The best islands and beaches in Thailand

The Tuk Tuk Club focus on adventures in the mountains of Northern Thailand, about as far away from the beach as it’s possible to get, but that doesn’t mean we ignore our famous cousins further South or aren’t as obsessed about finding the best place to relax with the sound of the sea and a sundowner. Most of our adventurers head to the beach for a few days relaxing after a Tuk Tuk Club adventure and we do all we can to make sure they hit the right spots.

Over the last few years more than a few parts of Thailand’s coastline have come in for some criticism of being over-developed, crowded, tacky or any other negative word you care to think of. And unfortunately in several cases this is true. But don’t be put off – steer clear of a handful of areas and Thailand still lots fantastic beach and island options to deliver a superb holiday.

Of course, much depends on what you’re looking for. For some a beach get away needs a smart hotel, lots of different options for dinner and markets / streets to explore in the evenings. For others a beach get away is far more Robinson Crusoe with quiet beaches, not many people and a real ‘old school’ vibe what they are looking for. And Thailand still have both!

Here’s a list of our top 5 picks for a great Thailand beach experience – and some offer both luxury (or semi-luxury) and Robinson Crusoe style all within touching distance of each other

Koh Kood

Located in the far East of Thailand, and just off the coast of Cambodia but still a Thai island, Koh Kood has some of the whitest sand and clearest sea of any island in Thailand. Far enough from the regular tourist trail, but not so far to be a real pain to get to, the island has missed the over-development of it’s nearest well known neighbour, Koh Chang, and retains the charm and laid back feeling that all Thai islands used to have.

With a series of great beaches to explore all along the West coast, interesting fishing villages to head for lunch at either end of the island and forest trails and waterfalls to explore for those looking for a break from the sand and sea there’s more than enough to keep you here for 5-7 days (or even longer).

There are hardly any vehicles on the island so pottering about by moped or even quad bike is a great way to explore and if you’re looking for some serious relaxation there’s no better place to go.

And, to top it off, there is accommodation for everyone. Ranging for the ultra high end Soneva Khiri with it’s £1000 a night (starting price!) rooms and treetop dining experience to simple beach huts literally right next to the ocean – and with plenty of other options in between.

A brilliant option for any beach lover, give it a go, you won’t be disappointed.

A busy day on Koh Kood

Koh Phayam

Next we head half way down the West coast of Thailand to Ranong province and Koh Phayam. This is where Thailand and Myanmar meet and it’s impossible to tell which islands are Thai and which are Burmese – and turn your phone on and you’ll see the service provider flip between Thai companies and Burmese companies.

Koh Phayam is around an hour ride by small ferry (and we mean small) and is a throwback to the early days of travel here back in the 70’s and 80’s and all the better for it. On the West of the island are a handful of stunning large bays with huge beaches and a series of very laid back places to stay. Most are in the old ‘beach hut’ style with bars made from drift wood and happy hours that start at 4pm and continue until late and the whole island seems to attract people who travelled way back when and are looking for that same vibe now that they’re a bit older even with children in tow.

At the far North of the island there’s a stunning crescent bay with a few simple rooms, perfect for those looking for some serious solitude, and then on the East of the island is one more upmarket place to stay – nothing super fancy but a lovely base for those looking for a bit more than a beach hut.

Like Koh Kood there are very few vehicles on the island and it’s a great place to explore either by moped or bicycle, just watch out for the cashews all over the roads, and, to it’s credit, the island still doesn’t have any ATM machines or any 7-11 convenience store.

Finally, explore the Southern tip of the island for unbelievable beaches. Not easy to get to but you can rent a boat or a sea kayak and head round. We’re talking ‘Bounty’ advert beaches with no-one there at all

Beat the crowds…Koh Phayam

Koh Yao Yai

Phuket is hardly known as a quiet laid back island – and parts of it are rightly infamous for dodgy nightlife – but a sort boat ride off the coast takes you to Koh Yao Yai (and it’s sister island Koh Yao Noi just to the North) and a different world entirely.

Koh Yao Yai is a quiet island with lovely beaches – surprise, surprise – and a great range of places to stay, from beach hut all the way up to incredible villa’s with pools. The majority of the ‘resorts’ are on the West coast catching superb sunsets and if you’re looking for a quiet get away to rest, read, swim and enjoy the sun all within just over an hour of an international airport then you can’t really go wrong.

And for those with more itchy feet not only can you explore the island or kayak to a couple of small islands just offshore (one of which seems to be home to a huge troop of monkey – look but don’t go near them!) or head out for day trips by long tail boat to explore Phang Nga bay to the North or Koh Phi Phi to the South.

No longer ‘unknown’ but chilled enough to put off the hordes, Koh Yao Yai is a great option for a real Thailand beach break.

Koh Yao Yai

Koh Jum

Further South along the West coast in Krabi province, Koh Jum is the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of Ao Nang or Koh Phi Phi, both of which are about as firmly on the tourist trail as it’s possible to be!

Koh Jum is seriously laid back. Around 30 – 40 minutes boat ride from the mainland it’s a long thin island with beaches and bays dotted all along the West cost of the island looking out over Koh Phi Phi in the distance. This is Thailand beach life as it used to be with lots of small family owned places to stay along the different beaches, laid back beach bars, potent cocktails and simple but great food.

Sit back and enjoy the views and warmth,  be more active and walk the West coast or even kayak over to the small uninhabited island just off the South West corner of Koh Phayam. There’s enough here to keep all beach lovers happy all with the right amount of relaxed lifestyle that makes it worth travelling this far.

And there is accommodation to suit all, from the brilliantly done Koh Jum Beach Villas at the top end to tiny wooden beach huts perched in trees further down the beach, earlier this year charging a mere £4 a night (per hut!!!!).

It’s incredible to find an island as laid back and old style as this so close to the more party / mainstream focussed areas of Ao Nang and Koh Phi Phi so if you do make it here, enjoy it and have fun but please don’t tell everyone….

Koh Jum – endless beaches

Trang

We’re cheating here as Trang is a whole province rather than a beach or island, right down in the South West of the country. With a number of islands with places to stay and some fantastic mainland beaches with simple lodgings or even the opportunity to camp, Trang is, whilst not quite a secret, one of the best off the beaten track beach areas in the country and somewhere you could easily spend a couple of weeks or more exploring.

From Had Yong Ling on the mainland – watch the monkeys come down from the cliffs as the tide goes out – to Koh Muk and it’s Emerald Cave there’s enough here to satisfy the most demanding of relaxed, quiet beach lovers. And if you’re based on the mainland it’s also easy to explore the forest and mountains just a touch inland with waterfalls and fascinating small communities dotted around.

Friendly, relaxed and very much the Thailand of most people’s dreams Trang might not be the first destination on your travel agents list but should be right at the top of yours…..

Trang – more than enough to keep you busy for weeks