If your dream is to take a ferry and hop from one paradise to another, then the islands of Thailand are what you are looking for. Thailand is full of breathtaking islands, each with their own unique charms. Whether you want to snorkel, party or just relax on the beach, there will be the perfect island for you in the Land of Smiles. This means island hopping in Thailand never gets boring!
The main caveat to enjoying an island hopping adventure in Thailand is the planning stage. Deciding where to start and which island you want to visit is not easy. After all, the country has more than 1,000 islands, so there are an endless number of possible island-hopping routes. That’s why we’ve created this guide – to help anyone looking for an unforgettable island-hopping experience in Thailand but not sure where to start.
When is the best time to go island hopping in Thailand?
In general, Thailand has three seasons: cool, hot and humid (monsoon). However, the weather between the Gulf of Thailand (east coast) and the Andaman Sea (west coast) is slightly different.
The Gulf of Thailand, which includes the Samui archipelago, experiences the rainy season from November to December. These months are not the best for island hopping as the ocean can be choppy and visibility can be poor. Therefore, it is better to avoid this season. The cool and dry season runs from January to April, making it the best time to come weather-wise. You can enjoy more water activities during these months. However, accommodation, transport and everything else are much more expensive.
The best time to go island hopping in the Andaman Sea is between December and March. During these months you can enjoy many sunny days, very little rain and cooler temperatures. Monsoon season begins in July and ends in November, while prices are low and crowds are minimal, transportation choices are limited as the weather can be rough. Also, some islands are closed during this season.
For more information on the weather in Thailand, please read our article on the best time to visit Thailand.
How to go island hopping in Thailand
The majority of people will land in Bangkok and then travel to the island from the capital as in most cases it is the cheapest destination to fly to. Also, some people want to spend several nights to experience how great Bangkok is. From Bangkok, you can take a bus or train to southern Thailand. We suggest you use buses and trains that run at night, so as not to lose a whole day of travel. Yes, it takes much longer than taking a flight, but it is the most affordable option.
If your budget is not tight, you can fly directly to southern Thailand, but these flights tend to be more expensive. The main destinations for travelers to southern Thailand are Phuket, Krabi, Hat Yai and Surat Thani. Additionally, you can also choose to book flights with direct transfers to Koh Lipe, Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.
Island Hopping Routes in Thailand
Thailand has hundreds of beautiful islands, so it can be very difficult to decide which islands to include in your island hopping itinerary. Unless you have a few weeks to spare, you’ll probably only visit one group of islands in one region of Thailand.
In general, the islands of Thailand are located in two main areas: the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.
The most famous islands for island hopping in Thailand are located in the Andaman Sea, west of the mainland. People usually start from Thailand’s largest island, then continue south to Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, and then Koh Lipe. Those with more time can also add the Similan Islands to their island hopping itinerary. It is very easy to island hop from Phuket to the islands in the Andaman Sea, which is why people tend to settle in Phuket. Some people also use Krabi as a base.
For the best islands in the Andaman Sea, read our article on Island Hopping in the Andaman Sea in Thailand.
The Gulf of Thailand
The islands in the Gulf of Thailand are located across the Andaman Sea. They are closer to Bangkok than to the Andaman Sea. Tourists usually settle in Koh Samui. They then continue their island hopping to Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. Another popular route is from Bangkok to Koh Samet, Koh Si Chang, then Koh Chang.
For the best islands in the Gulf of Thailand, read our article on Island Hopping in the Gulf of Thailand.
All the islands, both in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, have similar characteristics: great beaches, beautiful sunsets and a range of fun activities. However, they all have different charms. Some islands, such as Koh Phangan and Koh Phi Phi, are known for their lively parties. The Similan Islands and Koh Tao, on the other hand, are excellent destinations for those wishing to explore the underwater world. If you want to get away from the crowds and the parties, then Koh Lanta and Koh Tao are the perfect islands for you.
Tips for island hopping in Thailand
1. Don’t squeeze as many islands as possible
When planning an island hopping trip, you might feel like you have to squeeze through as many islands as possible. However, it can be tiring and you won’t be able to fully enjoy every destination. Some people just choose one island as a base and then go on day trips to many islands. Instead, do your research and decide which island is best for day trips and which is ideal for overnight trips. Phuket, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Samui are excellent islands for day trips. However, you may want to stay several nights on Koh Lanta, Koh Lipe, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. By doing this you can explore many islands while enjoying your time.
2. Take a look at the map of the island of Thailand
To make your island hopping more efficient, in terms of time and money, be sure to take a look at the Thailand island map after choosing the island you want to visit. Find a website that provides a map of the islands and plan your routes carefully.
3. Book your accommodation and boat transfer in advance
If your travel dates are fixed or if you are traveling in high season, be sure to book your accommodation well in advance. Many hotels are fully booked in advance if you are traveling between the high season of November to February, and those that are still available will be expensive. In addition to your accommodation, you can also book your boat transfers in advance.
4. Prepare a travel backpack
A backpack may be preferable to a suitcase if you plan to stay on many different islands. It also helps pack light. You can, of course, bring huge suitcases if you’re sure you don’t have to carry them anywhere, and your hotel offers shuttles to pick you up and drop you off where you need to be. If you decide to pack, take a smaller backpack (or dry bag) for your electronics, cameras, and other valuables.
5. Pack motion sickness pills
Even if you think you don’t need motion sickness pills, it’s good to have some if you encounter rough seas during your trip.
6. Make sure you have cash on you
If you plan to visit islands far from the main tourist areas, it will be difficult to find ATMs or establishments that accept credit cards. Therefore, make sure you have enough cash on you.
7. Check travel restrictions
It is possible to travel to Thailand in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the process can be tiring. Requirements can change all the time depending on the situation in the country. Therefore, always keep an eye out for changes in the country’s travel restrictions. Also, make sure you have travel insurance that covers Covid-19 related claims to be on the safe side. Please keep in mind that some venues may be closed and some festivals may be postponed due to Covid-19.
With so many beautiful islands, island hopping in Thailand is a travel experience that many people dream of. So, if you have been dreaming about it, we hope this article can give you useful information and help you plan your island hopping trip in Thailand!
For more beautiful islands to include in your Thailand island hopping trip, check out our article on the Top 10 Most Beautiful Islands in Thailand!