There are too many to name here, but some of the most popular islands include Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Tao, and Koh Lanta. Samui may be thought of as the hub by which you can travel to most of the other islands in the southern archipelago, as it is quite large and is the only island in the area with an airport. Flights depart daily from Bangkok to Samui, but are quite expensive compared to other domestic flights. If you’re traveling to Samui it might be worth considering an overnight bus or a flight into Surat Thani, where you can take a ferry onto the island for less cost.
Snorkeling and diving can be found on most of the islands, however the small Koh Tao is world-renowned as one of the world’s top scuba diving destinations. Its beautiful underwater scenery, matched with the abundance of affordable dive shops, and the seclusion and keen diving atmosphere make this one of the best places in the world to spend some time and earn your diving certification.
Koh Phangan is another very popular island, known mostly as a haven for backpackers wishing to experience the monthly full-moon party or half-moon party. These beachside festivals begin with the setting of the sun and the loud, raucous, neon-coloured celebration continues until the sun rises the next morning. This isn’t the festival for everyone, but if you’re intrigued by the idea of a crazy, night-long rave then maybe go and give a fullmoon party a try.
If a quiet, relaxing holiday by the beach is more your style, however, really any of the islands will do. Even Koh Phangan quiets-down considerably outside of the fullmoon party celebrations. Koh Lanta, however, deserves a special mention in the category of peace and quiet. It’s a larger island than the others and is not accessible from Koh Samui, so the crowds are smaller and more dispersed. Koh Lanta is known for being a nice family spot as well, not containing the same number of bars, clubs, backpackers, and party-goers as many of the other islands in the south. To get to Koh Lanta, fly in to Krabi, Trang, or Phuket and take a speedboat or ferry.
But if what you’re looking for is complete solitude, for beaches with a handful or in fact even no other tourists at all, choose an island not listed above. Go for one of our staff’s favourites: Koh Phayam. Located in Ranong Province on the western side of Thailand, you’ll need to take a bus from Bangkok to get here. But it is well worth the trip, as it considered to be one of the most beautiful and least overrun of the southern islands. Don’t expect a lot of facilities here. There are certainly places to stay, to eat, to relax, and to grab a drink in the evening. But it’s a mostly undeveloped island, with most roads not even capable of supporting vehicle traffic. So grab a motorbike taxi or a motorbike for yourself and cruise down to one of the beaches in Koh Phayam to escape reality for just a few days.
If you’ve seen Bangkok and Northern Thailand, a trip to the southern islands is certainly in store for you. This is only a glimpse at some of the most popular and most loved by the teachers here at IH Bangkok. There are many more to explore. In the coming weeks we’ll take a look at several other parts of Thailand and explore a few of the best things to do there.