Island hopping Thailand is probably the most popular first big trip for young travelers and I can totally understand why! Traveling to Thailand is hot again after the global pandemic! Some may say the islands are overcrowded and the authentic Thai lifestyle is gone. I am the last one to deny this as Thailand tourism changed a lot over the years. But hey... I am just as much guilty as I have visited Thailand almost 20 times.
Island hopping in Thailand never gets boring and is always something to look forward to. The uncomplicated and laid-back vibe is something hard to explain, but it makes me book a Thailand holiday over and over.
In this blog I will try to give you all the essential tips for island hopping in Thailand and explain you where to go, when to go, what to do, where to stay, how to get there and everything else you need to know when island hopping in Thailand.
Over the last 8 years I visited Thailand 17 times and wrote more than 50 Thailand travel blogs. You could mostly find me on the beach, soaking up that island life. I have still not seen all the Thai islands but for sure I can give you a ton of tips for your first trip. With so many places to visit in Thailand it is hard to pick the best destinations, but whatever route you plan, I am sure you are going to have a great time!
Let me inspire you to also visit other places in Thailand. Check out my 4 Thailand itineraries for 2 weeks with some cool off the beaten path destinations and islands.
RELATED: 5 Thailand Island Hopping Itineraries.
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Best month to go island hopping
This was on a trip to Phuket in September! Pretty chilled, right?
Apart from June I have been in Thailand every month of the year. The best season for a trip to Thailand is end of November till the beginning of April as it supposed to be the dry season. However, it is also the high season and prices will rise accordingly.
Rainy season is during the European and US summer. Don’t let that hold you back too much though. I have been island hopping in Thailand in the rainy season and it was not that bad at all. It can rain for an hour or 2 but most parts of the day are sunny.
Weather conditions these days are unpredictable. The dry season of 2017 saw massive rains and heaps of islands were flooded in January. Nature nowadays is unpredictable so always bring a light rain jacket on your trip.
What to pack for Thailand? Check this link for a list of 40 packing items.
Most rain on the West Coast in Thailand falls around July and August, while the East Coast suffers most rain in October and November! Check the monthly rainfall in Thailand in this link.
This is a picture of kayaking in Koh Tao in December.
Is island hopping in Thailand safe for tourists?
Just like any popular tourist destination in the world Thailand has numerous safety issues, but in general it is very safe to travel to Thailand. In all those years traveling to Thailand I have never encountered any other problems apart from taxi drivers that were not willing to turn on their meters.
Things are probably a lot easier when you are a tall European man like me, but apart from drunk backpackers girls are pretty fine traveling solo in Thailand. Especially on the island where there are a lot of party people, backpackers and other budget travelers it is more likely for a girl to be harrassed by other travelers than by local people. Just to point out that simple safety measurements you take at home also count for your Thailand vacation.
Thai people are genuinely friendly, just be aware that there are many different scams. Scams won’t hurt you, but they will hurt your wallet! Read more about this is my article Is it Safe to Travel to Thailand in 2022.
Unfortunately I have to mention some very tragic news about island hopping in Thailand as well. The island of Koh Tao suffers a really negative image because of the Koh Tao Murders and several other doubtful tourist deaths on the island. It is the sad reality of a backpackers island with an extremely laid-back vibe. Fact is that a young couple got brutally murdered on the same beach on the same night when I was celebrating my birthday. Read more about it in the link above!
How to go island hopping in Thailand
Finding transportation when traveling in Thailand is very easy. There are travel agencies around every corner and even hotels en hostels sell transportation tickets. Multiple long distance busses bring you to every tourist destination in Thailand and are seemingly well connected with ferries to the islands. There are lots of cheap domestic flights in Thailand as well. Click on the link for more tips.
One of the most helpful tools is the below Thailand transportation search engine I wish I had discovered much earlier. It will find the best mode of transport for you and the most convenient route. 12Go Asia compares bus, boat, train and flights and gives you up to date time tables, prices, luggage allowance, trip duration and more.
Start your island hopping trip in Bangkok
Most probably you will start your island hopping Thailand adventure in the crazy Thai capital. Bangkok can be intimidating at first, but give it a chance and you will seriously love it. Walk around, take unexpected turns, and get lost. There is something interesting to see in every street.
