Thailand is one of the most popular countries to visit for tourists around the world, and that’s mostly due to the hundreds of tropical islands located around its territory.

There are 3 groups of islands in Thailand – one of them is in the Andaman Sea, between Burma and Malaysia, towards the west coast the country; another one is in the east of Bangkok, close to Cambodia; a third one is in the southern Gulf of Thailand.

It’s hard to pick the best island – some are known for the wild parties, others for the scuba diving experiences, and others for the breathtaking views. Whether you like animated islands or secret paradises, Thailand is a place to be. Here are 5 of the best islands in Thailand you should visit if you’re planning your next holiday to this beautiful country.

1. Phuket

The Phuket Province is the largest and probably the most popular island in Thailand; it’s almost the size of Singapore. It’s divided in three parts – the Western, Southeastern and Interior Phuket. It’s an island with access to a dozens of mini-islands by speedboat. Phuket is both a beautiful oasis, a place for outdoor sports enthusiasts and a party central.

When is the best time to visit Phuket?

The best time to be in Phuket is between December and March. In this period, the temperature goes from 24°C to 35°C, reaching its peak in April. The rainy season starts in May and lasts until October, but you can still enjoy some sunny days even then.

What are the best beaches in Phuket?

The most popular beaches are on the west coast – Patong, Karon, Bangtao – and the most secluded ones are in the north – Naithon, Haad Sai Gaew, Maikhao. One hidden beach in the south that’s worth mentioning is Laem Ka.

What sort of activities and entertainment can you expect in Phuket?

During the day, you can ride elephants, do snorkeling or scuba diving, swim, go on boat trips, trek and even hike. The Patong Beach is most notorious for its lively nightlife; other places to go for entertainment are Kata Beach and Karon Beach. Other than the daily portions of fun, there are several festivals worth going to: the Phuket Vegetarian Festival (October), Songkran (April) , Loy Kratong (November) and the Phuket Gay Festival (April).

What are the best local dishes in Phuket?

The Thai food you can find here is as delicious as anywhere else in Thailand – just a little spicier. Dishes to try: Tom Ka Kai, Pad Thai, Tom Yum Koong.

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2. Ko Pha Ngan

Ko Pha Ngan, located in the Gulf of Thailand, is best known for its infamous Full Moon Party, gathering people from all over the world for one night of fun. It’s known to be a favorite place of past kings of Thailand. The beaches are beautiful and full of wild yet friendly creatures such as monkeys and birds. The tropical forest and the small mountains offer amazing views.

When is the best time to visit Ko Pha Ngan?

The temperature in Ko Pha Ngan tends to remain constant throughout the year. The rainiest months are September and November; the driest ones – February-April. The island is packed with tourists in November, December, February, March and August. January and July are fairly crowded, while April, May and June are the quietest months with the lowest prices.

What are the best beaches in Ko Pha Ngan?

There are about 30 beaches on Ko Pha Ngan. You can get to see all of them on a motorbike ride in one day and pick the one you like. The most beautiful and authentic beaches on Ko Pha Ngan are Thong Nai Pan Yai, Thong Nai Pan Noi, Had Yao, Mae Haad and Than Sadet.

What sort of activities and entertainment can you expect in Ko Pha Ngan?

Ko Pha Ngan offers scuba diving, snorkeling and cooking classes as well as beach sports, mini golf, Thai boxing, sailing, windsurfing and kite surfing facilities. There are also some nice waterfalls worth visiting. The nightlife is not so developed outside the Full Moon, Half Moon and Black Moon parties, which take place every month.

What are the best local dishes in Ko Pha Ngan?

Ko Pha Ngan offers Thai food dishes as well as Western meals. To try: jungle curry, Pad Thai, green curry and shrimps.

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3. Phi Phi Islands

Ko Phi Phi is a 6-island archipelago close to Krabi. They are considered by many as the most scenic islands in the world. The biggest islands of the group are Ko Phi Phi Don and Ko Phi Phi Leh; the former has been developed so much that it resembles a small city now, and the former is the uninhabited gem from the movie “The Beach”.

The other islands from the archipelago are Ko Mai Phai, Ko Yung, Bida Nok and Bida Nai; with the last two featuring some impressive vertical cliffs coming out of the sea.

When is the best time to visit Phi Phi Islands?

There are two seasons in the region; the hottest months are January-April and the rainy season starts in May and lasts until December. The temperature goes from 25°C to 32°C throughout the year. The rains are short and heavy.

What are the best beaches in Phi Phi Islands?

