The best islands in Southeast Asia

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Too many islands, too little time! Thailand has more than its fair share of islands, and for the first time visitor, picking the right Thai island can be a pretty daunting undertaking.

So, here's an overview of some of the best islands in Thailand, including the best-known spots like Ko Samui, Ko Phi Phi, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Tao and Ko Samet. We've also covered a smattering of the lesser known islands that you probably won't read about in your guidebook -- in our opinion these can be some of the best islands in Thailand.

Follow the individual links through for detailed guesthouse and hotel reviews, restaurant and bar listings, attractions and activities, a bunch of photos and maps and of course information on where the best beaches are.

Coverage of more of Thailand's many islands is on the way -- in the meantime, you may also want to read our story: What is the best island in Thailand?

Islands in Thailand

  • Phot of Coral & Raya Islands
    Coral & Raya Islands
    Off Phuket's southern coast are a number of small islands whose pristine shores lure scuba-divers and beach bums away from the mainland. Most of these isolated islands are undeveloped, but the notable exceptions are Coral Island and Raya Island (also known as Racha Island) which have accommodation options and restaurants. Both islands have safe swimming, reefs teeming with aquatic life, and a sense of 'getting away from it all' that's harder and harder to come by in Phuket proper ... Coral & Raya Islands
  • Photo of Ko Adang
    Ko Adang
    Thailand's remote Ko Adang is an ideal island for nature-loving travellers who seek a less-populated haven well away from peak-season beaches packed with sunbathing limbs. With plenty of hiking trails, deserted white sand beaches and jungle waterfalls there's enough here for day-trippers from nearby Ko Lipe along with those who plan to spend a longer stretch of time exploring all this island has to offer ... Ko Adang travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Bulon Lae
    Ko Bulon Lae
    While under the radar for many, little-known Ko Bulon Lae remains popular with returning vacationers (particularly families) year after year. Bungalow resorts are scattered around the island, so choices are as varied as the travellers who stay here: windy hillsides, beaches with or without rocks and mangroves, forested or exposed to sun and salty air. Every night, the generators switch on and Bulon lights up for another laid-back evening. Many travellers come back again and again, to find the particular tranquility they've only found on Bulon ... Ko Bulon Lae travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Chang
    Ko Chang
    Most of Ko Chang's beaches are on the western coast, and each has built up with a distinctive atmosphere based on shopping, activities, partying or chilling out. Accommodation offers a style to suit every type of traveller, from independent low budget backpackers to those wanting a touch of luxury. There are plenty of activities to be organised from almost anywhere on the island: snorkelling and diving trips to nearby coral reefs, jungle treks and elephant rides, not to mention various beach sports. One of Thailand's fastest developing islands, don't miss the boat to this great destination ... Ko Chang travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Chang Noi
    Ko Chang Noi
    Not to be confused with the far bigger and better known Ko Chang of Trat province in the Gulf of Thailand, little Ko Chang -- or, as we have always known it, Ko Chang Noi -- is a formidable destination in its own right. One of Thailand's quietest, most relaxed, and undeveloped islands, Ko Chang Noi makes up for its lack of sparkle with an artsy, laid back atmosphere you'll find nowhere else. Don't expect luxury resorts and bus loads of short-term holiday makers but rather rustic bungalows and a unique community of artists, writers, and musicians who return for long-term stays year after year. If you like nature and reggae music — and are looking for an escape from the world -- then Ko Chang Noi is for you. ... Ko Chang Noi travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Kham
    Ko Kham
    An idealic little blink-and-you'll-miss-it island barely a kilometre from Ko Maak, Ko Kham is a perfect spot to really get away from it all. Crystal-clear waters and a number of coral reefs make the island popular with the snorkelling crowd and many boat outings from Ko Chang stop here for an hour or two to have a look into the not-so-deep, but why not stay for a night or five? ... Ko Kham travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Kho Khao
    Ko Kho Khao
    A rriving at Ko Kho Khao tends to leave visitors feeling like they've stumbled onto a wonderful secret -- but with a cluster of resorts already operating on the island and plenty more in the making, it's a secret that won't last long. There's no hotel or taxi touts waiting to greet you when you get off the boat, the roads are quiet and the locals very laid-back. There's an excellent beach along the coast looking out to sea and there's a fine selection of lodgings. Sounds good? It is. ... Ko Kho Khao travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Kradan