Of course make sure you are going to see the temples, enjoy a night out in Khao San Road, find a rooftop bar for a drink with a spectacular view, eat your heart out in Chinatown, explore the city canals by local boat, go to a pool party, roam around one of the many shopping malls, try a luxury Thai cinema or take a bike tour to see a totally different side of Thailand.
If you are interested in markets don’t miss the Mae Klong Railway market or one of the floating markets. You want something more adventurous? Go wake boarding! Don't just stick to the top 10 things to do in Bangkok, have a look at my list of 13 unusual things to do in Bangkok.
Where to stay in Bangkok
Here are some accommodation suggestion for Bangkok:
- Luxury: So Sofitel, W Bangkok, Westin Sukhumvit, Okura Prestige.
- Mid range: The Berkley Hotel, Baiyoke Sky Hotel.
- Budget: Chic Hostel Bangkok, Mile Map Hostel.
How to get to and from Bangkok
From the BKK airport it is so easy: go down to the lowest floor of the airport and buy for 45THB ($1,30) a ticket into the city and then take a meter-taxi and you will get to your destination for max $4 in total! From the city to the airport there are also direct busses that run frequently to both airports BKK and DMK, they cost only about $4.
How to get from Bangkok to the islands? There are many ways: train, bus, plane. An example how I mostly travel to Koh Tao can be found in my blog about from Bangkok to Koh Tao. My articles about Thailand Itineraries for 2 weeks and Island Hopping Thailand Itineraries are very helpful as well when it come to choosing the right type of transportation.
Don't get stuck with high roaming costs on your Thailand trip. The best way is to buy a prepaid SIM card for Thailand and enjoy cheap and fast 5G internet and show your friends back home all your adventures island hopping in Thailand.
May you decide to add Chiang Mai to your island hopping itinerary then plan it at the end to safe money on flights. Flying north is 50% cheaper than flying south! These and more tips and tricks about booking domestic flights in Thailand in my latest Thailand travel blog.
Island hopping in Krabi
One of my favorite places to visit in Thailand is Krabi. First of all because of its unique limestone cliffs, stunning nature and incredible laid-back vibe. Second because it has some of the best islands in Thailand: Ao Nang, Tonsai, Railay, Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. And third because of the many adventures that can be organized like world class rock climbing and incredible hikes.
Ao Nang is a touristy little town and is the perfect hub to get to either Tonsai or Railay beach, two of the most popular and best beaches in Krabi. Ao Nang is full bars, restaurants and fun nightlife. Also find a lovely street food scene here.
Just a stone's throw away are the secluded bays of Railay Beach and Tonsai Beach, but since they are cut off from the mainland by massive limestone cliffs you can only get there by boat. Tonsai is the ultimate beaches to relax plus this is the place where you can find the best rock climbing of the country. Check out this Tonsai Beach Guide for more info.
Railay is an immense popular beach destination in Thailand and therefore also a little more touristy, but my Thailand travel tip is to stay here overnight. Click on the link for how to get to there and some cool things to do in Railay Beach.
There are many cool things to do in Ao Nang but one of the best tours is an island hopping tour. There are some spectacular surrounding islands: Koh Hong and Koh Poda. There are no hotels on these islands, but you can stay overnight here in a tent if you want. Take a look at my suggested Thailand Island Hopping routes for more island hopping ideas around Krabi.
Another reason to visit Ao Nang is because there is some world class hiking around here to do done. Tab Kak Hang Nak and the Tiger Temple. In Tab Kak Hang Nak National park there is an amazing viewpoint. My tip: do this challenging climb for sunrise and enjoy unbelievable views over the limestone cliffs in the distance.
If you have some energy left there are 600 steps that lead to the top of a mountain where you can find the so-called Tiger Temple. Don’t worry there are no tigers here!
Where to stay in Ao Nang
Here are some accommodation suggestions for Ao Nang with great review scores.
- Luxury: Ao Nang Cliff Beach Resort, Rayavadee.
- Mid Range: Alisea Boutique Hotel, Ao Nang Fiore.
- Budget: Areetara Resort, Ancora Blu Boutique.
It took me a couple years to finally make it to this laid back island but it cannot be missed in any island hopping Thailand itinerary. Super friendly people and low-key island life is waiting for you when visiting Koh Lanta. Some decent party places, long and wide beaches and a scooter friendly island to tour around.
