Thailand Island Hopping: Ultimate Guide (2024) - Feel Free Travel Blog
Thailand Island Hopping: Ultimate Guide (2024) Thailand Island Hopping: Ultimate Guide (2024)

Thailand Island Hopping: Ultimate Guide (2024)


Written by Josh Band

Posted, 19th February 2024

Planning your Thailand island hopping trip? 

Then you’ve come to the right place as we run group tours in Thailand so we know all of the best islands for island hopping!

We’re experts on travelling around Thailand and to help make your trip as good as possible, we’ve put together a complete guide to island hopping in Thailand.

Whether you’re looking for a fun-filled adventure or are searching for the best relaxation spot, we can help you find what you’re looking for.

Read on to find all of the information you need to have an unforgettable “Thailand Island Hopping” experience!

Thailand Island Hopping Introduction

Island hopping is extremely popular in Thailand as there are just so many islands to explore! In fact, there are more than 1400 Thai islands to choose from.

While the mainland is full of treasures to discover, the islands offer a completely different insight into Thai culture and nature and some of the best memories from your trip are bound to come from the islands.

There’s an island for everyone in Thailand with each island being best known for a particular activity, dish or trait. Not all of the islands are party islands like some travellers might believe – although party islands do definitely exist too. 

If you’re looking to relax on the beach or go snorkelling or rock climbing, there’s definitely an island for you!

Island hopping around Thailand is so easy with ferries crossing between them on a daily basis and it’s cheap too, making it even more accessible!

Some of the most popular islands are located on the east side of the peninsula but there are some great islands all over the Gulf.

Remember: the most popular doesn’t always equal the best!

Remember: the most popular doesn’t always equal the best!

Whether you opt for a guided tour or want to take on island hopping yourself, you’re guaranteed to have an amazing time on the Thai islands, make some unforgettable memories and enjoy some of Thailand’s best food and activities!

Colorful wooden longtail boats moored on a sandy shore with a limestone karst backdrop under a clear blue sky

10 Best Islands For Island Hopping In Thailand

To help you begin planning your Thailand island hopping experience, we’ve put together a list of our favourite Thai islands, which we think you should check out.

But remember, our preferences might be different to your preferences. There truly is a Thai island for everyone, so make sure you do your own research and find which islands are right for you.

That being said, we do recommend visiting our favourites too!

1. Phi Phi Islands

The Phi Phi Islands (pronounced pee-pee) is a collection of six islands close to the west coast of the southern Thai peninsula, with two main islands that travellers like to explore – but that’s not to say you shouldn’t visit the smaller ones;

  • Koh Phi Phi Don: If you plan to stay overnight on the Phi Phi Islands, this is where you’ll be sleeping. The island itself has no motor vehicles and can crossed by foot along the yellow brick road in just 45 minutes. You’ll find a variety of hotels, hostels or Airbnbs to stay, all a short work from bars, restaurants and beach parties.
  • Koh Phi Phi Ley: When you picture Thai islands, you probably picture paradise islands like in the movie ‘The Beach’.Tall limestone cliffs with greenery standing tall over gorgeous blue water. That’s what the Phi Phi Ley has to offer.

One of the biggest draws that Phi Phi Ley offers is that there are very few manmade attractions, and there is so much thriving marine life. With crystal clear waters at every turn and secluded beaches to explore, the Phi Phi Islands are full of natural beauty.

The islands are accessible by ferry or speedboat from nearby travel hubs Krabi and Phuket as well as many other offshore islands.

Aerial view of a hidden lagoon in Phi Phi with turquoise waters nestled between emerald-green karst cliffs, with boats scattered around, showcasing the beauty of a tropical paradise.
📸 via @dew_nattawut

2. Phuket

And speaking of Phuket, how could we put together a list of the best islands without including Phuket? Like Phi Phi, it’s probably not pronounced how you think! It’s a lot less rude than you might guess – it’s pronounced poo-ket.

Phuket is the largest of all the Thai islands and is the hub of island hopping on the west coast of the peninsula. Phuket is a popular starting point for those beginning their island hopping journey, as there are many ferry crossings starting from there.

It’s definitely the most popular island to visit in Thailand. Some people will spend their whole time in the county just on Phuket, but we definitely advise you see much more of Thailand than just Phuket, as amazing as it is.

There is lots to see and do on Phuket but, one of the most popular day trips is to the Phi Phi islands. We spend a few nights there on our island hopping tour but a day trip is common for those staying in Phuket.

