The beaches of Thailand are an inspiration to others around the world. Glistening white sand, beautiful sunsets, coastlines teeming with palm trees, warm azure waters and hidden coves all contribute to the many reasons travellers flock to Thailand year after year.
In fact the country has over 2000 miles of coastline and around 8000 islands waiting to welcome you, so even if you don’t fancy battling the crowds for the most popular beaches, venture off a little and you’ll find tranquil pockets where you can sip your coconut in peace. Thailand is also a fantastic destination for swimming, snorkelling and diving due to the calm waters and tropical marine life that call it home. Below are our recommendations on the best beaches in Thailand.
The best beaches to visit in Thailand
Thailand has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Check out our list of some of the best beaches which you can experience on your holiday to Thailand.
1. Railay Beach – Krabi
Encompassed by towering limestone cliffs and the Andaman Sea, Railay Beach in Krabi is only accessible by boat. This means that while it can get busy during high season, it is generally still peaceful since there is no access by driving to the beach. Here you will find gorgeous white sand with some incredible viewpoints and caves, all within walking distance from the main beach. You can even find a lagoon nestled in the cliffs!
There are a few accommodation options here which means you can stay overnight and get up early for the sunrise to enjoy the beach while it’s quiet. From here you can also visit Tonsai Beach, either a 5 minute boat ride away or one hike through the rainforest. As it’s a little harder to get to, it tends to have lower visitor numbers.
Some of the best beaches in Thailand are the hardest to get to. Read blogs, ask locals and be prepared to trek off the beaten path to find them!
2. Karon Beach – Phuket
Another popular tourist hotspot, Karon Beach is the third longest beach in Phuket. It is easily accessible by road and water and with a host of accommodation and restaurant options, it’s definitely one of the busiest on the island. Nevertheless it is painted in golden sand and beautifully clear water which makes it perfect for swimming and snorkelling. Since Karon Beach is quite long (3km) it normally doesn’t feel too overcrowded.
3. Koh Tachai – Similan Islands
Koh Tachai is accessible on boat trips from Phuket and was recently added to the Similan National Park. The island encompasses 800km of sandy beaches and lush rainforest. There is very limited accommodation on the island and camping is the only option, but this adds to its undeveloped and rugged charm. The waters in this area are famous for snorkelling and scuba diving and visitors can see various tropical fish as well as whale sharks and occasionally hawksbill turtles. The island was closed to visitors in 2016 due to overcrowding but is now open with new restrictions – it is closed from May to early October each year during the monsoon season to allow ecosystems to rejuvenate and thrive.
4. Kantiang Beach – Krabi
Koh Lanta Island is located in the province of Krabi and is home to various stunning beaches as well as national parks. Kantiang Beach is on the peaceful side due to its more secluded location (it is only accessible by walking through the national park as no road goes to it) making it the perfect place to get the beach towel out and relax. For some lovely panoramic views of the landscape you can also climb up the nearby cliff.
5. Maya Bay – Koh Phi Phi
Maya Bay has held the title of one of Thailand’s most popular beaches for years. If you haven’t heard of Maya Bay, perhaps “that one from Leonardo DiCaprio’s film The Beach” might ring a bell. There is good reason this little haven was used as the backdrop for a movie – silky sand, warm clear waters and colourful marine life all make up this beach. The fact it is also enclosed by soaring cliffs just adds to the unique and beautiful landscape here. However, tourism has left its mark over the years and Maya Bay is closed until around 2021 to allow ecosystems to thrive. Just another reason to venture off the beaten path and look for Thailand’s hidden beaches.
6. Patong Beach – Phuket
‘Patong Beach is the largest and most popular in Phuket. With water based activities, bars and restaurants and lots of shopping nearby, you are never far from the action on Patong Beach. While it is very busy and draws a partying crowd, it’s perfect for meeting other travellers and enjoying a vibrant nightlife in a beautiful location.
7. Chaweng Beach – Koh Samui
This is one for the party enthusiasts out there. Located on the party island of Koh Samui, Chaweng Beach is the biggest beach on the island. An abundance of bars, restaurants and nightclubs line the strip near the beach and you will never be short of options for a great night out. Stretching out an impressive 7km, you are sure to find a relaxing spot in amongst the hustle of Koh Samui.
8. Bottle Beach – Koh Phangan
Nestled in the north of Koh Phangan, Bottle Beach is a little harder to reach but is considered one of the best beaches on the island. The most popular route is a water taxi from Chaloklum Beach however it is also possible to trek from Haad Khom Beach, which takes 2 hours but is intense – picture steep inclines and steeper declines! The shores are lined with palm trees and sugar white sand, while the beach is nicely sheltered by the surrounding cliffs. There are a few hotels and restaurants if you want to stay overnight, but it’s still quiet enough to enjoy some relaxation.
9. Donald Duck Bay – Similan Islands
You can find Donald Duck Bay in the Similan Islands, just over 80km northwest of Phuket. What makes Donald Duck Bay so unique are the large boulders dotted along the shore. One particular boulder looks like Donald Duck’s head when viewed from the side. The crystal blue waters are perfect for swimming and snorkelling due to the marine life you will see – from fish and turtles and crabs to octopus.
10. Mai Khao Beach – Phuket
Mai Khao beach is close to Phuket International Airport, and far from Phuket Town. Depending on where you are staying it can be a little inconvenient to reach but once you do – miles of rugged and untouched coastline await you. Due to its location it is infinitely less visited that other beaches in Phuket, and with a length of 11 kilometres you don’t have to walk far to find yourself in total peace and quiet. Part of the Sirinat National Park, it is thankfully undeveloped however the water here is quite dangerous and swimming is not recommended.
