Thailand East Coast Beaches (Gulf side)
Why Thailand East Coast Beaches?
Rainy season benefits
Endless rain on the east side of the peninsula is rare. It’s more about heavy showers and those are sometimes only at night.
This break from constant sunshine may be compensated by the vastly cheaper accommodation, not to mention availability, space on beaches and tranquility all around.
Finally, westerners usually associate rain with cold. This is not the case in Asia; colder than before the rains perhaps but no comparison with bone-chilling European rain!
Rainy season downsides
It could rain all day for two or three days in a row. Or it could be overcast. Wind may kick sand in your face/on your towel/into your camera’s delicate bits. You may get lonely. The mosquitoes (aka 747s in Thailand) may suck you dry. Seas will be rough and water visibility less than clear.
Thailand’s best overall sightseeing, non-beach, time is the cool season, November- February.
Worst is April – September, hot and sticky. March – May is hot but not humid. The rainy season is June – October.
Best Thailand East Coast beaches
Hat Saikaew (Diamond beach), Ko Samet
Sai Kaew beach, Koh Samet, Thailand East Coast beaches.
A 3.5 hour bus ride from Bangkok past infamous Pattaya and 40 minute ferry ride get you to Ko Samet, an island at the top of Thailand’s best beaches charts for years.
However, in spite of its status as a National Park, no airport and virtually no roads developers have finally got their trotters firmly dug into many locations.
Nevertheless, much of Koh Samet is still covered by greenery thanks to its National Park status and the east coast is blessed with the softest white sand beaches seen anywhere, gently shelving and washed by crystal waters.
One of the best is the widest strand, Hat Saikaew, also known as Hat Sae Kaeo and Haad Sae Kaew and variations thereof. Sai kaew’s north end is now dominated by a couple of substantial hotels that appear to be favoured by massed groups of Chinese visitors that move in packs and tend to take over the environment.
Chaweng beach, Koh Samui
Chaweng beach on Koh Samui. Photo by Jacques Herremans
Koh Samui, Thailand’s third largest island, is no longer a deserted tropical hideaway, but is still one of the world’s most popular resort islands, with soft white sands, (mostly) clear waters and loads of activities and entertainment, particularly nightlife. With its own international airport herds of sand grazers arrive hourly.
Chaweng Beach, the party zone of the island on the eastern shore, is overdeveloped and commercial, but has a lot of facilities and activities in a beautiful location. Don’t go there if you object to crowds and garbage.
Quieter but no less appealing beaches are Lamai (quite busy) and Maenam (not busy) beaches. Driest months January-April. Book ahead of course. More information.
Had Rin, Ko Phangan
The place for backpackers and party animals in Thailand but specifically during the Full Moon event, otherwise Chaweng beach on nearby Koh Samui is the place to be. Hat Rin is globally known as a prime rave venue, especially at the famous full moon party (the island’s legendary event started in ’89).
The island’s best sand, the glorious Hat Khuat (Bottle Beach), is a sheltered, secluded bay on the north coast, with some resort bungalows. (By boat from Ao Chalok Lam Bay).
Alternatively there’s Ao Thong Nai Paan, two crescent-shaped coves with a laid-back ambience. Best December-March.
If you go for Hat Rin’s full moon party any month, try to get there a few days early to secure accommodation, or take a high speed boat from Bophut pier, Ko Samui on the day. Buy a single ticket so you can decide when you’ve had enough and negotiate a return trip.
The event is infinitely more commercial than it used to be, with a glitter ball of bars and sound systems pumping out the necessary juice, though illegal drugs are in short supply due to a stellar performance by the local constabulary. Read more Full Moon advice on our Ko Pha Ngan page.
Hat Sai Ree, Ko Tao
Ko Tao is one of Thailand’s largest diving venues, with warm, clear gulf waters, is known for its inexpensive certification courses. It is relatively undeveloped and less commercial compared to its neighbours, Ko Phangan or Ko Samui.
For beaches try the 2 km stretch at Hat Sai Ree, Ko Tao’s longest beach, for facilities and action, or Ao Chaloke Ban Kao on the south coast, for shelter from the monsoon rains.
Best December-March. Book ahead if possible. June – Oct can see heavy rain and strong winds.
Ko Chang island
Quite a way (200 miles/320kms) south-east of Bangkok, Ko Chang is big and sophisticated enough to have air-con available if you choose, but undeveloped enough to feel you are in a relatively undiscovered tropical paradise.
This mountainous island is covered with dense vegetation and offers many excellent beaches but only one seriously touristy village (so far) – Bang Bao on the island’s southwest corner – which is the source of most diving/ snorkelling/ elephant riding / expeditions.
Ko Mak island
10 miles (16kms) south of Ko Chang, Ko Mak is even less known than its maturing (not in a good way! ) neighbour with only a handful of small hotels but a lot of pristine white beaches totally bereft of towel-bagged sunbeds along the 15 mile of crystal water shoreline.