Thailand’s a tropical paradise with breathtaking landscapes but the best vacation spots are surely the beautiful beaches. Scattered around the south of the country on the amazing islands, these waters come in 50 shades of blue. They never fail to be inviting and picturesque with sculpted cliffs and soft sandy shores. They’re also hosts to a jaw-dropping array of activities: from the legendary Full Moon parties to seaside massages, from jet skiing to surfing and sailing to rock climbing. These are the best beaches in Thailand: sit back and relax, there’s a stunning Thai beach for everyone.
Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach, Koh Phangan
Fine white sands lapped by crystalline blue waters, surrounded by lush greenery make the Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach one of the best beaches in Thailand. It’s got a secluded, hipster feel to it that makes those in the know seek it out.
You’ll find this tropical beach on Koh Phangan, an island 12 kilometers from Koh Samui Island. To get here from Thongsala, the main port on the islet, it’s either a taxi or speedboat ride. The latter is the more expensive option but avoids the 45 minute drive over the bumpy, unpaved road.
There are enough bars and restaurants along the beach to shelter in. For those staying over: keeping with the hippie-atmosphere, there are cheap bungalow accommodation options and mid-range hotel resorts.
Maya Beach, Koh Phi Phi Leh
Serene Maya Bay is dominated by the mossy cliffs towering above the shallow cerulean sea. It’s instantly recognisable as the setting for Hollywood film ‘The Beach’ which starred Leonardo DiCaprio. This beautiful beach is part of a national park and boasts unbelievable reefs for diving and snorkelling.
Maya Bay is located on Koh Phi Phi Leh but most tourists come as part of a daytrip from the larger Koh Phi Phi Don. The Phi Phi Islands are easily accessible from Phuket; it’s about a 2 hour ferry ride.
Take advantage of all this tranquil Thai beach offers with a tour of the reefs or an overnight experience on the waters. Don’t forget that there’s a 200 Baht entrance fee for the beach as it’s part of a national park.
Phra Nang Beach, Krabi
Phra Nang fits the image of a tropical beach paradise but there’s also a mystical aspect to this shoreline. The Phra Nang Cave is the setting of a shrine to the mythical Phra Nang: according to legend, she was either an Indian princess or a fisherman’s wife. Regardless of her origins, locals venerate her with by erecting phallic structures in the cave to appease and honour the goddess.
Ao Nang is the main tourist base, located on the Railway Peninsula in Krabi province. Phra Nang Beach itself is accessible only by boat. From one of the nearby local beaches, it’s around 100 Baht and takes just 10 minutes.
The impressive rock formations encircling the beach also play host to rock climbers. Locals often show up on long boats, selling fresh fruit juices and Thai snacks for reasonable prices to help tourists keep cool on this Thai paradise.
Patong Beach, Phuket
Patong doesn’t disappoint when it comes to powdery sand and blue waters but its real gem is the endless catalogue of activities on Phuket’s busiest beach. The 3,5 km-long beach is host to vendors selling cool drinks and Thai meals, companies offering jet ski and parasailing equipment hire during the day and party goers spilling over from lively Bangla Road at night. The most popular beach in Thailand is a feel-good place for the easy-going traveller.
Patong is situated on Phuket Island and is at its heart in Patong Town, one of the best places to travel in Thailand. This Thai vacation spot is a 1 hour 25 minute flight from Bangkok or a 12 hour journey by land over the causeway.
Recently, there have been a spat of scams at Patong Beach, generally involving jet ski hire. It’s important to check the equipment for damages before hiring so that you are not liable for them afterwards.
Donald Duck Bay, Similian Islands
This blissful beach gets its name from the flattened rock formation on its far right side that resembles the cartoon character. These huge stones are iconic of the area and many visitors to the beach enjoy climbing up and around them. The shimmering pale waters are simply divine. This seaside cove is part of a national park; beneath the waves grow amazing coral reefs, home to diverse species.
Donald Duck Bay can be found in the Similian Islands on the west coast of Thailand. The nearest mainland port to launch from is Thap Lamu Pier with journeys taking about 3 hours. It’s possible to reach the islands from Phuket by boat, too. Travel time is then between 45 minutes and 3 hours.
Accessing this stunning beach is dependent on ferries and the weather. Therefore, the islands are only available to tourists from around mid-October to mid-May.
Sailing around the Similians is becoming very popular, alongside diving and snorkelling.
Kata Bay is another popular beach in Phuket, considered second to Patong. It’s large enough to be divided into two sections: Kata Centre and Kata South. Kata Centre is characterised by lively bars and fine dining day and night along the road, while Kata South is the playground for the hotel resorts and the busiest part of the actual beach. On the far south side, there are local restaurants: ignoring the unappealing plastic chairs and tables, they’re laid back places where you can keep your feet in the sand and taste Thai cuisine.
