The Ten Best Beaches in Thailand

Specifying the ten best beaches in Thailand is a difficult task for many reasons, perhaps the most prominent being simply that there are so many really great beaches in Thailand. It’s almost impossible to make a top ten list without leaving some fine beaches off the list.

Then, of course, there is the issue of criteria. There is a lot of room for argument about whether this or that beach is better than others. People evaluate beaches in different ways using different criteria.

The below represents a browsing of the Internet and attempts to specify the beaches which most people indicate most of the time as belonging on a top ten list. Unfortunately, not all of Thailand’s fine beaches are included.
  1. Patong Beach is the most popular beach on Phuket Island and is home to a raucous nightlife, extensive development and to several shopping destinations. This is a reason one might expect the beach NOT to be included on a top ten list but the beach itself is truly fantastic and people recognize this. Surrounded by mountains and high hills, it is located on the west central coast of the Island. Crescent shaped, it consists of white, powdery sand, and stretches for 4 to 5 kilometers. The water is crystal clear blue and agreeably warm. Parts of the beach are crowded and infested with vendors but other parts are relatively uncrowded. Those on the beach can rent umbrellas and chairs, and enjoy personal services such as massage. At the end of the day, a beautiful sunset can be enjoyed, and then an exciting evening in town. A point strongly in favor of Patong Beach as a “top ten beach” is that it is easily accessible when compared to many other Thai beaches. International and national flights arrive on Phuket Island daily.
  2. Railay Bay Beach in Krabi Province, which is located on the mainland due east of Phuket Island, is another beach that appears on everyone’s lists somewhere near the top. Actually, Railay, also spelled as Rai Lay or Rai Leh, is a small peninsula south of the town of Ao Nang. It is separated from the rest of the Krabi by steep, high limestone cliffs. There are three beaches on the peninsula and two of them, Sun Set Beach and Phra Nang Beach, have what is described as the best white sand anywhere in Thailand. The surrounding water is described as emerald and clear. The main activities here, aside from swimming and sunbathing, are rock climbing and hiking. The beaches have not been commercialized but there are expensive resorts and guest houses nearby. A strength of the area – or a weakness depending upon one’s perspective – is the absence of raucous nightlife.
  3. Hat Khao Takiap is a beach located seven kilometers south of Hua Hin city, on Takiap Bay, a five kilometer strip of sand that also includes Suan Son and Khao Tao beaches. The main feature of the beach is a 100 meter hill with the same name as the beach. It separates the beach into two beaches. Interestingly enough, there isn’t much description of the beach itself available , but it is said that the palm trees are lovely and impressive, and one can enjoy viewing and taking boat trips to offshore islands from Takiap, and can do other water related sports such as jet skiing. The beach is also home to a fishing fleet and is said to have some of the best seafood restaurants in Thailand. There is a Buddhist temple on the hill worth a visit but people are cautioned to be alert to marauding monkeys. There is a strong luxury resort presence at Takiap, although they are located a respectable distance away from the beach. There are also guesthouses nearby, and ample accommodation and nightlife is available in Hua Hin. Perhaps one reason for the high ratings this beach receives is that it is only a three hour commute from Bangkok
  4. Haad Rin is actually a town and a thin, rocky peninsula in the extreme southeastern corner of Ko Pha Ngan Island, which is located north of Ko Samui Island, in south Thailand. There are two beaches on the peninsula; Had Rin Nai, or Sunset Beach, is located to the west of the town and Had Rin Nok, or Sunrise Beach, to the east. Sunrise Beach is the larger and is the home of the famous “Full Moon Party.” Most of the attention the area has received is due to the ‘Party,’ and to the nightlife and guesthouses which have developed to accommodate the visitors but actually the beach is quite good apart from – or in spite of - the Party, which is held monthly. It is long and wide, the sand is squeaky white and the water is deep and clear. There are some interesting coves to explore. Fortunately or unfortunately, the beach is overrun with jet skiing in season. Some say that Sunset Beach is actually preferable, although the beach is rougher and the water more shallow.
