Thailand Best Beaches Guide 2017-07-16T13:23:24+00:00

Beach Pictures Thailand, with no-holds-barred guide

Ao Bay on Ko Similan, Similan Islands, Thailand

Ao Bay on Ko Similan, just about the most distant beach in Thailand. Photo by Mathias Krumbholz.

The nine Similan Islands famously offer superb scuba diving but are located quite far offshore, between 65kms and 105 kms from the Thai mainland depending on where you depart from and which island you choose to go to.

Thailand beach holidays, East or West coast?

Thailand’s beaches are well established, with warm water and weather, good food, friendly relaxed people, comfortable accommodation and they’re cheap. Incredibly cheap compared to the Caribbean, Indian Ocean or the Pacific islands  which are not dissimilar to Thailand though less crowded of course.

Thai beaches are frequently large, coated by soft white or beige sand, well serviced and in settings that are often strange but always comfortable, busy but relaxed.

For calmest waters choose the east side, Gulf of Thailand, though access is a little less convenient than the west coast as Phuket has an airport. The Gulf side exception is Koh Samui which has its own airport and is considering building another (which is a pretty good reason to avoid that island as it’s often uncomfortably busy).

The Bugcrew thought the brilliant white sand of Diamond beach (Sai Kaew) on Ko Samet on the east, Gulf side, was the finest of the many beaches in many regions that we wandered onto.

Note that while Phuket island takes the full force of storms (and tsunamis) coming off the Andaman sea, the island gives some protection to the Phi Phi islands and excellent protection to many  Krabi beaches directly east tho not on the far east Gulf coast. See Thai Beaches Map

Ao Nang beach in the Krabi district, Thailand

Ao Nang beach in the Krabi district  on Thailand’s west coast, but crucially  protected from Andaman Sea storms by Phuket island. Photo by Kallerna.

The Krabi province is coated with superb soft white sand and really stunning limestone scenery that tourists love to see and climbers love to ascend.
The two most famous beaches are West Railay (also known as West Rai Leh) and Phra Nang.

There are even more isolated powder sand beaches around Chicken Island that can be reached by longtail or kayak on day trips.

Krabi beaches offer a couple of interesting activity options including swimming at night in bio-luminescent waters, climbing the cliffs around Railay, sea kayaking among the incredible karsts and even a bit of hiking on a trail from East Rai Leh to Phra Nang.

Thai Beaches Weather

The very best time to take a holiday on all Thailand’s beaches is mid-December to March apart from peak holiday times of Christmas-New Year when the problem is overcrowding and overpricing rather than the weather. High temperatures of around 27C can be expected during December and January rising to 30C in March.

However, beaches on the east coast and west coasts outside this period have different best/worst time to visit so check east coast and west coast information to help you there. They also have less apparent regional flaws that you can see exposed in the different sections of the beach pictures links below.

Warnings

Box Jellyfish can be a problem in this region and have been responsible for fatalities, especially around the Gulf of Thailand and Phuket. In Australia swimmers/snorkelers know to wear ‘stinger suits’, but not so off Thailand beaches.

These are the most toxic creatures in the sea and if you swim in deep waters and encounter a toxic box you will have – at least – a hideously painful experience of your life. Household vinegar is primary first aid to deactivate any jellyfish stings so consider taking some with you and use it liberally if necessary.

Thievery is also not unknown, especially from low-end beach cabins or due to over-casual/zonked carelessness with devices and laptops.

Finally there have been a few attacks/mysterious disappearances on remote islands such as beautiful Ko Tao, blamed on ‘foreigners’. We feel that claim may be unjustified. Whatever, Thailand’s beach islands are incredible, but they are not perfect. Stay aware, especially solo females.

Thai West Coast (Andaman Sea side)

Phuket

Patong beach in Phuket, Thailand

Patong beach in Phuket. Photo by jbremer57

Phuket is the largest of Thailand’s islands and the country’s most popular sand and sea destination, though much of it is tourism of the package kind.

The beaches are largely similar, mostly with soft sand, clear warm water enclosed in pretty bays. Patong is the largest and busiest beach, attached to the lively but brash, noisy and unattractive town of Patong.

South of Patong are a handful of beaches that cater to up-market tourists while beaches in the north of Phuket become increasingly less crowded and offer less facilities the further away from Patong they get but are popular with seekers of quiet, good value beach holidays. Sand, however becomes coarser and waves more brutal.

Phuket and Koh Samui are the only beach areas with international airports, which makes them convenient but crowded – particularly with packaged people.

However, the roads are generally excellent and transport is comfortable and reliable, so a flight to Bangkok  followed by a minibus/taxi to the beach or resort of your choice is no hardship.

Ko Lanta

Yai Beach on Ko Lanta, Thailand

Yai Beach on Ko Lanta. Photo by Jens Petter-Salvesen.

Lanta’s port area is cramped and the island’s only road is a dusty mess strung with cables, bars, restaurants and cafés, Ko Lanta’s beaches are big, clean, relaxed and served by a string of efficient mid-range bungalow operations.
The Andaman Sea here is warm and generally calm but hardly turquoise and though there are no concrete skyscrapers on the horizon, neither are there the gorgeous limestone karsts (rock pillars) found in the Krabi and Phi Phi regions.
But never mind, Lanta is comfortable, relatively uncrowded and has sufficient facilities to keep seekers of interesting cuisine happy though late-night party people might find a limited number of venues.
Lanta is on the west side of Thailand’s mainland in the Andaman Sea, Krabi Province, and accessible by car ferry.

