Thailand has far more islands than most might be aware of, and especially for first-time visitors, it can be really difficult to choose which islands to go to.
Here you get a small guide to some of Thailand’s less known islands.
Coral and Raya island
Close to Phuket’s south coast you will find a number of small islands.
Most of them are uninhabited, with the exception of Coral and Raya Islands (also known as Racha Islands). On both islands you will find great clear water with corals and beautiful fish.
If you are in Phuket and want to get away from the crowd and enjoy some peace, you can be in the islands in just 15 minutes by speedboat from the port of Chalong.
Coral Island, which is the smallest of the 2 islands, is privately owned by Coral Island Resort and is also the only resort on the island.
During the day, the island is visited by the many tourists who on day trips come to enjoy the long white sand beach and the clear water, but in the late afternoon they leave again.
The snorkeling on Coral Island is fantastic and you don’t have to go far to see beautiful and colorful coral fish, which also makes the beach a great place for children to learn to snorkel.
In addition to snorkeling, the island also offers other activities such as diving, banana boats and parasailing etc.
Along the beach you will find restaurants and souvenir shops, and if you need Thai massage or a cold drink, this can also be provided on Coral Island.
The island of Raya Island (also called Koh Racha) is larger than Coral Island, but less developed.
The island is a first class destination for Yacht guests who, for some days, go ashore and stays at the expensive resorts – and for divers, who typically book all the cheap resorts in advance.
Between yachts and dive boats, you will also find speedboats with day tourists who will enjoy Raya’s crystal clear water and the beautiful coves – which in the high season can be abundantly overcrowded during the day.
The activities on Raya are like Coral, snorkeling, and if you don’t have your own equipment, it can be rented.
Go out and visit “Lah Bay”, which offers lots of giant starfish, birdfish and rainbow trout – a great experience!
At Raya you also have the opportunity to mountain bike and trekking.
The resorts also offer fishing trips and horse riding – but it’s not cheap.
A small predominantly Muslim population of farmers and fishermen live on Raya and there is even a small mosque. You will therefore not find pork of any kind on the island’s restaurants, nor is it allowed to be brought to the island.
Koh Bulon Lae
Surrounded by warm clear water, tropical flowers, countless butterflies and charming local Thai, which in many ways cherish the old island, Bulon Lae (also called Bulon Leh) is something special.
Here you will find genuine originality and beaches with white soft sand and crystal clear water.
Compared to other islands, Koh Bulon Lae is very peaceful and quiet. For those who just want peace and quiet, Bulon Lae is one of Thailand’s most unique islands with a totally laid-back magic.
The island is very small and it takes no more than 15-20 min. to go from one side to the other – on the way you pass a bar – dedicated to Bob Marley – here it’s a must to stop and get a cold beer or drink served by the sweet proprietor.
The trip from the port of Pakbara takes about an hour and on arrival you will be dropped off on the island’s best beach with several good resorts and at remarkable low prices.
The east side of the island is mainly visited by backpackers and here you will find a good handful of resorts with small primitive bungalows at prices starting from about 600 baht for an overnight stay.
On the west coast is a small local fishing village and otherwise only untouched rainforest.
The island’s southern part is for the slightly more expensive resorts and this is also where you find the best beach.
In the north you will find the village and a handful of cheap resorts.
A small path connects the areas of the island and as you go south, you get a wonderful scent of the many rubber trees, which is a very important source of income for the island.
In the evening, most people enjoy the beach, but be aware that paths / roads are without light, so it may be a good idea to bring good shoes and a flashlight for the road home from the beach – also because Bulon Lae is known for a large number of, sometimes, quite big lizards.
Bulon Lae is highly seasonal and the best time to visit the island is from late November to mid April. If you visit the island outside of season (even in October), you risk only finding one open resort and most restaurants are closed.
Koh Chang Noi
Don’t get Koh Chang Noi mixed up with the much larger island, Koh Chang, located in the Trat province.
Koh Chang Noi is an amazing island – one of Thailand’s quietest, most relaxing and least developed islands.
The island has a wonderful laid-back atmosphere that you won’t find many other places. Don’t expect to find luxury resorts or buses filled with day tourists, this is all about small rustic bungalows, most of which are spartan and built in either wood or stone.
On the island there is a unique community of artists, writers and musicians who return each year for a long period of time, to make peace work.
Koh Chang Noi is definitely the destination if you love nature, reggae music and just want to get away from it all.