  5. Maya Bay is located on Phi Phi Ley Island, which is the second largest island of the Phi Phi archipelago and part of Krabi Province. Phi Phi Lay consists of steep limestone hills and cliffs, and Maya Bay is one of two bays on the island. The main beach on the bay is 200 meters long and has silky soft, white sand and exceptionally clear water. Off of the beach, there are beautiful corals and exotic, tropical fish. Visitors to the beach can enjoy swimming and snorkeling. The beach is part of Phi Phi National Park so there is a steep admission fee. This beach was made popular by the movie The Beach, and has become quite crowded since the time the movie first appeared. The best time to visit is from November to April. Maya Bay is only accessed through speed or ferry boats. Visitors may camp nearby and use toilets and snack bars.
  6. Kata Beach is located on the west coast of Phuket Island toward the southern end of the Island. Actually two beaches, Kata Yai (Big Kata Bay) and Au Kata Noi (Little Kata Bay) it is not as large as some of the beaches to its north, but is said to be equally lovely, with white, clean sand; crystal clear blue water, and lines of coconut trees running up and down the beach. Hills and mountains descent on the beaches from the interior of the island, making the area truly scenic. Importantly, development has been kept a respectable distance away. Kata Yai is excellent for swimming and has snorkeling opportunities at some nearby coral reefs. The waters of Au Kata Noi are rougher and deeper making it less suitable for swimming, but in rainy season, it is excellent for surfing. Fortunately or unfortunately, large resorts now dominate the beach, and sometimes have made efforts to portray parts of the beach as private…which is simply dishonest as all parts of the beach are public. Cheaper accommodation is available away from the beach. Kata Beach has a quiet nightlife and ample shopping opportunities. Visitors to Phuket Island and Kata Beach may come vie national and international flights.
  7. Chaweng Beach is located on the northwest coast of Ko Samui Island. It is the Island’s most developed, crowded and active beach. The beach itself is very nice. It is enclosed by rocky headlands on either side, consists of five kilometers of white dust sand, and borders on crystal clear azure water. The beach, however, can also be quite noisy due to vendors and jet skiers. The nightlife in Chaweng is very active, consisting of many A Go-Go clubs and beer bars, and excellent dining opportunities. There are lots of shopping destinations in Chaweng Beach, including the large super centers Big C and Tesco. The area is dominated by large resorts, although cheaper places are available away from the beach. For those who would like to go to a less active, less crowded and much less expensive beach on Ko Samui Island, they can go to Lamai Beach to the immediate south of Chaweng Beach. It is also frequently mentioned on top ten lists.
  8. White Sand Beach, or Had Sai Khao, is a two kilometer stretch of white, powdery sand bounded by jungle clad mountains, and is located on Ko Chang Island, the third largest island in Thailand. It is relatively undeveloped and is divided into two parts, a northern part and a southern part…apparently the sand is much better in the northern part. This part also has cheap beachfront bungalows, restaurants, and internet cafes. The southern part has a “beer street” called “Little Pattaya,” a shopping plaza and some nice resorts. This beach is relatively inexpensive but does have basic modern conveniences. Ko Chang, or “Elephant” Island is located near the Cambodian border and is 310 kilometers east of Bangkok which makes it relatively accessible via motorway. The island is mountainous and has several waterfalls.
  9. Sairee Beach is the largest beach on Koh Tao or Turtle Island, which is the smallest and most distant of the Samui Islands, 45 kilometers north of Ko Pha Ngan. It is mountainous and has a 28 kilometer shoreline, lovely bays and eight kilometers of coral reefs. For most of its history as a tourist destination, Koh Tao has been a diving destination, but tourists now go there to enjoy the relatively undisturbed beach and to hike in the mountainous interior. The only way to get there is by ferry boat from Ko Pha Ngan (2-3 hours) or speed boat from Chumphon (about 2 hours). Accommodation is available, especially around Sairee Beach.
  10. Karon Beach is located on the west coast of Phuket Island, between Patong Beach and Kata Beach. It is considered to be Phuket Island’s “second” beach with Patong Beach being number one, but the beach itself is generally considered to be better than Patong’s beach if for no other reason than it is not used so much – it’s possible to find stretches of this five kilometer, powdery white sand beach which are virtually devoid of swimmers or sunbathers. The beach is also better separated from the stores, hotels and accommodations which compose the town of Karon than is Patong Beach, and there is a wider range of accommodation available. During rainy season, it’s possible to surf in Karon.