The ultimate guide to island hopping in Thailand- everything you need to know

If you read my blog, you know that I usually stay away from touristy places and try to opt for authentic, off-the-beaten-track experiences but some places are just too overwhelming to be missed, despite being visited by millions of people every year. One such example are the islands in Thailand. Thousands of backpackers go island hopping in Thailand every day and even though the islands don’t look as lonely and pristine as they do in the pictures when so many people are around, they are still worth visiting. After all, so many people visit these islands for a reason. And no matter what your reason is, this Thailand island hopping guide will give you great insight.

Let’s start with the basics.

Don’t book Thailand island hopping tours

Thailand boats

Going on island hopping tours in Thailand will be more costly than organizing your trip alone and you also won’t have the flexibility you would have when traveling on your own.

Traveling and getting around Thailand is super-easy and it’s one of the best countries for a solo trip. A lot of solo travelers head to Thailand every year and manage to organize all of their activities without any tourist agencies. This applies to island hopping too. In this article, I’ll give you a long list of suggestions for island hopping in Thailand. Whether you’re looking to visit just a few islands in 6-7 days or want to go on a big, one-month island hopping adventure across Thailand, this itinerary will give you a lot of useful tips and tricks.

But first things first- here’s a map of all islands in Thailand that will help you get a rough idea of where you want to go.

Thailand Islands Map

islands map thailand

Planning your Thailand island hopping itinerary? Take a look at this map featuring all the islands mentioned in this article organized according to the easiest way to reach them starting from the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand all the way to the Andaman Sea. For more information on how to get to every individual island and why should you visit, keep reading!

1. Koh Si Chang, the nearest island to Bangkok

koh si chang

If you have only a few days to spend in Thailand and don’t want to go too far away from Bangkok, Koh Si Chang is the perfect destination. No to be confused with Koh Chang, Koh Si Chang is a tiny island in the Gulf of Thailand that can be reached via a 2-hour boat ride from Bangkok. There are many prettier islands in Thailand but Koh Si Chang is the perfect getaway destination for travelers looking to get away from Bangkok’s busy, polluted streets and enjoy the green surroundings and peaceful, rural atmosphere.

How to get to Koh Si Chang?

You can reach Koh Si Chang by taking a 2-hour boat ride from Bangkok. Alternatively, you can also reach by taking the bus from Bangkok to Si Racha and taking a boat ride from Koh Loi pier to the island.

Enjoying this post? Check out our comparison between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

2. Koh Samet, an amazing diving destination

koh samet

Sitting on the Rayong Coast, the island of Koh Samet is surrounded by coral reefs. This part of Thailand takes pride in its rich marine life and a lot of divers visit Koh Samet for this reason. However, the island also has some beautiful white-sand beaches and a booming nightlife.

How to reach Koh Samet?

To reach Koh Samet, first, you need to take a 4-hour bus/minibus/taxi ride from Bangkok to Ban Phe. After reaching Ban Phe, you can get to the island via ferry ride which takes roughly 45 minutes.

Bonus: Koh Munnork, a private getaway

Koh Munnork is a private island off the Rayong Coast. It’s a great destination for people seeking an exclusive ambiance. The island has only one luxurious resort and nothing else and the only way to reach is via the resort’s private boat. Needless to say, the number of people that can visit the island is limited, making Koh Munnork one of the most pristine and serene islands in Thailand.

How to reach Koh Munnork?

Only via the resort’s private boat.

3. Koh Chang, a hub for exploring Thailand’s eastern islands

Koh Chang

Koh Chang is the second largest island in Thailand and a more timid version of Phuket. Most of the island is occupied by the national park, making this island a great jungle trekking destination. A lot of people also go kayaking through one of the most beautiful mangrove forests in Thailand (and the world) that happens to be located on Koh Chang. The island is also a great scuba diving destination and a great starting point for exploring some of the above-mentioned islands. There are a lot of boats that go to the smaller islands every day.

