If you’re looking for the perfect island-hopping destination, Thailand’s west coast is a great option. Stretching along the Andaman Sea between Malaysia and Myanmar, the region is dotted with breathtaking islands. Some islands are quieter than others, but they all have their own charm. From islands renowned for their beautiful marine life to islands welcoming party goers, there is something for everyone here.
With so many islands, planning an island hopping trip on the west coast of Thailand can be quite overwhelming. So, to help you with your planning, we’ve compiled the best and most popular islands for island hopping on the west coast of Thailand.
As the largest and most famous island in the Andaman Sea, Phuket is usually the destination to fly to to start your island-hopping trip in Thailand. Although Phuket focuses on nightlife and entertainment, the huge expanse of the island ensures that there is something for everyone. If you like to party, the infamous Patong is full of epic nightlife spots. However, if you prefer something more quiet and peaceful, you can visit the beautiful Mai Khao Beach, Haad Sai Kaew Beach or the northern beaches of Phuket. Besides the beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife, you can also visit the temples around the island or explore Phuket Old Town. Enjoy Phuket for a few days or take day trips to nearby small islands before heading to your next destination.
Phi Phi Islands
From Phuket, your next stop should be Koh Phi Phi. It is perhaps the most famous island-hopping destination in the Andaman Sea, and for good reason. It offers breathtaking beaches, jagged cliff formations and clear blue waters. Leonardo DiCaprio’s film ‘The Beach’ also helped put Koh Phi Phi on tourists’ radar. Additionally, there is a regular ferry service between Phuket and Koh Phi Phi, making it easier to reach than most other islands.
Koh Phi Phi is actually an archipelago of 6 islands, with Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh as the two main islands. Phi Phi Don is where everything is: the main town, the pier (Tonsai Bay), all the hotels and the famous parties. Although Phi Phi Don is mainly popular for its parties, there are several quiet beaches you can visit if you need a break from the booze. Koh Phi Phi Leh is smaller and more peaceful. It is home to Maya Bay (currently closed), Phi Leh Bay and the Viking Cave. You can travel between islands using longtail boats. Apart from the parties, some of the must-do activities on Koh Phi Phi are climbing one of the island’s viewpoints to get a dazzling view of the Andaman Sea or a snorkeling excursion to explore the world submarine.
Catch a ferry to Koh Lanta from Koh Phi Phi to take a break from the party and escape the crowds. The atmosphere in Koh Lanta is as laid back as it gets. Although quite popular among tourists, it seems less touristy than Koh Phi Phi and Phuket. Life in this beautiful piece of paradise moves more slowly, allowing you to spend your days lounging in hammocks by the beach without any distractions. Besides relaxing and sunbathing, there are many fun things to do on Koh Lanta. You can explore the beautiful fishing villages that line the coast, swim in the crystal clear ocean, or wander through the lush jungles. If you like diving, Koh Lanta is home to the Koh Lanta Marine Park. It is an amazing place for kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving. Whale shark sightings are incredibly rare, but if you’re lucky you might come across these huge fish while diving.
While Koh Lanta is relatively quiet, the island still has jungle parties and bars to occupy your time after dark. There is also a quaint night market on the island, which is a great place to try kebabs and buy local souvenirs. A wide range of fantastic accommodation options are available on the island, from budget beach shacks to upscale resorts.
From Koh Lanta, head to Koh Lipe. Boats run from Koh Lanta to Koh Lipe about twice a day. Koh Lipe is the southernmost island of Thailand, close to Malaysia. It’s a small dream island, with perfect white sand beaches and turquoise water. Here you will find three beautiful beaches: Sunrise, Sunset and Pattaya. Start your day watching beautiful sunrises over Sunrise Beach and end it with refreshing mojitos while watching the sunset over Sunset Beach. The island is part of the Tarutao National Marine Park and is known for its top-notch snorkeling and diving spots, such as Stonehenge. Koh Lipe is one of Thailand’s less crowded islands, so sometimes you can feel like you’re on your own private beach. It is the perfect island to relax, live the tropical life and disconnect from the rest of the world for a few days.
Travel to Krabi from Koh Lipe as the end of your island hopping destination. Krabi isn’t technically an island, but it does have some of the best beaches in Thailand. Be sure to stay in Ao Nang, the central city of Krabi Province, if you want to be close to the ocean. Although Ao Nang itself has no great beaches, it is a short boat ride from some of the most breathtaking beaches in the world, such as Railay. You can only access Railay by boat as it is separated from the main island by limestone cliffs. There are many activities you can do in Railay, such as rock climbing and kayaking.
Alternatively, you can also stay in Krabi town, which has plenty of great accommodation options and markets for food. However, it is a bit far from the beach.
Various small islands in the Andaman Sea are ideal for side excursions. Some of the best are:
If you have a bit more time, you should add the Similan Islands to your island hopping list. It’s close to Phuket but a bit far from other islands in the Andaman Sea. Visiting this small archipelago is definitely worth it, especially if you like diving. The water around the Similan Islands offers some of the best diving in Southeast Asia. The marine life is incredibly diverse – you may encounter barracudas, manta rays and even whale sharks if you’re lucky. Also, the coral reefs here are very colorful, definitely a feast for the eyes and an experience you will remember forever. On land, the islands are teeming with rainforests, rare birds, reptiles and stunning white coral beaches. There are no hotels in the Similan Islands as it is a national park. However, you can stay in a campsite or in bungalows if you want to spend the night.
James Bond Island
While you’re in Phuket, be sure to take a half-day trip to James Bond Island (also known as Khao Phing Kan and sometimes Koh Ta Pu). It was featured in the 1974 James Bond film The man with the golden gun, hence the name. Located north of Phuket, this island is part of Phang Nga Bay. One of the most distinctive features of James Bond Island is the limestone cliffs that jut vertically out of the water. It’s quirky but certainly scenic and provides a great photo opportunity.
Also known as Koh Hae, Coral Island is a beautiful destination located about 3 km southeast of Phuket. You will find two main beaches here: Banana Beach and Long Beach. Both beaches offer plenty of water sports activities including canoes, bananas and snorkeling. Snorkeling in Long Beach is particularly thrilling since you can discover impressive coral reefs.
We can continue to add other islands in the Andaman Sea to this list. However, we think the islands above make a great starting point for a fantastic island hopping trip in Thailand.
Still not sure where to start when planning your island hopping in Thailand? Check out our ultimate island-hopping Thailand guide!