    Ko Kradan
    A Thai island with so much potential, the beauty and tranquility of Ko Kradan has been squandered over the last decade and it remains best-known for its annual mass underwater-weddings rather than the stunning beach and large coral reef. The view from the beach is spectacular, looking out and over other islands including Ko Muk. If you are in the area, it's definetly worth coming out here -- but for the moment, a day-trip remains the best option ... Ko Kradan travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Kut
    Ko Kut
    Despite being a beautiful mountainous island with white sandy beaches and crystal blue water, for the independent traveller, Ko Kut can be a difficult destination to explore -- though for some that just adds to the attraction. Popular with Thai package tourists, Ko Kut is a terrific island to escape the hordes of foreign tourists and experience some of the hospitality Thailand is famous for ... Ko Kut travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Lanta
    Ko Lanta
    For a long time Ko Lanta was a little-visited backpacker spot in Thailand, playing second fiddle to the big backpacker magnets of Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Tao and Raileh Beach. But word has finally got out about what a great island Ko Lanta truely is -- with something for just about every budget -- from high class luxury to basic thatch huts. With a less hectic scene, smooth, calm waters and broad beaches, Ko Lanta is particularly popular with those travelling through Thailand with young children ... Ko Lanta travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Lao Liang
    Ko Lao Liang
    If you're looking for isolation, you'll find it on Ko Lao Liang -- little more than a limestone boulder surrounded by teal Andaman waters. It's a tiny island -- in fact you can easily kayak around it in just over half an hour -- and there's a single white sand beach, set below a cliffside draped in tropical vegetation. If that sounds pretty good, that's because it is. With just the one place to stay -- there's literally not room for anything else -- you needn't worry about overcrowded shores ... Ko Lao Liang travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Libong
    Ko Libong
    This large island sits quite close to Thailand's southwest coast in Trang province. Little-visited, Ko Libong is much cleaner than some of its neighbours, the people are polite, honest, friendly and eco-minded. Fewer visitors make it here, but those that do are generally well-rewarded. A nice laid back kind of place that doesn't have the jaded feel of some other busier Thai islands. Oh, and there's dugongs here too ... Ko Libong travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Lipe
    Ko Lipe
    A warm, windy island that offers something for most anyone, Lipe's range of accommodation options and fantastic marine life attract a healthy (and rapidly increasing) number of tourists each year. Still, it's easy to find tranquil surroundings here, even during peak season, with several coves and walks through the jungle from one beach to another. Rapidly increasing in popularity, see Lipe now while it still retains some of its beauty ... Ko Lipe travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Maak
    Ko Maak
    Just to the south of Ko Chang, Ko Maak is a lot less heavily touristed than its big sister -- a great place to go for a bit of quiet and some less crowded beach front: perfect just for chilling out. The two main beaches are sandy, scattered with rock, and sparsely populated with bungalows. The relatively flat interior is covered with coconut palms and a maze of unsignposted dirt roads. A laid-back hideaway ... Ko Maak travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Muk
    Ko Muk
    Travellers and tourists alike flock to Ko Muk to see the famed Emerald Cove, a somewhat captivating quirk of nature. The quirk aside, travellers who make it to Ko Muk will find an inviting holiday atmosphere, with some of the best value accommodation of all the Trang islands, making it easily accessible to travellers of most budgets. ... Ko Muk travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Mun Nork
    Ko Mun Nork
    Ko Mun Nork rarely finds itself on the itinerary of roving backpackers and travellers, but ask Bangkokians about it and you'll quickly hear some of the rave reviews Ko Mun Nork receives -- both as a romantic weekend getaway and also for the occasional parties thrown on the island -- parties which are very much invite only. Private label raves and romantic weddings aside, Ko Mun Nork is certainly worth consideration -- particularly on weekdays when you could well have the entire island to yourself. It's a hidden away paradise representing excellent value ... Ko Mun Nork travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Ngai
    Ko Ngai
    The main beach on Ko Ngai is one of Trang's best -- a long sliver of white sand that looks out onto distant limestone karsts -- but as you might expect, it's also one of the province's most developed beaches. While tourism seems to have barely a toehold on other islands dotted off the scenic Trang coastline, it's fully entrenched on Ko Ngai, with barely a yard of beachfront left undeveloped. The trend here is for full service upmarket spa resorts, and the budget options that were once the mainstay of Ko Ngai have been slowly squeezed out. ... Ko Ngai travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Pha Ngan