How to reach Koh Chang?

A 1-hour flight from Bangkok

Ferry from Pattaya or Koh Samet

Take a bus from Bangkok to Laem Ngop and afterward, take a ferry to Koh Chang

4. Koh Mak, a peaceful unfrequented island

koh mak island hopping in thailand

Koh Mak is one of my favorite islands in Eastern Thailand. Surrounded by crystal-clear, turquoise waters and white-sand beaches, Koh Mak is one of the most pristine islands in Thailand. It’s also relatively unfrequented, especially compared to some of the other islands on this list.

How to reach Koh Mak?

Getting a ferry from Koh Chang

Taking a bus from Bangkok to Laem Ngop Pier and afterward, taking a ferry to the island.

5. Koh Tao, the most photogenic island

sunset beach thailand

A small, photogenic island located north of Koh Pha Ngan, Koh Tao is the ultimate slice of paradise in Thailand. We’ve all seen over-photoshopped pictures of Thailand that make the serene islands seem a lot more beautiful than they actually are. That’s why I didn’t raise my expectations when visiting Koh Tao but this magnificent island left me in awe right from the start. It looked almost the same as on the pictures and there weren’t nearly as many tourists as in Phuket or Koh Samui.

How to reach Koh Tao?

A flight from Bangkok

A bus from Bangkok/Phuket to Chumphon with a connecting ferry service to Koh Tao

6. Koh Pha Ngan, the island with the craziest parties

koh phangan thailand

Koh Pha Ngan is world-wide famous for its nightlife and the iconic Full Moon Party. However, if parties are not your thing, there’s a more quiet side of the island filled with lush forests where you can enjoy the mesmerizing sunsets and click postcard-quality pictures.

How to reach Koh Phangan?

A ferry from Koh Samui or Koh Tao;

A bus from Bangkok with a connecting ferry in Surathani.

7. Koh Samui, the perfect honeymoon destination

palm tree beach

Koh Samui is one of the islands that need little introduction and one of the most visited islands in Thailand. There are activities for all kind of visitors, from backpackers to luxury-seeking travelers. If you want to lie down on the beach and drink cocktails all day, that’s certainly something you can do but there are a lot of other activities you can indulge in. You can go to yoga retreats, jungle treks, diving adventures, chasing waterfalls, rent a bike and explore the island, and have some night fun in one of the many bars and clubs on the island.

How to reach Koh Samui?

A direct flight from Bangkok/Phuket but these can get pricey;

Get on a bus from Bangkok/Phuket to Surat Thani and hop on a ferry that will take you to Koh Samui.

Alternatively, you can fly to the airport in Surat Thani and get a ferry from there. Flying to Surat Thani costs a lot less than flying to Koh Samui.

8. Koh Phayam, the island without cars

koh phayam

Koh Phayam is virtually what Koh Samui was 20-30 years ago. It’s an island that’s still relatively unknown to most travelers and the perfect getaway destination. If you’re looking for a place with a laid back atmosphere, Koh Phayam is a great choice but try to get there as soon as possible before this place becomes famous. At the moment, no cars are allowed on the island and the only way to get around are motorbikes and motorbike taxis.

How to reach Koh Phayam?

Bus from Bangkok/Phuket to Ranong and a ferry from Phayam Pier to Koh Phayam;

Flight from Bangkok/Phuket to Ranong and a ferry from Phayam Pier to Koh Phayam.

9. Similan Islands, a hub for exploring the Andaman islands

Similan Islands

If Koh Phayam is what Koh Samui was once, Similan Islands can be compared to the Phi Phi Islands before they became one of the most touristy places in Thailand. The Similan archipelago consists of nine small islands that form the Mu Ko Similan National Park, one of the most beautiful and least visited national parks in Thailand. The archipelago is also known for its untouched coral reefs with rich marine life, ridiculously-beautiful turquoise waters, and endless stretches of greenery. Their great location also makes Similan Islands are a great starting point for exploring the Thai islands in the Andaman Sea.

