When making plans for Thailand, everyone dreams of escaping to a tropical paradise, but deciding exactly where to go can be an overwhelming task. Here's a quick and easy guide to the Islands of Thailand to help make all your dreams come true!
Best Overall for Everyone - Koh Samui wins in this category, not because it's my personal favorite, but because of the long uninterrupted, sandy beach and the warm, swimmable waters. People of all ages will enjoy what Koh Samui has to offer - whether you're on your honeymoon or with your family. Anyone will relish soaking up some rays and taking leisurely strolls on Chaweng Beach, also perfect for an uninterrupted 30 minute run, particularly nice at sunrise. If it's nightlife you're after Chaweng has plenty of clubs and bars to keep you occupied until dawn. Foodies will only have a hard time deciding between Six Senses, Koh, Rocky's, Dr. Frogs, Conrad's or Zazen. With upmarket hotels like the W and Banyan Tree the only problem with fine dining is having enough time to hit all the hot spots. The seafood is always fresh and the traditional Thai paired with international cuisine is sure to please all palates. Enjoy local favorite cocktails like Singapore Slings or Mai Tais made with fresh juices. If you've been traveling a while you'll certainly appreciate the selection of fine wine in the area, unlike other islands that may only carry boxed wine.
Do not miss - Chaweng Night Market on Mondays for street food and the Walking Street at Fisherman's Village, Bophut on Friday nights.
Best for Travelers, Best Parties, Best for Yoga - Koh Phangan - Popular with backpacker style travellers and hippies, my personal favorite Thai Island wins in many categories and has a Yin/Yang quality to it. On one hand it has a chill, relaxed, laid back vibe so it's the perfect place to revitalize your spirit through Yoga classes at one of the many shalas on the Western side of the island. If you're looking to get your party face on - there's a party for every moon of the month, the most famous being the Full Moon party where 30k people gather on Haad Rin Beach and dance from 10pm - 6am while slurping "buckets" - literally plastic sand pails full of various liquors and Red Bull. As if that's not enough, there's always the Half Moon Party, the Black Moon Party, the Shiva Moon Party and the Waterfall Party...pretty much any excuse to make a party happen! Even if big parties are not your scene it's worth seeing just once in your life. For Full Moon Party schedules check out http://fullmoonparty-thailand.com/
Do Not Miss - Take a water taxi over to Bottle Beach on the North side of the island for an afternoon of quiet relaxation and Thai Massage right on the beach. Ang Thong National Marine Park which can also be done from Koh Samui is the perfect way to spend a day snorkelling, kayaking or simply lounging on desolate beaches.
Best for Diving - Koh Tao (Turtle Island) With it's crystalline waters, brightly colored fish and it's reasonably priced certification courses, divers from all over the world come here to explore coral reefs, impressive rock formations and even shipwrecks. There are about 50 dive shops to choose from on this small island. Even beginners can get certified in PADI or SSI. Take in a 3-day course for much less than you would in other more populated global dive destinations.
Best Geological Features - Koh Phi Phi While the main town on Phi Phi Island is known for it's Spring Break-esque college-age revelry, complete with fully dressed monkeys, jump ropes made of fire and thumping bass lines until sunrise - for quintessential beach photos and dramatic scenery head to this island if only to take a day trip out on a boat. Why? If you've ever seen the movie The Beach featuring Leonardo DiCaprio you'll know why. Turquoise waters of varying shades, rock formations jetting 100 metres into the sky, deep coves and inlets perfect for snorkelling and kayaking. It's exactly what you think of when you here the words "tropical paradise."
Do not miss - Maya Bay Any day long boat trip includes this on it's itinerary; after all, this is where The Beach was filmed.
Best for Hidden Gems - Phuket Old Town. If you're heading to Phuket, escape the crowds of Patong Beach and plan to spend at least a day exploring this historical Portuguese town. Surprisingly, some of the best food in Thailand can be found here. Many art shops, galleries, and boutiques are popping up and while it's not evident, these places can be discovered by a willingness to explore. There's definitely something happening here. A hip, trendy scene is slowly unfolding and if you go now, you're sure to find something to your liking. Trust me, give your sunburn a rest and take in a little culture. It's worth skipping a beach day.
Do not miss - yellow crab curry at Raya Restaurant...just don't! Ao Phang Nga National Park also called James Bond Island is worth braving the crowds. Again, another movie set and for good reason - dramatic rocks, a floating village and miles of mangroves make for a lovely, albeit long day.