Thailand is well known for its beautiful islands and pristine beaches. One of the things most travelers would look for while planning a trip to Thailand is which islands to cover and how to do “Island Hopping” ie move from one island to the other. And this is precisely what we were also searching for as we were putting together an itinerary for Thailand and trying to figure out how many days should we spend in doing islands of Thailand. So here is what we found interesting made it a part of our itinerary and tried to cove over the first 3 weeks of our Thailand trip. However if one intends to do all the things I am noting below then you can easily spend more than 3 weeks exploring just the islands.
Southern Thailand is more famous for its islands, however we also read about Ko Chang and the surrounding islands which were in the Eastern part of Thailand. So we first ventured out East to Ko Chang covering in between whatever places we found interesting and then traveling to Southern Thailand to explore the islands there.
Heres the map with route that we traversed on our island hopping
I already have jotted down details of all these places in individual posts so this post would be more of a summation of the whole adventure touching upon the main highlights and then linking the posts which have the detailed information especially how to get there, some of the costs etc. The best time to visit the islands overall in Thailand is between November and April but some islands you still can visit all the way to September.
Ko Chang and Ko Kut : Ko Chang is the main island in Eastern Thailand. It is Thailands second largest island. Many options of stay on the western coast of the island. How to get here and things to do within this island I have summed up on my earlier post on Exploring Ko Chang and Ko Kut.
- Hire a motorcycle and beach hop within this island, Klong Prao Beach,Kai Bae Beach, White Sand Beach, Lonely Beach are some of the most visited beaches here.
- There are several waterfalls and viewpoints to which you could hike up to, Klong Plu, Nang Yom, Kai Bae and others.
- You can base here and do day trips to most islands in the area. Ko Rand and surrounding islands are great for snorkeling.
Ko Kut can be explored as an island by itself but direct speedboat from Ko Chang runs only from Nov-May. Similarly the island hopping trips usually run only during the summer seasons, but depending on the weather there may be some islands that can still be accessed. The famous island hopping trip here are called the 4 or 5 island trip covering Ko Rand and surrounding islands, Ko Wai. Ko Klum and Ko Laoya could also be part of the itinerary depending on the tour package.
Ko Tao : This island which is in the western shore of Gulf of Thailand along with Ko Samui and Ko Phagnam become a part of the Chumphon Archipelago. There is no direct ferries to get from the Eastern Thailand area to these islands. You have to go through Bangkok and Chumphon and take the ferry to Ko Tao/ Ko Samui or Ko Phagnam. The earlier post on Exploring Ko Tao has more detailed information about this.
This island is well known for its diving sites and is more geared to this with many diving schools catering to tourists to get the certifications. However even if you are not into diving I would still not miss visiting this island as it had some of the most clear water during our visit in July.
- Snorkeling, swimming and diving activities are the best here
- Beach hopping another way of spending your time here. Sairee Beach, Sai Nuan Beach, Freedom Beach, Tanote Bay are some of the most visited beaches. Tanote Bay is known for its corals and we saw many boats offloading people for just to snorkel these waters.
- A half or full day trip to Ko Nang Yuan is a must do here. Very clear water and best place to snorkel. Opens at 10:00 am and really best to be the first ones here as it gets really crowded later on. Details in previous post on Ko Tao
July was actually a tourist season in these set of islands, so we could see that crowd at most of the places we visited.
Ko Samui : This is the third largest island in Thailand and so also the main island among the set in the Chumphon Archipelago in the Gulf of Thailand. It has an airport so you could fly in or take the ferry to the island. The earlier post on Exploring Ko Samui is a detailed blog on the island. Again very beautiful beaches and July still is actually the peak season here so lots o tourists visiting this time of the year too.
- Beach hopping can surely be done here and hiring a motorcycle would be apt for this.
- Several Wats and sights within the town that one can visit too, one of them being the Fishermans Village which we visited , you could also visit the Big Buddha here.