    Ko Pha Ngan
    Although best known for its full moon parties, which attract thousands of travellers from all over the globe, there is a lot more to stunning Ko Pha Ngan than getting trashed and passing out in the powder-soft white sand. Ko Pha Ngan has swathes of beautiful beaches, great walks, adventurous boat and fishing trips, fabulous diving and even kite-boarding. Equally compelling for many is just spending a few days or weeks in a hammock, watching the sun rise and fall ... Ko Pha Ngan travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Phayam
    Ko Phayam
    Ko Phayam boasts long uncrowded beaches, plenty of walking trails, some jungle, lots of birdlife, roads without cars and one small village. Sounds good? Read on. Until a few years ago, few tourists had heard of this quiet laidback island on the Andaman coast near the Burmese border. It's still pretty unspoiled compared to many Thai islands but the number of tourists has increased significantly over the past few years. Tourists of all ages and backgrounds visit but they are nearly all independent travellers and backpackers; about half are young hippy types and the rest are a mix of older visitors and families. ... Ko Phayam travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Phi Phi
    Ko Phi Phi
    Ko Phi Phi -- oh what this beautiful island could/should have been. Arguably the most stunning location in Thailand, Ko Phi Phi is home to guest houses, luxury hotels, bars, restaurants, tailors, internet cafes, travel agents, banks, piers, CD shops and clothes markets. Rather than being preserved as a day-tripping destination with pristine walking trails, caving, unspoilt diving and snorkelling spots, Phi Phi is a national disgrace. Despite this, thousands pour onto the island every year and for many, Ko Phi Phi remains the highlight of their trip. Beach solitude can be a little tricky to find, but if you really want to party and meet loads of like-minded souls read on ... Ko Phi Phi travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Phra Thong
    Ko Phra Thong
    Totally unique not only in Thailand but all of southeast Asia, visitors to Ko Phra Thong often remark that the landscape looks strikingly similar to the savannahs of Africa, except there are no lions or giraffes roaming here. Covered in white sandy dunes with fields of long grasses and peeling trees, the landscape of Ko Phra Thong is indeed fascinating, especially given how different it is from the lush, mountainous terrains of nearby Ko Ra and the mainland. It's also one of the best bird watching destinations in Thailand — Phra Thong is one of the last remaining places on earth to see an endangered lesser adjutant stork in the wild, and there's even a half domesticated hornbill that likes to hang out with travellers at Seaview's and Mr. Chuoi's restaurants. ... Ko Phra Thong travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Ra
    Ko Ra
    Despite its relatively close proximity to the town of Khuraburi along Thailand's west coast, the long, thin and rugged island of Ko Ra is one of the country's more remote islands with accommodation, and is a good choice for those looking to enjoy a natural setting off the beaten tourist track. With most of the island being protected as a wildlife sanctuary, Ko Ra features only one place to stay at time of writing -- Ko Ra Ecolodge -- which is a true eco-friendly establishment that had its modest beginnings as a base for a coral reef conservation project in the mid 2000s before officially opening to guests in 2008. ... Ko Ra travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Samet
    Ko Samet
    Ostensibly part of a national park, the small island of Ko Samet is the perfect weekend getaway from Bangkok and while this proximity has brought convenience, it has also brought the developers on in hordes. Despite the over-development, it remains a very popular getaway -- on the weekends the beaches are crammed with Thais and expats from the capital along with backpackers and other tourists, while in the middle of the week it is often not difficult to find a beach all for yourself. If you remember that you're on one of the closest islands to a city of ten million people, you'll probably appreciate it more ... Ko Samet travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Samui
    Ko Samui
    As a popular island destination, Ko Samui is surpassed in Thailand only by Phuket. With an international airport, a mass of ferry connections and close to 500 hotels and guesthouses, this is not somewhere to come to glimpse a corner of the kingdom untouched by tourism development. But if you're hunting for stunning white beaches, turquoise waters and all-day sun, Samui isn't a bad choice. Regardless of whether you want to spend $200 or 200B on a beachfront bungalow there is something on Ko Samui for everyone ... Ko Samui travel guide
  • Photo of Similan Islands
    The Similan Islands