Kata Bay is Phuket’s second beach. There are regular buses between Patong and Kata at cheap prices. For drivers, the road is unattractive with numerous potholes. It’s better to park halfway down and walk, though it is a hike back up.
Kata Bay is only good for swimming in high season; during low season it becomes rocky and dangerous, better for surfers than swimmers. While parasailing is offered on the beachfront, it’s not considered the safest location.
Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui
Chaweng’s often crowded and for good reason: 6km of palm-fringed soft sand give way to the powder blue ocean. There’s a fun, resort feel to the entire beach and everything you could ever need is in easy reach. The beachfront is dotted with hotels and restaurants, while hawkers selling drinks and snacks wander the shoreline. Although it’s big, the beautiful beach is more or less the same across the board. Just hire a sunbed and lay back for some of the best fun in the sun in Thailand.
This Thai beach is located in Chaweng Town, the main hub of Koh Samui. Koh Samui is a 1 hour and 10 minute flight from Bangkok. Although there is an option of travelling overland to Chumphon and then sailing by catamaran to Koh Samui, it’s time-consuming, taking around 11 hours, and often uncomfortable if using public transport.
It gets hot on Chaweng Beach and there’s little shade so hire an umbrella and bring plenty of sunblock. Happily, there are also pedicures, hair braiding and henna tattoos to distract you.
Lamai Beach, Koh Samui
Lamai is Chaweng’s quieter neighbour but every bit as beautiful and an even more tropical beach. It’s less crowded and more tranquil but there’s no shortage of options when it comes to activities or mealtimes. The water is shallow and calm, making it ideal for children or floating. With palm trees leaning over the pristine shore and rock pools on one end, Lamai looks like a postcard. Without a doubt, this is Koh Samui’s best beach.
Lamai is in Koh Samui which is accessible by plane or boat from the Thai mainland. It’s a 30 minute car drive from Chaweng Town.
The vendors on Lamai Beach are helpful and friendly, without being overly persistent. There are always ice creams, fruit salads, fresh smoothies and grilled sweet corn up for sale, as well as souvenir items like jewellery and sarongs.
Lamai used to be a backpacker’s haven but in the last few decades it’s become decidedly swankier with boutique hotels and pricey resorts.
White Sand Beach, Koh Chang
The name ‘White Sand’ was never better given to a beach. The sand here really is a pure, snowy white and the waters are an attractive hue of tropical blue. Scenery aside, there’s not much to do in the water besides swimming: no jetskiing or parasailing, White Sand is for the tranquil traveller.
Unlike most Thai beaches, White Sand isn’t known for hosting food-selling vendors. Instead, the hawkers sell accessories and other knick-knacks. You’re better off getting off your sunbed and heading to one of the bars or restaurants along the street, though there are some beachside set-ups. The fresh seafood completes the beachside experience.
White Sand is on Koh Chang, the third-largest island in Thailand. Getting there, it’s a 6 hour drive away from Bangkok, including time on a car-ferry, and there are regular buses that way.
Deck chairs can be hired from the resorts on the beach. Along the beach are huts where local women offer actual Thai massages for around 200 or 200 Baht.
Bare in mind, that Koh Chang isn’t as developed as Phuket or Koh Samui so don’t expect as convenient facilities on the islet. There’s a mixture of accommodation choices, though the resorts remain old-fashioned in comparison to those in other parts of Thailand
Paradise Beach, Phuket
Just beside Patong Beach, Paradise Beach is smaller and more exclusive. It’s shaded by large palm trees and travellers enjoy swinging off the trees into the cool waters. The coral reef off the shore is good for a spot of snorkeling or scuba diving.
Paradise Beach Club also offers kayaking and bodyboarding but it’s best known for hosting the world famous Full Moon Parties. Once a month, famous international and local DJs congregate with guests under the full moon, transforming the beautiful Thai beach into a club. There are also Half Moon and other parties that occur regularly on Paradise Beach.
The secluded cove is on Phuket Island, about five kilometers from Patong Beach by road. There is a car park but the road is winding and steep.
Paradise Beach only opens to the public from 9:30 as visitors enter through the beach club. Entrance is charged at 100 Baht.
While there are no vendors wandering the beach, there are a good selection of restaurants, bars and shops selling food and souvenirs. Drinks can often be ordered directly from your sunbed.
From partying Patong to tranquil White Sand, Thailand’s beaches offer something for every kind of traveller. They’re laid back and fabulous with a variety of watersports and seasonal events, as well as fresh cuisine and activities like massages and tattoos. And if you’re looking for a tropical setting, the teal waters of the Andaman and South China Seas, the spectacular rock formations and the lush vegetation won’t disappoint. The best beaches in Thailand are fun, picturesque and absolutely unmissable.