hut with fan just behind Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach for around 400 Thai Baht per night at Baan Panburi Village, a true bargain.



Maya Bay, Phi Phi Leh


Maya Bay, Phi Phi Leh

Maya Bay, Phi Phi Leh

Maya Bay is famous, it is a tourist attraction after it was made popular from the movie ‘The Beach’, a lot of travelers complain that it’s crowded and such during high season, with too many boats going in and out. Many travel snobs laugh and dismiss this place entirely, especially if they have not been to see it for themselves.

Phi Phi Leh seems to be one of those places within backpacker culture that has become cool to dislike, but if you look deeper into the facts, this beach sees only a small percentage of daily visitors that a lot of other popular beaches in the vicinity get, with a lot less boats going around. It wouldn’t be right to be enjoying yourself on a popular beach in Phuket, Krabi or Phi Phi Don and rightfully state that Maya Bay is too commercial or crowded.

I challenge anyone to question the striking beauty of this place, just look at the photo! Maya Bay is one of the most dazzling formations of natural aesthetics that I’ve ever seen in real life.

The beach is kept clean of trash, there’s no loud bars, it is actually a national park and you have to pay a fee when your boat lands. The fee to visit Maya Bay was around 200 Thai Baht last time I was there.

There was some controversy when they shot ‘The Beach’ movie here, because they bulldozed some of the land at the back of the bay and added some trees of their own. A lot of people believe they shouldn’t have done this because it’s a national park. I wasn’t there before they filmed so I don’t know what it looked like before, but some say that the 2004 boxing day tsunami somewhat returned Phi Phi Leh to it’s natural state.

All in all, Phi Phi Leh and Maya Bay are worth visiting for a few hours, there’s also a few small bays and lagoons around the island that merit a visit, just ask your boatman and he’ll take you around.

Location

Maya Bay is located within Phi Phi Leh island, the sister island of the larger Phi Phi Don which is just a short, but wobbly boat ride away.

Both Phi Phi Islands are part of the Krabi Province of Thailand and lie to the west of the mainland in the Andaman Sea, south of Phuket.

How to Get There

Unless you’re a over-keen or suicidal swimmer, you’ll be arriving by boat from another island nearby such as Phuket or Phi Phi Don. There is a few different boats at different prices that you can take, speedboats and longboats being the two most common.

Just ask around the local tour operators or boatmen that you can see from wherever you are based, and you’ll find your way to Maya Bay without a problem.

Where to Stay

Thankfully there’s no resorts or fixed accommodation to speak of on the whole of Phi Phi Leh, but you can spend a night here camping on the beach. People usually stay in whatever accommodation they are in one one of the other local islands.

I’ve never spent a night on Phi Phi Leh myself, but have spoken to a few people who have, they all said it was a great experience and it’s something I’d like to do in the future.



Ao Nang Beach, Krabi


Ao Nang Beach, Krabi

Ao Nang Beach, Krabi

Krabi is a great place to stay, and for backpackers the Ao Nang area can be a lot of fun, it does see a steady stream of tourists and backpackers, but it’s not too crowded and the vibe around this area is mostly chilled out. You can relax on the beach and get a tan, go to a bar and party the night away, or both!

To me, Krabi would be an ideal place to relax after some adventures on the islands, it’s got all the services and amenities you need, plenty of shops and junk food to fill up on, but they haven’t overdone it, it’s just the right balance.

Location

Ao Nang Beach faces the Andaman Sea, it’s off the west coast of the Thai peninsula, due east of Phuket and is part of the Krabi province.

How to Get There

If you’re on the mainland coming from north or south, you can’t take the train all the way to Krabi as there’s no operational train station there. You’ll need to take a bus for the final leg of the trip from which ever train station you disembark at, if it’s Hat Yai or Surat Thani, it’s easy to join a shared minibus there via one of the local travel agents.

You can get to Ao Nang Beach easily once you’re in Krabi Town. There’s a shared Songthaew service that will get you to Ao Nang that costs 50 THB, it leaves from the shopping mall on the main road and the bus station. Taking the ride from the bus station may cost a little more.

