Phuket is a destination where Jurassic-park surroundings merge with a swarming and well-developed city. Before Covid, millions of visitors headed to this destination annually, causing it to lose much of its charm as resorts, bars, and businesses overtook it. That being said, this also presented visitors with a limitless array of excursions to experience and sights to see. With Phuket’s countless beaches, temples, shops, and nightlife festivities, the experiences that could be had are truly endless. Phuket's well-paved roads make for an inspiring drive for those seeking some seclusion and adventure while here. It’s encouraged to ride alongside the coastline and mountains having no concrete plans but instead an open mind to make scenic stops along the way. For fellow surfers looking to catch a wave, Karon or Kata Beach are prime spots worth a visit. Another convenience factor that has placed Phuket on the map is its international airport and ferry transportation system that allows travelers to explore some of Thailand's remarkable national parks and southern islands that await you.
Casa Basa Brazil, In On The Beach, Easy Visa, Patong Backpacker ($)
The Nai Harn, Benyada Lodge, Casa Blanca, Boathouse, Katathani ($$)
Kata Mam, Kan Eang Seafood II, Five Loaves Burgers, Kopitiam By Wilai ($)
Natural Restaurant, Red Duck, Istanbul Kata, Acqua, Baan Rim Pa Patong ($$)
Patong Beach, Kata Beach, Karon Beach, Freedom Beach, Kata Noi, Ya Nui, Paradise Beach, Nai Harn
Wat Chalong, Wat Phra Thong, Big Buddha, Wat Putta Mongkon, Doi Thepnimit
Parks & Hikes
Sirinat Phuket, Black Rock, Karon Viewpoint, Big Buddha, Monkey Hill, Panwa
Phuket Town, The Phuket Walking Street, Malin Plaza Patong, Supercheap, Banzaan Market
Catch Beach Club, Aussie Bar, 360° Bar, Hollywood Phuket, Phuket Town, Sirirat Road, Karon District
James Bond Island
James Bond Island The official Thai name of this destination is Koh Phing Kan. However, after "The Man With The Golden Gun" or 007 himself was spotted here in 1974, it is now famously referred to as James Bond Island. Travelers venture here from far and wide to admire and swim alongside the Ko Tapu. This fascinating 20-meter boulder never ceases to amaze, as it majestically rises from the Andaman sea and somehow balances on its own tilt. This island is reachable by speedboat via Phuket and is usually peaceful in the mornings, but can quickly see crowds mid-day as tours begin to pass by here and that of Phang Nga Bay. Those seeking an exciting escapade should consider renting out a sea kayak as it’s the best way to avoid the crowds while exploring the remarkable caves that surround this beloved island.
Koh Phi Phi
Captured by: Brandon Willoughby
Koh Phi Phi is conveniently located between Krabi and Phuket, where a 90 minute to two-hour boat ride will take you away to this blissful archipelago. This destination uniquely consists of two separate islands, Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh, and due to its rising popularity, a small entrance fee is required to explore its natural wonders. While Phi Phi Leh is uninhabited and only accessible by organized boat tours, Phi Phi Don is very much a physical and lively melting pot for backpackers, nature enthusiasts, partygoers, and the like. For nature-lovers, this island provides opportunities to trek up incredible viewpoints overlooking landscapes you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Make sure to also try out the epic boat tours that go around the islands; you won’t regret it! When the day is done and the sun has set, it's encouraged to go out and enjoy the beach festivities set up throughout the island. Be prepared to witness fire dancers, flaming jump rope competitions, and endless alcohol-fueled activities, which over time has given Koh Phi Phi its notorious party island acclaim.