There are also lots of temples and markets to explore. The island is like a mini floating city and has everything you could need to start your island-hopping adventure. Due to its popularity, it is one of the more expensive islands, which is something to consider if you are on a shoestring budget.

3. Koh Tao

Koh Tao is a fan-favourite for those who like to explore the ocean. This is definitely the island for you if you’re looking to test out or learn some new diving skills. There are dozens of beautiful coral reefs along the coast of the small island that deserve your attention!

It’s one of the most popular places in the world to get your PADI Open Water Diving Certification, as it costs a fraction of the price compared to getting it in the West.

Koh Tao definitely lives up to its name as it translates to ‘Turtle Island’ – a hint at what you might see if you try out a scuba diving course!

Koh Tao can be much quieter than some of the other islands on this list, but you’ll still be able to join some crazy parties if you’re looking for them. It’s quite a small island so it may feel crowded at times but you can certainly avoid the rowdy crowds if you research accommodation and tour options in advance.

Aerial perspective of a tropical island near Koh Tao with two lush green islands connected by a sand bar, surrounded by turquoise waters and boats near the shore.

4. Krabi

Krabi isn’t actually an island but it makes our list as it has the feel of one and is likely one of the top contenders on where you will start your island hopping journey. Krabi is attached to the mainland but its coast is surrounded by hundreds of tiny islands and inlets to explore.

Many people get confused when it comes to Krabi and where “Krabi” actually is. It’s a little confusing because Krabi is the name of the province and also the name of the town in the province. Similar to how Chiang Mai city is in the Chiang Mai province.

Krabi Town is a very popular location with travellers looking to begin their island journey and there is so much to love about the town. There is an incredible atmosphere in Krabi Town with night markets to visit, amazing beaches to lounge on, and great cultural experiences to be had at the temples.

5. Koh Samui

Koh Samui is one of the most visited of all of the islands in southern Thailand. The island is most attractive to ravers and party-goers, but there are plenty of activities for those who prefer quiet evenings.

Some of the best things to do on Koh Samui other than partying include visiting the elephant sanctuaries, having fun on the beaches and admiring the Buddhist temples, before heading out to the beach for the fire shows ofcourse.

You can reach Koh Samui through multiple transport methods, but one of the most common and comfortable ways is to fly from Krabi. Koh Samui is one of the biggest islands on the east coast of the peninsula, allowing you to catch ferries from it to the smaller, popular islands like Koh Tao and Ko Pha Ngan. 

Two solo travellers smiling for a selfie while relaxing on colourful beach chairs, enjoying iced drinks, with string lights and fellow travellers in the background

6. Similan Islands

The Similan Islands are quite a distance from the main peninsula but are a natural paradise and offer some incredible views and experiences. The islands are very remote with no hotels, hostels or accommodation options.

Should you want to stay you’ll have to pitch up a tent at a campsite – and out of the nine islands in the group, you’re only permitted to sleep on one of them.

The Similan Islands are therefore best explored as a day trip and you can reach them by boat from Phuket in around an hour and a half. Guided tours of the islands allow you to make the most of your time there and immerse yourself in the wonderful, peaceful atmosphere.

Scenic overlook of a vibrant blue sea dotted with boats near a tropical island with lush vegetation and rocky shoreline

7. Koh Lipe

Koh Lipe has incredible beaches that will never look as good in photographs as they do in real life – one of our least favourite parts about the Thai islands is how it’s impossible to capture their beauty to show others. You’ll never truly understand just how majestic they are until you see the islands for yourself.

Koh Lipe’s crystal clear water is simply breathtaking and offers some great opportunities for snorkelling and diving.

Another benefit is that Koh Lipe is nowhere near as crowded as several of the other islands and is definitely not the location for parties. It is a great island to just kick back and relax, taking in the peace and quiet.

Reaching Koh Lipe is a little more difficult than some of the other islands, but there are still plenty of methods of reaching it.

Coming by a combination of bus and ferry is a popular option from Krabi, but you could also opt to travel by bus and ferry from Hat Yai. Hat Yai is easily reached from Bangkok via a short flight, which also makes Koh Lipe a possible good starting location for island hopping.

People relaxing on a sandy beach with palm trees and boats in the water as the sun sets, creating a serene evening atmosphere

8. Koh Yao Yai

Koh Yao Yai is another quiet island that is typically missed by all the party-goers and enjoyed more by relaxed solo travellers, couples and families. 

This island should be high on the contender list of anyone seeking some downtime and relaxation but it’s not all lying in the sun and lounging on the beach, there are plenty of sports, activities and opportunities to get active on Koh Yao Yai.