11. Phra Nang Beach – Krabi
Recently voted as one of the top ten beaches in the world, it’s no wonder that Phra Nang makes our list of best beaches in Thailand. Hop on a longtail boat from Ao Nang and enjoy the short journey to this little slice of paradise. A long stretch of golden sand meets huge cliffs and crystal blue waters, making it a perfect destination for your holiday photos.
12. Choeng Mon Beach – Koh Samui
Choeng Mon Beach is a little more upmarket, with a lovely range of three to five star accommodation options and little to no hostels. Located in northeastern Koh Samui, the beach consists of a series of bays which make it the perfect location for kayaking.
13. Ao Yai Beach – Koh Phayam
A 2km stretch of white sandy beach waits for you on the second largest island in the Andaman Sea – Koh Phayam. There are no large resorts on the tranquil Ao Yai Beach, simply smaller lodges and rustic bamboo huts. The area is popular with surfers thanks to the fantastic waves and visitors can enjoy a more relaxed and rustic vibe than the popular party beaches.
14. Paradise Beach – Phuket
You will find Paradise Beach a mere 4 km south of Patong Beach. It’s infamous for hosting the Phuket full moon parties, which are not to everyone’s taste but draws a large crowd. During the day the crystal blue waters are perfect for swimming in, and you won’t be stuck for food and drink choices due to the number of bars and restaurants that have popped up.
15. Freedom Beach – Phuket
Located on Phuket Island, Freedom Beach is a little quieter than other hotspots on the island. The secret is that Freedom Beach is only accessible by longtail boat between December and June. You can get there from Patong Beach, Kata or Karon, but the price depends on how the captain is feeling that day and how many people are in your group. To access the beach you will need to hop into shallow water from the boat so we recommend dressing appropriately and putting your electronics in waterproof bags.
16. Lamai Beach – Koh Samui
Located in Koh Samui, Lamai Beach is the second largest after Chaweng. It has a slightly more laid back vibe that Chaweng Beach yet still has a host of hotels and dining options. Due to the tropical landscape, from the coconut groves to the mountains in the backdrop, Lamai remains a picture perfect destination and is popular amongst visitors to the island. The southern end of the beach is also home to the Hin Ta and Hin Yai rocks – an interesting tourist attraction!
17. Buffalo Bay – Koh Phayam
Koh Phayam is a small island only 10km long and 5km wide at its smallest point, making it easy to explore. Buffalo Bay is one of the most popular beaches on the island. Soft white sand, clear blue water, coral reefs and even a mangrove forest await visitors who want to experience this beautiful island. There are decent accommodation choices yet it’s not overcrowded, perfect for those who want some tranquility with just enough to keep you entertained.
18. Long Beach – Koh Lanta
Located on Koh Lanta island, Long Beach, or Phra Ae as it’s locally known, is stretches of soft sand and beautiful waters. Since the beach slopes into the water at a steeper angle the water becomes deep very quickly – making it the perfect place to swim while staying close to shore. The hotels and restaurants are spread along the 5km of coastline, meaning it is not overcrowded and you are able to find pockets of beach to kick back and relax in peace.
19. Koh Mai Phai Beach – Bamboo Island
Located on Bamboo Island, Koh Mai Phai is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Southeast Asia. Stretches of crystal white sand merges with hues of blue and sparkling clear water. Generally less busy than its neighbours, Bamboo Island is a must see when island hopping in Thailand. While the island can be walked around in about 30 minutes, don’t be fooled by its size! It has some of the most beautiful blue waters for swimming in and a few shacks that will serve up freshly grilled fish.
20. Emerald Cave – Koh Muk
Emerald cave is nestled in a cliff on Koh Muk Island in Southern Thailand. The island itself has various lodges and restaurants but can also be visited on day trips for those who don’t wish to stay overnight. Emerald Cave is undoubtedly the most popular experience to have on the island and involves a “secret” lagoon on the other side with its own beach. In fact the location was so well hidden it is said that pirates used the lagoon to hide their treasures! To access the beach, you need to either kayak or swim through the 20m long tunnel. It’s best visited around mid-tide since during low-tide there is no water on the beach inside the cave.
Responsible Travel on the beaches of Thailand
You get it, Thailand has some outrageously beautiful beaches. With the rise of social media and image sharing, some secret beaches are secret no more and the popular ones are welcoming more visitors year after year. There are many things you can do when travelling to Thailand’s beaches to ensure that you are being as responsible as possible.
- Take all litter with you and do not leave any plastic/rubbish behind.
- If you see litter on the beach, pop it in your bag and take it back with you to dispose of.
- Do not touch or take coral.
- Do not swim too close to or disturb marine animals. If you are out swimming or snorkelling chances are you will see some and they will happily swim around you, but do not try and touch them.
- Spend the time exploring the islands for quieter beaches and hidden coves. And when you find them? Don’t geotag the location.
- Bring a cloth bag with you. This way if you want to pop to a local store for anything you won’t have to accept a plastic bag.
Visiting Thailand’s beaches on a Tucan Travel group tour
If there is one thing that Thailand does better than anywhere else in the world – it’s beaches. Tucan Travel group tours that visit Phuket spend two days on the island, giving you the time and flexibility to island hop or tick off the beaches that you want to visit. Why not check out the Bangkok and Thai Beaches tour, or Thailand in Two Weeks tour – both of which finish in Phuket giving you the flexibility to spend extra days on the island and explore further afield. Want help designing your ultimate Thailand adventure?