Koh Phi Phi Leh National Park, Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint, Monkey Beach, Maya Beach
Tropical Garden, Ibiza House, Rock Backpacker, Freedom Hostel ($)
Saii Phi Phi Island Village, Zeavola, Paradise Pearl, Phi Phi Banyan Villa ($$)
Esan Ganeang, Jasmine, View Point Restaurant, Chill & Pepper ($)
Efe Mediterranean, Papaya Restaurant, Annas, Ton Sai Seafood ($$)
Loh Dalum, Monkey Beach, Maya Bay, Nui, Moo Dee Bay, Lana Bay, Relax Bay
Parks & Hikes
Phi Phi National Park, Koh Phi Phi View Point I, II, & III, Rantee Trail, Loh Bakao Trail
Phi Phi Market, 7-11, Shopping Alleyway, Rasita, Mr.Rum Boutique, Namlily
Carlito’s, Nonn, Slinky, Dubliner Irish Pub, Rolling Stoned, Banana Rooftop
Monkey Beach lies only a short boat ride away from Koh Phi Phi Don and is a favorite amongst sightseers wanting to discover some of Thailand’s fascinating wildlife. These monkeys are often pleasant; however, be mindful of your possessions as these mammals are also known for their intelligence. It's commonly reported that these cheeky monkeys have learned to distract tourists by being friendly and cute, then without warning climbing on them, unzipping their backpacks, and taking off with their belongings, never to be seen again. It’s definitely one of those situations where it’s hilarious until it happens to you. Over the years, these monkeys have become more sensitive as they're constantly exposed to foreigners roaming their land accompanied by endless camera flashes. This has caused some of them to become more aggressive at times and protective of their families, so approach them with caution, especially during feeding times. Interacting with these monkeys is an indescribable and unforgettable experience for each person who visits this destination. In saying that, it’s essential while exploring to have respect for yourselves, other people, and the thriving wildlife that inhabits this glorious island.
Phi Phi Leh
Phi Phi Leh is the uninhabited sister island of Koh Phi Phi Don, located approximately one mile off its coast. To reach this national park, you’ll need to take a boat tour that will introduce you to some of Thailand’s most astonishing sites, one of the most notable being Maya Bay. Due to national park regulations, it's illegal to fly your drone here, and if caught, fines and even drone confiscation can likely occur. That being said, Koh Phi Phi Leh is so divine that no amount of photos or drone cinematography could ever capture how mind-blowing this destination truly is.
Monkey Beach, Maya Bay, Pileh Lagoon, Viking Cave, Loh Sama Bay
Captured by: Brandon Willoughby
Viking Cave is gracefully tucked away below jagged cliffs on the northeastern shores of Koh Phi Phi Leh. This isolated cave hovers above the most azure ocean waters you’ve ever sighted, creating a perfect location to go snorkeling if the currents aren't too strong. Viking Cave definitely lives up to its name as its intriguing history tells of a time centuries ago when this destination was used as a refuge for ancient pirates. On the cave walls are chalk sketches of boats and vessels etched out, where their mysterious meanings still puzzle both locals and foreigners to this very day.
Captured by: Jesper De Vos
Maya Bay is one of the most sought beaches in Asia after famously starring in Leonardo DiCaprio’s hit movie “The Beach,” which premiered in the year 2000. This extraordinary bay and its mountainous surroundings give visitors a surreal introduction to one of Thailand's most prized destinations. Before Covid-19, Maya Bay was packed to the brim with millions of visitors annually, causing the marine life to decline. Inevitably, this resulted in the Thai government closing Maya Bay down from June 1st, 2018 - to January 1, 2022. After Thailand’s most recent reopening, visitors are once again able to enjoy Maya Bay, but only from a distance. Boats no longer access the bay directly as swimming is now prohibited to keep this rejuvenating ecosystem protected. Instead, one can reach the island from another access point and go on a short but thrilling hike before arriving at this iconic bay. Thankfully, dolphins, sharks, and turtles have returned to their former feeding grounds, gradually restoring this island to its former grace.
Captured By: Brandon Willoughby
Koh Lanta is home to two adjoining islands, the more touristic of the two being Koh Lanta Yai (big island). However, Koh Lanta Noi (small island) shouldn’t be overlooked as it extends an opening for travelers to go off the beaten track if they so please. These zen siblings bring to light Thailand's more laid-back and relaxed side, where you will constantly feel waves of pure bliss, stillness, and enlightenment. A visit to the historic Old Town, the Mo Koh Lanta National Park, or a day excursion to the Emerald Caves are just a few of the many sites that will leave explorers absolutely enthralled. The peak season for Koh Lanta is November through March, with March capping off the famous Lantern Festival. During this time, the island celebrates with street performances, cultural art shows, and endless food stalls that make it one of the liveliest times to visit.