I really enjoyed my time in Koh Lanta. Unfortunately I still have only been 1 time and it was beginning of May, low season. Not much going on, but a pretty damn chilled island to visit in Thailand. Koh Lanta can be your perfect place to visit to rejuvenate after partying in the nearby Koh Phi Phi.
Where to stay in Koh Lanta:
- Luxury: Layana Resort & Spa or the Pimalai
- Mid Range: Crown Lanta
- Budget: Journey Hostel
Party on Koh Phi Phi
Of course this island has to be included in any Thailand island hopping guide, but wait me be honest... Koh Phi Phi it not my favorite island to visit in Thailand! For party lovers this is heaven with parties all around the island every night. It is one of the most popular party islands in Thailand.
This is where young backpackers meet and go wild, so if this is what you are looking for you will have a blast. Because Koh Phi Phi is located in and between Krabi and Phuket the island can also be visited if you are island hopping in Phuket.
Beaches are still stunning but far from picture perfect with so many travelers choosing Thailand again as their holiday destination. Of course it is still among the most beautiful places to visit in Thailand but it is not in my top 5 of best islands in Thailand. Just don’t have too high expectations; drink loads of alcohol and you will have an amazing time.
Wait now it sounds like I am complaining, but nooooooo... I gotta go back soon! :)
Looking for something unique to do in Phi Phi then check this story of getting a Bamboo Tattoo in Koh Phi Phi.
Where to stay in Koh Phi Phi
Here are some accommodation suggestions for Koh Phi Phi:
- Luxury: Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort, Zeavola Hotel
- Mid Range: Phi Phi Cliff Beach Resort, Phi Phi The Beach Resort
- Budget: Panmanee Hotel
Island hopping in Phuket
Island hopping from Phuket is a very popular and if people ask me what to do in Phuket my answer is: escape! The islands around are among the best islands in Thailand, while the peninsula itself is not one of the best places to visit in Thailand, just incredibly popular due to its international. In fact the pictures that probably lured you to Phuket are from the islands nearby, so please decide to go island hopping from Phuket. The huge peninsula definitely has stunning beaches and resorts but it is so big it does not give me the island feeling.
On the other hand if you are looking for an amazing place to just crash for a week and explore the fabulous islands around on day trips then Phuket can be a great choice. I created 4 times a Thailand backpacking route for 2 weeks and in every itinerary there is a spot for Phuket. Check them out in the link.
Where to stay in Phuket:
Luxury: Samsara Phuket, Sri Panwa, Banyan Tree.
Mid Range: Novotel Phuket Kata Avista, Wyndham Sea Pearl.
Budget: Memory Boutique Patong.
Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi
Talking about beautiful islands for an island hopping Thailand adventure: Yao Yai and Yao Noi are hidden gems! A short speedboat ride towards the East of Phuket will take you to these two fairly unknown islands and it was only till my 12th time in Thailand that I made it out here. Nowadays it is among my secret island hopping Thailand tips and for sure has one of the best beaches in Thailand. Come here to get the untouched Thai islandlife. Mass tourism does not exist here yet: pristine white sand beaches, deserted bays, authentic local restaurants, amazingly friendly people, wild monkeys and great back roads to explore on a scooter.
Where to stay in Koh Yao Yai and Noi
Luxury: Santhiya Koh Yao Yai, Six Senses Yao Noi.
Mid Range: Glow Elixir Koh Yao Yai, Paradise KohYao.
Budget: Koh Yao Seaview Bungalow.
Welcome to one of the best places to visit in Thailand for scuba diving. These gorgeous islands are luckily pretty well protected by the Thai government and they nowadays close some for a couple months a year to give them time to recover from tourism. For your interest staying overnight on the islands is almost impossible. Only overnight camping trips are available, but very limited. The best way to see the Similan islands are through a liveaboard, for non-divers there are day trips from Phuket.
There is no best way to travel Thailand and its islands, but if you have a week in the West coast then go island hopping from Phuket towards Koh Yao Yai, Koh Phi Phi and Ao Nang and back with a day trip to Similan Islands. This is an example of a 14 day route for Thailand islands, click on the link to see more of them complete with maps for a better orientation.
