How to Do The Thai Islands
Picking the right Thai koh is a tricky business when there are thousands to choose from. Jetsetter correspondent and Southeast Asia expert Jennifer Chen has the inside track on five favorites.
For Flashpacking spa fiends. Western travelers hit the island in the 70s to practice yoga and meditation and this spirit of healing persists — and now you can throw in four-handed massages between sun salutations.
See Skip busy Chaweng and Lamai beaches for quieter Mae Nam on the north coast and Taling Ngam down in the southwest.
Eat Family-run Sa Bieng Lae has beenserving super-fresh seafood to a lively local crowd for over 20 years. Don’t miss the curried baby octopus.
Do Detox in order? The secluded Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary offers hardcore two-week programs.
Stay Banyan Tree Samui
For Mixing it up. Phuket is Thailand’s largest and most developed island, but it’s also an obliging and versatile host. Party in neon-lit Patong, hike emerald-green Jurassic cliffs, get active on watersports-central Bang Tao Beach or just lounge out on quiet Kamala Beach.
See Historic Phuket Town is often overlooked, but it’s worth spending an afternoon strolling past the century-old, pastel-hued Sino-Portuguese shophouses.
Eat Have a taste of southern Thai specialty kanom jeen puu, rice noodles with crabmeat curry, at the venerable Raya restaurant.
Do Grab your snorkeling mask and boat out to the Raya Islands, 11 miles south of Phuket, where you’ll find calm, crystal-clear waters and intact reefs.
For Sun lounger-phobes. Krabi attracts a steady flow of adventurers, who scale the island’s ubiquitous limestone karsts.
See The spectacular Andaman Sea and countryside panorama is worth the 1,272-step climb that leads to the top of Wat Tam Sua, or Tiger Cave Temple, just outside Krabi town.
Eat Krabi town’s markets are a good introduction to local cuisine. The weekend night market has vendors selling fresh seafood, sticky desserts, and khao mok gai, Thai-style biriyani that’s a staple among Krabi’s Muslim population.
Do Learn to tackle the cliffs at Railay Beach with Hot Rock Climbing School.
For Adventurous families. It might be synonymous with the infamous full-moon beach parties, but there’s a lot more to Koh Phangan than trance music. Families are hitting the island’s northern shore for its luxe resorts and hiking and biking the undeveloped interior.
See Get drenched under a waterfall atNamtok Phaeng National Park, then trek up to Khao Ra, the island’s highest mountain.
Eat The wellness retreat, Sanctuary, is known for fasting and weight loss programs, but it also serves exceptional Thai and Indian dishes made with organic ingredients.
Do Sign up for wakeboarding lessons with Wake Up, which operates from quiet Chaloklum Bay.
Stay Rasanda Resort & Spa
For Isolationists. Near the Cambodian border along Thailand’s east coast, this 15-mile spit of sand has pristine beaches, coconut and rubber plantations and very few visitors.
See The island is ringed by mangrove forests. Rent a boat from your hotel and explore these secret byways.
Eat On a traditional wooden house situated right above the water, Benz’soffers a romantic, candle-lit setting for spot-on Thai food made by a long-time chef from Six Senses.
Do Rent a scooter and explore the island. With so few residents and little traffic, Koh Kood is one of the safest places to have your own set of wheels.