Coming from one of the local islands, it’s possible to get to Ao Nang beach on a ferry or boat, but expect to have to go via Krabi or via somewhere else nearby. Ask a trusted ticket office for the best way to get to Ao Nang and they will sort you out.

Where to Stay

The Ao Nang area is host to a lot of accommodation options, the only ones you’ll really find on a backpacker budget are up the main road that leads down to the beach, just a slight uphill walk past McDonalds. My advice is walk in and out of a few places until you find one that’s right for you, check down the small streets, you might find a bargain.



Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui


Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui

Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui

Chaweng Beach is huge, it’s around 4KM long and there’s plenty to do here to cater for all tastes. This is one of those places that I consider being great for stopping off for a few days to recharge your batteries.

The Chaweng area has it’s critics though, the nightlife around the main strip is a little too ‘Pattaya’ for my own personal taste, but you can still have a good time, it’s a great place to go with a group of friends.

Some areas of the beach do have their fair share of hawkers too, which can be annoying, but once you get used to it and they start to recognise you, it becomes less of a bother. Some hawkers are really persistent, but always try to be polite, remember they are just trying to make a living.

When I last went here I was with a group of friends, we enjoyed having all the convenience stores and fast-food places (they have a Burger King!) since we had been on the move a lot in less commercial areas, it was refreshing.

One of my favourite restaurants in Chaweng is the Mexican place, the food is terrific and can be a good contrast if you’ve been eating a lot of Asian food on your trip. The Mexican restaurant has a crazy golf course at the back of it which is fun to play.

Location

Chaweng Beach is on the east side of Koh Samui, which lies in the Gulf of Thailand off the east coast of the Thai peninsula. The island of Koh Samui is part of the Surat Thani Province of Thailand.

North of the beach is Samui International Airport.

How to Get There

Chaweng Beach is easy to reach from anywhere in Thailand, you could literally walk into any travel agent and say “I want to go to Chaweng Beach on Koh Samui” and you’ll end up there, but you may be presented with a number of options.

Depending on where your starting point is, you may be able to catch a flight to Koh Samui and take a taxi from the airport, this is the most expensive but quickest way to get there.

Overland routes by bus, train, taxi or minibus will take you to somewhere on the coast near the town of Surat Thani, and you can catch a direct ferry to Koh Samui from there.

Where to Stay

There’s loads of places to stay on Chaweng Beach, but my favourite is the Mandalay, the rooms are secure, nice and the rates are reasonable. Mandalay costs 1000 THB and upwards for a night, but it made for a good resting place, the rooms had a fridge and TV.

Cheaper places to stay are available, but they get booked up fast, if you’re on a really tight budget you could stay away from the main area, find a bargain and commute to Chaweng Beach.



Haad Rin Beach, Koh Phangan


Haad Rin Beach, Koh Phangan

Haad Rin Beach, Koh Phangan

Backpackers from around the world flock to Haad Rin Beach for the Full Moon Party, a controversial choice, but this one is really for the hedonists and party-goers. This beach isn’t for people who are looking for something quiet or off the beaten track.

Haad Rin beach is not the most beautiful of beaches in Thailand or Koh Phangan, the sea is quite rough and there’s a lot of rubbish left over from the monthly Full Moon Party. They do have people cleaning it up, but it’s a big job and things get left over, especially during high season.

As long as you are careful and don’t get too stupid, the beach party is a lot of fun, I’ve been twice and would enjoy going to it again sometime in the future.

Location

Haad Rin beach is on the south-east corner of the island of Koh Phangan, which is part of the Surat Thani Province in the South China Sea. Due south is Koh Samui.

How to Get There

Getting to Haad Rin beach on Koh Phangan is very similar to how you get to Thong Nai Pan Noi as mentioned above. The boat ride and options of a train to Surat Thani or flight to Koh Samui is the same, the difference being the taxi ride to the area will be in a different direction, and will probably be shorter.

Where to Stay

The area around Haad Rin has hundreds of places to stay, but if you plan to stay there during a Full Moon Party, it’s a good idea to book as early in advance as you can.