    Some 50 km from the Thai western coast amongst open water in the Andaman Sea, the Similan islands are known far and wide to boast some of the most spectacular scenery and best snorkelling and diving of anywhere in Southeast Asia. With Malay roots, the word "similan" means "nine" in local Moken sea nomad language after the nine tiny islands of the Similan archipelago. Along with magnificent underwater scenery, the Similans boast some of the finest white sand, turquoise water beaches in Thailand, and even a few hiking trails and viewpoints ... Similan Islands travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Sukorn
    Ko Sukorn
    Ko Sukorn is a small island located off the coast of Trang. Home to four small villages, four cars and a handful of small resorts, Ko Sukorn (or Ko Muu as the locals know it) is a great choice for people wanting to escape the crowds of some of Thailand's other great islands. Visitors will have long dark sand beaches pretty much to themselves, along with the spectacular sunsets and great hospitality. A top destination ... Ko Sukorn travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Surin
    Ko Surin
    If Thailand's tropical islands are the country's crowned jewels, Ko Surin could very well boast the brightest sparkle of them all. Protected as the Mu Ko Surin National Park, Ko Surin actually consists of two relatively small islands -- Ko Surin Nuea (north) and Ko Surin Tai (south) -- as well as a handful of islets and some magnificent underwater scenery around the islands ... Ko Surin travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Tao
    Ko Tao
    Over the years, Ko Tao has been a pirate's hideout, a layover for fishermen, a prison and a badly-kept backpacker secret. Today it is one of Thailand's premier diving locations, attracting thousands of recreational divers and other tourists annually. The island is ranked number two worldwide for the issuing of PADI certificates. Non-divers willing to escape from the congested diver hotspots are rewarded with gorgeous beaches, great viewpoints and hospitable locals. Of course if you are diving, Ko Tao is a must, with some of the best diving in the Gulf of Thailand ... Ko Tao travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Tarutao
    Ko Tarutao
    In Malay, Tarutao means old, mysterious and primitive. For many visitors, Tarutao's appeal is in the wildlife: sea turtles, whales, monitor lizards, crab-eating macaques, mouse deer and more all call the island and its surrounding waters home. There's no snorkeling as the waters are murky compared to other Andaman islands, but for most, the clean beaches, waterfalls, great hiking and views more than compensate. For those who are into such things, Ko Tarutao was the location where Thailand Survivor was filmed ... Ko Tarutao travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Wai
    Ko Wai
    Pretty and primitive, Ko Wai sits about 6kms south of the bottom tip of Ko Chang. White sandy beaches, few people and abundant sealife make the island a favourite hideaway for some travellers fleeing the screaming motorbikes and blaring all-night beats of the larger islands nearby. There are only four bungalow operations on the island -- all on the north side of Ko Wai. It's from this coast that there are terrific views over nearby island ... Ko Wai travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Yao Noi
    Ko Yao Noi
    Rich in natural beauty, Ko Yao Noi constitutes one of the last bastions of untouched wilderness in the region. There are some paved roads, a lot of them pretty rough, and many more are simply made of dirt. There's plenty of room to roam and explore in this area, and almost anywhere you choose to stay will be in a peaceful setting surrounded by nature. The beach is no good on much of the coast at low tide -- too many rocks and mud flats -- but is largely swimmable at high tide, and a few beaches are good all day long ... Ko Yao Noi travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Yao Yai
    Ko Yao Yai
    Ko Yao simply means 'Long Island,' which is kind of funny if you're familiar with the one in New York. Ko Yao Yai is 'Big Long Island' and it is indeed big and long. As with Ko Yao Noi, Ko Yao Yai constitutes one of the last bastions of untouched wilderness in the region. There are some paved roads, a lot of them pretty rough, and many more are simply made of dirt. There's plenty of room to roam and explore in this area, and almost anywhere you choose to stay will be in a peaceful setting surrounded by nature ... Ko Yao Yai travel guide
  • Photo of Phuket
    Phuket
    For the budget traveller, the days of grass huts on the beach are largely gone and simple seafood feasts have been replaced by KFC, Starbucks and Pizza Hut. Phuket is an expensive place, with lodging, eating and transport all far costlier than elsewhere in Thailand. The so-called pearl of the south, Phuket is today unrecognisable from just a couple of decades ago. As property prices soared, many locals sold up to national and international hotels and many of the most beautiful beaches are now host to scores of them, along with restaurants, bars, travel agents, massage parlours and the other usual suspects. Despite these negatives, there remains a tantalising side to the island. Windswept beaches you can camp on and not see a soul for kilometres... these hidden-away gems linger -- you just need to look a little harder ... Phuket travel guide

