Tucked away in the far south-west corner of Thailand, the undoubted highlights of Satun province are its delightful islands and beaches. And with many overseas and local tourists heading instead to the better-known Andaman Coast beach destinations like Phuket and Krabi, it leaves Satun and neighbouring Trang as quieter alternatives. Shown here in no particular order is our compilation of 10 of the best things to see and do in Satun province.
1) Relax on the tropical island of Ko Lipe
Ko Lipe is the best-known destination in Satun. And while this gorgeous little island is now on the tourist radar, Ko Lipe remains a wonderful location to visit. The island is also a good base to explore a number of the other suggestions listed on this page.
The compact size of Ko Lipe means that wherever you choose to stay you’ll only be a short walk away from the beach. There are no cars on the island which helps to add to the relaxing vibe. Add in soft sands, turquoise waters and sublime views, and you’ll see why Ko Lipe is such a popular island getaway.
2) Climb the viewpoint at Ko Adang
Although substantially larger than Ko Lipe, the neighbouring island of Ko Adang remains almost untouched. One of the highlights of the island is the fabulous views across to Ko Lipe. Take the walking trail up Chado Cliff to take in the three separate different viewpoints. You don’t need to be too fit to do it, but there are a few points where you are clambering over rocks and loose gravel and will be thankful for swapping your flip-flops for trainers.
3) Kayak through prehistoric sites
Parts of Satun province were designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark in 2018. The park includes dozens of caves, waterfalls and uninhabited islands. Hire a local guide and sea kayak to visit the huge sinkhole of Prasat Hin Phan Yod on Ko Khao Yai.
It’s also possible to kayak through Tham Le Stegodon, a vast cave which is named after the stegodon fossils which have been discovered here. Visit Phu Pha Phetch Cave where evidence of ancient human habitation has been unearthed. The cave is a striking sight with light streaming through a gap in the roof and illuminating the rock formations.
4) Stay at a former penal colony
Enjoying the empty beaches of Ko Tarutao today, it’s difficult to imagine being sent to this island as a punishment. But as recently as the 1940s, the island was the location of internment camps for convicts and political prisoners. The island was a wild place in more ways than one with dense jungle and a reputation for piracy during the Second World War.
The island is now part of Tarutao National Marine Park and visitors can stay in tents near the beach or in comfortable national park bungalows. Walk along empty beaches, witness spectacular Andaman Sea sunsets and be at one with nature. Amongst the wildlife you can expect to see on Ko Tarutao are wild boars, sea eagles, macaques and monitor lizards.
5) Find true love at Ko Khai
The picturesque island of Ko Khai is the location for a natural rock archway that is popular with Thai visitors. According to local legends, if you walk through the ‘Lover’s Gate’ archway with your partner, you will be assured eternal love. And if you’re single, you will find the love of your life.
There is no accommodation on Ko Khai, but it can be visited as part of a day trip from Ko Lipe. Some scheduled speedboat services between Ko Tarutao and Ko Lipe will also include a quick stopover at Ko Khai.
6) Visit the Island of Beautiful Stones
The diminutive island of Ko Hin Ngam is famous for its beach, but unlike nearby Ko Lipe you won’t find tourists here sun-bathing. The shiny black pebbles that form the beach give Ko Hin Ngam its name: ‘Island of Beautiful Stones’.
According to local folklore the guardian of the island, a spirit called Chao Pho Tarutao, cursed the stones to stop anybody taking them away. Any person who ignores the warning and takes a stone away from Ko Hin Ngam will receive bad luck. Whether you are superstitious or not, taking stones away from the island is illegal and rangers will take action against anybody flouting the law. Wherever you visit in Thailand, please respect local rules and customs and be a responsible tourist.
7) Go diving and snorkelling in the Andaman Sea
The warm tropical waters of the Tarutao National Marine Park offer up some excellent diving and snorkelling opportunities. With dozens of protected islands, this southern stretch of the Andaman Sea is a delight to explore. Most excursions depart from Ko Lipe making the island the perfect base to stay during your stay in Satun.
The waters around Ko Rawi are ideal for snorkelling and you can expect to see soft corals and an array of tropical fish. More advanced divers can explore the underwater granite pinnacles of ‘Stonehenge’, which has been described as one of the top scuba spots in Thailand.
8) Chill out on Ko Bulon Leh
If you are seeking an island quieter than Lipe, consider staying on delightful Ko Bulon Leh (often simplified to Ko Bulon). This tropical island is inhabited by a small Chao Ley community and there is a village feel to life on the island. Accommodation options are limited compared to Ko Lipe, but if you’re looking to kick off your shoes and simply relax, Ko Bulon is a good choice.
9) Wander around Satun Town
If you can drag yourself away from Satun’s gorgeous islands, the unassuming provincial capital of Satun Town (Muang Satun) makes for an interesting stay.
The Satun National Museum (Kuden Mansion) is one of the highlights of a visit here. Learn about Satun’s history, culture and way of life at the museum which is housed in a lovely old Sino-Portuguese mansion. Islam is an important part of daily life in Satun with the Satun Central Mosque a hub for the local community.
10) Explore Thale Ban National Park
If you have time in your itinerary to explore the Satun mainland, head inland from Satun Town to Thale Ban National Park.
Spread out over 75 square miles, the park features mountains, jungle, mangrove forests, lakes and waterfalls. If you’d like to find out more about the walking trails and wildlife of the area, call in to the National Park headquarters.