How to reach the Similan Islands?

Get a ferry or a speedboat from Chalong or Patong (Phuket).

10. Phuket, the largest island in Thailand

phuket island

Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and has everything one might expect from a tropical island vacation. Beautiful beaches, jungle treks, epic parties, old buildings, historic monuments, Phuket has it all. It’s not a perfect place if you’re looking for a peaceful vacation but it can offer everything else. Phuket also has daily ferries to all of the remaining islands on this list (11-21) and is a great starting point if you want to do some island hopping.

How to get to Phuket?

Direct flight to Phuket’s international airport (a costly option);

A flight from Bangkok;

A bus from Bangkok (the cheapest option).

A ferry from some of the other islands on this list.

11. Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi, for off the beaten track adventures

Koh Yao Yai

Koh Yao Yai is one of the last untouched islands in Thailand that can offer you the typical laidback island vibe with empty beaches, hammocks, and coconut trees. The island is located between Phuket and Krabi and considering this, it’s quite strange that it isn’t visited by more tourists. And next to Koh Yao Yai, you’ll find Koh Yao Noi, another beautiful island with a close-to-nature vibe that gets even fewer visitors. The island is covered by dense jungle surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand.

How to reach Koh Yao Yai?

A longtail ferry ride from either Phuket or Krabi.

12. Koh Phi Phi, a great place for solo travelers

Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi is arguably the most popular island in Thailand; an island that makes it to most people’s travel bucket list. When I first visited Thailand, I was one of them but honestly, the trip was a disappointment. The island is under a constant tourist siege and mass tourism has taken a toll on the island. Sure, the nature of Koh Phi Phi is amazing and the island is beautiful, there are a lot of parties and you can meet people even as a solo traveler but just don’t expect too much. Lower down your expectations and I’m sure you’ll still have a great time.

How to get to Phi Phi island?

A longtail ferry ride from either Phuket or Krabi.

13. Koh Jum, a quiet have amongst bustling islands

koh jum thailand

If you look at the map you’ll see Koh Jum is not too far from the mainland. Based on this, you might think that the island attracts a lot of tourists and it’s quite busy but that’s not the case. In fact, most local ferries bypass the island, making it a great destination for people that want to get a break from the busy streets of Phuket and Phi Phi. The island’s landscape is dominated by Khao Kau Pu Mountain from where you will witness probably the most spectacular sight of the Andaman Sea. If you plan to visit, note that the island doesn’t have any ATMs or currency exchange offices, so carry some extra cash with you.

How to reach Koh Jum?

A longtail ferry ride from either Krabi, Koh Phi Phi or Phuket.

14. Koh Lanta, when you can’t make up your mind

beach view

Every island in Thailand is known for something and for catering to a specific group of tourists. That’s not the case with Koh Lanta but this is arguably the best place in Thailand for all-rounders. On Koh Lanta, you’ll find a lot of crowded beaches, resorts, clubs, and western shops but you’ll also find nature reserves, off-the-beaten-track destinations, blissfully crowd-free beaches, diving sites, waterfalls, and even authentic places. I know it’s a cliche but Koh Lanta truly has something in store for everyone.

How to get to Koh Lanta?

You can get a taxi or rent a car and drive to Koh Lanta from Krabi or

Get on a ferry from Krabi, Koh Jun, Ao Nang or Ko Phi Phi.

15. Koh Ngai, an unpopulated, densely-forested island

koh ngai

I was having my doubts about whether to include Koh Ngai on this list only because I don’t want a lot of people to learn about it. Most of the island’s territory is forested and there aren’t any permanent residents living here. The sand on the beaches is as white as snow and the color of the water is as turquoise as it gets and the sunsets are absolutely spectacular.

How to reach Koh Ngai?

The nearest airport is the one in Trang. From here, you can get on a bus/taxi/ferry to Koh Ngai.