Islands in Cambodia

  • Photo of Koh Rong
    Koh Rong
    Koh Rong is truly gorgeous, and well worth the two-and-a-half hour boat trip from Sihanoukville. There are seven bays on the island, all teeming with marine life, making for great snorkelling and diving. The much-touted millionaires' hang-out Song Saa Resort is to the north of the island, but you can save your cash and get the same paradise views at a fraction of the cost elsewhere. There's enough to keep even the most active visitor busy, with diving, snorkelling, mountain biking, trekking, kayaks and motorbike treks, and plenty of sand, sun and sea for those with more relaxed tastes... Ko Rong travel guide
  • Photo of Koh Rong Saloem
    Koh Rong Saloem
    The western side of Koh Rong Saloem has three gorgeous yellow sand beaches, which are perfect for watching the deep pink sunsets every evening. On the eastern side is heart-shaped Saracen Bay, named after a British ship that once sailed there, and known for diving and snorkelling. The beaches on this side are an eye-blinding white, with a fast-developing choice of accommodation, from eco tents and circular huts to swish romantic bungalows... Ko Rong Saloem travel guide
  • Photo of Koh Russei
    Koh Russei
    Although Koh Russei is perhaps not as lovely as it once was, it still gives the visitor a rare sense of isolation and tranquillity that is so lacking in Sihanoukville. For those with more time on their hands the islands that are bit further away from town may be more rewarding, but for those who are looking for a laid back beachside vibe without going too far afield, Koh Russei is a good choice... Ko Russei travel guide
  • Photo of Koh Sdach
    Koh Sdach
    This small fishing village island sits at the half way mark between Ko Kong and Sihanoukville and used to be stopped at daily by the bullet-boat. For those interested in experiencing a totally unadulterated stay in a Cambodian fishing village, then this isn't a bad choice. Located just a twenty minute boat-ride off the Cambodian coast, Ko Sdach is dominated by a sizeable fishing village that stretches along the side of the island that faces the mainland, but the real attraction is the outlying islands ... Ko Sdach travel guide
  • Photo of Koh Ta Kiev
    Koh Ta Kiev
    Three lovely yellow sand beaches shaded by pine trees are accessible on Koh Ta Kiev and its coral reefs that make for excellent snorkelling. Trekking paths meander through the jungle if you're feeling adventurous and would like to do a bit of wildlife-spotting; we're told that the island is inhabited by carnivorous pitcher plants. Bird watchers will be happy to hear that more than 150 species call Koh Ta Kiev home... Ko Ta Kiev travel guide
  • Photo of Koh Thmei
    Koh Thmei
    For now, Koh Thmei is practically pristine. Flanked by mangrove forests, the island is a natural paradise that is as far from Sihanoukville as night is from day. Koh Thmei is the habitat of many types of interesting wildlife, particularly birds. Over 150 types of birds make their home in the park and a trip to the island offers ample bird-watching opportunities. To be fair, they seem to have their share of bugs as well... Ko Thmei travel guide
  • Photo of Koh Tonsay
    Koh Tonsay
    Ko Tonsay, or Rabbit Island as it is commonly known as, is a lovely little island that sits offshore from Kep, just thirty minutes away be hired boat. The main beach where the boats anchor in lined with coconut palms, hammocks and lazy chairs, a half dozen beach huts and a handful of fresh seafood joints serving up some outstanding seafood ... Koh Tonsay travel guide