You can’t go wrong in Ko Phi Phi – all beaches are simply breathtaking. One completely virgin beach worth mentioning is the Monkey Beach. If you like snorkeling, you should visit the Secret Beach; if you prefer snorkeling with dolphins, then go to Ao Toh Ko. Other spectacular beaches are Ao Lo Moo Dee and Ao Poh.

What sort of activities and entertainment can you expect in Phi Phi Islands?

There are a lot of activities in Ko Phi Phi, such as scuba diving and snorkeling, yoga, rock climbing, cliff jumping, spa treatments or kayaking. One amazing thing to do is go on a shark feeding trip. The nightlife is very animated; as soon as the sun comes down, the fire-dancers show up, the dancing venues get crowded and the beach parties start.

What are the best local dishes in Phi Phi Islands?

Ko Phi Phi is not known for the food, but you can still find the same kind of variety as in most places – Asian as well as Western dishes.

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4. Ko Tao

Ko Tao, the  Turtle Island, is a favorite place for scuba diving enthusiasts. There are lots of exotic animals to see underwater – turtles, reef sharks, fish and even whale sharks – the biggest fish you can find in the ocean. In fact, there are 5 species of sharks in Ko Tao. The island has undergone a lot of developments in recent years, but apart from the luxurious resorts, it still offers rustic villas.

When is the best time to visit Ko Tao?

Ko Tao has three seasons– dry, hot and rainy. The dry season (December-February) is when most people come; this is also when it’s coolest – 22 to 29°C. The hot season lasts from March to Augusts and the temperature can rise up to 40°C. The wet season – September to November – still has some good days, but you can’t count on that. For diving, you can go to Ko Tao all year long except November, when the visibility is too low.

What are the best beaches in Ko Tao?

The Ko Tao beaches are beautiful – white sand, crystal clear water and spectacular corals. The most popular beach in Ko Tao is the Sairee Beach; lots of people come here to play beach sports. A more secluded beach is Mae Haad. If you’re looking for a romantic beach, go to Ao Thian Ok; you can also snorkel with sharks here. A delightful small beach is Freedom Beach; you can also enjoy a nice meal at a wooden restaurant. The best place for snorkeling, however, is Mango Bay.

What sort of activities and entertainment can you expect in Ko Tao?

Ko Tao is best known for diving, but you can also go water skiing, wake boarding, mountain biking, take flying trapeze lessons or do yoga. As for the nightlife, there is a great variety of beach bars with fire dancing spectacles and clubs.

What are the best local dishes in Ko Tao?

The best thing to try in Ko Tao is the seafood – various, fresh and delicious. Other than that, the island is full of very good places to eat that offer both Thai and Western food.

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5. Koh Samui

Ko Samui is a large island located in the Gulf of Thailand. It’s a very popular destination because it suits both backpackers as well as luxury-seeking travelers. Aside from the beautiful lagoons and beaches with their coconut palms, you can see mummified monks and beautiful waterfalls here.

When is the best time to visit Koh Samui?

The weather in Ko Samui differs a bit from the rest of Thailand. The dry season lasts from April to September and the wet season lasts from October to December. From January to March the weather is very dry and you can enjoy a lot of sunny days. The best time to be in Ko Samui is from March to August – the hot season.

What are the best beaches in Koh Samui?

The most popular beach on Ko Samui is Chaweng Beach; it has a lot of souvenir shops and restaurants. Lamai Beach is considered to be the most beautiful beach on the island; the sea is great for swimming here. A good place to go diving is the Maenam Beach. If you are a sucker for a dreamy sunset, go to Taling Ngam Beach or Phang Ka Bay.

What sort of activities and entertainment can you expect in Koh Samui?

Koh Samui is a good place for diving but it’s also known for elephant trekking. Tourists can also take Thai cooking lessons, enjoy spa treatments, do tree top cable riding, fish, kayak to the Anthong National Park and see the Big Buddha. The nightlife is most developed on Chaweng Beach, where you can find plenty of pubs, bars and dancing clubs.

What are the best local dishes in Koh Samui?

When in Ko Samui, you should try the delicious coconuts, which you can find everywhere. Seafood is also a must-try. Here, Thai food is spicier than usual and you can find a lot of Indian, Malay and Indonesian food too. Other local food items to try are the salted eggs and a fruit called rambutan.

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There are definitely more islands worth exploring in Thailand, but like most travellers, you only live once and it’s unlikely you’ll get a chance to see the whole country. If you’re visiting Thailand soon and want to experience the best island, pick from our recommendations and you can’t go wrong!

For all new cities, I go overboard on my itinerary, just to see every major attraction. Countries I've visited include New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Cambodia, Japan and Thailand. Mostly Asian countries. Next target - Europe!