The Sensational Islands of Thailand
As one of the most visited countries in Southeast Asia, Thailand is known largely as a backpacker’s stomping ground that also features spectacular temples and sacred elephants. The magical land gifts trekkers with ridiculously cheap travel options amid the mountainous landscapes, ancient ruins, waterfalls and springs that are scattered throughout its beautiful islands.
Koh Phi Phi
Arguably the most enchanting island in the Andaman Sea, Koh Phi Phi (yes, it’s pronounced “pee pee”) is small in size yet offers a large slice of heaven with bays surrounding a 100-meter-wide town center. As you make your way from a boat docked by the lounging beach side, you’ll find a narrow town laced with unpaved roads that weave and wind along handmade jewelry stands, local pubs and quaint restaurants. The island’s laid back atmosphere invites beach goers to relax with a book or cocktail while taking in the scenic blue waters and rocky terrain. And if you crave a dash of activity, the island’s main attractions include snorkeling, rock climbing and diving.
The popular beach is hub for restaurant bars that also double as hotels and hostels, making it easy for travelers to eat, drink and sleep in paradise. For affordable options, simply stroll down the beach and pick a hotel to your liking. Prices start at 400 baht (approximately $12 USD) per night for a dorm style room and go up to 1,000 baht for an air-conditioned private room.
The liveliest beach joint is Slinky Beach Bar, an upbeat club where revelers shake it on the sands of Phi Phi until the wee hours. The venue’s house beats, buckets of liquor and fire throwers are more than enough to keep night owls smiling.
Zeavola is the only five-star luxury villa resort on the island, hosting a suite village and garden suites complete with maple-syrup-shaded teakwood finishings, unbelievable views, nature-inspired spa and two scrumptious restaurants. For those wanting to be pampered in paradise, prices start at 10,000 baht per night (approximately $300 USD).
Phuket is Thailand’s most popular beach destination, as it’s the home of many resort villas and luxury accommodations. The setting of pristine beaches and upscale entertainment goes hand in hand with extravagance, which is evident by the area’s accommodation standards.
A piece of Phuket paradise lies on the outskirts of Kata Noi Beach. Impiana Private Villas Kata Noi is one of the finest five-star luxury boutique resorts in all of Asia, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows with dazzling views of ocean waters spilling into each suite. If you’re sending a postcard home during your stay, don’t forget to mention the divine lap pool overlooking the sea as it is surely something to write home about.
Trisara Phuket Villas and Residence is very high on the list of places to stay. The private pools are the main point of interest on this 40-acre plot of land, and guests are offered private villas with spectacular views to their personal swimming holes. Between the world-class amenities and ever-so-accommodating staff, your experience at this resort will be nothing short of perfect.
Indigo Pearl is a top-notch five-star luxury resort that adds a bit of industrial chic to the experience. The incomparable accommodation standards are upheld to make each guest feel like they’re the king of the world. Be sure to check out the impeccable Black Ginger Restaurant, an always gabbed-about favorite of passersby.
Koh Phangan is where nature meets party, and what truer way to combine the two than to party beneath a luminescent moon. The island is world famous for its monthly full moon parties that pull in thousands of visitors ready to paint themselves in neon colors, sip on their favorite bucket cocktail, and party till the sun comes up. The event began when a group of tourists visited the island to party in honor of the “best” full moon — and Haad Rin Beach has been the place to be ever since. During the low season the event still attracts party people in the thousands, but during the high season you can expect upward of 10,000 partygoers. The festivities begin at dusk and carry on through the night, as house, techno, trance and reggae beats float up and down the crescent-shaped beach.
One of the biggest islands to explore, Koh Samui offers a unique blend of culture, white beaches, engaging nightlife and luxury resorts. Located in the gulf, the island is the perfect destination for jam-packing your itinerary with an array of activities. Whether you’re snorkeling, elephant trekking, four wheeling or exploring temples (Big Buddha is the best), you’ll love what Koh Samui has to offer. Tours can hit most attractions in an afternoon, but if you rent a scooter (for as little as 200 baht for 24 hours) you can add a little freedom to your island excursion by voyaging on your own.
If you’re looking to party hard during your trip, Chewang is crawling with bars, clubs and restaurants that all light up the streets at night. Hosting a weekly beach party on Saturdays, the club Ark Bar is placed right on the sand to attract island inhabitants with fire throwers, house jams and flowing buckets of booze.
To get away from the crowd while staying in the vicinity, check into Six Senses Samui. Located on the northern tip of the island (10 kilometers from Chewang), the luxury resort offers guests serene privacy, natural beauty, out-of-this-world views and gracious amenities. The resort is perfection as everything from the décor to each dining experience is designed to enhance all of your senses.
The Tongsai Bay is one of the few resorts that will provide you with your own personally exclusive beach. Yes, please! The hotel boasts the most romantic accommodations on the island with 83 uniquely stylish suites.
Barracuda Restaurant offers award-winning fine dining to give eaters an opportunity to savor in style at sensible prices. The menu blends European and Asian dishes to make each meal unique to the restaurant.