Best beaches in Thailand

Looking for the best beaches in Thailand? For most travellers, a trip to this dazzling country consists of a brief flirtation with the bright lights of Bangkok before escaping to the sun-kissed coastline or to an island getaway. The clear azure waters of the Eastern Seaboard, Andaman Coast to the west and the Gulf of Thailand along the east, are among the world's best for scuba diving, snorkelling, sailing and fishing
Krabi's beaches are among the best in Thailand. Photo: Shutterstock
Krabi's beaches are among the best in Thailand. Photo: Shutterstock

Once the preserve of cash-strapped backpackers and tour groups, many of Thailand's beach areas now cater to a far broader mix of travellers, with stylish boutique resorts, spas, clubs and fine restaurants. Lest you think that tranquil hideaways no longer exist, Thailand still has near-deserted beaches and remote islands too. It is a safe, family-friendly country, with masses to see and do – and who needs an excuse for a beach holiday, anyway?


Thailand's best beach areas

The Eastern Seaboard

Barely 90 minutes from the capital, the brash and saucy coastal resort of Pattaya, with its golf courses and the energy of a cosmopolitan playground, has been dubbed the 'Riviera of the Eastern Seaboard'. Soak up the atmosphere on Insight Guides' 4-day Pattaya Sun holiday.

Further east, the small, pretty island of Ko Samet is a favourite weekend escape for young Bangkokians, while Ko Chang, Thailand’s second-largest island and part of an extensive marine national park, is a key eco-tourism destination.


The Gulf of Thailand

Heading south, the Gulf of Thailand’s winding coast has shores fringed with powdery white-sand beaches backed by mountains. The most accessible and popular is family-friendly Hua Hin, which has an air of exclusivity due to its patronage by Thai royalty. Experience it for yourself on Insight Guides' Hua Hin Getaway. Pranburi is fast making a name for itself, too, with its clutch of cutting-edge and design-conscious resorts. Out at sea, Ko Samui, the biggest of some 80 islands constituting the Samui Archipelago, is a significant draw, and can be combined with visits to neighbouring Ko Phangan, notorious for its anything-goes full-moon raves, and Ko Tao, a renowned diving Mecca.


Phuket

Lapped by the blue-green waters of the Andaman Sea along the west coast is Thailand’s largest island, Phuket, the kingdom’s premier island holiday spot. Insight Guides' Phuket Fun Island takes in the destination's best beaches and more, including elephant treks and canoe excursions. Opt to stay in one of the world’s most luxurious hotels too, while exploring rustic fishing villages and fragile mangrove forests in the day.


The Andaman Coast

Further south are Ao Phang Nga and Krabi, and islands such as Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lanta. With their ancient landscape and craggy limestone towers teetering skyward from clear azure waters, these are the preserve of intrepid rock climbers. At sea, kayakers are drawn to caves carved out by underground streams and lagoons hidden within limestone cliffs. Further out are renowned dive sites, near Similan and Surin islands, that beckon the world’s scuba-diving fraternity. Heading south, Trang, Satun and Songkhla, all breathtakingly beautiful, remain relatively untouched by tourism. Travel on Insight Guides' Krabi Beach Escape, choosing to relax beach-side or explore the island's craggy coastlines at your own pace. 

Koh Nangyuan, Surat Thani, Thailand. Photo: ShutterstockKo Tao is one of the country's many unmissable islands and home to some of Thailand's best beaches. Photo: Shutterstock


The best beaches in Thailand

Ao Kantiang, Ko Lanta

No pressing crowds, only pure white sand and clear aquamarine waters. About 6km from popular Hat Khlong Hin is the lovely and picturesque bay of Ao Kantiang. This bay has a secluded and private feel to it as it’s framed on both sides and to the back by jungle-covered hills. To the north and high up on the hill are a handful of small resorts; there are lovely views from the top but it also means climbing up a considerable number of steps (away from the beautiful beach) to reach it. The southern end of this bay is anchored by the luxury Pimalai Resort and Spa. This five-star resort is set in 40 hectares of natural tropical surroundings and has direct access to the 1km-long stretch of pure white-sand beach. Add a day-time stop or full-blown stay here to your Thailand beach itinerary while travelling on Insight Guides' Krabi Discovery holiday.