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Gulf of Thailand island hopping
There is no Thailand island hopping guide that forgets about Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. The Gulf of Thailand brings island hopping Thailand to another level. No limestone cliffs, but green hilly islands all within a 2-hour boat ride from each other. Every island has its own character so try to visit them all.
For a real islandlife feeling you have to be in Koh Tao. It is the smallest island and the place where getting your scuba dive certification is among the cheapest in the world. This is one of the reasons I added this little island to my list of best places to go backpacking alone. There are hardly any cars on the island and hunting down stunning remote bays on a scooter is a must do in Koh Tao. Snorkeling, hiking and exploring viewpoints are among other things to do in Koh Tao besides diving. To me Koh Tao is one of the best islands in Thailand, as I have lived here for a while to do my PADI Divemaster training I might be biased, and I understand that all the horror stories about tourist muders in Koh Tao put you off. Shitty thing happen everywhere, just be cautious and use common sense. Don't act like one of those tourists who think they own the island after 3 beers and 1 shot.
For Koh Tao accommodation suggestions go to Where To Stay in Koh Tao.
Everyone who plans a trip to Thailand comes across Koh Phangan as this is where the world famous Full Moon parties originates. This party mecca is not just about the Full Moon party, there is a Jungle Party, a Black Moon and a Half Moon Party too. That said this island is more than only parties! Mostly a Thailand island hopping guide doesn’t mention the hidden bays in the North or the yoga and detox retreats in the green hills.
Going to party in Koh Phangan? Read this first: Full Moon Party Guide Koh Phangan.
Accommodation suggestions Koh Phangan:
Luxury: Anantara Koh Phangan, Kupu Kupu by L'Occitane.
Mid range: Panviman Resort, Santhiya Phangan.
Budget: Cookies Salad Hotel.
Welcome to the holiday island. Internationally well know for its luxury resorts and upscale beach clubs and always named in any Thailand island hopping itinerary. Since it has an international airport it is easy accessible, though with much less flights serving the island compared to Phuket. It is not that low-key as Phangan and Tao but it has its own charm. This is where you go for a little more upscale and luxury islandlife.
One of the better Island hopping Thailand tips is that you can easily stay on Koh Samui if you want to go to the Full Moon party. There are boats all night and it is only 30 minutes, but choose your boat wisely. Go for the big catamarans and avoid local boats for safety reasons. Normally I would say always support the locals, but not in this case!
Read more about Koh Samui in the following article: Koh Tao or Koh Samui.
Where to stay in Koh Samui:
Luxury: W Retreat Samui, Conrad Samui, Intercontinental.
Mid Range: Lanna Samui Resort, Ozo Chaweng.
Budget: Ibis Samui, Palm Coco Mantra Resort.
Thailand island hopping tips for Koh Lipe
The best islands in Thailand can be found all the way South on the border with Malaysia. It is a little off the beaten path and therefore not yet extremely touristy. This is where you find the best beaches in Thailand. You may have heard of the stunning Koh Lipe and its surrounding islands with their perfect white sand beaches. The Southern islands can best be reached from Langkawi in Malaysia, it is easier than from mainland Thailand itself. From Koh Lanta it is a 7-hour boat ride, from Langkawi it is only 1 hour. It is a perfect stop in an itinerary from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok. Be aware that rough seas in the rainy season cut the islands off from the tourist trail and many boat companies don’t serve Koh Lipe in the off season.
How to start your Thailand island hopping adventure?
I hope this Thailand island hopping guide gave you an idea of where to go. If you need help let me give you some Tips For Traveling To Thailand. Island hopping Thailand will be as expensive as you make it yourself. In my article How Much Does It Cost To Vacation In Thailand I break down the prices for transport, tours, alcohol, accommodation and food.
Still not sure which islands to choose then take a look at Where To Go In Thailand with a more comprehensive explanation what to expect on every island. Safety Issues? Let me tell you How safe it is to travel to Thailand. Similar to island hopping in Thailand is a trip to Bali. Let me tell you what is special about Bali in this article. Or still in doubt whether to visit Thailand or Philippines.
Cheap flights to Thailand
Find great flight deals to the country of Smile by checking out the Middle Eastern airlines with great monthly deals to Bangkok. Once in Thailand then there are numerous low-cost airlines in Thailand to take you around.
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