Koh Lanta National Park, Old Town, Bamboo Beach, Ban Saladan Village, Nui Bay, Kantiang Bay & Viewpoint
Mango Guesthouse, La Lanta, Hubs Of Joy, Nee's On The Beach, Hutyee Boat ($)
Costa Lanta, Lanta Baan Nok, Layana Resort, Lazy Days, Bee Bee, Where Else ($$)
The Angels Restaurant, Malina's Kitchen, Happy Veggie, El Greco, Drunken Sailors ($)
Yang Garden, Kindee, The Fat Pig, The Ocean Restaurant Saladan ($$)
Klong Nin, Long Beach, Nui Beach, Bamboo Beach, Klong Dao, Khlong Kong, Diamond Cliff Relax Bay, Phra Ae, Secret Beach
Hikes & Parks
Mu Koh Lanta National Park, Tham Seua Khlong Chak Waterfall, Tham Khao Maikaeo, Khao Mai Keaw Caves
Lanta Mart, Saladan Market, Koh Walking Street Lanta, Jun & Ying Shops, Lanta Leather, Hammock House
Ozone, Island Bar, Why Not Bar?, Bar Racuda, Funky Monkey, Aqua Bar, Blue Moon Bar
Captured by: Kelly & Kody
Captured by: Elin Lindvall & Xinyang Lui
Koh Lipe is a small L-shaped island belonging to the Tarutao National Park. Due to its remote location, pristine beaches, and tropical yet expensive atmosphere, this destination is often compared to that of the Maldives. The demand to visit Koh Lipe continues to increase amongst international foreigners and Thai tourists, resulting in the development of boujee four and five-star resorts and hotels taking root alongside the coastlines. Despite its rapid commercial rise, much poise and discovery can be found touring this little haven. If adventures is sought, it’s encouraged to rent a kayak and visit the nearby island and national park of Koh Adang and Koh Rawi. Whether it's Koh Lipe’s friendly village locals playing soccer full of laughter, the angelic dive spots for scuba divers and snorkelers, or the array of seafood bbq restaurants dotted along the ocean, the amount of joy and leisure to be found in Koh Lipe is simply boundless.
Padi Diving / SSI Certification, Koh Adang National Park, Koh Rawi, Cha Doa Viewpint
Pitiusas Resort, Satun Dive Resort, Baanpeangpor, Art's Riverview Jungle Lodge ($)
Serendipity Resort, Chareena Hill Beach Resort, Elephant Hills, Mali Resorts ($$)
A Plus, Bloom Cafe, Serendipity, Nee Papaya, Forever Restaurant, Paolo Italian Pizza ($)
Elephant Koh Lipe, The Hill, Papaya Mom, On The Rock, Benny's On The Beach ($$)
8 Mile Rock, Yong Hua Shipwreck, Sting Ray City, Stonehenge, Pattaya Beach, Hat Sunrise, Hat Sunset
Hikes & Parks
Cha Doa Viewpoint, Koh Adang National Park and Koh Rawi
OMG Sports Bar & Restaurant, Pooh's Bar, Time To Chill Bar
Koh Samui is often referred to as the “gateway island” as it conveniently provides transportation options of both airport and ferry; taking travelers to some of its breathtaking sibling islands such as Koh Tao, Koh Pha Ngan, and more. The most common route to reach Koh Samui is by direct flight via Bangkok. Those wishing to pursue a more affordable and adventurous alternative should head over to the mainland town of Surat Thani, and from there take a ferry directly into Koh Samui’s welcoming shores. Being that Samui is the third-largest island in the country it presents an abundance of entertainment to choose from such as ziplining, ATV riding through the jungle, or enjoying the nightlife festivities in hotspot areas like Chaweng and Lamai that host some of the worlds top DJs. Travelers hoping for a more peaceful experience will likely find areas like the fisherman’s village of Bophut to be a real delight. As you visit Koh Samui, you will come to witness all the different personalities each township exudes, giving visitors a newfound appreciation for the beauty and versatility that exists in so many forms here in Thailand.