Ko Phi Phi (Phi Phi Leh and Phi Phi Don)

Thai longtail boats parked on Ko Phi Phi Leh

Classic Thai longtail boats parked on Ko Phi Phi Leh’s only beach. Photo by Diego Delso. Phi Phi Don is the residential island nearby.

The incredible scenery of limestone karsts sprouting from stunning turquoise water and dazzling powder sand beaches on Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh along with great diving and snorkelling should confirm these islands as Thailand’s number one beach attraction.

Unfortunately like most great sights worldwide in the Information Age the Phi Phi islands are saturated with tourists, both day-trippers coming from Phuket by speedboat and temporary residents of Phi Phi Don – the only island nearby with accommodation – coming over by longtail.

Nevertheless, if you feel the need to see these two Phi Phis we suggest the best way is the stay a few nights on Phi Phi Don, (look for reasonably remote accommodation unless you want hustle, bustle and tussle), then take a longtail over to Phi Phi Leh as early as possible to avoid the later arrivals from distant Phuket.

Try to include some snorkeling or ever better diving as the area offers terrific coral and marine life.

Krabi

Ton Sai beach in Railay (Rai Leh) Bay, Krabi district, Thailand

Ton Sai beach in Railay (Rai Leh) Bay, Krabi district. Photo by Kallerna.

Krabi beaches are almost as beautiful as the Phi Phi islands but are less accessible and well known as the Phi Phis, so get far less traffic. Krabi is also a considerably more extensive area so visitor numbers are not so overwhelming per sq metre.

Another benefit is there is development – unlike Phi Phi Leh –  so visitors can find a place to stay  or have a drink, but for some reason unknown to us development has been unusually restricted and discreet – unlike Phi Phi Don!

Furthermore since the waters around Krabi are protected but interesting beaches and rock formations frequent, getting around by kayak is easy and pleasant.

The downside is, of course, that if you can’t or don’t want to use kayaks then you either have to hop into a longtail boat to get anywhere as walking is practically impossible over moderate distances due to heavy vegetation and high rocks.

Still…Krabi visitors tend to be cool, unlike the rash of addled proles in Phuket, so it’s worth laying out a few dollars to stay in Krabi if you can stick to short strolls and the occasional longtail trip.

Thailand East Coast Beaches (Gulf side)

Koh Samui

Hin ta hin yai rocks, Ko Samui, Thailand.

Koh Samui’s erotic rocks of Hin Ta and Hin Yai near Lamai beach. Photo by Balou46.

Actually the beach beside these rocks is not so good but the rocks are brilliant. Hin Yai is the more discreet rock that appears to imitate a key part of the female anatomy. In the photo it’s just below and left of the outstanding member. The rocks are on Samui’s south-east coast, 2 kilometres south of Lamai Beach and 11 kilometres from Chaweng.

Koh Samui offers a good choice of fine beaches to suit different tastes and quite a few cultural or adrenalin activities too. Plenty of night action is on tap for party animals while more cerebral tourists enjoy visiting some of the many traditional temples on Samui.

For cheap thrills pick up a rental mopeds, scooters or dirt bikes just about anywhere and explore dirt roads through the jungle or along the coast to endless palm-lined beaches.

Bophut Fisherman’s Village is over-touristed but still retains some of its original charm and houses plenty of excellent sea food restaurants. The beach is a mile of white powder sand edged with palms but the sea is often unclear and unattractive.

Another interesting tourist option on Samui is Namuang Safari Park where you can lurch around on an elephant, which is interesting means of locomotion though the adjacent costumed monkey show is a little tough for those with significant sympathy for trained animals.

Pattaya

Pattaya beach at high tide, Thailand

Pattaya beach at high tide, though it’s not much wider at low tide. Photo by jbremer57.

Pattaya, on the Thai mainland and an easy drive from Bangkok offers two beaches, skinny Pattaya beach sand in this area is coarse and the water is murky and unattractive, though reasonably clean.
A much bigger beach, Jomtien, is farther south and will require a very long walk or a taxi/bike ride to reach. Jomtein is a primo windsurfing spot but the sand is still coarse, the water uninviting and high-rises line the shore. Gays line the north end of Jomtien as well as parts of the town.
Pattaya town is an overdeveloped jumble of pink-lit girlie/boy bars, half finished construction and monster hotels. This is not a serious beach destination. Nearby Koh Samet is.
That being said Pattaya offers quite a few family-oriented tourist attractions and the sex trade is a small, relaxed part of this growing city.

Koh Samet

Sai Kaew beach, Ko Samet, Thailand

Our favourite beach, Sae Kaew, on Koh Samet’s east coast.

Koh Samet (aka Koh Samed) is easy to reach from Bangkok, the sand quality is outstanding, the waters shelve slowly and are warm, clear and safe, while food quality – especially seafood of course – is excellent. Nightlife is lively on some beaches, though rarely outrageous.
There is a large choice of beaches with varied accommodation options from pleasant low cost bungalows to a couple of resort hotels on Hat Sae Kaew, though these are not as dominant perhaps as on some other Thai islands that lack Samet’s National Park status.
Getting to Koh Samet is easy from Bangkok, 3.5 hours by bus and half an hour by ferry.

Mango Bay, Ko Tao, Thailand

Mango Bay on tiny Ko Tao. Photo by Franz Winter.

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