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Shopping for That Perfect Tropical Island Paradise

Thinking of a beach getaway in Asia but dismissing Thailand because your travelers have already been to Koh Samui and Phuket. Or they are not in the mood for crowds? Well, think again, because there are many less-visited spots of southern Thailand in the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand that are home to peace and tranquility and relatively off the beaten path of mainstream beach lovers.

With so many picture-perfect islands to choose from, it’s hard to choose only a few favorites. Here is the shopping low down (in quick list format) of Khiri Travel Thailand’s preferred island paradises, all of which can be combined with other islands (and sometimes other countries) for a bit of island hopping. All are quiet, idyllic and perfect for anyone looking for that slice of paradise away from the crowds.


Koh Jum

In a nutshell: Low key, friendliest locals imaginable and stunning sunset views out to Phi Phi.

Location: Krabi Region.

Koh Jum - Krabi - Thailand

How to get there: 25-minute drive to Laem Kruat pier from Krabi airport and 40-minute boat ride to the island through the mangroves.

Who is it for: Couples and families who want that quiet non-touristy experience. Some great local fish restaurants, which are catered for local tastes and at local prices.

What is there to do: Boat trips into Phang Nga Bay for some snorkeling or diving. Trekking up the mountain, walking along the beach, RELAXING.

Where to stay? Koh Jum Beach Villas – privately owned villas in a rustic style of luxury, some with their own pools and right on the beachfront. All villas are brilliantly designed with ceiling fans and huge sliding doors, which, when opened, feels like your travelers are almost living outside. With the sea breeze it’s rare to need air con. Perfect for young families with all the space and kid-friendly swimming options.

Where next: Koh Lanta throughout the year or ferry to Phi Phi in high season (November to March). Can also be combined with little known Koh Klang, home to the wonderful Islanda Hideaway Resort.


Koh Phayam

In a nutshell: Idyllic long, wide beaches, cashew plantations and quite possibly that island paradise your travelers have been looking for. Said by some to be what Samui was like in the 70’s.

Location: Ranong Province right on the Myanmar border.

How to get there: Fly to Ranong from Bangkok (2 Nok Air flights per day), 35-minute drive to Ranong pier, 35-minute speedboat.

Who is it for: Couples and travelers in search of that traditional Thai island experience not found in many of the bigger islands anymore. No roads, just paths for bicycles and mopeds. No luxury resorts but some good midrange accommodation.

What is there to do: Explore the island’s different beaches by moped via the paved paths (or hitch a free ride from one of the locals willing to ferry you around). A quiet island but for those who want to stay up, there are one or two late night bars including “Hippy’s Bar” which is made from an old wooden shipwreck turned into a bar! Koh Phayam’s main beaches are located on the west of the island and like Koh Jum, the sunsets are extraordinary with a patchwork of oranges, pinks and purples, all reflecting off the sea and painting an unforgettable scene. The local inhabitants are more Burmese in appearance with thanaka (special skin paste) applied on their faces.

Where to stay? The Blue Sky Resort, the one upmarket accommodation option on the island with cute circular bungalows on stilts above the mangroves.

Where next: A short boat journey to Koh Chang Noi (not to be confused with it’s larger namesake in the Gulf of Thailand) or hop across the border to Myanmar and explore the deserted tropical islands of the Mergui Archipelago.

sea - Thailand - beach - Southern

Koh Yao Noi

In a nutshell: Easy to reach from Phuket, a real village feel and wondrous views out to the limestone karsts of Phang Nga Bay. One of Thailand’s most picturesque retreats.

Location: Right in the middle of Phang Nga Bay, in between Phuket and Krabi.

How to get there: 20-minute drive from Phuket airport and 35-speed minute speedboat or 30-minute drive from Krabi and 40-minute boat ride. No need to rush. The scenery is spectacular!

Who is it for: For those who have ended up in Phuket but want to escape the masses and also great for families wanting a classic Thai island experience but who also want to stay in a bit of comfort.

What is there to do: Trips out into Phang Nga Bay are a must and despite the popularity of the bay there are still places that are not crowded with other tourist boats. Exploring the island’s different beaches and villages on a bicycle is fun. Khiri can also offer their very own cooking class in a local cook’s (Khun Mina) traditional home.

Where to stay: For those who are after barefoot luxury then Six Senses Koh Yao Noi is unbeatable. Paradise Koh Yao Noi is a more affordable option for most and offers great yoga packages in harmony with the beautiful view of limestone karsts.

Where next: Just a short water crossing to Yao Noi’s bigger brother, Koh Yao Yai, or head back to Phuket and have a night in the wonderfully atmospheric Old Town. Stay at the historic Memory On On, eat in one of the town’s superb seafood restaurants such as Raya and then explore the Sino Portuguese buildings on Khiri’s signature walking tour the following morning.

Koh Kood

In a nutshell: In search of the best beaches in Thailand? In Koh Kood your travelers may just have found that place. Soft sands and the tallest palm trees anywhere.

Location: On Thailand’s east coast, south of Koh Chang and close to the Cambodian border.

