Thailand is not exactly short of beautiful beaches and islands but finding an undeveloped island is not always an easy task. To help you find your own slice of peaceful paradise, our friends at the digital travel magazine Havana Lion have picked their favourite Thai islands which still offer accommodation but promise a chance to find some solitude away from the tourist crowds…
Koh Bulon Lae – best for low key
How does an island with only 150 inhabitants sound for starters? When you consider that all the islanders live on the eastern half, there are plenty of opportunities to experience some real solitude in beautiful surroundings. There are a few modest resorts but Koh Bulon Lae is still a relatively unknown Thai island and has still not yet found a place on the major tourist trail. Find a deserted beach to relax on or go exploring its range of pristine coral reefs which are perfect for snorkelling.
Koh Libong – best for nature
Koh Libong is the perfect antidote to the more popular Thai islands. At only 35km2 there isn’t much ground to cover here, but the island still offers an abundance of gorgeous natural scenery and wildlife. In fact, this island is one of the few places where you can spot the rare sea mammal the dugong (often referred to as a sea cow) in its natural habitat. Accommodation is sparse but what they do have is environmentally friendly and has been built with respect for its surroundings. If you want to feel like the only farang on the island then Koh Libong should be right up your street.
Koh Mak – best for families
Koh Mak is the more peaceful alternative to its bigger neighbour Koh Chang. While the larger Koh Chang offers a diversion for less adventurous tourists, those prepared to travel a bit further will be rewarded with a smaller and much quieter slice of paradise. Privately owned and with a virtually non-existent crime rate it’s known as a very safe place to take your family. While there are plenty of places to stay on Koh Mak (and even a diving school), you won’t have to share with too many others.
Koh Phra Thong – best for unique landscapes
This island is not like your typical Thai island, so it makes a nice change if you are starting to get a bit of island fatigue. The main difference is its vast expanses of inland savannah, which gives it more of an appearance of an African landscape. It also features miles of Palm tree lined beaches, beautiful coral reefs and – thanks to its lack of human intruders – a number of interesting animals (including sea turtles and lesser spotted birds). Don’t expect to find much in the way of luxury accommodation but there are a few modern options to make your stay comfortable enough.
Ko Adang – best for camping
This is a very natural and unspoiled island which is part of the Ko Tarutao National Park. Covered with rainforest and home to a few sandy beaches, inland waterfalls and excellent snorkelling spots this is a much less developed destination than its more famous neighbour Koh Lipe. To keep it as natural as possible, there is no infrastructure on the island and accommodation is run by the National Park – a choice of either basic bungalows or tents .
Koh Phayam – best for atmosphere
This is another relatively undiscovered island but like any Thai island, it won’t be long before it succumbs to development, so make sure you reach this destination before it’s too late. Located in the Andaman Sea, near the border with Burma, it’s home to all the usual tropical islands clichés of long white beaches, coral reefs and clear blue sea. It also possesses a happy vibe and the island is often said to be similar to Koh Samui was in the 1980’s before the tourist masses arrived. There are two main beaches on the island and both have their fair share of accommodation options. If you want a taste of Thailand before it all started, then Koh Phayam is probably the island for you.
Koh Lao Liang – best for limestone cliffs
This small island has found a way to ensure it remains un-crowded – it limits the number of visitors it receives each day. Located in the Koh Petra Marine Park and accessible only by boat, it prides itself on having an eco-resort status. Said to be one of Thailand’s best-kept secrets, the island is a place of unspoiled natural beauty with dramatic limestone cliffs, beaches of pure white sand and reefs painted the colours of a rainbow. Keeping development to a minimum is taken very seriously here, so accommodation only comes in the form of upscale camping.
Ko Tarutao – best unspoiled island
This island – located close to the Malaysia border – is said to be one of the most unspoiled islands in Thailand. It was also the setting for the fifth season of the reality TV show Survivor. While not exactly undiscovered it’s quiet, clean, beautiful and protected – everything the main tourist islands are not. There are no major resorts, no beach parties just an ample supply of peace and gorgeous natural scenery. It’s protected national park status also ensures there is plenty of wildlife – as well being a nestling ground sites for turtles, Langurs, crab-eating macaques and wild pigs are common. Accommodation on the island is run by the National Park and guests can choose from either a tent or a fan-cooled bungalow.
Koh Yao Noi – best for boutique accommodation
This is probably the most developed island on the list but it still manages to remain a quiet refuge away from the crowds of nearby Phuket. Being part of national park Koh Yao Noi, it’s a highly photogenic place with pristine beaches, knotted forest and unspoilt coastline – perfect for indulging in snorkelling, kayaking or swimming. You’ll find restaurants, some shops and a handful of boutique resorts but it’s probably better to go sooner rather than later before the crowds really do start to swarm.
Koh Kood – best for remote island
This island’s great advantage is its relative remoteness – located near the Cambodian border and 200 miles east of Bangkok. Once you get there you will find a beautiful island covered with thick rainforest, a few inland waterfalls, coconut plantations and a handful of sleepy fishing villages. Two thousand people live on the island so handily there is a fair amount of choice when it comes to accommodation (mostly bungalow style resorts).
Joe Fylan is a avid travel enthusiast living in Thailand with his family. He shares his past experiences as both a traveler and expat on Havana Lion a online blog dedicated to helping inspire others to take flight and explore the world. Joe has written a number comprehensive guides to traveling Thailand be sure to check them out.