Hat Kuat (Bottle Beach), Ko Phangan

Hat Kuat is the first of two bays worth seeking out on the north coast. It is one of the island's best and most secluded bays, and has its own insular scene that attracts a lot of repeat visitors. The splendid white-sand beach is backed by steep hills and, like elsewhere in Ko Phangan, most accommodation is at the budget end. For many years, no access by road meant the only entry point was by boat from Ao Chalok Lam. Now, you can rent a scooter and cruise there through the island’s jungle scenery.


Hat Nai Thon, Phuket

The smallest of Sirinat National Park’s three beaches, and one of the most isolated on the island, is Hat Nai Thon, which, due to its position at the foot of a series of high hills, is harder to reach and requires a journey on a long and winding road passing jungle and rubber plantations. The beach is not totally deserted, however, and a few sunbeams are available for hire. Nat Thon is sheltered from the wind and waves and offers good swimming and snorkelling along its rocky headlands, which attract rich marine life year round. Relax on Phuket's best beaches, including Hat Nai Thon, on Insight Guides' Thailand Discovery trip

Nai Harn beach. Photo: ShutterstockHat Nai Harn beach on Phuket is often tourist-free and undoubtedly one of the best beaches in Thailand. Photo: Shutterstock


Hat Tham Phra Nang, Krabi

Undeniably, the prettiest beach in Railay Bay, if not the whole of Thailand, is Hat Tham Phra Nang, where the extravagant and ultra-expensive Rayavadee Resort occupies prime position (there is no other accommodation here). Set amid 11 hectares of coconut groves and surrounded by limestone cliffs, Tham Phra Nang is endowed with the softest of white sands, limpid turquoise-blue waters and beautiful coral reefs offshore. Although staying at the Rayavadee gives you the most direct access to this beach, many day-trippers from Railway West and Railway East flock to Tham Phra Nang to sunbathe, swim and snorkel. Our local experts will help you steer clear of the crowds on our Krabi Beach Escape holiday.


Ko Nang Yuan

A short boat ride off Ko Tao's northern tip is the picture-perfect Ko Nang Yuan, a gathering of three islets joined together by mere wisps of sand that can be walked across at low tide. The setting is incredible, both above and below sea level, so much so that dive trips and boat tours from around the island, as well as Ko Samui and Ko Phangan all converge here, somewhat spoiling the idyll. With simple bungalows spread across the three outcrops, only the Nangyuan Island Dive Resort has the rights to operate here, with outside visitors charge B100 just to step foot on the island.


Ao Hin Khok, Ko Samet

Almost all of the island's sandy beaches run down the east coast, gradually getting more isolated as the island narrows. The bay of Ao Hin Khok is separated from the busier Hat Sai Kaew by a rocky promontory marked by a weathered mermaid statue inspired by Sunthorn Phu's poem. Travellers tend to stay here and at the next bay (Ao Phai), which has an equally nice white sandy beach. Most activities here are relaxed and beach-bound, think snorkelling, sunbathing and beach strolls. 


Ao Lo Dalam, Ko Phi Phi

Opposite the island’s main beach (Ao Ton Sai) and only a few minutes’ walk away, Ao Lo Dalam is a quieter and prettier bay with a lovely curve of white sand skimming clear blue waters. What makes it even nicer is that, following the 2004 tsunami, reconstruction along Ao Lo Dalam has been slower compared to Ao Ton Sai. You’ll find a secluded feel still, especially compared to its ferry-full neighbour.


Ready to take a trip to Thailand?

Insight Guides can help you plan incredible trips to Thailand. Simply get in touch to let us know your ideas for the trip and when you would like to travel. Our local experts will then create a tailor-made itinerary especially, which you can amend until it's exactly how you want it. You can browse our pre-planned itineraries for inspiration, and keep in mind that they can all be tailored to suit your specific needs.


Updated 20 March, 2018