The island’s name, Chang, does not refer to the elephants who actually live on the island, but more due to the island’s elephant-like shape.
Koh Chang Noi is not a small island, and large parts consist of dense rainforest with stunning wildlife, impressive cliffs and steep hillsides, beautiful and almost pristine beaches, and plenty of rubber, acacia and orchards.
Have you never seen how acacia nuts grow on a tree, then come to Koh Chang Noi.
Although the island offers various activities such as diving trips, fishing trips and kayak rentals, the mentality is mostly that you don’t move too far away from the hammock.
Snorkeling is possible, but the water is mostly sandy so there isen’t much to look at.
If you stay at Cashew Resort, you can participate in daily yoga classes, beach volleyball and in the evening socialize with guitar entertainment.
Koh Chang Noi beaches may not have the milky white and very fine sand found elsewhere in Thailand, instead you they are large and almost human empty, but the sand has a more light yellowish color.
The longest beach is Long Beach, which stretches along the middle of the island’s west coast. From here you have the view all the way to Burma, and the sunset from Long Beach is absolutely stunning.
Koh Chang Noi also has a small military camp, which is hidden in the northern part of the island – the camp is by no means noticed on the island..
Koh Chang Noi is a season island to be visited between November and April. In the rainy season, the island is one of Thailand’s wettest areas and occasionally with heavy storms.
In Trang province, south of Koh Muk and Kog Ngai, you will find the island of Koh Kradan which is one of the most isolated islands, but still with the possibility of staying overnight.
It is a small, narrow and elongated island with a fantastic sandy beach that runs along the entire island’s east coast.
Over the last 20 years, a number of resorts have appeared, but the island is primarily a national park.
If you move away from the beach area and meet a park attendant, it may well happen that you are asked to pay to move around the national park or even just to go back to the beach.
Staying on the beach is not a bad choice and most people visiting the island usually also stay on the beach.
Koh Kradan’s beach is one of Trang’s best beaches with crystal clear blue-green waters, perfect for swimming.
Due to the isolated location, many only choose to visit the island on day trips from Koh Muk and Koh Ngai, but if you dream of getting away from the rest of the world, Koh Kradan is a unique place to stay for some days.
There are no towns here, not even a village. The only residents on the island are those who work at the various resorts, longtail boat owners and park officers.
There are some small isolated beaches on the island’s western coast, most of which can only be visited on a kayak trip.
Sunset Beach can be reached through a small path from Paradise Lost Resort.
Sunset Beach is a small and quiet beach with fine corals in the sand, and in the evening the place is known for its cozy guitar playing while watching the sunset and, not least, for anyone’s indignation, nude swimming.
Koh Kradan is also the site of “the underwater weddings” organized each year by the Thailand Tourist Organization (TAT) – so if you dream of an unforgettable wedding, then Koh Kradan is perhaps something to consider.
Koh Lao Liang
If you are looking for isolation then go to Koh Lao Liang. The island is so small that you can go kayaking around it in half an hour.
There is only one beach, but a beautiful beach with rocky sides shrouded in tropical rainforest. There is no place like Lao Liang – it’s quite unique.
There is only one resort on the island and literally, there is no room for more.
The resort is special – you live in relative large tents, located directly on the beach in the shade of the tropical rainforest.
Inside there is a separate bedroom with bamboo flooring floors and thick mattresses with white sheets and soft carpets.
The bathrooms are shared with others, and in a beautiful separate thatched building with several toilets and showers – only with cold water.
Most visitors to Lao Liang come as part of an organized tour, where they spend a few days snorkeling, diving, kayaking and / or climbing on the rock walls, then traveling on.
However, you can easily go to the island without having already made a booking.
When booking a room, the price includes 3 really good meals, free use of kayaks and snorkeling equipment.
If you dream of bounty beach and don’t want to worry about crowded beaches and partying people then you will find paradise on Lao Liang – a deserted beach, a great atmosphere and an unforgettable experience unlike anything else you find in Thailand.
With some luck you can lie on the beach and watch dolphins swim around, and in the evening “hang out” at the cozy beach bar – once you have visited Lao Liang, you will dream of going back.
Lao Liang is only open during the high season.
A few kilometers south of Koh Chang (Trat) you will find this amazing and slightly overlooked island.
Koh Chang A tropical paradise for those who want to enjoy the quiet exotic life.
Despite the fact that the island is famous for its nature – in fact so famous that several films, due to the authentic tropical and unspoiled nature, have used the island for filming – the island is still not overrun and destroyed by tourists.