Na Mueang Waterfall, Fishermans Village, Big Buddha, Lamai Viewpoint, Hin Tai To Hin Yai, Overlap Stone
Lub.D Samui, Chill Inn Beach, Samui Hostel, Timeless Hostel, Us Hostel ($)
Jungle Club, Four Seasons, Napasai, Tongsai Bay, The Library Hotel, Conrad Samui ($$)
Beryl Bar, The Fish Restaurant, Kangaroo, Frog & Gecko Pub ($)
Alchemy Cafe, Hungry Wolf, Radiance, The Page, Chez Francois ($$)
Chaweng, Lamai, Bang Kao, Bophut Beach, Lipa Noi, Taling Ngam, Big Buddha Beach
Wat Phra Yai, Wat Plai Laem, Hin Lad Waterfall Temple, Wat Ratchathammaram
Hikes & Parks
Ang Thong Park, Lamai Viewpoint, Khao Hua Jook Viewpoint, Lad Koh, Na Muang
Chaweng Walking Market, Fisherman’s Village, The Wharf Samui Elephant Walk Samui, Lamai Night Plaza
Woobar, Green Mango, Bees Knees Pub, Chaweng District, Lamai District, Bophut District
Koh Pha ngan
Captured by: Leonardo Raeff Rocha
Captured by: Jungle Experience
Koh Pha Ngan is home to two of the most renowned festivals in Thailand; the iconic Jungle Experience and, of course, the world-famous Full Moon Party. These eccentric celebrations of life occur once a month, with party-goers flooding in by the thousands to experience this two-day event where dance music of all genres sets the tone for a momentous occasion. You’ll likely encounter fire dancers, psychedelic givers, hipsters, and music heads of all tribes eager to let the night take them away to a place outside this world. Be mindful that prices for housing and restaurants skyrocket during these events. If all-night partying and premium accommodation costs aren't your forte, when the two-day festivities conclude, travelers will begin to see calmer pastures on the island, leaving space to explore more of its secluded retreats. Memorable getaways to mention are Phaeng Waterfall, The Domsila Viewpoint, and the sandbar island of Ko Ma that is a favorite amongst visitors as its vibrant coral reef creates the perfect atmosphere for snorkeling its shores.
Full Moon Festival, Half Moon & Jungle Party, Koh Ma Viewpoint, Sail Rock
Echo Hostel, Seaview Sunrise, V-View Resort, Lighthouse Bungalows, Slumber Party ($)
Pariya Resort, The Sanctuary Resort, Milky Bay, Cocohut Resort, Haad Son Resort ($$)
Siri's Island Cafe, Restaurant Sunshine, Moonsoons, Fat Cat ($)
Palita Lodge, Ando Loco, Monna Lisa, Om Ganesh, Fabio's, SOHO, Peppercorn ($$)
Haad Mae Haad, Malibu Beach, Leela Beach, Full Moon Beach, Haad Yao, Bottle Beach, Haad Salad, Secret Beach
Wat Pho, Wat Phu Khao Noi, The Kuan Yin Chinese Temple Ko Phangan
Hikes & Parks
Koh Ma Viewpoint, Haad Rin To Haad Yuan Trail, Khao Ra Hike, Laem Tham Thong Rak, Namtok Pheng, Phaeng Waterfall, Sail Rock
Phantip Night Food Market, Chalok Lang, Chaloklum Books, Sunday Walking Street
Haad Rin District, Full Moon Party, Jungle Party, Half Moon, Baan Tai District, Thong Sala District
Koh Tao has built a reputation over the years of being Thailand’s most animal aquatic island. Koh Tao, meaning “turtle island,” is often praised as the Atlas of Thailand as its shores are home to sea turtles, coral fish, dolphins, and whale sharks. One of this island’s most attractive incentives is Koh Tao offers some of the most affordable Open water Padi scuba / SSI diving courses in the world. Exhilaration and enchantment are the themes here as visitors have opportunities to rock climb megalithic boulders, cliff jump into the glimmering ocean, or have a relaxing spa day with free hot stone massages and yoga meditation seminars on the beach. A must-see for marine-life lovers and hikers alike is the Koh Nang Yuan. Here lies a post-card worthy union of three islands only a 5 to 10 minute boat ride away from Koh Tao’s coast, where its jaw-dropping viewpoints and exotic marine life will have you feeling like you’re living in a pixar movie.
Koh Nangyuan, John Suwan Viewpoint, Sairee Beach, Freedom Beach, Shark Bay, Mango Bay
Deishaview, Poseidon, Dearly Koh Tao, Good Dream, Oasis Hotel ($)
New Heaven Dive Resort, View Point Resort, Monkey Flower, Charm Churee Villa ($$)
Zest Cafe, Mama Piwayan, 995 Roasted Duck, Monkey, Lazy Bar, Babaloo ($)
Barracuda Bar, Two View Restaurant, Whitening Restaurant, The Gallery ($$)
Koh Nangyuan, Tantoe Beach, Aow Leuk, Mango Bay, Shark Bay, Haad Tien, Freedom Beach