Some island getaways in Southern Thailand that promise you your own slice of paradise!
Thailand boasts countless island (koh in Thai) getaways where you can escape the crowds and enjoy paradisiacal seclusion. Here are just a few of them:
Mu Koh Surin, a protected marine park in the Andaman made up of five islands with human habitation and park service facilities on two of them, are about as beautiful as it gets. See what you normally see only when going diving; by merely snorkeling, catch a glimpse of rare Nicobar pigeons and Malayan flying lemurs, and maybe even meet the Moken sea gypsies. Ferry service runs from Khuraburi, north of Phuket and Khao Lak, and only operates between November and May. The park shuts down during the rainy season and when the seas are rough.
Similan Islands are a group of nine islands, which are known as the most pristine in Thailand, sitting 50km out in the Andaman Sea.
Come here for the best diving in the country and to see what protected and undeveloped Thai islands really look like. The Similans are 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.
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. 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.
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 boats between the islands so you can visit the Emerald Cave and then return to the serenity of Kradan.
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 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.
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. Fly to Trang and arrange transport to the pier at Hat Yao, where boats make the short crossing to Libong.
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 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.
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. 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.
CNN wrote it up as“like Samui in the 1970’s,” and while it is no longer an undiscovered paradise, it still doesn’t have cars, electricity, save for solar and generators, with most places only running them at night, and there are no 7-11’s or full moon parties. Come here to experience laidback island life, check out the prolific birdlife, go kayaking, and stay in an old-school thatched roof hut. Fly Nok Air to Ranong and catch a speedboat from Ranong pier, which takes 40 minutes.