Explore Thailand Southern Islands for Sun, Surf, Nightlife and More

27 Dec, 2023 | A-> Z Guide

Go Thailand island hopping in this detailed guide to the best Thailand southern islands. Discover must-see activities on these beautiful islands.

If you are in search of an unforgettable island-hopping vacation in the tropics, you cannot go wrong with a trip to Thailand’s southern islands.

Some of these islands are famous worldwide for their turquoise waters, verdant green hillsides, and dramatic cliffs. Others are hidden and unspoiled, but equally breathtaking. They offer the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure, along with unforgettable nightlife to follow up the day’s activities. This guide tells you where to go for the best island hopping experiences Thailand has to offer.

Best Time to Explore Southern Thailand Islands

If possible, time your trip to Thailand's southern islands between November and early April. Temperatures during this season range from 29°C to 34°C, so it isn’t blazing hot (for comparison, it can rise up to 40°C during summer).

November through April also has the benefit of being the dry season, so you do not have to worry about your activities being rained out. In fact, the monsoon season takes place between July and October, so those are the months to avoid.

Top Southern Islands in Thailand

1. Phuket

There is a good chance you will start your island-hopping journey in Phuket. This is Thailand’s largest island, and is home to the city by the same name. While there are plenty of diversions in the city, you should also visit beaches like Patong, Kata Noi, Kamala and Mai Khao.

Must-Try Activities on Phuket
 

No matter what you are into, Phuket abounds with activities and attractions to delight you. While in the city of Phuket, visit the historical district of Old Town to enjoy Sino-colonial architecture and a dazzling array of shops, restaurants and bars.
 
Those looking for a spiritually uplifting experience that showcases more of Phuket’s stunning architecture should drop by Wat Chaithararam (Wat Chalong), which is the biggest temple on the island. While in Chalong, and also visit the Great Buddha of Phuket. This awe-inspiring marble-clad concrete statue stands 148 feet tall and 83.5 feet wide.
 
To watch a breathtaking sunset over the water, head to Cape Phrom Thep at the very southern point of the island. It is a quintessentially romantic spot that is perfect to share with someone special (even if that someone is just you).
 
Other attractions to add to your Phuket bucket list include Monkey Hill Viewpoint, Freedom Beach, Naka Weekend Market, Phuket Thai Hua Museum, and Green Elephant Sanctuary Park.

2. Koh Phi Phi

For a visit to an island paradise, stop by the Phi Phi Islands off the Thailand coast. In particular, we recommend a visit to Koh Phi Phi, which is the second largest one. During the day, this island’s turquoise waters are so vibrant you will have a hard time believing your eyes. At night, the island transforms into a tropical beach party mecca.

Must-Try Activities in Koh Phi Phi

While on Koh Phi Phi, hop in a boat to take a half-hour voyage from Tonsai Bay to Tham Phaya Nak, the “Viking Cave,” to behold the intriguing wall paintings inside. Adventurous travelers should sign up for one of the island’s shark tours for up-close encounters with leopard sharks and black-tip sharks (don’t worry; they are peaceful creatures).

Other activities to do at Koh Phi Phi include rock climbing, cliff diving, and relaxing on the golden sands of the Moo Dee Bay beach. After nightfall on Koh Phi Phi, head from bar to bar and club to club, partying at tourist favorites like the Slinky Beach Bar, Reggae Bar (where you can watch Thai boxing), or the Ibiza Pool Party.
You will also want to head to Loh Dalum Bay for an all-night beach party featuring an incredible fire show.

3. Koh Yao Noi

Visitors to Koh Yao Noi often feel as if they have found a pristine island haven entirely on their own. This island’s name translates to “big long island,” which is a good description of its geography. From tip to tip, you will find sandy beaches, dazzling turquoise waters, dramatic cliffs, and densely-packed jungle foliage. Travel to Koh Yao Noi if you want to get off the beaten path and away from the crowds of tourists.

Koh Yao Noi is not a typical party island, thanks in large part to the local population, which has taken steps to prevent it. Some people will tell you that the island has zero nightlife; that is a bit of an exaggeration—there are still some spots to eat or grab a drink—but not much of one. Mostly, nights are quiet, with only the sounds of insects and sea breezes to serenade you.

