The many islands in Thailand make up a colorful mosaic of ivory beaches, turquoise water, verdant jungles, and golden temples. When you join us on one of our Thailand tours in 2024, you’ll have the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the dazzling beauty and welcoming culture of Thailand’s islands—from technicolor coral reefs and animal sanctuaries, to fragrant street food and floating villages.
Thailand’s warm, tropical weather, while glorious, is only second to the warmth of its people—after all, the country is known as the Land of Smiles. “Thailand is a destination full of contrast, beauty, and big-hearted people,” said traveler Carlos after returning from our Grand Tour of Thailand: Bangkok, Chiang Mai & Phuket. “This tour shows the country’s real face and highlights the importance of their culture, nature, and the legacy of their achievements. Spiritual connections with a hint of modernism makes Thailand a must-visit destination.” If you’re asking yourself, “What are the best islands to visit in Thailand?” read on for our guide to the eight best Thai islands to visit in 2024.Jump ahead to...
Snack and shop through Thailand’s island hub
Phuket, the largest island in Thailand, is a paradise of charming, colorful buildings and idyllic beaches. It’s the optimal place to begin your island-hopping adventure on one of our trips to Thailand. Many of the best islands in Thailand to visit on tour are easily accessible from this diverse cultural and geographical hub, which itself is bursting with things to see and do. “Phuket was amazing, and we really enjoyed the sea kayaking and limestone caves!” said traveler Erica after taking our Grand Tour of Thailand: Bangkok, Chiang Mai & Phuket.
Phuket is the perfect place to shop for souvenirs and sample Thailand’s fresh and flavorful cuisine, like o-aew, a shaved ice and jelly dessert that originated on the island—or try any of the other can’t-miss Thai dishes we love. Head to the night market on our Highlights of Southern Thailand: Bangkok, Phuket & Krabi tour to shop and indulge in local flavors. One travel tip: If you’re looking for a particularly meaningful souvenir, join us on our Thailand for Solo Travelers: Bangkok, Phuket & the Islands tour and shop for amulets at the Thai Amulets Market. The protective charms have been blessed by Buddhist monks, and when you visit, you’ll learn about their cultural significance.
Unwind on the beach or visit the Big Buddha
Ko Samui, one of the largest islands in Thailand, is a lush tangle of coconut groves, mountainous rainforest, hidden waterfalls, and palm tree-lined beaches. “This is a very traditional sun-and-sand destination where travelers can truly relax, go boating and snorkeling, and enjoy mostly free days,” said staffer Tom, describing our Grand Tour of Southeast Asia: Vietnam, Cambodia & Thailand. “For the hotels, travelers are staying in a resort-style property on the seacoast. So, they’ll have a lot of free time to just unwind when they arrive after 17 days on tour.”
Spend your free time in Ko Samui relaxing on the beach, or head to Wat Phra Yai, known as the Big Buddha Temple. The ornate temple features a golden Buddha that towers nearly 40 feet high and is connected to the northern coast of Ko Samui by a short causeway. Visit in the morning to see locals bring offerings of food and flowers and hear monks chanting their morning prayers. Visiting temples is one of our favorite ways to discover the Thai way of life.
Phi Phi Don
Snorkel among vibrant and diverse coral reefs
There are six islands that make up the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand, and Phi Phi Don is the largest. Its soft, rippling beaches embrace coves of crystal-clear water that’s home to one of the world’s most abundant coral reef systems—it’s no wonder it made it to our list of the best islands to visit in the world. “Phi Phi (pronounced pee-pee) is literally paradise,” said staffer Kevin. “There are little to no cars on the island, and everywhere you look offers an incredible view of the Andaman Sea. It feels like you are in a movie on this island—which makes sense, as it was the place where The Beach and The Man with the Golden Gun were filmed.”
Visit Phi Phi Don on our tours of Thailand to soak up the sun and carefree culture of one of the best islands to visit in Thailand. Spend some time beach-hopping with a local guide, then stop to snorkel in the island’s pristine waters. Keep an eye out for the abundant marine life and many bird species that call Phi Phi Don home.
