Thailand: Take me to the beach

Looking for a bamboo hut on an empty beach or party nights in an exclusive resort? Thailand has an island for you

What's the attraction?

We all have our own idea about the perfect island – a bamboo hut and a hammock on the beach, or maybe a villa with a swimming pool and butler. Happily, Thailand has an island to suit most dreams.

There are more than 1,400 to choose from, spread out in the Andaman Sea to the west of the mainland and the Gulf of Thailand to the east, some just a short ferry ride or flight away and others involving a journey of a day or more from the capital, Bangkok. The Foreign Office has lifted its warning against travel to Bangkok, due to the floods abating. The city is served non-stop from Heathrow by British Airways, Eva Air, Qantas and Thai.


24-hour party people

Before Alex Garland's narrator, Richard, found that mythical island in The Beach, he hit Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand. Notorious for its wild, hedonistic full-moon parties, Koh Phangan has matured somewhat since the heady Nineties. Haad Rin's Sunrise Beach is the place to hang out at full moon and for the Alex Garland mythical beach experience.

If you can't make the full moon, you can still experience one of the "black-moon" or "half-moon" parties. There are numerous daily ferry departures from Koh Samui, taking anything from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the type of boat. There are also mainland connections from Surat Thani (including a night boat) and Chumphon. Don't board a vessel that looks overloaded or in poor condition, and ensure that life jackets are available.

If sleep is on your agenda on Koh Phangan, the Sanctuary Resort (00 66 81 271 3614;, located on a corner of Hat Thien beach, offers a variety or rooms from 5,990 baht (£123) for an Ocean View room right down to dorm rooms for 250 baht (£5). It's close to the action but also offers yoga and meditation classes. For sheer luxury, the family owned Santhiya Resort (00 66 7742 8999;; doubles from 10,000 baht/£206) on the isolated north coast should do the trick.


An island for two?

Koh Samui, blessed with stunning beaches, sparkling seas and romantic hotels, is a winning choice for honeymoons. Avoid the bustling main resorts, particularly Hat Chaweng and Hat Lamai, and head to the north coast, home to some beguiling hotels that offer a number of special honeymoon packages. These include the Tongsai Bay (00 66 2381 8774;; B&B from 8,600 baht/£177). A newer competitor is the Six Senses Samui (00 66 77 245 678;; doubles from 11,184 baht/£230 room only).


Go large in Phuket

Phuket, Thailand's largest island, has by far the most comprehensive range of accommodation, entertainment and attractions. Patong is its pulsating centre, packed with restaurants, bars, shops and a frenetic nightlife. Outside the town, choose your attraction from elephant trekking, crocodile and snake farms, waterfalls, forest treks, markets, go-karting and water sports. Hotels line Patong's beachfront and to the north and south are more laid-back and exclusive resorts. Kuoni (01306 747008; offers seven nights' B&B at the Amari Coral Beach Phuket from £1,036 per person, including flights and private transfers.


City to sea

Just over an hour's drive south from Bangkok's international airport, you're ready to take a short ferry ride to Koh Samet. It boasts Thailand's highest number of sunshine days per year, which is why it is known as the "hot, dry island". The northern beaches are pretty boisterous, particularly at weekends. Further south there are far fewer resorts.

At the southern tip of the island is one of Thailand's most exclusive, the Paradee (00 66 38 644290;; doubles from 17,000 baht/£350), with gorgeous villas on perfect, blinding white sand and an otherwise inaccessible beach.


Natural wonder

Just a 15-minute longtail boat ride off the mainland from Hat Yao, Koh Liebong is the largest, but one of the least developed islands in the southerly Trang Province. The mountainous island, known for it outstanding flora and tremendous birdlife, has a number of sparsely developed beaches and low-key resorts. It is also one of the last habitats of the rare dugong, of which about 40 graze on the sea grass out in the turquoise-coloured bay. The Libong Beach Resort offers dugong-spotting tours by sea kayak, led by trained naturists for 1,000 baht (£20) and rooms starting at 800 baht (£16).


The ultimate escape

Koh Phayam, located off the west coast in the northern Andaman Sea, has yet to be colonised by boutique hotels. With the nearest airport over four hours away, Koh Phayam is the ideal spot for those seeking empty beaches and a serene scene. It is accessed only by boat from Ranong and has no banks or ATMs. On its south-west coast, Ao Yai is a 3km sweep of palm-fringed sandy beach, home to many of the small beach resorts. Bamboo Bungalows (00 66 77 820012; has a range of accommodation from simple huts for 200 baht (£4) in low season, to sturdy villas available for 1,500 baht (£30) in the high season.


Dive in

Offshore Thailand offers some world-class diving opportunities. You can dive in both the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, which are affected by different rainy seasons – making it an almost year-round dive destination. The best opportunities are found in the Andaman Sea, particularly off the Similan and Surin Islands, which are usually accessed by live-aboard boats from Phuket and Khao Lak. Dive Worldwide (0845 130 6980; offers a 10-night package, including two nights on a liveaboard and five-nights in the resort of Khao Lak from £1,495 per person, including flights and transfers.


Who said that?

"In 1974 in Phuket you could stay at one of the hotels in Phuket Town. Out at the beaches? Well there was an open-air restaurant at Patong Beach where you could unroll your sleeping bag on the floor! That was it, nothing else. How times change." – Tony Wheeler, co-founder, Lonely Planet

"I feel we are all islands – in a common sea." – Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

"I wanted my next film to be something I felt strongly about, and The Beach and the character of Richard were the first things I felt some kind of connection with." – Leonardo DiCaprio.

"No man is an island." John Donne.


Insider information

"The first thing I ask someone hoping to visit Thailand is 'what time of the year?' Koh Samui and its neighbouring islands in the Gulf of Thailand have a different monsoon season. The best time to go is June to September as opposed to November to March for the rest of the country. The word I use to describe Thailand is diversity – from the beaches to the stunning jungles and mountains of Northern Thailand." Chris Lee, Tourism Authority of Thailand

More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?