If you don’t fancy trying to sleep with pounding music all night, you could opt to stay elsewhere on the island and take some transport to Haad Rin to attend Full Moon Party. This is what I have done both times I went to the party, I have to admit I don’t fancy staying right in the middle of the Haad Rin action.



Loh Dalum Bay, Phi Phi Don


Loh Dalum Bay, Phi Phi Don

Loh Dalum Bay, Phi Phi Don

Loh Dalum Bay is the most popular beach on Koh Phi Phi Don, it’s very accessible, just behind the main town and pier on the island. Over the years this beach has changed a fair amount, I visited in early 2008 and two years after that, during that short space of time, the beach went from being fairly quiet to being lined with beach bars.

A few years ago I would have recommended this beach to people who like quieter places to relax, but nowadays I’d say it would appeal more to the backpacker party crowd. The way this beach was going, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was totally lined with bars pumping out music at all hours by 2012 or 2013.

I had a great time here last time I visited over new year 2009/2010, the new years eve beach parties were a lot of fun. Koh Phi Phi Don still has a number of other smaller, quieter beaches dotted around the island with no loud music at all.

It would be interesting to visit Loh Dalum Bay in a few years time, to see how much it’s changed and report back on here about it.

Location

Loh Dalum Bay is located towards the south of Phi Phi Don, opposite Ton Sai Bay where the passenger ferries land. Loh Dalum faces north and Ton Sai faces south, this makes for a spectacular view from the viewpoint up a big hill on the island.

Phi Phi Don itself is off the west cost of the Thailand peninsula in the Andaman Sea.

How to Get There

There’s no airport on the island so your options are limited to boat rides. You can buy a ferry ticket to Phi Phi from almost any island in the surrounding area, and travel agents or piers on the mainland.

There’s also the option of taking a speedboat there, which will cost a lot more than a ferry ticket, but it’s a lot faster.

Once you have disembarked from your ferry and set foot on Phi Phi Don, Loh Dalum Bay is straight forward (north) from there, just a minute on foot.

Where to Stay

If you want to visit Loh Dalum Bay, you could stay almost anywhere on Phi Phi Don and walk to the beach. There’s no motor cars on the island (which is great), but you can catch a boat from one beach to another.

Prices for accommodation on Phi Phi Don start at around 400 THB per night for budget options, with room rates at luxury resorts going up to hundreds of dollars per night.



Hat Sai Kaew, Ko Samet


Hat Sai Kaew, Koh Samet

Hat Sai Kaew, Koh Samet

Koh Samet is an island where a lot of Thai residents and locals like to go on holiday, but it’s also quite popular with backpackers and regular holidaymakers. The island doesn’t attract hoards of visitors all year round, but it can get fully booked during Thai holidays and Chinese New year.

Hat Sai Kaew is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand that is readily accessible, I stayed on two different beaches on Ko Samet, Hat Sai Kaew was my favourite of the two.

Location

Hat Sai Kaew is located towards the north-east of the island of Koh Samet in the gulf of Thailand. The island itself is less than 3KM from the coast of the Thai mainland.

How to Get There

You need to take a boat to Ko Samet from a town called Rayong on the Thailand mainland. Getting to Rayong isn’t much of a problem, you can choose between a four-hour bus ride from Bangkok, or take a flight.

The flight will seem quicker, but it’s not reality, by the time you have got a taxi to the airport, checked in, waited around for a hour or two in the airport and boarded the flight, the bus would probably have arrived in Rayong before the flight has touched down. The bus will also be a lot cheaper.

Getting to Hat Sai Kaew when your boat arrives on Ko Samet is no problem, there will be a bunch of guys there waiting with transport, ready to take you to the beach!

Where to Stay

Hat Sai Kaew has a host of places to stay across the beachfront and backwards from the beach. The further away from the shore you go, the cheaper the accommodation will generally be.

Me and three friends stayed at ‘Sai Kaew Villa’, which was right on the beach and cost around 1000 THB per night, it was pretty good value since we were sharing rooms.



