What are the best beaches in Thailand?
What are the best and most beautiful beaches in Thailand? The answer to that question is harder than it seems. For starters, Thailand has a lot of beaches. With a coastline of more than 2,500 kilometres and over 1,400 islands, the range is overwhelming. There are arguably 1,000 beaches. So if you wanted to visit one every day, you would be busy for a few years.
Also important for potential visitors is to know what the best beaches are judged on. Is it exclusively about eye-catching views? For unforgettable sunsets? Do we choose unknown, but beautiful, or popular, yet breathtakingly beautiful? For some, a promenade with terraces is part of the essential experience of the beach, as is a place where you can have a nice fish dinner or a tropical cocktail. While another prefers to shuffle barefoot all alone through the surf and enjoy the soothing sounds of the sea.
As far as we are concerned, it is a combination of all these elements. One beach lends itself to quiet beach walks, another to a more active beach life. In our opinion, these are the best beaches in Thailand.
Want to relax on one of these beaches? Have a look at the best tours in South Thailand.
Railay Beach, Krabi
Krabi province has a coastline of more than 165 kilometres. Not surprisingly, some of Thailand’s most beautiful beaches can be found here. The water is blue, the rocks steep and rugged, and the beaches pearly white. Krabi really does fit in any holiday brochure.
Remarkably, the most popular beach Railay Beach can only be reached by longtail boat. It is sandwiched between the sea, cliffs and dense rainforest. The most beautiful part is Railay Beach West. This part is best for swimming and has a nice spot to enjoy the sunset.
The quiet alternative in Krabi is Phra Nang Beach.
Donald Duck Bay (Ao Kuerk Bay), Similan Islands
This pretty bay on the eighth island of the nine Similan Islands has a beautiful beach, where divers and snorkelers can indulge. You can even dive here at night, which is special because that’s when you have a good chance of seeing sea turtles.
Ao Kuerk Bay is called Donald Duck Bay because a rock formation clearly visible from many places here resembles a duck. Hence the association with the cartoon character. The Similan Islands are located in the Andaman Sea, not far from Phang-Nga and Phuket.
An alternative to snorkelling near the Similan Islands is Honeymoon Bay.
Pattaya Beach, Koh Lipe
To avoid misunderstandings. This beach on Koh Lipe is called Pattaya, but it has nothing to do with the city of Pattaya. That place is more than 700 kilometres north. Koh Lipe is in the Straits of Malacca, just 50 kilometres or so as the crow flies from the Malaysian island of Langkawi.
Pattaya Beach is Koh Lipe’s most popular beach. And rightly so, its white sand and inviting waters make this beach a photogenic picture. You won’t have to get bored here, there’s good snorkelling in the area and while you’re on the beach, you can already fill your days watching all those Thai longtail boats mooring and departing.
The quiet alternative on Koh Lipe is Sunrise Beach.
Maya Beach, Koh Phi Phi
Maya Beach is probably one of the most famous, if not the most famous beach in Thailand. It has everything to do with Leonardo DiCaprio. That he walked through the sand here during filming for the film The Beach is quite some time ago, but makes Maya Beach a huge draw for visitors since the film came out. So much so that Maya Beach was closed for several years to allow nature to recover. Now it is open again.
To pretend that Maya Beach’s popularity was solely down to the film is unjustified. It was chosen for a reason. The beach is only about 250 metres long, but is beautifully situated in the eponymous bay of the smaller Koh Phi Phi Leh. The water is beautifully blue and the bay is protected by rugged rocks.
The quiet alternative on Koh Phi Phi is Bamboo Island Beach.
Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui
This beach falls into the category: beach life. That is, the long beach is of powdery sand and merges into the clear blue sea almost without a ripple. Chaweng is a popular beach, so don’t expect to be alone here. If you like to share your beach fun with others (and why not), you’re in the right place. In the wider area, you’ll find enough restaurants, shops and bars to fill an entire holiday.
Located in the Gulf of Thailand, the island of Samui is one of Thailand’s largest islands. It used to be where coconuts grew, and although it still does, its main source of income is now tourism.
The quiet alternative on Koh Samui is Lamai Beach.
Koh Nang Yuan, Koh Tao
Chances are that if you have ever seen pictures of beautiful beaches and special islets in Thailand, a picture of Koh Nang Yuan was among them. You see in those photos three small hilly islands in the Gulf of Thailand. The magic is that the three are connected by thin beaches, sandbanks actually. There are a couple of vantage points from where you have three islands, Koh tao and the gulf beautifully in your sights.
Koh Nang Yuan lies northwest of Koh Tao, which, by the way, is not at all shy of beautiful beaches itself. The nearly 2-kilometre-long Sairee Beach is the most popular. Whether you want to go for a beach walk, learn to dive or just come for a coffee, it’s all possible here.
The quiet alternative on Koh Tao is Chalon Baan Kao Bay.
Kata Noi, Phuket
Noi means small in Thai. Kata Noi is thus the little sister of Kata Beach. From above, you can see how the white beach turns into water with a light green colour, before slowly turning into a nice kind of dark blue later as the water gets deeper. Beach lovers would do well to put Kata Noi on their wish list. It is quieter than Kata Beach, but not so quiet that you can’t get a massage or some food (we are in Thailand, after all).
Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, but nowadays connected to the mainland by a bridge. The island consists mostly of mountains and forest, but of course has lots of beaches. With an abundance of bars, restaurant and shops, it also provides the wonderful beach life that comes with it.
The even quieter alternative on Phuket is Haad Sri Kaew Beach.
Kantiang Bay, Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta has quite a few good beaches, so go check them out and let us know if you think another beach there is even more beautiful. Kantiang’s more than 2-kilometre-long beach curves gently along the water and is protected by large headlands. Behind the beach are dense forests. That makes it not difficult to pick a tree to sit in the shade.
Koh Lanta lies in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Krabi. With some imagination, you can see that Koh Lanta is the lowest point of a triangle, with Krabi and Phuket as the other corners. In the middle of the triangle lies Koh Phi Phi.
The quiet alternative on Koh Lanta is Nui Beach.
Rin Beach (Haad Rin), Koh Phangan
You have to go all the way to the southernmost tip of Koh Phangan to find the island’s most beautiful and popular beach on the eastern side: Haad Rin. This beach consists of two parts: Sunset Beach (Hat Rin Nai) and Sunrise Beach (Hat Rin Nok). The latter occupies the longest part of the beach and is the place to experience a full moon party once a month.
Then you probably already understand that these are not quiet beaches. No, this is for beach lovers as well as those who want to enjoy the nightlife, desire a lively atmosphere and see fire shows on the beach at night.
The quiet alternative on Koh Phangan is Bottle Beach (Haad Khuat).