Must-Try Activities in Koh Yao Noi

Having escaped the crowds, visitors should not miss out on the pristine beaches of this sleepy island in southern Thailand: Potsai Beach, Long Beach, Klong Jark Beach and others. When the tides are low, it is possible to walk pretty far out onto the sandbars, surrounded by shallow, peaceful waters. To get to the beaches, rent a scooter. It’ll save you time and energy which you can use for activities like swimming and snorkeling.

As you are staying on Koh Yao Noi, you can also take a boat trip to Phang Nga Bay. Stop off at Khao Phing Kan, famously known as “James Bond Island.” You probably remember it from the classic film The Man with the Golden Gun; it was where the movie’s villain had his hideout.

Perhaps when you watched that film, you envied that hideout, fantasizing about what it would be like to live there yourself. Exploring James Bond Island in real life, you will be even more blown away by the emerald waters and breathtaking karst formations. While visiting James Bond Island and exploring the beaches of Koh Yao Noi should keep you busy, try to make time for some kayaking and maybe even a cooking class.

4. Koh Pha Ngan

Next on our Thailand island hopping tour, we have Koh Pha Ngan. While Koh Yao Noi has some lovely sandbars stretching out into the ocean, an island that is even better known for its sandbars is Koh Pha Ngan. Indeed, the word “Ngan” translates to “Sandbar.”
 
This island vacation destination is literally fit for a king. H.M. King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V) loved to kick back here during the 19th century.
 
The population of Ko Pha Ngan is quite a bit larger than it was back in those days, but there are still plenty of peaceful spots where you can relax and soak in the natural splendor in seclusion.


Must-Try Activities in Ko Pha Ngan        
 
Ko Pha Ngan’s most breathtaking beaches include Bottle Beach, Thong Nai Pan Beach and Leela Beach. If you want to check out Bottle Beach, you will need to prepare yourself for a bit of a hike. It takes an hour to walk there, though every minute of that hour is a chance to see more of the island’s lush jungle.
 
Other trails in the jungle take you to Than Sadet Waterfall, Phaeng Waterfall and Paradise Waterfall. Each is so magical that you will have an impossible time picking a favorite.
 
For a view of the Thailand island from above, hike the 15-minute trail from Fairyland Resort to Haad Rin Viewpoint. Gazing out across the waters on a clear day, you can even spot Koh Samui.
 
Party animals should plan to visit Ko Pha Ngan during either the full moon or the half moon, when the Full Moon Party and Half Moon Party respectively take place. Get ready to dive back into the crowds—on average, around 30,000 revelers attend Full Moon Party festivals! You can dance, drink and socialize until the sun comes up.
 
The Full Moon Party takes place at Haad Rin Beach, while the Half Moon Party happens at Baan Tai in the jungle. With such different environments, each offers a unique experience. 

5. Koh Samui

As we mentioned above, Koh Samui is within the visual range of Ko Pha Ngan. Sometimes, people just call it “Samui.” This island was almost completely undeveloped (despite being inhabited) until the 1970s, when the first roads were constructed. Today, tourism sustains the local economy.
 
With an abundance of bungalows and resorts, there is no shortage of accommodations on this lovely Thailand island for the millions of tourists that flock to its shores every year.



Must-Try Activities in Koh Samui
 
A few of the best beaches where you can enjoy a relaxing stroll or go for a swim include Lamai Beach, Choeng Mon Beach, Chaweng Beach and Maenam Beach. Be sure to snap some photos of the famous Hin Ta and Hin Yai (“Grandfather and Grandmother”) rock formations.
 
The most famous spot on Koh Samui is actually located on a smaller island just off the shore called Ko Phan. Cross the causeway to arrive at Wat Phra Yai, the Big Buddha Temple.
 
Similar to Wat Chaithararam oh Phuket, Wat Phra Yai off the coast of Koh Samui boasts an impressively large Buddha statue. But instead of concrete clad in marble, the statue at this temple is made of concrete painted gold. This main statue is seated in the Mara posture, a pose of enlightened calm. While you are here, you also can see another smaller statue of the Maitreya (Future) Buddha.

Experience Thailand Southern Islands

Whether you want to sunbathe on sandy beaches, hike through lush jungle or party through the night, there is something to scratch every traveler’s itch in the Thailand southern islands. To make sure you catch every drop of island magic, design your trip with Exotic Voyages.

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