16. Koh Mook, an island made of dreams

koh mook

For some reason, a lot of the islands in the Trang province aren’t very popular among tourists (yet). However, although not a lot of tourists visit the island, Koh Mook is one of my favorite islands in Thailand. Aside from the beautiful nature and stunning beaches, Koh Mook is also home to one of the most spectacular sights in Thailand; Morakot Cave. Also known as Emerald, the cave goes through a 20km-long tunnel that leads to a majestic private beach.

How to get to Koh Mook?

The only way to reach the island is by taking a ferry or a speedboat from Trang.

17. Ko Ra Wi, the best place for a beach picnic

ko ra wi island hopping in thailand

Koh Ra Wi is one of the most peaceful islands in Thailand and has arguably the best beaches in the Adang archipelago. The island doesn’t have permanent residents and most people that visit, come here on Northern island hopping tours, none of which spend more than one hour on the island. This means if you go there after lunchtime, the island will be completely tourist-free and you’ll have a spectacular sunset sight just for yourself.

How to reach Ko Ra Wi?

The only way to reach the island is by taking a boat from Koh Lipe.

18. Koh Adang, the best place for camping on the beach

koh adang

Koh Adang doesn’t have many tourist facilities but it’s one of the best and cheapest islands in Thailand when it comes to camping on the beach. Additionally, the island is home to a trekking route that leads to a viewpoint from where you can get the best view of Koh Lipe. If you’re in for an adventure, you can kayak from Koh Lipe to Koh Adang

How to reach Koh Adang?

You can reach the island by taking a boat or a ferry from either Trang (the nearest airport) or Koh Lipe.

19. Koh Lipe, the place to be for hopeless romantics

koh lipe thailand

Koh Lipe is the perfect mix of remoteness with postcard-quality beaches and luxury resorts. The island is not very big and you can easily explore it on foot and what feeds a hopeless romantic’s soul more than long walks on some of the prettiest beaches in the world?

How to get to Koh Lipe?

The best way to reach Koh Lipe is by taking a boat or a ferry from Hat Yai, a small coastal town that’s connected to all big cities in Thailand via bus, train, and flight.

20. Koh Tarutao, a paradise island that was once a prison

koh tarutao island hopping in thailand

Koh Tarutao was used as a detention facility for criminals for years but today it’s one of Thailand’s fastest emerging tourist hubs and for a good reason. Even though the beaches aren’t as beautiful as some of the other islands on this list, the real treasure of Koh Tarutao lies in the jungle. The island is completely covered in endless stretches of greenery that hide historic ruins and sacred shrines.

How to reach Koh Tarutao?

The nearest airport is Hat Yai. From here, you would need to take an overland transport to Pak Bara, from where you can get a ferry to Koh Tarutao.

Island hopping in Thailand: useful tips

thailand island hopping tips

Choose which islands to visit and how many days you will spend in which island. Personally, I would suggest you not to visit all of these islands at one go, unless you have three months to travel around Thailand.

Be strategic when choosing locations to spend more days. Sure, you can choose Phuket or Phi Phi as destinations to spend a few days and go on a few day trips. However, keep in mind that accommodation and costs, in general, are higher here than compared to places like Trang, Hat Yai, or even Krabi.

If your travel dates are fixed, book your accommodation in advance, especially if you’re traveling during the high-season. The hotels on some of these islands might be completely booked if you don’t.

If you’re taking a tour, don’t do it through your hotel/hostel. They always charge a small commission for providing these services and you end up paying a higher price. We recommend GetYourGuide for day trips in Thailand.

You might have to take several speedboat rides while island hopping in Thailand. That’s why it probably isn’t a bad idea to pack some noise-reducing headphones or earplugs.

If you tend to get seasick, get some motion sickness wristbands. They are a better and healthier alternative to motion sickness pills.

If you’re island hopping, it’s always better to have a backpack than a suitcase. Check out this list for my favorite backpacks for island hopping in Thailand.

Is it safe to go on a Thailand island hopping trip?