- An Thong Marine National Park is a must do from here. Details in post on Ko Samui
- Dolphin watching tours if you have the time, these are conducted only 3 times a week so check out the schedule details in the link provided above
- There are day trips to Ko Tao and Ko Phagnam from here , so you can base yourself in Ko Samui and do these day trips too.
Ko Phagnam is the other island closeby Ko Samui and one of the most visited islands here especially for the full moon party.
Phuket : This the largest island of Thialand. Situated in the Andaman sea the island is well connected by road to the mainland. It has an airport hence one can fly in directly or take a bus from any major town in Thailand. Details of the same you can read in this post Exploring Phuket
- Many beautiful beaches that one can enjoy here, so hiring a motorcycle would be best or this , although the roads have traffic and are usually crowded. Patong Beach, Kara Beach, Kamala beach were some of them we either visited or passed by.
- You can spend a day touring the old town streets and also the other tourists attractions of the island like the Big Buddha, several viewpoints and temples. More details are in the earlier post Exploring Phuket.
- Night shows are very famous here may it be the FantaSea show, Siam Niramit or the Simon Cabernet show.
- Several waterfalls that you can hike up to, Tonsai waterfall, Bang Pe waterfall and others.
- Many day trips that you can choose from. You can base yourself in this island if you prefer bigger islands and then almost cover all the southern islands as day trips. You will see several kiosks selling these tours. Among them Day trip to Phang Nga Bay which has the famous JamesBond island, Phi Phi Islands covering mainly the Phi Phi Lee are the most famous. Other trips could be to Similan Island, Khai Islands, Coral and Raya island, Mai Thon island, Hong islands, Krabi trips, Khao Lak trip etc.
The Western and Southern coastal parts looks very much commercialized, however for the Phang Nga Bay trip we had to cut across the island to the north east coast to Leam Sai Pier by road and the area you pass through is really the heart of Phuket island I would say, hilly with lots of greenery around you, giving you the typical Thailand island feel.
Phi Phi Islands : Ko Phi Phi is a group of islands, part of the Krabi province. Ko Phi Phi Don is the largest in this group and the most populated and having most of the stay options for this group of islands. Ko Phi Phi Lee is the most visited island in the group with mainly day trips being made to this island. Earlier post on Ko Phi Phi has details on getting here.
- Ko Phi Phi Don has quite a few beaches like the Long beach, Mo Dee beach and others which most all beaches you will have to travel by long boat. So hiring a long boat for a day and cursing the beaches at Don is an option.
- Walk through the small town part which is near the Ao Tonsai pier. Not many roads here just cobbled pathways with some souvenir shops and accommodations.
- Day trip to Ko Phi Phi Lee which may also include the Bamboo island
- Trek upto the viewpoints
Ko Lanta: This island is pretty close to the Krabi mainland. Does not have the magnificence of the limestone mountains as Phuket or Phi Phi but has beautiful beaches and a totally laid back atmosphere. Earlier post on Ko Lanta has information on how to get here and details on the activities mentioned below.
- Beach hopping , hire a motorcycle and travel around the island beaches of Lonely beach or Phra Ae Beach, Ko Kwang Beach, Klong Klong Beach etc
- Day trip to 4 Islands , the islands vary depending on season so you could cover Ko Gai, Ko Tup( Chicken island), Ko Mar and Ko Poda or Ko Talabeng, Ko BuBu, Ko Ngai and Ko Chueak.
- Day trip to Hong Island which includes the Hong Island, Hong Lagoon, Ko Pak Bai and Landing Island. More information on this you can read under Ao Nang section of the link.
Apart from the above which we explored there are many more islands that you can opt to visit and stay at. Ko Lipe, Ko Samet, Ko Tarutao, Similian Islands, Ko Yao are some of them that you can surely think of adding to this list to more or less cover the major islands in Thailand.
Hope this gives you a starting point to plan your itinerary for “Island Hopping” in Thailand. Enjoy the adventure.