Thailand is one of the most popular destinations for backpackers. Besides the cozy cities, delicious street food and numerous temples, Thailand has great opportunities for island hopping with dazzling beaches, a wonderful vibe and excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities. The nice thing about this country is that discovering the islands does not even cost you much money . With the places that I describe in this article for you, you can easily manage around $20 per day. Depending of course on the activities you undertake.
The large number of islands in the south of Thailand makes the country an ideal destination for traveling from island to island. What are the places that are worth the effort to go island hopping? Below an overview to help you in making your choice.
Island hopping in Thailand
You can opt for day trips as well as for independently visiting the islands, so you are not bound to a tour and therefore fixed departure times. Certainly if there is no strict timetable, I would advise you to discover as much as possible yourself. It is crazy to stay on a small, uninhabited island between some locals.
Especially when you are first backpacking in Thailand, you may have no idea where you want to go. Often it is then that you do not get further than the calibrated places like Koh Phi Phi and Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan.
But there is so much more than these tourist attractions. Please read this article carefully so that you do not forget to also see the most unexplored spots in Thailand.
Where in Thailand do you want island hopping?
1. Island hopping at Phuket
The beaches on Phuket itself, except for Nai Harn, were not very special as they were mostly filled with beach beds and were overloaded with Russians. Moreover, I found that there were pretty many older men with younger girls walking around. Fortunately not as bad as in Pattaya , but it is the street scene that I remember. If you are in Phuket, you can start island hopping from the Bang Rong Pier. You can sail here both with a longtail and speed boat towards the beautiful James Bond Island . Locally she is also called Khao Phing Kan . Why the link with 007 ? Because the island can be seen in The man with the golden gun , a Bondfilm from 1974.
If you do the James Bond Island Tour, you stop along the way at various islands that belong to this area. You leave with a speed or longtail boat from the aforementioned Bang Rong Pier. The first stop you make is at Panak Island . A place where you can kayak extremely well. For lunch you go to the fishing island of Koh Panyee where you can enjoy the freshest seafood in the eponymous village on the island. After this the trip continues to James Bond Island . Compared to other islands, I did not find it very special. Perhaps also because it is quite touristy. However, the trip there is an experience in itself.
Furthermore you will visit Hong Island and you can relax on the luxurious Naka Island . Nice to see and feel like a movie star instead of a budget backpacker. Outside the places I mentioned above, there are still a number of recommendations where you can sail from Phuket. At 85 kilometers northwest of Phuket are the breathtakingly beautiful Similan Islands. If you are looking for a dream island, you have everything here. From white beaches to the most beautiful corals and from swimming in waterfalls to dolphin watching. They are also the most popular dive destination in all of Thailand, even more popular than Koh Tao.
Relatively cheap overnight stays can be done at the camping facilities that you can find on the islands of Koh Meang, Koh Similan and Koh Tachai. This costs you 500 Baht, about $ 12.50. The cheapest bungalows cost you twice. Camping, also for the ultimate adventure feeling. You should not forget the two islands of Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi . You can also come from both Phuket and Krabi. From Phuket, the speedboat ride takes only 20 minutes. Both islands are inhabited by very hospitable and friendly Muslims who see you fishing every now and then. Two wonderful places if you want to escape the hectic pace of Phuket.
The rocky island of Koh Bon is also one to remember. She is 15 minutes from Rawai Beach (Phuket). Despite being so close, not many other people come. If you are looking for a place to have lunch just outside Phuket, jump up the boat and have dinner at Bon Restaurant. Finally, I mention Koh Hae which means freely translated as ‘Coral Island’. The two main beaches are Banana Beach and Long Beach. The name ‘coral island’ is not for nothing: at Banana Beach you really have excellent snorkeling opportunities. With the speedboat you’ll be there in 15 minutes, so why not do it?
2. Island hopping from Ao Nang (Krabi)
From Ao Nang you can do a ‘four island tour’ where you visit four true paradises, starting with Koh Gai or Koh Kai. This island is also known as ‘Chicken Island’, a place with beautiful corals where you can snorkel very well. Nice to know: she owes her name to the shape that the island has. A part of this picturesque spot looks like a chicken, if you look closely. Incidentally, it is the most suitable place to snorkel from all four islands you pass by. Then you continue to Koh Tup , an island that is only a few hundred meters from Koh Gai. It is even bordered by a long stretch of sand that connects both islands, including Koh Mawr. If the water is low, you can clearly see this ‘way’. The sand strip is known by the locals as ‘Talay Whak’.
Then the previously mentioned Koh Mawr . A small rocky island with imposing cliffs that emerge from the sea. This is an ideal place if you like to relax on the beach. Finally, Koh Poda , which lies south of Ao Nang. It also belongs to the Haad Noppharat Thara to Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park. Besides sunbathing and swimming, there is not much to do here. But you are not looking for much more when you do an island tour. On the way you also make a stop at the beautiful Pranang Cave . A place that also serves as a destination for locals to pray, to make sacrifices and to make certain wishes.