Just like any other country, bad things can happen to you in Thailand too. There are some certain tourist scams you need to be aware of before visiting and learn about some things you shouldn’t do when in Thailand but, generally speaking, Thailand is relatively safe and thousands of people go island hopping independently every year. Just don’t be ignorant towards the local culture and don’t ruin your vacation with heavy drinking/ doing drugs and you’ll have a great time.

Helpful resources for island hopping in Thailand

Looking for a cheap flight to Thailand? Qatar Airways has some of the cheapest flights to Thailand and this code can help you save 10% off on all flight bookings.

For cheap accommodation options, use this Booking discount code and get 15% off on all accommodation bookings in Thailand. And if you need some luxury, use this coupon to book three nights at all Radisson hotels in Thailand and get one free.

Want to rent a car in Thailand? Use my Sixt coupon and get 15% off.

For the best bus and train prices, check out Bookaway.

We all know that Thailand has a very liberal visa policy but you should still double-check if you need a visa. You can do that on IVisa and if necessary you can apply and get a discount by using this link.

And last but not least, use this World Nomads discount code to get a great travel insurance deal.

Did you ever go island hopping in Thailand? Did this article inspire you to visit Thailand? Which island in the Land of Smiles is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

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9 thoughts on “The ultimate guide to island hopping in Thailand- everything you need to know”

  1. I have been wanting to go island hopping in Thailand for so long now! I almost went once on a trip and I remember being overwhelmed by all the options. This guide is really helpful in deciding which islands to visit. Koh Chang caught my attention with the jungle trekking and kayaking. I love the sounds of Koh Phayam too. I like the idea of no cars and it not being as well known.

    Reply
  2. This is such a great article, I have been looking for an article with a list of the islands with travel information. I am definitely bookmarking this. We are off to Bangkok in a few weeks and have a couple of days spare so we will definitely think of heading off to Koh Si Chang. I have not heard of it before. Thanks.

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  3. This could not have come at a better time as I will go island hopping in Thailand next month. I’m praying the weather co-operates. thanks for the information on all the islands both big and small – I want to avoid Phuket and Phi Phi as they are too touristy. Ko Yao and Ko Noi are on my list. I would actually love to visit Lipe but it’s just too far from where we will be in Aonang.

    Reply
  4. It’s been a long time since I was last in Thailand, so reading this brought back some great memories for me. Island hopping is one of my favorite activities to do here, and you’re right, you can do it without booking a tour. You’ve given some excellent tips, and I’d love to see Koh Munnork and Koh Tao; both look wonderful.

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  5. I agree on not booking a tour when in Thailand. Because it is easy to navigate. I would never get tired of experiencing Thailand.

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  6. Wow, what a perfect guide on how to do Thailand Island tours without booking expensive island hopping tours. I would definitely try island tours on my own as to ride in local ferry would be very interesting. Koh Chang looks perfect for me and even that Koh Tao as it is photogenic. Thanks for sharing a wonderful guide on the Thai islands.

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  7. I was at a travel convention recently and the Thailand representative was doing a good job of trying to push visitors away from the Phuket/Phi Phi train. Which makes this list incredible because it’s so much more detailed that what they were offering! I know you didn’t want to share it but I agree that Koh Ngai is absolutely gorgeous! Now I want to explore some of these before they get overcrowded too!

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  8. I have heard of Phuket, but the others are new to me. I also had no idea that Thailand was so good for solo travelers. So interesting! I would love to take one the ferries and explore an island. The photos are lovely, too.

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  9. I must admit even after travelling a fair bit around the world one of my most favourite holiday destination remains to be Thailand and the islands. I love the pristine beaches and the food as well which both make me want to visit it again and again. As you said traveling and getting around Thailand is super-easy and very affordable. You can get some great transportation on budget and thats why it attracts a lot of solo travelers and back packers as well. Some great tips on the islands and the ones to visit . Thanks for sharing a very informative post.

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