Pretty and popular
The largest beach on the island of Phuket is also the country’s most popular beach. With a wide coastline, soft white sand, warm water and plenty of hotels, restaurants and shopping within walking distance it’s impossible to get bored here. The vibrant nightlife attracts a partying crowd and the jet skis keep the volume cranked to high during the day, so those looking for peace and quiet might want to head elsewhere.
Quiet and sporty
Though it’s technically on the mainland, Railey Beach is only accessible by boat and has a desert island feeling you won’t find on most of the country’s popular beach destinations. Clear blue waters, small islands on the horizon and majestic cliffs surround the small beach, which is generally not crowded except during peak season.
Aside from rock climbing, swimming and snorkeling, there’s not much else to do here but admire the gorgeous scenery, so bring a book and prepare to relax. Though Railey Beach is still much quieter and less developed than most popular Thai beaches, there is more development there every year, and during high season it can feel crowded.
This small stretch of sand is the quintessential Thailand beach and might just have the best scenery of any in the country. Part of a little island adjacent to Ko Phi Phi, the beach is nestled in a small bay and surrounded by tall limestone cliffs. Maya Bay can only be visited on day trips by boat, since there are no accommodations here. Hordes of people visit during high season, but the beauty makes dealing with the crowds worth it.
Convenient and family-friendly
This beach on the Gulf of Siam is immensely popular for locals and international visitors, thanks to the flat stretches of beach, plenty of things to do and the ease of travel from Bangkok. The beach slopes very gently into the gulf, so while it’s not the best beach for real swimming, it’s a great place for families with small children.
Just a couple of miles away from the hustle and bustle of Patong Beach is this quieter, relaxed beach in Southern Phuket. Kata has everything that makes Phuket so popular – palm trees, warm water and nice scenery, but there are no high rise hotels or shopping malls in sight. During low season, waves at this beach can be intense, making it a great place to do some surfing but not the perfect spot for those with young children.
The perfect balance
Though Samui’s beaches can be packed, especially during high season, this beach strikes the perfect balance for visitors looking for pretty scenery, good swimming and plenty of other things to do when you’re not in the water. At night, the scores of bars and restaurants turn Lamai Beach into a party scene.
Once almost exclusively a base for divers, visitors are slowly realizing that Ko Tao has more to offer than just a place to eat and sleep between dives. This one mile stretch of white sandy beach with a beautiful view of small islands in the horizon is Ko Tao’s most popular, with plenty of inexpensive accommodations and restaurants. The closest airport is in Samui, so getting there involves a ferry trip and keeps the beach relatively uncrowded.
The neighboring island of Koh Pha Ngan (our Number 9 pick) is known for its full moon parties but you won't find too much wild partying on Sairee.
No longer just for backpackers
This beautiful stretch of beach on the west side of the island is fringed with palm and coconut trees against a backdrop of gentle sloping hills. Though Ko Chang is still considered more of a backpacker island than a luxury destination, there’s a wide selection of accommodations to choose from.
As beautiful as it is, Haad Rin is really known for just one thing – Full Moon Parties! Once a month the beach goes on an all-night bender with plenty of drinking, dancing and music. At other times of the month, the party atmosphere still pervades so those looking for a quieter beach experience might want to steer clear. During the day the soft, gold sand and gently sloping coast make Haad Rin ideal for swimming and enjoying the surrounding scenery, though many visitors are too bleary-eyed to appreciate it. The beach is on a small peninsula jutting out from the island so while there are places to sleep and eat, it’s still relatively undeveloped.
10. Koh Mun Nork
This small, private island in the northern part of the Gulf of Siam is paradise found for anyone looking for a true desert island experience. The white sandy beach is surrounded by palm trees and not much else – there’s only one resort on the island. That and the 45 minute ferry from the mainland guarantee the beach will never be crowded.