Immaculate white sandy beaches, jaw-dropping swimming and snorkelling or hikes through lush green jungle… Ko Chang, Ko Phi Phi and Ko Adang are three of Thailand’s must-see islands and here are a few tips to help you choose which one will suit you best !
How to decide which Thai island to visit?
Your choice of island will depend on how long you are planning to stay, which part of the country you’re thinking of going to and, of course, what you like doing… If you’re a party-goer, up all night into the early, and even late, hours of the morning, then Ko Phi Phi (or Phi Phi Don, see below) is the place for you; if you’re looking for adventure, head for Ko Adang in the Tarutao archipelago, rich in unspoiled, uninhabited isles; scuba divers should make a beeline for the breathtaking sea beds around Adang, Rawi, Batuang and Kata (all of which in the Tarutao archipelago). Generally speaking, the beaches are more crowded than the inland, which, however, offers no end of memorable hiking and walking sites… Even better, a number of hikes on Thailand’s most beautiful islands culminate at the foot of a waterfall, where it is impossible to resist jumping into the refreshing water!
1. Ko Adang
Ko Adang is made up of some 51 lush green islands in the Tarutao archipelago, Thailand’s oldest maritime national park, founded in 1974. Unlike Ko Lipe, devoted to sunbathing and just a few leagues away, the steep slopes of this mountainous island are carpeted in thick jungle and offer sanctuary to wildlife and plants. On the other hand, at Ko Bulon Leh and Ko Lipe, you can hire a fisherman to take you to the dive spots around Adang, Rawi, Batuang and Kata. Don’t miss one mythical diving spot, the Seven Corals, whose coral reefs are a highlight of any diver’s logbook, whether novice or experienced.
We recommend stopping by Ko Hin Ngam, a tiny beach covered in strange pebble stones which turn amazing colours on contact with the water, resembling an antique mosaic.
2. Ko Phi Phi = Phi Phi Don + Phi Phi Le
On the west coast overlooking the Andaman Sea, Ko Phi Phi is in fact comprised of two exquisite islands, Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Le. Only the first, which is the largest and the best known, is inhabited. Phi Phi Don is one of Thailand’s prettiest picture postcard islands, 5mi/8km long and just under 2mi/3km wide, depicted by a two crescent-shaped beaches that face away from each other. To be honest, this beach comber’s paradise (also one of the country’s best diving spots) can at times border on the holiday ghetto, thanks to the blaring music pumping out of the 24/7 bars and nightclubs and the noisy arrivals and departures of the dive boats among others. It is possible to get away from the madding crowd on Ko Phi Phi, however, by climbing to the Viewpoint, which commands a fantastic vista over Phi Phi Don and its neighbour, Phi Phi Le.
Some 2mi/3.5km long and 0.6mi/1km wide, the little island of Phi Phi Le can be toured in half a day, including time to go swimming and a peek into the interior. As is the case of its more well-known neighbour, try and avoid the tourist rush hour, when fifty or so boats will be jostling for space at the same sites, to better appreciate the magnificent beauty of the island. The reef’s abrupt shoreline has been sculpted by the sea into a lacelike rocky curtain behind which lie grottoes and cavities that are home to amazing sceneries of stalactites.
Other leisure activities on Phi Phi Le include touring the island by boat or by kayak, fully worth it if you have the time.
3. Ko Chang
Tucked away in the Gulf of Siam, on the doorstep of Cambodia, Ko Chang’s distinctive strip of white sand remains an unspoiled site, the secret of which is however spreading like wildfire. The second largest island of Thailand, both in terms of land and sea, Ko Chang is home to over 74 species of birds and a rich diversity of mammals and reptiles. If you are lucky, you may encounter wild boar, macaques and stags as well as monitor lizards, pythons or even royal cobras when out hiking! Ko Chang’s most stunning beach is undoubtedly Hat Khlong Phrao : the Khlong Phrao, a natural, partly underground canal that crosses the island from one side to the other, takes its source in the forest and empties into the sea, creating a stretch of immaculate white sand on either side of its bed.