Kayaking, ATV-ing and hiking are all popular activities on Koh Yao Yai and you’ll find some great deals for all of them.

Koh Yao Yai is pretty much bang in the middle of Phuket and Krabi, making it very accessible by ferry and speedboat. It’s a wonder more people don’t visit! 

Silhouette of a lone kayaker paddling in the ocean at sunset with the silhouette of a mountainous island in the background

9. Koh Pha Ngan

Koh Pha Ngan is an island with the perfect balance of vibrant parties, chilled cafes and tropical beaches. The island is probably best known for its Full Moon Parties, which are held once a month.

To be honest, it’s become very popular as there are now full-moon, half-moon and black-moon parties. All of which are different in their own way with some in the jungle and others beach-side.

Most travellers head straight to Haad Rin Beach on the island which is located in the south. Here the parties continue from dusk til dawn.

The north of the island is largely considered a lot more relaxed and there are plenty of beaches to enjoy swimming and sunbathing at. There are also plenty of jungles to hike and explore, allowing you to take a glimpse at the tropical wildlife.

Travelling to Koh Pha Ngan is easy, and it is well-connected to Koh Tao and Koh Samui by ferry links. Ferries take roughly one and a half hours between the islands. Many people will stay in Koh Samui and make their way to Pha Ngan just for the Full Moon Party.

Silhouettes of a crowd of people at a beach party, with arms raised against a vibrant sunset sky. One of the best things to do when island hopping in Thailand is to attend the Full Moon Party.

10. Khao Phing Kan

Last but by no means least of the best islands for Thailand island hopping is Khao Phing Kan. It’s very touristy but we still love it there!

Khao Phing Kan is more affectionately known as James Bond Island and it is very popular with Asian & Western tourists. The limestone island was featured in “Man with the Golden Gun”, and as a result, the number of visitors has skyrocketed.

There are many landforms that makeup James Bond Island and you can tour these on boat tours. The most famous ‘mushroom-shaped’ island has unfortunately been closed for an extended period of time due to the amount of pollution and litter that occurred from such an influx of visitors.

The easiest way of taking a tour of the collection of islands and rockforms used in the movie is to take a ferry from Koh Nakha Yai which is accessed by ferry from Phuket.

Iconic limestone rock formation rising from the emerald green waters of islands in Thailand.

Things To Do When Thailand Island Hopping

There are many popular activities that you could try when you’re island hopping in Thailand and some islands are more suited for them than others.

Here’s a list of some of the most popular things to do when island hopping that you should put on your bucket list to complete:

Get your PADI

Getting a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) qualification is a rite of passage for many travellers taking on the islands in southern Thailand.

Not only is it much cheaper than in other parts of the world but the diving locations are some of the cleanest and most pristine in all of the east. 

With a PADI certification, you will be granted access to far deeper waters on dives which allows you to explore beautiful coral reefs and encounter wonderful marine life. The qualification also means you can join guided tours for diving and explore lots of the crystal waters without having to suffer through training and safety briefings over and over again.

And, it is internationally recognised meaning once you have it, you have it everywhere! Plus it never expires.

A sea turtle swimming near coral reefs with a diver in the background in clear blue underwater surroundings

Go on a sunset boat tour

Sunset boat tours are extremely common on pretty much all of the islands and for good reasons, it’s hard to find better sunsets than on the islands of Thailand!

A sunset boat tour gives the perfect opportunity to get some amazing Instagram-worthy photos and view the islands with a red sky backdrop. The crystal waters reflecting the sun as it sets is a beautiful scene and while you can get a great glimpse of it from the beach, it doesn’t compare to being on a boat.

You’ll find many boat companies offering sunset tours on the islands. The best advice is to check all of the reviews and prices to make sure you’re getting the best deal for your money and are supporting small businesses.

We also recommend booking in person rather than online, as you will find much cheaper prices. Thailand is great for being spontaneous, as you don’t have to book things months in advance (most of the time).

Rock climb above the ocean

Rock climbing above the ocean on the Thai islands is a unique and unforgettable experience. The views that you can get during this thrilling activity are unlike anything you’ll see from the ground.

Islands have all sorts of routes available and there are plenty of different skill levels to take on, making it a rewarding experience for all travellers.

You don’t have to be an experienced rock climber to take on cliffs, with many companies offering day tours for even the most basic beginners.

Most will also offer rock climbing equipment for free while others have small hire costs. One thing you’ll definitely want to bring along is a good pair of trainers though!

A man climbing up a limestone cliff on one of Thailand's islands.

