Many people dream of going from island to island in the Gulf of Thailand in Thailand. Nothing compares to sitting on the sun-soaked deck of a boat, gazing at the mesmerizing turquoise waters and dreaming of the adventure that lies on the next island.
Scattered like pearls across the shallow cove of the southwestern South China Sea, the islands of the Gulf of Thailand are charming and exciting. Although there are many beautiful islands in the area, the top attractions are Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao. These islands are within a three hour boat ride of each other, making them a great island hopping combination. Travelers with more time usually add Koh Chang and Koh Mang to their island hopping list.
Koh Samui is one of the largest islands in Thailand. Most people tend to ignore this island and only make it their starting point before heading to other islands in the region. However, if you have the time, Koh Samui actually offers everything that makes an island gateway so good. The island offers breathtaking views, white sandy beaches and thriving marine life. If you like water activities, the island is located near Ang Thong Marine National Park, so you can go snorkelling and diving.
For a taste of Thai culture, spend your evening at the Bophut Fisherman’s Market or visit the Big Buddha Statue. The island is also known as one of the most established islands in terms of infrastructure, making it an ideal destination for families. You can find extravagant 5-star resorts, upscale spas, world-class restaurants, and chic sunset-view bars here. In addition, it is easy to reach various cities in Thailand.
Koh Phangan is mainly known for its beer-infused beach parties. Up to 30,000 revelers flock to the island each month to attend the infamous Full Moon Party on Haad Rin Beach. The party can last all night, and with DJs playing electronic music, you’ll enjoy fire shows and watch fireworks. Besides parties, Koh Phangan actually has a lot more to offer than partying. So even if you don’t like frenzied parties, you can still have a good time on this island. Venture to popular spots and you’ll find semi-hidden coves, waterfalls, and even beautiful temples.
If you really want to relax, stay at the northern end of the island. Here you will find pristine beaches with some of the clearest waters in the Gulf of Thailand. Spend your days lounging in a hammock, sunbathing with a good book, or swimming in the clear blue ocean. If you are into snorkeling or scuba diving, Koh Phangan has some amazing dive sites as well. Thong Sala Night Market is also a must visit before leaving the island.
From Koh Phangan, continue your island hopping journey to Koh Tao. Koh Tao is much smaller than Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, but it’s just as beautiful. Although there are a lot of parties on the island, there is always a very laid back vibe perfect for relaxation and soothing the soul. Koh Tao is particularly known as the most affordable destination for learning to scuba dive. There are a lot of inexpensive diving facilities here, making it a great place for beginners. Plus, the island is surrounded by some of Thailand’s best dive sites.
If you prefer to snorkel, there is a myriad of bays with lots of colorful corals and beautiful marine life to see just a few feet from the water’s surface. Those who enjoy hiking will be happy that the island has epic viewpoints to explore, like the John Suwan Viewpoint. From this point of view, you can enjoy the postcard-worthy landscapes of the island.
Despite being the third largest island in Thailand and located just six hours from Bangkok, Koh Chang is one of the least visited islands in the country. It is significantly quieter and more laid back than the other islands in the Gulf. The island is full of natural beauty, from majestic mountains and lush forests with waterfalls to beaches and coral reefs. Koh Chang National Park is located in the heart of the island. It’s a nature reserve full of hiking trails, rugged jungle, and scenic waterfalls. The main beach on the island is White Sand Beach. However, there are plenty of unspoiled beaches to be discovered here.
Although it gets more and more popular each year, Koh Mak is still a sleepy island with quiet beaches and a laid back atmosphere. It is located south of Koh Chang and north of Koh Kood. This is a really great island to visit for anyone who wants to escape the crowds. The island’s beaches are relatively empty, so you can relax without being interrupted by other people. The main beaches are Ao Kao and Ao Suan Yai, where you will find most of the island’s bungalows.
Are you ready for a thrilling island hopping experience in Thailand? While traveling during the Covid-19 pandemic is still difficult, there is nothing wrong with planning early! So be sure to save this article to use when traveling is finally safe and easy again!
If you want to learn more about island hopping in Thailand, check out our Insider Guide to Island Hopping guide article.