With over 2500km (1500 miles) of coastline and 1430 islands, Thailand has a lot of beaches to offer.
Expect everything, from otherworldly craggy limestone formations that appear to be precariously balanced on the turquoise sea to colorful coral reefs whose inhabitants are best observed with snorkels and fins. Along many of those sands, beach shacks and street vendors sell fragrant regional grilled skewers and noodle dishes.
These beguiling beaches continue to attract all sorts of beach lovers, from backpack-toting cash-strapped students and families on holiday to those craving a buzzy scene or salt air pampering. November to March is probably the best time to visit Thailand to enjoy the most these spots have to offer.
Help narrow down your choice with our guide to the top beaches in Thailand.
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1. Klong Dao, Ko Lanta
Among the string of 52 small uninhabited islands that make up Ko Lanta in Krabi Province, Ko Lanta Yai is the largest and most developed. Stretching for 3.5km (2 miles) on the northwest coast is a wide, crescent-shaped beach with powdery sand, minimal rocks and shallow water that’s a safe, sun-drenched playground for children. Nearby, Two Scoops Gelato and Dessert doles out ice cream in ever-changing flavors. Just look for its shocking pink facade.
Go rock-climbing on the cliffs near Hat Tham Phra Nang beach © Tuul & Bruno Morandi / Getty Images
2. Hat Tham Phra Nang, Krabi
In a country embarrassingly abundant with incredible waterfront spots, Hat Tham Phra Nang remains the benchmark. This Krabi Province beach ticks all the boxes: golden powdery sand, warm azure waters and dramatic karst formations that rise out of the sea.
Thrill-seekers can scale the tree-covered karst cliffs at the western end that rewards summiteers with a view of Ko Kai (referred to as “Chicken Island”), Ko Pada and the other craggy neighboring islands jutting straight out of the Andaman Sea. Afterward, fuel up with ice-cold coconut water and shrimp pad thai from one of the longboat restaurants docked here.
From beach bars to discos, Chaweng has many different nightlife options © Austin Bush / Lonely Planet
3. Chaweng, Ko Samui
If you’re looking to book somewhere other than Phuket, consider Ko Samui in the Gulf of Thailand. This island competes with Phuket as Thailand’s most popular tropical destination. On its east coast, the pink, pillowy sands, boutiques, beach bars, restaurants and pulsating nightlife on Chaweng Beach give Phuket’s popular Patong Beach a run for its baht.
Snag a lounger in the sun or sofa on the shady patio and sip a Bird of Paradise cocktail – Aperol, rum, pineapple juice and lime – at the chic Elephant Beach Club. Later, dine on stir-fried garlic pepper crab at boutique Thai spot Khaw Glong before catching the late show at Paris Follies Cabaret – it’s racier than the matinee.
Hua Hin is a fantastic beach resort near Bangkok © Monthon Wa / Getty Images
4. Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan
A three-hour drive from Bangkok, Hua Hin has the distinction of being Thailand’s oldest beach resort. Developed in the 1920s as an escape for the elite, it became even more popular when King Rama VII built his summer palace, Klai Kangwon (Far from Worries), here too. With a renowned night bazaar and seafood aplenty, restaurants like Chao Lay offer a fantastic array of freshly-caught meals.
Local Tip: Hua Hin remains fashionable today and is a good budget alternative to the southern islands.
You’re unlikely to encounter a crowd at Sichon beach © Anders Raaf / Getty Images
5. Sichon, Nakhon Si Thammarat
For a relatively undiscovered stretch of sand mostly untouched by tourists, head to Sichon in the far southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, an eight-hour bus ride from Bangkok (or a one-hour flight). Visitors here are likely only to encounter local fishers and their brightly-colored boats – and if you are lucky, one of the region’s adorable 60 pink dolphins, believed to be a subspecies of Chinese white dolphins, who call the waters home.
