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Lifestyle Curators for Thailand + Southeast Asia

9 uncrowded Thai Islands you must visit

  /  DESTINATIONS   /  9 uncrowded Thai Islands you must visit

Have you been to these islands in Southern Thailand yet? It’s time visit these isles that promise more than the usual slice of paradise! 

By Lookeast Team.

You’ve been to major island legends such as Samui, Phi Phi, and Phuket. But there are countless other islands in both the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand where you can escape the crowds and enjoy paradisiacal seclusion to your heart’s content and more! We whipped up a few of  them that you can explore when in the South:

1. Koh Surin

Mu Koh Surin is a protected marine park in the Andaman set between the provinces of Phuket and Rayong. The archipelago, made up of five islands–with human habitation and park service facilities on two of them–are about as beautiful as it gets in Thailand in terms of turquoise water, abundant marine life, and splendid beaches.

Playing football by the beach in Koh Surin

Playing football by the beach in Koh Surin

By merely snorkeling, see what you normally have to go diving (due to shallow coral reefs). Catch a glimpse of the rare Nicobar pigeons and Malayan flying lemurs, and meet the Moken sea gypsies who inhabit one of the islands. Ferry service runs from Khuraburi, north of Phuket, and Khao Lak, between November and May only though. The park shuts down during the rainy season and when the seas are rough.

2. Koh Similan

Similan is a group of nine islands sitting 50km out in the Andaman Sea, which are known as the most pristine in Thailand. Come for the best diving in the country and to see what protected and undeveloped Thai islands really look like. Not all of the islands are open to visitors, and travelers can only stay in two of them.

Scuba Diving in Koh Similan

Scuba Diving in Koh Similan

The Similans are also only accessible from November to May when the national park runs a ferry out from Thap Lamu pier near Khao Lak, and speedboats make the journey in about an hour-and-a-half as well. The most ideal way to see the islands is via live aboard dive ships, which can be easily arranged in Khao Lak.

3. Koh Mook:

Lesser known than Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta, Koh Mook has beautiful beaches, turquoise water, and is home to chao leh (sea gypsies) who make their living from squid fishing and rubber tapping. It’s a great spot to enjoy limestone karst peaks and jungle scenery. But the main reason to come here is to visit Tham Morakot, otherwise known as the Emerald Cave, one of Unseen Thailand’s top attractions.

Beautiful beach on Koh Mook island in Thailand

Beautiful beach on Koh Mook island in Thailand

The Emerald Cave is actually a sinkhole, where the roof of an underwater cave collapsed allowing skylight to flood in. The only access into the cave is via a pitch-black 100m-tunnel in the sea, reachable only at low tide. The opening is wide enough for a kayak or tiny dingy to paddle in, but most of the tours bring people out on longtail boats, from where they swim in, using flashlights and buoys provided by the tour company. Once inside, the cave opens up to reveal a pristine jungle, towering walls, and a white sand beach fronted by emerald water. Access to Koh Mook is via Trang, which can be reached by air and then direct transfer to the ferry pier at Pak Meng for the short ride over to the island. In high season, there are boat transfers via Phi Phi and Krabi.

4. Koh Kradan

If you want to see what Thai islands were like a decade or two ago, and if the idea of lounging on a gorgeous beach without the crowds appeals to you, head for Koh Kradan. Named “paper” island because it is relatively flat, the long brilliant white sand beach along Kradan’s eastern side is one of Thailand’s best, as is the emerald water fronting it that affords some excellent snorkeling. There isn’t too much to do here other than settling into a hammock with War and Peace or some other epic, or else just gaping at the phenomenal scenery. Koh Kradan sits just across from Koh Mook and is reached in the same manner, via air to Trang and then boat transfer. There are also boats between the islands so you can visit the Emerald Cave on Mook and then return to the serenity of Kradan. 

5. Koh Lipe

While Koh Lipe has been well developed over the past decade, it still remains one gorgeous island, and if things get too busy, one can always nip over to the neighboring Koh Adang or Koh Rawi, which are both protected national park isles. Come to enjoy the beautiful white sand beaches, good choice of accommodations, go kayaking or snorkeling, or boast about the fact that you’ve been to Thailand’s most southern island (you can see Langkawi in Malaysia on clear days).

Koh Lipe

Koh Lipe

Koh Lipe is accessed via the Pak Bara pier, most easily reached by flying to Hat Yai and taking a minivan ride for several hours. Speedboats make the journey to Lipe in about 90 minutes. Alternatively, Tigerlines (www.tigerlinetravel.com) runs boats throughout the southern islands in high season, starting in Phi Phi, heading to Koh Lanta, then the islands around Trang, and farther south to Lipe.

Kayaks on the beach of Koh Lipe

Kayaks on the beach of Koh Lipe

6. Koh Libong

While the unfazed and untouched by tourism Muslim villages here might be a draw for those wanting to get a glimpse of rural southern Thai life, it is neither this nor the stony beaches that draw visitors to Koh Libong. Come to spot the dugong, sometimes known as sea cows, and cousins to the manatee. There are about a hundred of them off the Ju Hoi Cape in the Libong Archipelago Wildlife Reserve, and one can go on tours to try and see them. There are also traditional stilt house villages, savannah-like scenery, and rubber plantations to check out on this large working class island. Fly to Trang and arrange transport (public and private) to the pier at Hat Yao, where boats make the short crossing to Libong.

7. Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta used to be an undiscovered island paradise. While this is no longer the case, it still lures visitors with excellent white sand beaches, pretty bays, lots of nice resorts, and a chance to escape the crowds of Phi Phi and Krabi. Come here to enjoy the fabulous west coast sunsets, visit old Lanta town, perched on stilts over the sea, eat fresh seafood, and to wonder what a gourmet restaurant is doing in such a small place.

Similan Islands

Similan Islands

8. Koh Tarutao

This is the island for nature lovers, and for those who want a complete escape from the built up island party scene. Not only is Koh Tarutao Thailand’s largest island, it’s also its most unspoiled spot, with rugged mountains and old growth jungle ripe for exploring. The island was originally used as a prison and later turned into a national park. Come here to spot wild pigs, crab-eating macaques, hornbills, and dusky langurs, enjoy empty white sand beaches, go bicycling and hiking, and engage in a bit of Robinson Crusoe fantasies. As with Lipe, fly to Hat Yai, take a minivan to Pak Bara, and hop a ferry or speedboat to Tarutao.

Shrimps seen during scuba diving

9. Koh Phayam

Beach walk in Koh SurinCNN wrote it up as“like Samui in the 1970s,” and while it is no longer an undiscovered paradise, it still doesn’t have cars, electricity- save for solar and generators that most places only run at night, and there are still no 7-11’s or full moon parties. Come to experience laidback Thai island life, check out the prolific birdlife (great hornbill and sea eagle spotting opportunities), go kayaking, and stay in an old-school thatched roof hut. Fly Nok Air to Ranong and catch a speedboat from Ranong’s pier, which takes 40 minutes. Check out traditional cashew farming and salt making in Ao Kwai (Buffalo Bay), where there is a sea gypsy village.