3. Island hopping at Koh Lanta
t is also advisable to travel from Krabi to Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi by boat , two islands that both fall under the Krabi Provence. In particular Koh Lanta, I am very fond of, Phi Phi something less. What are you looking for? An island life full of a lively nightlife or a quieter place? In the latter case Koh Lanta is the solution, in the first Koh Phi Phi. Koh Lanta consists of several islands, Lanta Noi and Lanta Yai are the best known. Most of the backpackers stay at Lanta Yai. A lovely long beach, where you can run well during the sunset.
You make a first stop on the island of Koh Ngai . A beautiful island with long white sand plains, palm trees and clear blue water. You’ll enjoy an hour of snorkeling here. Then you continue to the island of Koh Mook . You will also find the Emerald Cave here. The beach at Koh Mook is again impressive, especially the view of the impressive limestone rocks is beautiful. Unfortunately, I say so, the visit to the Emerald Cave was very busy.
Certainly the way through the dark cave where nothing could be seen and I only felt people around me, sometimes felt claustrophobic. The lagoon where you ultimately end up, is then again impressive, although it should be less busy. Apart from the green water, it was mainly the red life jackets and the many Chinese people who noticed me. After the visit to the cave, you make a stop at Koh Kradan . A very nice spot with a lovely beach. Go relax, snorkel or walk along the long beach. This is also the place where you stop for lunch. In my case, this was fresh fruit and various Thai dishes that we could choose from.
Finally you go to Koh Chuak , a small island that lies between the previously visited islands of Koh Mook and Koh Kradan. Or actually I have to say rock, because that is what this ‘island’ consists of. You will go snorkeling here for an hour and then the trip back to the old town of Koh Lanta. Furthermore, I would advise you to take a boat from Koh Lanta to Koh Jum . You are there within 45 minutes, and believe me, this island is not going to disappoint you. If you do not want to follow mass tourism that travels to Koh Phi Phi, then this is the place to go. It is not for nothing that a local has recommended this island to me. Let locals know the best spots.
Once you have arrived, you immediately feel that you are on a deserted island. With paradisiacal beaches, wild running monkeys and the pure locals, this is still a relatively hidden treasure in Thailand. If you come to Thailand for parties, then you should not be here, but for heavenly spheres. If you want to go to Koh Phi Phi , you can take a boat from Ao Nang or Koh Lanta. This takes two (Ao Nang) and one and a half hour (Koh Lanta) respectively. Phi Phi are perhaps the most famous islands in all of Thailand. Many backpackers who have read or seen the book or movie The Beach want to visit this beautiful piece of nature in real life.
You have several beautiful beaches and corals, although much of it is destroyed by the many boats mooring every day. Phi Phi is not my cup of tea, so to speak. Nice for a couple of days, but the festivities in not necessarily what I’m looking for when I think of a tropical island. Obviously does not take away that the most famous island, Phi Phi Don, knows beautiful pieces. Unfortunately it is quite pricey and very overpopulated. You can also visit the same islands as from Koh Lanta, or for example to attract the beautiful, but tourist, Railay Beach . This ride takes about one and a half hour with the ferry.
4. Island hopping at Koh Chang
Relatively close to Bangkok lies the island of Koh Chang . She is about five to six hours traveling from the capital. My favorite place is Lonely Beach, a place where you can find the most backpackers. Only downside I find the low water, so you have to walk quite far before it gets deeper. From Koh Chang you can sail to various beautiful surrounding islands to experience the ultimate feeling of freedom. You can continue to sleep on all the islands that I mention below. From the fishing village of Koh Chang, Ao Ban Bao, you can take a day trip or choose to jump on a wooden boat to sail to one of the places below. First you have the island of Koh Kood , an island consisting of many pearly white beaches, waterfalls and a mountainous landscape. Nice to know is that there are hardly any tourists today. The ideal place if you are looking for a quiet bounty island.
Then there is the island that is more than 16 square kilometers: Koh Mak . She is in the middle of Koh Chang and Koh Kood. The ideal place if you want to go snorkeling, as there is a rich underwater world to admire and the water is crystal clear. Again it is a non-tourist destination, especially because there are simply not so many sleeping spots available: 2,000 in total. Another recommendation to go from Koh Chang is: Koh Wai , a tiny island that lies between Koh Chang and Koh Mak. You have two very nice beaches and a total of three different resorts. We have also thought of backpackers, with different wooden cabins on the north side of the beach for less than € 10. It can be a little busier at weekends, when many day-trippers come to snorkel or relax on the beach. From the beach there is beautiful coral directly. You only have to walk in the water and go under.