Planning Tip: Be sure to try the local specialty dish when you’re here. Khanom krok are absolutely addictive coconut griddle cakes flecked with chopped scallions. Save room too for freshly-caught eels, local steamed clams or pad phet-style mackerel from the beach’s tiny restaurants and bustling street food vendors.
6. Ko Similan, Phang Nga
The Similan islands are possibly the best places to go in Thailand for water activities. Among the nine islands in the archipelago in the Andaman Sea, Island #8 is the largest and most popular. With average water depths of 25m (82ft), it affords some of the world’s best dive sites and snorkeling expeditions. In Ko Similan’s small bay on the island’s western side, you’ll find coral reefs, massive sea fans, barrel sponges, colorful marine life galore, swim-throughs, cliffs and stone piles.
Planning Tip: Prefer to stay on dry land? There are hiking trails with lovely views out to sea, perfect for the Landlubbers.
Hat Bang Sak is backed by mangroves and rubber trees © Cyrille Arroyo / Shutterstock
7. Hat Bang Sak, Phang-Nga
While the islands that stud the bay get all the attention in Phang-Nga province – including the over-visited “James Bond Island” (it appeared in the 1974 flick The Man With the Golden Gun) – the mainland has its fair share of overlooked sun-soaked stunners.
Hat Bang Sak’s long, wide strip of sand is adjacent to a grove of mature pine trees; away from the water’s edge are mangrove swamps and rubber-tree plantations. Nearby, Be Friend Restaurant adds to the area’s romance with string lights, bamboo tables and chairs in the sand and island-inspired dishes like prawn cakes and squid with lemon sauce.
Nui Beach is a secluded cove on Ko Phi Phi Don © FilippoBacci / Getty Images
8. Nui Beach, Ko Phi Phi
In a cruel twist of fate, Maya Bay – the cove on the uninhabited island of Ko Phi Phi Leh, which was made famous by its appearance in the 2000 film The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio – follows the same thematic fall from grace as the fictional atoll: too many people found out about it. Not only did the film company irreparably damage the once-pristine shoreline, but mass tourism forced the Thai authorities to close it in 2018. After a clean-up program and some time for the natural environment to recover, it reopened in 2022 with restrictions on visitor numbers and strict sustainability goals.
The secluded cove of Nui Beach on Ko Phi Phi Don, with a bar, restaurant and spa, has the infrastructure to welcome tourists. Accessible by 4WD (prices vary), the bay is tucked away 3km (2 miles) through the jungle and a coconut grove, after the Kata-Karon viewpoint.
The beach at Haad Rin Nai is packed with revelers each month for the legendary Full Moon Party © 4FR / Getty Images
9. Haad Rin Nai, Ko Pha-Ngan
Located in the Gulf of Thailand off the coast of Surat Thani, Samui competes with Phuket as the country’s most popular tropical destination. As Samui became overdeveloped and overcrowded, neighboring island Ko Pha-Ngan – and its combination of sandy coves and interior forest – has attracted backpackers with its laid-back vibe.
For the most immersive experience, time your visit to the lunar calendar: its raucous, uninhibited monthly Full Moon Parties at what’s known locally as Sunset Beach are legendary. Attracting upwards of 30,000 body paint-clad, mostly Gen Z-aged attendees sweating it out to live music, swigging from cold drinks served in buckets and watching street performers tackle a flaming limbo stick.
Local Tip: Can’t make it for the Full Moon? Don’t worry, the area’s nightlife also pulses the other 28 nights of the month.
Join the plane-spotters or find a more peaceful spot on the 10km-long Mai Khao beach © Tee11 / Shutterstock
10. Mai Khao, Phuket
When you fly into Phuket, the island’s best beach is at Sirinat National Park, just a 20-minute walk away from the airport. At 10km long (6 miles), Mai Khao is the island’s longest beach; paddle a kayak, stroll through the pine forest, swim out to the cluster of plate coral and sea anemones, or grab your phone and film the jumbo jets scream overhead as they approach the runway.