Islands in Laos

  • Photo of Don Dhet
    Don Dhet
    Now well-established on the traveller trail through Laos, the number of rooms on Don Dhet continues to climb steadily. The scenery is indeed very...well...scenic, and the ambience of the place very relaxed, but Laos this is not. If you're on the way here expecting to experience the local culture, prepare to be very, very disappointed. If on the other hand, all you want to do is relax in a hammock for a week (or a month) meet and talk to travellers and eat traveller food with yet more travellers, then you're in the right place ... Don Dhet travel guide
  • Photo of Don Khon
    Don Khon
    Far larger than Don Dhet, Don Khon is skipped by many budget travellers because most of the accommodation is mid-range. However although there aren't 40-odd places to choose from, there are budget options here and staying on Don Khon is far more of a Lao experience than Don Dhet. There are options for cycling and walking and lots of general hanging out watching life flow by -- oh and there are dolphins too ... Don Khon travel guide
  • Photo of Ko Don Khong
    Don Khong
    Don Khong is the largest island is the Si Phan Don area, although it is nowhere near as popular as the more southern islands of Don Dhet, with its chilled-out atmostphere, and Don Khon, with more activities on tap. The interior of Don Khong is almost entirely given over to rice cultivation and the major pastime on Don Khong is cycling around the countryside. Expect some interesting little temples and pleasant riverside scenery all wrapped up in a gentle pace of life. ... Don Khong travel guide

Islands in Vietnam

  • Photo of Con Dao Islands
    Con Dao Islands
    Con Dao (also known as Poulo Condore) is an archipelago of 15 islands situated in the South China Sea, around 250 kilometres, or a 45-minute flight, from Ho Chi Minh City. Famed for its grizzly past, Con Son is largely mountainous and covered in forest, with ample opportunity for hiking through the jungle and looking for wildlife. The island is also home to a coastline of steep, rocky hills and long sweeping coves, boasting some excellent spots for swimming and snorkelling ... Con Dao Islands travel guide
  • Photo of Phu Quoc Island
    Phu Quoc Island
    Sitting back in a hammock, looking out over the quiet surf, you may wonder why more people don't know about Phu Quoc Island. It gets almost none of the press of those islands over in Thailand -- and yet with its rugged jungle, squeaking white sands and sparkling cobalt waters, it can more than match them. We've seen many an island in Southeast Asia, and we've never stumbled across somewhere quite like here ... Phu Quoc Island travel guide
  • Photo of Cat Ba Island
    Cat Ba Island
    Nestled on the periphery of Vietnam's fabulous Ha Long Bay, Cat Ba Island is big -- over 350 square kilometres, but most tourists see but a sliver of it. Ths island is a good launching point for kayaking trips, but probably the best way to really see the island is by motorbike -- there's a 100 km circuit running along the bay and into the interior, through incredibly beautiful country-side, and small villages where life in Cat Ba has gone on, largely untainted by the decade-long boom in tourism ... Cat Ba Island travel guide
  • Photo of Ha Long Bay
    Ha Long Bay
    A cruise on Ha Long Bay -- or the Bay of the Descending Dragon -- for many represents the pinnacle of their experience in Vietnam. easily one of the most popular destinations in the country, UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ha Long Bay is both mystical and magnificent, an incredible feat of nature that almost never fails to impress. Yes, it really is that good. ... Ha Long Bay travel guide

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