Thailand Islands: Which one should you go to?

Updated: Nov 11, 2018


THE ISLANDS. Who doesn't want to go to paradise? Fresh coconuts, warm turquoise water, golden sand, and the view from a postcard. The hardest part about the Thai islands is deciding which one of the seemingly hundreds of islands to go to! With hours of research, I narrowed down my choices to two eastern islands and two western islands: Koh Tao, Koh Phagnan, Krabi, and Koh Phi Phi. Each of these islands have very different vibes, cultures, and expectations. So which one is right for you? Let me break it down.


KRABI

Krabi is one of the more popular islands to go to because of its beauty and easy access, but that also means more crowds and a more touristy experience. To escape the crowds, I opted to stay on Tonsai beach, a more remote beach only accessibly by boat. Tonsai beach is a world of it's own. It feels like a sophisticated hippie commune with art murals, palm trees, free yoga and mushroom shakes. Not exactly the typical family friendly vacation spot, so if you're going with your parents or young siblings, I'd recommend staying on mainland Krabi or Railay beach. It was quite an eccentric experience. Railay beach is right next door, and that is the perfect place for sunsets and beachfront dining. Railay is a picturesque beach good for lounging and fruity drinks. However the absolute best part of Krabi (and the main reason to visit), is to visit Hong Island. My travel pal Lauren and I booked a kayaking day tour and it was hands down one of my favorite experiences in Thailand. Tip, definitely opt for the Kayaking tour, rather than a longboat tour. You get to see things you don't have access to on a longboat. Hong Island is this absolutely pristine wildlife reserve (there are no inhabitants on the island) and is also home of the infamous blue lagoon. Krabi is a beautiful place to start your vacation, but I would not make this my final stop. I recommend staying for a day or two to experience Hong Island and a sunset dinner on Railay beach, but beyond that, in my opinion, your time is better spent on another island.



Pit stop at remote beach during the Hong Island Kayak Tour

KOH PHI PHI

This is the place to go if you want a wild time island party with views straight out of a post card. This is definitely the booziest island I visited (minus Koh Phagnan during the full moon parties). It felt a bit crowded, but the more people the bigger the party right? If you're looking to see some sights without any hassle, while being able to day drink and meet some friends from around the world, then the Blanco Booze Cruise is for you. It's a 5 hour, all inclusive (all you can drink with dinner) party boat that takes you to Monkey Beach, Maya Bay (the famous beach Leonardo Dicaprio filmed "The Beach"), Viking Cave, as well as a couple other lagoons and picturesque locations where you can enjoy the sites and take a dip without a care in the world. It's a great way to have a good time while being able to be worry free and take in the sites. Going to Koh Phi Phi is like being on spring break. If you're looking for some peace and quiet to lounge on a beach and maybe do some yoga, this island is not for you. But it's an incredible place to experience. The dining is great, the views are extraordinary, and in the evenings the beach parties include fire jugglers, face painting, and music so loud you'll be partially deaf in the morning. Worth it.



KOH PHAGNAN

Next was Koh Phagnan, the island most known for it's infamous full moon parties. I didn't get a chance to attend one, but I wasn't too torn up about it. From what I heard, the main reason to go is for bragging rights, but the party itself is overrated. The beaches get so incredibly crowded that it can be difficult to enjoy. I heard much better things about the Jungle Parties. Jungle parties happen once a month just as the full moon parties do and the location often changes to a cool new section of the island. DJ's, dancing, drinks, tropical scenery, the works. But Koh Phagnan has SO much more to offer. Koh Phagnan as an island has a much different feel than the others. It's far more spread out, having pockets of communities and beaches all around the perimeter of the island. There's far less hustle and bustle thank Koh Phi Phi and Krabi on the day to day. It's definitely worth an investment of a scooter if you want to be able to experience the island as a whole. My travel pal and I Lauren wanted to do something a little different on this island so we splurged for an Airbnb on a remote beach haad tien. This place was absolutely breathtaking (I'll make an entire blog post for that experience). Koh Phagnan is beautiful, there's cheap bungalows pretty much everywhere, and it's got a little bit of everything.This is a place where you can enjoy some peace and quiet, do some yoga one week, then rage the next. The culture and atmosphere changes drastically during the week of the full moon so keep that in mind when planning your trip.



The view from our Airbnb on Haad Tien


KOH TAO

Sweet, sweet Koh Tao. THIS is the island you need to put a little star next to. Although this is the island I had my near death experience on (read that story HERE) , it is still hands down my favorite island. Incredible views. Some of the best snorkeling and Scuba diving in the entire world. Incredible food. Yoga. Pub crawls. Turquoise water. The list goes on. This island has all the perks of the other islands while not being as chaotic or touristy. There's a true island feel and the culture is vibrant. The people are genuine. If you want adventure this is the island for you. It has everything from hiking and ATV riding to scuba diving with whale sharks. If you want some quality R&R there are plenty of white sandy beaches, hammocks, and sunset yoga sessions. If you want social life and culture there are beautiful downtown shopping areas full of local vendors, pub crawls, and some of the best international dining spots. There are busy and there are quiet parts of town, so you can set the mood any way you want it. No matter what your interests are, Koh Tao has it. It is truly a paradise. The entire atmosphere of this place is a bit magical. This island is a must.



Some R&R before a snorkeling excursion on Koh Tao


THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY: KOH SAMUI

Having island hopped and gotten the inside scoop from the locals and all the other backpackers, Koh Samui was the place that every single person gushed over. It has good variety like Koh Tao with it's own unique culture and landscape while escaping the chaos of too many tourists. So go ahead and put that on your list and then buy me a ticket to go with you.