How to get there: Fly to Trat, 30-minute drive to Laem Sok pier and then 1 hour 15 minute boat trip. Trat airport is arguably Thailand’s nicest airport, like a mini version of Samui with just one small building and a toy train to take you to the plane! Alternatively it’s approximately a 4.5-hour drive to Laem Sok pier directly from Bangkok. The journey can be broken up with a stop off in the lovely riverside town of Chantaburi, with an historic old town and an impressive gothic cathedral.

Who is it for: Couples and families who are after that picture perfect Thai beach away from the crowds. Kood is known to be Thailand’s version of the Maldives with bright white sands and crystal clear water.

What is there to do: The island is known for its waterfalls. Your travelers can arrange a day tour for a nice break from sun worshipping.

Where to stay: There is a good amount of tasteful accommodation on the island. We particularly like Koh Kood Beach Resort’s Balinese huts. There is also Soneva Khiri for the international jet setters with private jet transportation.

Where next: Forty minutes away by speedboat is Koh Mak, which has great beaches, is little less developed and provides a nice contrast. Otherwise, for the more adventurous, head back to land and cross the border into Cambodia and visit Koh Rong Sanloem or a little farther to Kep.


Koh Kradan

In a nutshell: A tiny sliver of an island with one stunning beach, turquoise seas and wonderful views out to the limestone crags jutting out from the sea.

Location: Part of the Trang Archipelago on the Andaman Coast, south of Koh Lanta.

How to get there: Fly to Trang airport from Bangkok, 40-minute drive to Kuan Thunggu Pier and then a 45-minute long-tail boat.

Who is it for: Kradan’s allure is its deserted island ambience and incredible scenery. Find a hammock, get out a book and enjoy the serenity.

What is there to do: In addition to taking it easy and walking along the pretty beach, Kradan also has some superb snorkeling due to the huge reef situated right off the shore on the southern part of the island, providing some of the best snorkeling accessible from any beach in all of Thailand. Thirty minutes away by long tail boat is Koh Mook, site of Tham Morakot, or Emerald Cave. Swim through a dark cave and then emerge onto a hidden beach encircled by towering cliffs.

Where to stay:  There are a few bungalow options along the beach with the most attractive being Coral Garden. Stay in one of the beachfront villas all built using only natural materials with hardwood flooring.

Where next: Besides Koh Mook, there is also Koh Ngai nearby, part of the Trang Archipelago, both with excellent beaches and a range of accommodation options. There are also direct boats to Koh Lanta and a daily speedboat further south to Koh Lipe.

sea - Thailand - beach - Southern


Koh Rong

In a nutshell: Koh Rong is a beautiful and mostly undeveloped island off the coast of Cambodia and only about a 45-minute speedboat ride from the bustling coastal town of Sihanoukville. Approximately the size of Hong Kong, Koh Rong is a large island in the Gulf of Thailand. There are a growing number of accommodation options and much of the island is currently slated for development.

Location: Approximately 30km off the Cambodian coast in the Gulf of Thailand.

How to get there: Speedboat or showboat from Sihanoukville Pier to Koh Rong Village Pier, although there is also talk of an airport opening on the island within the next few years.

Who is it for: Traditionally Koh Rong has been known as a backpacker’s paradise, but as the accommodations start to develop, the island is becoming a beautiful island destination for everyone with some beautiful, unspoiled beaches.

What is there to do: Relax on the beach, kayak, snorkel, dive, fish, explore the mangroves, visit the waterfalls and hike the island.

Where to stay: Palm Beach Bungalows and the Treehouse for standard accommodation or Sok San Resort on the far west side of the island for something more up-market.

Where next: Carry on with the Cambodian island vibes to Koh Rong Samleom or head back to the mainland to connect with a flight to Siem Reap or an overland journey to Kep, Kampot, Tatai, Chi Phat or Phnom Penh.

sea - Cambodia - beach

Koh Rong Samloem

In a nutshell: Koh Rong Samleom is a stunning island off the coast of Cambodia and only about a 45-minute speedboat ride from the bustling coastal town of Sihanoukville. Much smaller than it’s bigger neighbor, Koh Rong Samloem is home to truly one of the best beaches in the world at Saracene Bay and only a 45-minute speedboat ride away from the mainland. While mostly undeveloped, Saracene Bay has seen rapid development and there are many dining and accommodation options available, but overall the island is still quiet.

Location: Approximately 25km off the Cambodian coast in the Gulf of Thailand, directly west of Sihanoukville.

How to get there: Speedboat or slow boat from Sihanoukville Pier to Saracene Bay pier.

Who is it for: Koh Rong Samleom is for everyone. There are some backpacking options, but most accommodation is upper mid-level boutique.

What is there to do: Relax on the beach, kayak, snorkel, dive, fish, explore the mangroves, visit the waterfalls and hike the island.

Where to stay: Saracene Bay Resort, Sol Beach Resort and Moonlight Resort.

Where next: Carry on with the island vibes to Koh Rong or head back to the mainland to connect with a flight to Siem Reap or an overland journey to Kep, Kampot, Tatai, Chi Phat or Phnom Penh.

For more information about booking these less crowded island escapes in Thailand and Cambodia, please leave your contact [email protected].

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