Thailand is famous for its seemingly endless supply of glorious beaches.
Turquoise waters, fine white sand and swaying palms are never too far away when you’re in the Kingdom, while the hundreds of islands that dot around the coast – from far out in the Andaman Sea, to deep in the Gulf of Thailand, to those at the edge of Cambodia – are almost unparalleled across the world for the beauty and splendour of their beaches.
Of course, with such legendary beauty inevitably come crowds – and with crowds comes noise, litter and the disintegration of paradise.
That’s not to say that all Thailand’s beaches are crowded; not by a long shot – there’s a large selection of lesser known beaches and islands off the tourist track that boast beauty in spades while being secluded enough not to attract the usual droves of tourists.
And so, here’s our top picks for Thailand’s most beautiful ‘hidden’ beaches…
1. Koh Kradan Beach
Koh Kradan, close to Ko Muk, Ko Libong and the Trang mainland, is one of Thailand’s most beautiful islands and also one of its most cloistered – there are no ATMs, roads, police stations, or medical facilities, and it more or less shuts down during monsoon season. Most of the island is under the jurisdiction of the Hat Chao Mai National Park.
The main beach on Kradan is around 2 kilometres long, slim, an populated with fine white sand and swaying coconut palms. There’s a coral reef around 50-metres offshore and an array of limestone formations to catch the eye too. Although there are a few small resorts on the island, most visitors stop by for a daytrip by way of other islands nearby instead.
2. Bamboo Island (Koh Mai Phai)
Part of the Phi Phi island group, Bamboo Island is exhilaratingly quiet in comparison to its tourist-saturated neighbours, Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Ley, simply comprised of a beautiful white sand beach, cerulean waters, washed up coral and a solitary snack bar.
The landscape on this diminutive island is not as diverse as its sister islands, but the water is perfect for swimming. There aren’t any resorts or hotels although you are allowed to camp out on the beach if you so desire.
3. Tubkaak Beach
While Krabi province is notorious for attracting hordes of tourists throughout the year, Tubkaak Beach – north of Ao Nang and Klong Muang – is refreshingly secluded. The beach is long and sandy, boasting stunning views out to the Koh Hong archipelago; sunsets here are not to be missed. Kao Hang Nak Forest wraps around the beach while a small handful of luxury resorts, including the boutique Tubkaak Resort, ensure that exclusivity is more or less guaranteed.
There’s very little else by way of commercial operation so you may need to escape to Krabi Town (30 minutes away by car) if you require anything further.
4. Koh Rok
Koh Rok is the name given to the twin islands of Koh Rok Nok and Koh Rok Nai, found to the south of Koh Lanta and to the west of Koh Libong, Kradan and Muk in the Andaman Sea. Between them, the islands are home to a number of absolutely gorgeous beaches – and a host of brilliant snorkelling opportunities – that will redefine the meaning of paradise for you. Coral, sea turtles, angelfish, eels, sea snakes and anemones all inhabit Koh Rok, while the sand is super fine and super pale.
Both islands are quiet on the tourist front, although there is slightly more going on on Rok Nai around Ko Rok Beach. As with so many other beaches and islands on this list, there are no ATMs, medical facilities or convenience stores, and the islands are more or less shut down during the annual monsoon season.
5. Sunset Beach (Hat Pramong), Koh Lipe
Koh Lipe as a whole is a beautiful island, even if it is comparatively more popular with tourists and crowds than some of the other hidden locations on this list. Avoid popular Pattaya Beach in the south and head for the western-facing Sunset Beach instead if you’re looking for seclusion. Positioned so as to enjoy exquisite sunsets, the beach is relaxing and chilled with gorgeous white sands and clear blue waters.
It’s quieter than the rest of the island yet only a 10 minute walk to Walking Street, with just a couple of resorts and restaurants in the near vicinity.
6. Kluai Beach, Koh Kood
Arguably the most beautiful of the islands near Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard, Koh Kood is home to a number of gorgeous white sand beaches and emerald waters. Kluai Beach is particularly stunning; decorated in seaweed with a tangible air of privacy. It’s very small – just 300 metres long – but offers one of the island’s most rewarding sunrises.
For accommodation, restaurants and a sense of community, you’ll need to head to the slightly more touristy beach of Khlong Chao, although note that there are no ATMs or even 7-Elevens on the island.
7. Thong Nai Pan, Koh Phangan
Most people automatically think of the notorious Full Moon Parties on Haad Rin beach when they think of Koh Phangan, but the island’s northern section is world’s apart from the party atmosphere of the south. Thong Nai Pan refers to the area of northeastern Koh Phangan home to the two beaches of Thong Nai Pan Yai and Thong Nai Pan Noi. These beaches are two of the island’s most beautiful and secluded spots and just 15 minutes of walking apart from each other.
Both beaches have waterfalls and both are perfect spots to catch the sunrise. Being Koh Phangan, there’s slightly more going on here in terms of restaurants, shops and accommodation than some of the other spots on this list. Yai, as the larger of the two, is particularly well stocked with backpacker bungalows.
8. Koh Phra Thong
Koh Phra Thong is worth visiting for its unique landscape alone. Unlike Thailand’s other islands, which are often lush with forest and vegetation, Phra Thong pays more resemblance to the African savannah with its sand dunes and long grass. Its beaches are totally stunning: over 15-kilometres long and totally remote in atmosphere. Swimming here is great thanks to the arched bay of the beach with the Koh Pling islands within swimming distance.
Sea turtles, coral and some excellent birdwatching opportunities tend to draw those interested in wildlife to Koh Phra Thong. Despite being so quiet and undeveloped, there are a number of bungalow accomodations and eco-resorts on offer here.
9. Koh Lao Liang Phi
The slightly larger, although less popular, of the two islands that make up Koh Lao Liang, Phi has one of Thailand’s most gorgeous beaches. Huge limestone cliffs overlook the white sand, while coral is visible in the crystalline waters. This is truly hidden Thailand: getting to the islands is not straightforward (see Travelfish for helpful pointers), while the only resort is on neighbouring Koh Lao Liang Nong. There’s no WiFi available and the islands are simply not open during the monsoon season.
While you’re there, you may notice locals breeding swiftlets. Their nests – unusually made of their hardened saliva – are harvested and sold to restaurants for inclusion in the controversial Chinese dish, Bird’s Nest Soup.
10. Son Bay, Koh Tarutao
While perhaps not as traditionally beautiful as many of the other beaches on this list, Son Bay on Tarutao stands out as a great place to spot the sea turtles who frequent the beach in order to lay their eggs, as well as to catch a magnificent sunset. Caves and mangrove swamps frame the western coastline while the topography of the island as a whole – jungle and mountains – is a sight to behold.
While Koh Tarutao is slightly more hospitable now than in the past – it’s a former Thai prison colony – it’s fair to say that the island is wild and probably not suited to those after a luxury break. Having said that, the wildlife and landscape are captivating, if you’re so inclined, and it’s unlikely that you’ll be disturbed by other tourists.
11. Ao Yai, Koh Phayam
Koh Phayam is growing more popular with tourists, but its beaches could still not be considered crowded – it’s often referred to as what Koh Samui looked like pre-development, 30 years ago. Its best beach is probably Ao Yai – 3 kilometres long and very wide with beautiful fine, white sand beneath your feet. Although it’s the most popular beach on Phayam, its sheer size and positioning for stunning sunsets and surf swells means that it’s not to be missed and never too busy.
There are no ATMs or cars allowed on the island, although accommodation, bars and restaurants are reasonably in evidence.
What’s your favourite secluded Thai beach?