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Thailand is many things; impressive temples and wild jungles, chaotic cities and fascinating history…and miles and miles of gorgeous beaches. With powder white sand and teal blue water, Thailand beaches are what attract many visitors to the country, and we think every Thailand itinerary should include a visit to at least one Thai beach.
While beaches are some of the most beautiful places in Thailand to visit, they are not all the same. There are party beaches, touristy beaches, resort beaches, private beaches and quiet beaches. There are Thai island beaches and mainland stretches of sand; beaches along the Andaman Sea and on the shores of the Gulf of Thailand.
Each time we visit the country, we are lured to the striking shoreline – and are always eager to discover something new. In our travels, we have sought out the best destinations in Thailand for a relaxing beach experience. What we found are 4 incredibly beautiful and completely relaxing Thailand beaches. Yes, beach research…somebody’s got to do it!
How Do You Choose Where To Go in Thailand?
With so many Thai beaches, determining which exactly are the best places to stay in Thailand is quite the task. The most famous Thailand tourist destinations – like Phuket, Phi Phi Islands and Ko Samui – are recognizable to many by name…but does that make them the best places to go in Thailand?
When we are searching for Thailand beach destinations, we consider numerous factors. The things that are most important to us are the ease of access, value for money and beach vibe.
Ease of Access
Before we choose our Thailand vacation spot, we check to see how accessible it is. Some of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand are in hard-to-reach places – requiring a series of flights, boats and taxis. While we don’t immediately discount these destinations, it is a key factor to keep in mind when planning a trip.
Value for Money
While the country (and region) is considered a budget destination, staying at some of the top beaches in Thailand can be pricey. Exclusive resorts and luxury beachfront hotels come with high price tags – and some Thailand beach resorts lay claim to an entire stretch of sand.
As independent and budget-conscious travelers, we seek out beaches that offer a range of accommodations – not just high-end and not just hostels. Furthermore, we check the area offerings to ensure there are different types of restaurants and activities, too. (More tips on choosing accommodations at the end of the post!)
Perhaps most important, however, is identifying the beach vibe. There are beaches that are notorious for wild Full Moon Parties and feature bawdy nightlife. On the other hand, some beaches are so remote they lack modern conveniences. Our version of the best beach vacation in Thailand falls somewhere between those two extremes.
Relaxing Thailand Beaches
We are not seeking out the most quiet islands in Thailand, but we aren’t interested in all-night raves, either. Our idea of a perfect Thai beach is a place where we can sink our feet into the sand, cool off in the turquoise sea and watch the sunset with an ice-cold beer in hand.
The good news is that there are many beaches in Thailand that fit the bill…it’s just a matter of seeking them out!
Thailand Islands and Beaches
We think the beaches on our list are the best places to visit in Thailand for a little R&R. Our list includes island destinations and a mainland beach that feels like an island. Our list of the best Thai beaches is not in any particular order. We’ve included a helpful map at the end of the post, too!
Thailand Island Koh Lanta: Klong Khong Beach
Koh Lanta is one of the best islands in Thailand. The long island – about 20 miles long – seems to hang from the southern tip of the Krabi mainland, dripping into the Andaman Sea. The lengthy west-facing shoreline hosts numerous crescent coves lined with white sand – and the most chill beach among them is Klong Khong Beach.
Less than 2 miles long, the entire beach is fronted by hippie bars, low-key restaurants and a range of hotels. Bamboo loungers and mats offer oceanfront seating while Bob Marley tunes drift through the speakers. The sunsets are spectacular and while the sea floor is rock (not sand) the refreshing water is the perfect way to cool off (unless, of course, it’s low tide!).
What We Did: There is actually not a whole lot to do on Klong Khong except to soak in the relaxed beach vibes and watch the tide roll in and out. During our stay, we visited the more developed beach to the north (Long Beach/Phra Ae Beach) and took an amazing Four Island Snorkeling Koh Lanta Tour.
Read more about the beach in our Koh Lanta Best Beach post!
Phuket Island: Kamala Beach
Phuket ranks as one of the top places to visit in Thailand, with hordes of tourists descending on (in)famous Patong Beach. Although pictures show a serene beach with swaying palm trees by day, the outrageous nightlife and bawdy bars don’t reflect the same sense of peaceful calm. Patong’s rowdy reputation nearly kept us from Phuket entirely…but then we learned about Kamala Beach.
Sitting just 6 miles north of Patong, Kamala Beach has a completely different scene. Boasting just two attractions – the local weekly market and Fantasea Park – all focus is on the beach in Kamala (which, we must say, is stunningly beautiful). Jet skis, stand-up paddle boards and surf boards are all available for rent – but a blissful way to experience the surroundings is with an on-beach massage.
Kamala Beach restaurants sit at the top of the beach and line the busy street that runs parallel to the shore – while Café del Mar and HQ Beach Club (both on the north end of the beach) provide a bit of fun nightlife on the seafront.
What We Did: Kamala Beach is one of those places where you can really just kick back and relax – which is exactly what we did. On the days when the swells were big, we headed into the sea with body boards. The long stretch of sand is perfect for beach walks – and we never missed a sunset.
Read about our recommended restaurants in Kamala Beach!
Thai Island Koh Chang: Kai Bae Beach
When we were looking for beaches near Bangkok, we passed right over mega-developed and seedy Pattaya and continued searching along the eastern coastline until we found Koh Chang Island. Ranking as the third largest island in Thailand, more than half of the land is covered in nature. The best Koh Chang beaches are on the west side of the island – and we zeroed in Kai Bae Beach as the one that best fit our style.