5. Island hopping at Koh Lipe
If you are in the deep south of Thailand, Koh Lipe is an island where you will most likely go. The place is now unfortunately not as unknown as before and therefore quite touristy. But she is beautiful. The island could undoubtedly be film material for a Hollywood movie from the upper segment. No word has been lied to this. You can reach Koh Lipe from both Malaysia and various places in Thailand. Boats leave from the islands of Langkawi , Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Phuket and Krabi.
The island is ideal for snorkeling, with a pineapple shake on the beach to chill or get in touch with other travelers in one of the cozy bars. Which nearby islands can you visit from Koh Lipe? Firstly the island of Koh Tarutao which, like Koh Lipe, is part of the Taruato National Marine Park. This ‘nature reserve’ also consists of more than 50 different islands. It is an excellent spot to take walks through the jungle and enjoy beautiful views along the way. Snorkeling is better done at Koh Lipe by the way.
Another recommendation is Koh Adang , where you can come with a longtail boat from Koh Lipe and also belongs to the previously discussed national park. You will find thickly forested hills, untouched coral reefs and very beautiful beaches. Furthermore, you have several waterfalls and wild jungle where you can go on an adventure. Finally, I advise you to go to the viewpoint and enjoy the view over Koh Lipe.
If you want to see a place with lots of stray monkeys, go to the small island of Koh Tong . If you book an island tour from Koh Lipe, a short stop is almost always made here. From the beach you can also snorkel well. Beware of your lunch: before you know it, a monkey is running away. The island is also called ‘Monkey Island’. Not entirely illogical of course. West of Koh Adan, the island of Koh Rawi consists mostly of gigantic limestone hills and a dense jungle. You can also snorkel very well here. Even wild camping is possible.
Finally, Koh Hin Ngam . This is about four kilometers from Koh Rawi. The most striking thing is the stone beach. There are even stories that the accident brings when you take a stone from the island. Whether it is true, I do not know. Try it I would say.
6. Island hopping at Koh Samui
I am guessing that in this case you only think of the islands Koh Tao and the perhaps better known Koh Phangan. Let me tell you one thing: there are more than 60 different islands around Koh Samui . As you can see, there is so much more to see than just Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. Koh Samui is often mentioned less quickly than Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. Maybe because she does not have a specific award, like Phangan with the full moon parties and Koh Tao with the many diving facilities. However, it is a super nice, green island with various waterfalls and beautiful viewpoints.
From Samui you can go to the beautiful Ang Thong Marine Park , which lies 31 kilometers northwest of the island. An archipelago consisting of as many as 42 small islands. You can get there both with a speedboat and a regular ferry. Upon arrival, you are most likely to look at the largest island: Koh Wua Ta Lap . Be sure to stop at the viewpoint, you have a beautiful view here. Furthermore, kayaking is highly recommended. The snorkeling is a bit disappointing when I compare this with Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.
Short from Koh Samui are the small islands Koh Taen and Koh Mudsum . The latter is actually nothing more than a long beach and uninhabited. The only ‘inhabited’ that you find there is a pearl farm and the southern side of the beach. Then, in my opinion, more interesting Koh Taen . Only five kilometers south of Koh Samui you will find this gem in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand. You sail in about half an hour with a longtail boat. Moreover, there are several bungalows available where you can stay overnight. Certainly do this if this is possible, because the hilly island is still completely ‘pure nature’ and untouched.
Go hiking or on a mountain bike to discover the area. Snorkeling is also recommended, the corals around the island are very special. Of course you can also visit the lively Koh Tao . As you may know, this island is the diving island of Thailand, if not all of Asia . Especially because you can get PADI relatively cheaply on Koh Tao. You can also attend Muay Thai classes at the Sai Ri Stadium. Finally, renting a scooter is also an option, so you can cruise around the island. Besides the above activities, the nightlife is also more than worth it. If this is less intense than on Koh Phangan (happy but?). For this you have to be with Hat Sai Ri or Ban Mae Hat. Snorkeling and diving is best done around the surrounding islands, for example in Koh Taen discussed earlier.
Incidentally, from Koh Tao you can take a boat-taxi to another dream island: Koh Nang Yuan . Unfortunately it is often quite overpopulated, but the view from the viewpoint is unaffordable. If the water is low, you can also see the sand strips that connect the island with two other islands.Finally, Koh Phangan . Have you ever attended a Full Moon Party at the famous Haad Rin Beach? Outside alone and alone, you can also choose to explore this beautiful green island with a mountain bike or scooter. Are you looking for peace, then I recommend the northern Bottle Beach. You can also spend the night in those typical bungalows on the beach, and that for less than 10$. Haad Salad in the northwest is also a nice place with a pleasant and friendly atmosphere.