Thailand has some of the best beaches in the entire world. If you’re looking for a place to relax on silky white sand, with prices you can actually afford, then you’re looking for a vacation to Thailand. But what are the best beaches in Thailand?
Unfortunately, not all Thai beaches are the same. The popularity of certain beaches (looking at you Maya Beach), have made them dirty, overpopulated and too touristy. As we were writing our women’s travel guide to Thailand, we saw our fair share of great—and not so great—beaches in Thailand.
Beach burnout is real in Thailand, particularly in the south, where it’s pretty often that you’ll be greeted with touts shouting “miss, miss! Massage? Hotel?” immediately after arriving via bus or plane, and that can feel aggressive and overwhelming. But push past that, follow this list, and get a little creative with where you go, and you’ll find the beach vacation of your dreams.
So what are our favorite places for a Thailand beach vacation? Read on to find out.
The Best Beaches in Thailand
This is hands-down one of the best beaches in Thailand. The limestone cliffs at Railay Beach are absolutely stunning and there’s nothing in the world quite like it. We like it so much we used the image as our back cover to our guide—it’s breath-taking. Getting to Railay Beach is a short boat ride from Ao Nang Beach in Krabi and worth it for the chance to bask in the sun on these famous beaches.
Phra Nong Beach, Krabi
Close to Railay Beach, this lovely stretch of sand is a short walk away when the crowds at Railay get to be too much. For a real treat, rent a kayak and see the limestone rock formations from the water.
Koh Kood (pictured)
Also a contender for best beach in Thailand: Koh Kood is one of a few islands situated on Thailand’s east coast, via the city of Trat. While most tourists head south to the islands near and around Phuket, those who venture east are rewarded with remote and clean paradise-like beaches. Koh Kood is one of the few beaches in Thailand where I saw actual starfish on the sand, and the water was crystal-clear all the way to my feet.
Long Beach, Koh Lanta
It’s not just a clever name—this wide, sweeping beach is one of the longest in Thailand and is definitely worth a mention on this list of best beaches in Thailand, but only during the season. Off season between May and November and you might not find the beach to be clean or relaxing, as many businesses close for the rainy season.
Lamai Beach, Koh Samui
We have to admit, the beaches in Koh Samui are just not our favorite. The island is the largest in the chain of Koh Samui-Koh Phanan- Koh Phi Phi and that means more crowds, more cars and more tourists. But, if you find yourself in the area, Lamai Beach is your best bet for a pretty view and the ability to relax a bit.
White Sand Beach, Koh Chang
Koh Chang has been hailed as a backpacker’s island—there are plenty of wooden bungalows you can rent by the beach for next to nothing—but more recently, larger resorts have started claiming bits of White Sand Beach, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as they have staff who help to keep it clean. If you’re short on time and don’t want to trek the 12 hours south from Bangkok to the southern islands, then Koh Chang is a good alternative as it’s only five or six hours from Bangkok by bus.
Bottle Beach, Koh Phanan (pictured)
While we aren’t huge fans of Haad Rin, Bottle Beach, which is accessible by boat, is a whole other story. This beach, surrounded by the mountains, makes it feel like it’s own private paradise. It’s not the kind of place you stumble upon, which makes it great for travelers burnt out from the Thai beach scene who have a little more time in their itinerary.
Koh Lipe, Sunset Beach
The best beaches in Thailand are on Koh Lipe, for, you guessed it, sunset! It’s also the island’s smallest beach, but if you visit during low season, you might just have it all to yourself. Koh Lipe is an hour boat ride away from both part of Malaysia and mainland Thailand, so it does tend to be populated with travelers from both areas. Still, the beaches are lovely and it’s worth a visit if you have some time and want to do something different than visiting the big three: Koh Samui, Koh Phanan, Koh Phi Phi.
We love Thailand—both the hilltribes and the lovely, crafty city of Chiang Mai in the north and the beaches to the nation’s east and south coast.
Ok, now let’s talk about the beaches we would NOT recommend.
Beaches We Don’t Recommend
Haad Rin: The beach where the full-moon parties take place on Koh Phangan. Unfortunately this beach takes a beating just about every month when thousands of full moon partiers take over with their bags, and their bottles, and a myriad of other things. We don’t generally recommend attending a full moon party because of the potential dangers to safety. But there are other lovely beaches on Koh Phangan that you can discover by renting a scooter and checking them out for yourself.
Maya Bay: The beach made famous by “the beach” is a popular day trip from Koh Phi Phi. While it was undoubtedly at one point breathtaking (see the cover photo of this article, taken 7 years ago), these days it’s completely overrun by long-tail boats who pollute the water, and literally thousands of tourists per day looking for the perfect selfie. Luckily, the government has recognized the impact this amount of tourism has had to Maya Bay and they have decided to close Maya Bay so that the beach can recover.
Patong Beach: Unfortunately, the same applies to Patong Beach: tourism to Phuket have left this beach dirty, overcrowded, and full of touts. For a better Phuket beach, try Karon Beach.
Have you been? What are your favorite beaches in Thailand?