Attend a full moon party

Full moon parties are very popular on the most visited islands and celebrate the lunar cycles. Make sure to keep track of the moon while planning your island hopping journey, so that you can take advantage of the parties on the islands.

On the other hand, if you aren’t the party type, make sure you keep track of the dates so you don’t end up on Koh Pha Ngan when it’s party season.

Most parties consist of partying on the beach from the minute the sun goes down until it rises again in the morning. With drinks, music and lights, full moon parties are unforgettable experiences that you should make the most of if you can.

Test out your hiking shoes

There are plenty of great hiking opportunities across the islands in Thailand, with some islands having better trails than others. Some of the best hikes on the islands are to beautiful temples that sit at the top of cliffs and give amazing views across the rest of the island and the ocean beyond.

One thing which we love about the Thai islands is that they offer a bit of everything. Jungles with mountain views right by the beach. Unbelievably stunning!

Most hiking locations have a few different trails for different ability levels, so don’t worry if you aren’t quite ready to hike Everest yet. Hiking offers a great opportunity to get back to nature and immerse yourself in the quiet, undisturbed areas of the islands including the hills and rugged cliffside, especially if you’ve been partying for a few days.

When To Go Island Hopping In Thailand

The best time for island hopping in Thailand, and visiting Thailand in general is between January and April. This is the dry season with little rainfall, high temperatures and sunny skies.

Island hopping around this time will likely be very busy but there are still plenty of islands where you can avoid the crowds if you’re looking for a more relaxed experience.

If you can’t visit during these months then don’t worry! The islands offer amazing experiences no matter the time of year. But good weather really does help to make those unforgettable memories. No one wants to cloudbathe, right?

What To Bring Island Hopping In Thailand

If you’re planning on island hopping in Thailand then there are a number of things that you should definitely have packed but nothing tops a swimsuit!

The water surrounding the Thai islands is often crystal clear and the beaches are white and sandy, making beach days pretty irresistible. You’ll definitely want to pack some swim shorts or a bikini to make the most of the beaches and test out the water activities on offer.

A few other non-negotiable items that you’ll want to have packed include some sunglasses, a good UV suncream, bug spray, a towel and some flip-flops.

If you’re planning on hiking or rock climbing on any of the islands (pretty popular activities) then make sure you have some good trainers packed. 

And if you have a GoPro or underwater camera, definitely bring it along too, especially if you plan on snorkelling or scuba diving.

Don’t worry if you don’t have any of this though! Many of the islands are full of market stalls selling everything you could possibly need.

Other than these things, pretty much just bring what you would bring for any other trip. You don’t need anything extraordinary to visit the islands.

Click here for a list we put together on exactly 'What to pack when Island Hopping in Thailand?'

Click here for a list we put together on exactly ‘What to pack when Island Hopping in Thailand?’

Our Expert Thailand Island Hopping Tips

As experts on all things Thailand, we’ve learnt a thing or two over the years when it comes to island hopping in Thailand.

And we want you to have the BEST experience possible, so we’re sharing our secrets and giving you our expert Thailand island hopping tips.

In no particular order…

  • Carry suncream at all times (and make sure it is non-toxic so as not to harm the wildlife)
  • Make sure you bring insect repellant and put it on everywhere you go
  • Pack as lightly as possible – trust us, you’ll hate yourself if you overpack
  • Choose reputable and eco-friendly tour companies for activities
  • Leave no waste behind in natural spaces. As the saying goes, “Take nothing, leave nothing”
  • Keep some modest clothes on hand in case you want to visit temples (cover shoulders & knees)
  • Make an effort to interact with locals and shop with small businesses – support local!
  • Try volunteering if you can. It’s very rewarding and can actually mean you save money
  • Take public transport and cycle as much as you can
  • Plan ahead – especially in peak season (between January and April)
  • Always carry cash as many businesses don’t accept card
  • Invest in a dry bag for your valuables
  • Eat local cuisine – make the most of your stay on the islands and be sure to try something new rather than sticking to Western favourites
  • Respect local customs – while the islands may seem like the perfect place for lounging in tiny bikinis and getting a tan, there are plenty of beaches that require modest clothing
  • Stick to a budget and don’t overspend on activities – book in person to get the best prices
  • Stay hydrated – the tropical climate can be very unforgiving if you don’t stay on top of your water intake
Three travellers enjoying a sunset at Phi Phi viewpoint, with one giving a peace sign, as they all smile and bask in the warm golden light with a scenic backdrop

Thailand Island Hopping Itinerary

Attempting to explore both the Andaman Islands and the Gulf of Thailand is a big undertaking but it is certainly doable in just a couple of weeks. We recommend at least 2 weeks for island hopping in Thailand, though the longer the better!