The Sunday Times has voted Koh Mak to be among the top 10 best beaches in the world.
A single road leads through the island which allows you to find your own small deserted beaches or explore the rainforest.
Coconut and rubber plantations cover a large part of the island and the population of the island is divided between the landowners and their employees. There are about 600 residents on the island.
Until the 1990s, there were only a few resorts on the island, today there are many more and they range from backpacker resorts to luxury spa resorts.
The island has 3 small harbors and you can get there either by ferry or by speedboat.
On arrival, most resorts are ready on the pier to accommodate you and drive you to their respective resorts (free) – “good for business”.
Outside the resorts there is not much to do than to enjoy nature, snorkel or dive in the nearby marine park as well as relax on the beach or in a hammock.
Nightlife is as good as non-existent, except for a couple of nice bars and restaurants – stay at Koh Chang if you are looking for discos etc.
We can’t predict how long Koh Mak will remain so untouched, but if you want to experience something really authentic then it must be pretty soon.
Koh Phayam is long relatively deserted beaches, lots of trekking routes, a fantastic bird life, roads without cars and a small village.
The island is close to the Burmese border and was, until some years ago, almost unknown to tourists.
The island is still not overrun by tourists, compared to many other islands, but the tourism has really grown over the last 5 years.
The tourists who go to Koh Phayam are divided by backpackers and a mix of elderly and families.
Staying on Koh Phayam is mostly in small, original and very simple bungalows with fan, mosquito nets, cold water in the shower and terraces with hammock.
High season on Koh Phayam is from November until May, with especially many visitors around Christmas.
At this time of year, it can be a great advantage to book ahead to be sure to get a bungalow.
On Koh Phayam as well, you will be greeted at the pier by drivers from the resorts who can offer you accommodation.
New resorts are constantly opening and the old ones are constantly busy building new bungalows to meet the growing demand.
If you stay for several weeks (which many do), you can easily negotiate discounts even in high season.
It’s not recommended to go to Koh Phayam outside of the high season, partly because of the large amount of rain, but mostly because many resorts and restaurants close down and the electricity supply becomes much worse during the low season.
Although many choose only to visit Koh Surin on a day trip, it is definitely an island that you can easily spend a few days on.
The islands have a magnificent nature on both land and underwater, as well as some of the finest white sand beaches, with the most emerald green water you find in Asia.
Koh Surin consists of 5 small islands – Koh Surin Nuea (north) and Koh Surin Tai (south), Koh Ri, Koh Khai and Koh Klang.
The islands are best known for their fantastic diving, snorkeling, and hiking and fishing.
Along with Koh Tao, Koh Surin is considered to be one of Thailand’s best dives and snorkeling venues.
Whale sharks are often spotted off the northern coast of Koh Surin and, for more regular visits, butterfly fish, butterfly fish, moraine, sharks, sea turtles and much more can be seen.
Koh Surin is probably best known for it’s underwater wildlife, but also on land there is much to experience. Surin is home to a healthy population of monkeys, snakes, varieties and numerous crabs and birds.
Some of them are Thai nationals today, but many of them are still stateless.
They mainly live by collecting shellfish and snails, which is officially illegal, due to Surin’s national park status, but the authorities and UNESCO have chosen to look through it as Moken’s population (about 150) is negligible and their situation complicated.
Illegal fishing, and to some extent careless behavior among snorkelers and divers, and boat owners, pose a far greater threat to the ecology of the islands than Mokens presence.
On the southern island, there is a small Moken “village”, where you can see small thatched boats and colorful wooden figures built with respect for the ancestors.
If you visit the Moken village – which has become a major tourist attraction in recent years – it must be with respect towards their traditional culture – and donations of both food and clothing are very welcome.
Apart from the Moken Village, the entire area of Koh Surin Tai is closed to tourists.
On Koh Surin Nuea it is not allowed to set foot on most of the northern island, except on Mai Ngam and Kong KHAD camping areas.
On the southern island, sea turtles lay their nests with eggs.
Overall, Koh Surin is truly a plant and wildlife paradise, so all these restrictions are made solely to protect the ecosystem.
If you break the rules just the least, you can look forward to big fines and will be kicked off the island immediately.
Yet there are good opportunities to explore the waters around the islands and enjoy Koh Surin’s beaches and coves, rocky coast and mangrove forests.
Read more about the Surin islands and the Moken people HERE
If you have suggestions for other of Thailand’s lesser known islands, please let us know in the comment below.