Observe playful macaques frolicking on the shore
Surprisingly, the backdrop of soaring limestone cliffs topped with verdant flora is the least interesting thing about Monkey Island. The area is home to a colony of water-loving crab-eating macaques, curious monkeys who can be spotted playing on the beach and bathing in the sea. The monkeys are skilled swimmers and will even swim between islands in search of food. Fun fact: Occasionally, the macaques on Monkey Island have been observed using found tools, such as rocks, to help them open foraged shellfish.
Visit Monkey Island on our Thailand for Solo Travelers: Bangkok, Phuket & the Islands tour or the Phi Phi Islands Cruise, Snorkeling & Lunch excursion offered on our Grand Tour of Thailand: Bangkok, Chiang Mai & Phuket to watch these intelligent and entertaining creatures. Be sure to have your camera ready—you’ll never know what antics you might capture on film!
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Khao Phing Kan
Zip around James Bond Island in a speedboat like 007
Also known as James Bond Island, Khao Phing Kan is one of the best islands to visit in Thailand if you’re a film buff. The impressive, rocky island was featured heavily in the movie The Man with the Golden Gun, starring Roger Moore as James Bond. The island’s steep shores and dramatic limestone rock formations jut out of the crystal water of Phang Nga Bay.
When you join us on one of our Thailand tours, you’ll cruise around the imposing island in a speedboat and see the iconic sea stack up close—the steep rocky pillar was formed by years of erosion. Strike your best Bond pose and snap a photo (one of our quintessential things to do in Thailand) as you sail beneath its soaring cliffs. “My favorite part was the Phi Phi Island day and the James Bond Island excursion,” said traveler Lindsay, who visited Khao Phing Kan on our Thailand for Solo Travelers: Bangkok, Phuket & the Islands tour. “It’s a must to see!”
Glide through breathtaking sea caves in a canoe
Koh Talu, or Talu Island, is one of the prettiest islands in Thailand—and that’s saying a lot considering there’s certainly no shortage of stunning Thai islands. Sparkling limestone rock formations, known as karsts, rise from the emerald waters of the bay as lush greenery cascades down the rocky exterior.
When you join us on a tour of Thailand, local paddlers will take you on a canoe trip through the dramatic arched sea caves that lace the island. “My canoe tour of the caves was breathtaking,” said traveler Joan after returning from our Thailand for Solo Travelers: Bangkok, Phuket & the Islands tour. “I will never forget this day!” Talu Island is one of many destinations that make Thailand one of the best places to travel solo.
Observe elephants at an ethical, hands-off sanctuary
The postcard-worthy island of Koh Lanta is one of the most serene and relaxed islands in Thailand. The peaceful island boasts long stretches of sandy beaches, clear turquoise waters, and lush tropical landscapes. It might not be as bustling as Phuket, but the culturally diverse island has a charm all its own. The inhabitants of Koh Lanta come from an array of cultural and religious backgrounds, forming a welcoming melting pot.
Join us on our Highlights of Southern Thailand: Bangkok, Phuket & Krabi tour to visit Following Giants Elephant Sanctuary, an observation-only elephant sanctuary on Koh Lanta, It’s just one of the responsible wildlife experiences available on our trips to Thailand. Here, you’ll learn about the sanctuary’s commitment to protecting the animals while you observe Asian elephants roaming freely in a safe, natural environment.
Koh Panyee Island
Explore a floating fishing village
Panyee is the best Koh island to visit in Thailand if you want to experience a distinct way of life. It’s different from other Thai islands you’ll visit on your Thailand tour due to its unique fishing village built entirely on stilts in Phang Nga Bay. The island is one of the must-see hidden gems in Thailand and was founded by an Indonesian man named Toh Baboo. Nearly everyone who lives in the floating village is a descendant of Toh Baboo or one of his friends or family members.
Visit the village on the Phang Nga Bay Cruise & James Bond Island excursion offered on our Thailand for Solo Travelers: Bangkok, Phuket & the Islands tour, and learn about the local way of life. Later, sit down to enjoy lunch at a floating restaurant. “We saw the only floating soccer field that I know of while visiting the fishing village,” said traveler Marc after returning from our Grand Tour of Thailand: Bangkok, Chiang Mai & Phuket.