The islands along Thailand’s east coast offer visitors a broad range of experiences with something to appeal to all types of traveller. Whether you’re travelling solo, with your partner or with your family, Thailand’s east coast islands are an excellent choice for a holiday. To help you find the best island for you, here are our suggestions (in alphabetical order) for nine of the best islands to visit on Thailand’s east coast.
Ko Chang is the biggest and best-known island on the East Coast. With a good selection of accommodation options, excellent beaches and plenty to see and do, Ko Chang is a great all-round choice. There’s lots to see and do here for families and the island also makes a great base for couples and solo travellers who are looking to explore some of the other islands that make up the Ko Chang archipelago.
Kayaking, snorkelling and diving are all popular activities on this tropical East Coast island. And with Ko Chang’s interior featuring jungle-clad hills and waterfalls, there are some wonderful hikes waiting to be enjoyed if you can drag yourself away from the beach. And for an insight into the local way of life, travel to Ko Chang’s south or east coast where you will find traditional fishing villages and some wonderful seafood restaurants. Take a kayak ride through the mangrove forests or enjoy a ride on the local gondola-style boats as part of a community based tourism project at Ban Salak Khok.
Ko Kood (also known as Ko Kut) is smaller than Ko Chang, but still enjoys the similar inviting beaches and lovely scenery.
The island sees less tourism compared to Ko Chang and even during the high season Ko Kood remains quiet and the pace of life unhurried. Accommodation on Ko Kood ranges from home-stays in fishing villages through to luxury resorts like the High Season Villa Resort and Soneva Kiri. The latter also offers you a chance to enjoy one of the most romantic dining experiences in Thailand thanks to the innovative, luxury tree-pod dining they provide for guests .
Ko Kradat can lay claim to being one of the most unusual islands in Thailand. And that’s because of the deer who live here. The herd are descendants of the original deer who were introduced to the island by King Rama V in the late 1800s. Ko Kradat is a private island and although visitors must pay an entrance fee, the price does include a tour of the island on a local tractor with stops on the beach and a chance to see the deer.
The island of Ko Larn (known as Coral Island) is often visited as a day trip from nearby Pattaya. With better beaches than its mainland neighbour and an altogether different atmosphere, Ko Larn is a pleasant place to unwind for a few days. While it’s true that Ko Larn does get a lot of day trippers from Pattaya enjoying the noisy jet skis and banana boat rides, most are gone by late afternoon allowing you to enjoy the quiet charms of Ko Larn in the evening and early morning.
Home to around 350 people, Ko Mak is a lovely little island within easy reach of Ko Chang. Rubber trees and coconut palms are a feature of the island landscape and provide the traditional way of living. Nowadays, low-level tourism draws in money to the local economy too, but Ko Mak still keeps its local appeal and community way of life. The beaches might not be quite as stunning as some of the other islands in the Ko Chang archipelago, but the local community here and absence of mainstream development make Ko Mak ideal for a quiet escape.
Ko Samae San
Located in the Sattahip district of Chonburi province, the island of Ko Samae San is almost unknown to overseas tourists. The island flies under the tourist radar because it comes under the control of the Royal Thai Navy and no overnight stays are allowed here. Ko Samae San is one of the islands which is included under a Royal Initiative from HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn to protect the island and establish it as an educational centre. The clear waters are ideal for snorkelling or taking a ride on a glass-bottom boat or kayak. Cycling around the island is another way to enjoy the tranquility and pristine beaches.
The number of visitors to Ko Samae San is restricted to 500 people per day with tickets not available to individuals in advance. Tickets can be purchased at the Natural History Museum near Khao Mar Jor pier on the mainland at Sattahip. Foreign visitors are required to show their passport (Thai people must show their ID card) and you may find it easier to enlist the help of a Thai person or registered guide to accompany you to the island.
Easy to reach from the Thai capital, the diminutive island of Ko Samet is always popular on weekends and on public holidays with Bangkok residents and students heading here for a quick beach break. Visit during the week, though, and you will find Ko Samet much quieter. Although there are closer beaches to Bangkok, Ko Samet has better quality sand and clearer waters when compared to the mainland alternatives such as Bang Saen and Pattaya.
Ko Samet is a great choice for travellers making their way along Thailand’s east coast. The influx of Thai visitors at the weekend gives Ko Samet’s main beaches a lively, but not too boisterous party vibe.
Ko Si Chang
The rocky little island of Ko Si Chang is one of the closest to Bangkok, but is often overlooked because it lacks the soft sandy beaches of so many of the other Thai islands. It may be true that Ko Si Chang isn’t what most people would describe as beautiful, but beauty is only skin-deep. The real charm of Ko Si Chang goes beyond the beach.
Experience a working island, sample tasty seafood, and discover what made this a favourite destination for King Rama V who built a summer palace here in the 1890s. Ko Si Chang can be visited on a day trip from Pattaya (or Bangkok) and on arrival at the pier you can book a tour by ’Skylab’ the funky tuk-tuks that will take you to all the main sightseeing spots on the island. But to make the most of the ambiance of Ko Si Chang, try to spend a few nights here and allow yourself to ease into local life.
Another of the delightful islands in the Ko Chang archipelago, Ko Wai is perfect if you want to get away from it all. There are limited facilities on the island and power comes from generators. If you want hi-speed Internet and all mod-cons, Ko Wai isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you want to get off the grid and enjoy a lovely tropical island where there isn’t much to do apart from swim, snorkel and relax, Ko Wai may just tick all the right boxes. If it sounds appealing, but you want to literally test the waters first, try visiting on a day trip from Ko Chang.
Map of Thailand’s east coast
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