A Secret Beach


The Secret Beach in Thailand

The Secret Beach in Thailand

A lot of Southeast Asia backpackers and adventurous types who don’t get caught up too much in the guidebooks, go off the beaten path and find some really special places for themselves. I personally know a few backpackers whom have found such places, and when they find a real gem, they don’t really want to share the information for fear of the area becoming crowded. You could say it’s a bit like that movie ‘The Beach’.

I have to admit I was a little reluctant to even feature a photo of this beautiful little beach in the article, simply because I believe that some certain quiet beaches are better to be kept secret or little-known, or else there’s a chance they could be over-run and spoiled.

I’ll be visiting this beach later this year, and I’m looking forward to spending some time in my own piece of paradise. When I was there last here, there was only a handful of people on the beach at any given time. Perfect!

Location

You’ll either have to already know where this is, take a guess, do some research, or just go hunting for your own stretch of paradise! Remember that there’s thousands of beaches in Thailand all over the place, even some of the most built-up islands have small quiet beaches tucked away in quiet locations.

How to Get There

I won’t reveal how to get to the secret beach, it’s classified information!

Where to Stay

There’s a set of very basic but really nice huts and chalets set back in the treeline, just a few feet from the beach, they are really cheap, and I’d like it to stay that way!



In Closing


So there you have it, some of the best beaches in Thailand! Later on this year I’ll be visiting Southeast Asia again, including Thailand and the Philippines, and I’ll be on the hunt for more amazing beaches to experience, some I’ll write about, but some I may keep secret!

Everybody has different tastes and opinions about the beaches in Thailand, it’s a subject that can spark a good debate. I’m aware that some people who dislike a certain type of beach culture won’t like some of the places I’ve mentioned, so feel free to add your own comments and favourite Thailand beaches in the comments below.

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13 Comments on “The Best Beaches in Thailand

  1. Quality write up slice. Loads of useful stuff. Going in November

    • Nice one Anthony, you’re in for a treat, Thailand is awesome. I might bump in to you, I think I’m there around November too!

  2. Awesome pictures! I will be there in January, and this definately has me excited. We will hopefully be making our way up from Penang to Phuket by boat, so I will looking into which of these wonderful places we can stop by. Thanks for the info!

    • Hi Paul, thanks for the compliments on the pictures. Check out Koh Lipe if you’re going from Penang to Phuket, it’s worth a visit!

  3. Thanks for the great article…will be there in February!! SUPER EXCITED!! and i totally understand the “secret beach”….coming from sardinia (a true paradise on an italian island), sometimes i wish that just few people knew the existence of some of the most amazing beaches..and some of them i keep for myself! :P
    I will be totally searching for my own piece of paradise in thailand and all the south east asia!!

  4. Great piece of writing there, recently back from 6 months in south east Asia and some of the beaches you mentioned brought back happy memories, I would love to try ko lipe one day. Whilst staying in Trang, I found a very quiet beach with a handful of Thai locals and no westeners in sight, I would love to know where the secret beach is you mentioned but can totally understand why you are keeping it a secret! Happy travels in the land of smiles.

  5. An excellent post. I will definitely be hitting most of those beaches during my trip to Thailand in May. Thanks for this!

    • Thanks Daniel, you will have a great time in Thailand on the beaches, I’ve been to Thailand nine times now!

  6. Thanks for this. We’re going to Thailand in April and we’ve booked Sunrise Beach Koh Lipe. However we’ve begun to have doubts as I’ve read a few reviews saying that the island is very over crowded and has been ruined.

    What do people think? Apart from the obvious beautiful beaches is it a good island to visit?

    Thanks

  7. Slice, I agree, the most beautiful beaches of the world are in Thailand. I’ve been to your secret beach and will keep it our secret. When you are there, say hello to Patty.

  8. Great pictures, I love to go to beaches always went to south america, never asia, but i would like to visit Thailand, but i don’t have a traveling partner and will be going by myself, is it safe to go alone. And are people friendly there?

  9. Thanks for this article, I’m trying to pick the best beach to spend my 24 hours of beach time at. Looking for some serious scenery to take in. Leaning toward Koh Phi Phi and Maya Bay. Any tips?

  10. nice !! i’m Thailand lover too~ (shakehand)
    when u will visit agains??
    if got chance lets hang out together :)

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