Need Tips of Things To Do in Bangkok? Check out our detailed Bangkok Itinerary!
Kai Bae Beach has the perfect mix of beachfront resorts and locally owned boutique hotels. The main road features typical beach shops, Thai restaurants and fun bars – and the easy-going vibe can be felt throughout the town. The public beach is small, but sufficient for taking a dip in the sea and launching kayaks to paddle out to the smaller nearby islands. (The beach is also where the local elephant camp takes the baby elephants for their daily bath, which is an entertaining sight!)
A highlight of Kai Bae is the location in between the busy-but-beautiful White Sand Beach and rugged Lonely Beach – both of which can be reached via an inexpensive songthaew ride.
What We Did: Our visit to Koh Chang was in the rainy season…and, oh my, did it ever rain! Despite the often-flooded streets, we managed to spend some time on the beach. We went kayaking around the islets, embarked on a rainy-day Koh Chang snorkeling tour and visited other beaches along the western coastline.
Read the details of our 4-Island Koh Chang Snorkeling Trip!
Krabi Beach: Railay Beach
Although Railay Beach is on the mainland, it feels like a faraway tropical escape. Located on the southern tip of a peninsula in Krabi, dramatic cliffs isolate the beach so that it is only accessible by boat. Behemoth monoliths rise from the sea, creating a landscape so striking that it takes your breath away.
The town is comprised of East Railay (where mangroves grow beside the long pier) and West Railay (which features a sandy beach and an upscale resort). The limestone rocks are wrought with caves that can be explored, including one that hosts a fertility shrine filled with carved phalluses.
Kayaking, rock climbing and scuba diving are all popular Railay activities during the day. Although relatively chilled out, there is a bit of nightlife in Railay – with numerous Bob Marley-themed bars lining the East-West pedestrian walkway and East Railay coastline.
What We Did: Rather than just sinking into the sand, we explored a little in Railay Beach. We ventured into caves and down hidden trails – often encountering monkeys along the way. We rented kayaks twice and discovered hidden beaches while taking in the awesome scenery.
Thailand Beaches Map
Use this link to Google Maps for an online version of our Best Beaches in Thailand Map.
Thailand has three seasons: Wet Season, Dry Season and Hot Season. We tend to visit Thailand in the Wet Season – as that is just how it usually fits into our plans. While the weather is not ideal for Thai beaches (we have endured consecutive rainy days on multiple occasions), we enjoy fewer crowds and lower prices.
- Wet Season (Monsoon Season): Mid-May to Mid-October
- Dry Season (Cool Season): Mid-October to Mid-February
- Hot Season: Mid-February to Mid-May. April is the hottest month.
Check Thailand weather forecasts on the Thai Meteorological Website before your trip!
Beach Trash In Thailand
While certainly not unique just to Thailand, the enormous amount of single-use plastic and lack of proper disposal will be noticeable. The Wet season seems to compound the problem, as run-off from the rain dumps even more trash on the beaches. With fewer visitors and many businesses closed, this slows the already lackadaisical approach to do anything about it. If you’re interested in assisting in the clean-up effort, become a Trash Hero!
Where To Stay in Thailand Beaches
Fortunately, most Thai beaches have an array of accommodation options to fit many different styles and price points. We usually search for mid-range options that include amenities, like air con and wifi. Other key features we look for in Thailand beach hotels are proximity to beach, swimming pool and included breakfast.
Distance to Beach
Beachfront hotels are fantastic, but often out of our price range. We can easily cut our hotel costs in half by simply choosing a hotel that is across the street from the beach rather than right on it. However, before booking hotels off the beach, we always check how long the walk is from the hotel to the sand – and which routes are open to the public (you can’t cut through most resorts!).
As much as we love swimming in the sea, we also like splashing around the pool! Many mid-range hotels offer pools – some even have rooms that open onto the pool for direct access.
Some people love eating out for breakfast…we are not those people. We find it to be much more relaxing to simply saunter down to the hotel restaurant where there is either a buffet meal already prepared or options for a made-to-order breakfast.
What You Will Need For Your Thai Beach Vacation
Before you take off for your Thailand trip, make sure you have everything you need!
Pack plenty of sunscreen – you will need it! Sunscreen is available for sale in Thailand beaches, but at a severe up charge.
Mosquitoes in Thailand are fierce – and far worse around the water than in the cities! Be sure to bring bug spray with you!
Sunglasses, Hat and Swimwear
Don’t forget your beach gear! Sunglasses (I like polarized Maui Jim sunglasses for the beach!), a wide-brimmed travel hat and at least one swimsuit are necessities. Beach towels take up too much room in luggage, so inquire if your hotel provides them. If not, bring a sarong or wrap that can double as a beach towel. Tip: Water shoes are ideal for rocky beaches!
Camera, Dry Bag, Underwater Action Camera
You may have noticed we mentioned these Thai beaches are beautiful…so remember to bring a camera to capture the beauty of the beach. We recommend using an actual camera, rather than relying on your phone. We use a Canon Rebel with an 18-135mm lens, which can be a bit clunky on the beach – so we also carry a slim and lightweight Canon PowerShot that takes excellent photos.
Whatever digital devices you will be carrying, be sure to have a dry bag they can all fit into! We use the reliable Sea To Summit cases to keep our electronics dry at the beach.
We think Travel Insurance is essential! While we hope to never have to use it, travel insurance can protect against a wide range of unfortunate events – like lost luggage, delayed flights and injuries or illnesses abroad. Check rates and coverage for your trip on World Nomads.
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