Here’s a rough island-hopping itinerary that would be useful if you wanted to visit all of the islands on the list above:

  • Fly into Phuket and spend a couple of days exploring the beaches and temples. The top attractions are the Big Buddha and Patong Beach.
  • Go island hopping in the west, aiming to visit the Similan Islands on a day tour using the ferries. Stay the night in a campsite if you’re feeling adventurous. Head back to Phuket.
  • Next, make your way through Phang Nga Bay, stopping off at islands such as Koh Yao Yai, James Bond Island and Koh Nakha Yai for a night or two each.
  • Move on to Krabi, take in the culture and stock up on essentials in the markets. Take advantage of the ferry ports and explore Koh Lipe.
  • From Krabi, head on a bus across the peninsula to explore the Gulf of Thailand. Or, hop on a flight from Krabi to Koh Samui.
  • Koh Samui is a good base in the Gulf as it is well-developed. Take a ferry to Koh Tao, where you have to spend a few days learning how to scuba dive.
  • Go back to Koh Samui or head straight to Koh Pha Ngan by ferry, make the most of the mixed atmosphere and party hard before relaxing.
  • Head back to Koh Samui and leave from the airport. Most travellers fly back to Bangkok to continue exploring or as a layover before heading home. 
Overlook of a tropical bay with boats anchored in the water and a backdrop of mountainous terrain under a sunset sky

Thai Island Hopping: FAQs

Below are some questions commonly asked about island hopping in Thailand along with our expert answers to each question. 

How do you go between islands in Thailand?

Island hopping around the islands in southern Thailand is best done by ferry. There are many ferries running between the islands daily and you’ll find it very easy to hop between destinations. Some islands can also be accessed from the mainland by plane.

Which airport is best for island-hopping Thailand?

There are several airports that can be used for island hopping in Thailand but the two most commonly used are the airports at Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui. These airports are in great locations for continuing island exploration.

What is the best island to go to in Thailand?

There is no single best island to visit in Thailand. Each island has their own attractive characteristics and forming your itinerary will depend on what type of activities you enjoy. Whether you favour all-night partying or prefer to lie on the beach there is an island for you in southern Thailand.

Can you go island hopping from Bangkok?

You can definitely start your island hopping journey from Bangkok but you’ll need to hop on a short flight to the southern peninsula to start your official journey or opt for a longer coach ride. Many people choose to travel from Bangkok to Krabi to start their journey as it is a great pre-trip location but if you’d like to start straight away on island hopping, there are some flights between Bangkok and Koh Samui.

Final Thoughts: Island Hopping In Thailand

And there you have it, a complete guide to Thailand’s island hopping scene.

Island hopping in Thailand promises to be an unforgettable experience, and as experts on Thai travel, we encourage you to make the most of your time island hopping.

Thailand has so many unique and beautiful islands that all have their own attractive traits. Whether you’re sporty and throw yourself into physical activity or prefer to lounge on the beach, there is an island for you in the Andaman Sea or the Gulf of Thailand.

Whatever islands you choose to visit, you’re sure to have an amazing time and come back with hundreds of Insta-worthy pics!

And if you can’t be bothered to plan it all yourself, make sure to join us on one of our group tours of Thailand which includes a little bit of island hopping.

Whether you’re looking to travel solo or bring a friend along for the ride, our group tours in South East Asia & Australia are the perfect balance of culture, adventure, chill time & nightlife. You’ll arrive as strangers and leave as the best of friends.

Here are a few useful links to help with that planning;
👉🏼 View all Trips
👉🏼 Frequently Asked Questions
👉🏼 Check out our Reviews
👉🏼 Why choose us?
👉🏼 How does it all work?

If you’ve got any burning questions or just need a little travel inspo… jump in the DM’s with the team via either Whatsapp, Livechat or Instagram.


Written by Josh Band

I'm a passionate budget traveller, fuelled by a thirst for adventure and new experiences. With a backpack slung over my shoulder and a flight ticket in hand, I navigate the world. From bustling cities to hidden gems, I'm keen to explore every corner of our planet.

Posted, 19th February 2024


Written by Josh Band

I'm a passionate budget traveller, fuelled by a thirst for adventure and new experiences. With a backpack slung over my shoulder and a flight ticket in hand, I navigate the world. From bustling cities to hidden gems, I'm keen to explore every corner of our planet.

Posted, 19th February 2024

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