Southern Thailand is best known for its many beautiful beaches and tropical islands. The western side with Phuket and Krabi is on the Andaman Sea, the eastern side with islands like Koh Samui and Koh Phangan is on the Gulf of Thailand. Because the climate on the west coast is different from the climate on the east coast, there is a choice of a beach resort with good weather all year round.
Islands and beaches on the Gulf of Thailand
The Gulf of Thailand is very rich in beautiful beaches and islands.
Hua Hin and Cha-Am
Closest to Bangkok are Cha-Am which is very popular with Thais and Hua Hin, one of the country’s oldest beach resorts and popular with European tourists. Hua Hin can be quickly reached from Bangkok by taxi or minivan, it has a great long sandy beach with warm waters, plenty of accommodation and dining options, a modern shopping mall, the famous night market and a number of the best golf courses in the country.
Koh Samui and Koh Phangan
Further South are the tropical islands Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Koh Samui can easily be reached by air from Bangkok, Koh Phangan by ferry either from Koh Samui or from the mainland city of Chumphon.
Koh Samui, Thailand’s third largest island, has a number of magnificent white sandy beaches. The most popular one is Chaweng beach, which is also close to the airport. The beach is kilometers long, the restaurants and nightlife have something to offer for everyone. Lamai beach, a little more south is more laid back than Chaweng, but still has plenty to offer. The northern part of the island hosts the beaches of Mae Nam, Bo Phut, Choen Mon and Big Buddha, which derives its name from a 12 meter high Buddha statue on top of a staircase overlooking the sea.
North of Samui is Koh Phangan, famous for its full moon parties on Had Rin beach. The island is somewhat less developed than Samui and can be a cheaper alternative. Apart from the parties, the island has a number of great beaches and snorkeling and dive sites. Pha Ngan island can only be reached by ferry from either Koh Samui or from mainland Chumphon.
Islands and beaches of the Andaman sea
The Andaman coast on the West side of Thailand has some of the best and most scenic beaches of the country.
Phuket & Phi Phi islands
The main tourist destination of the South is Phuket, Thailand’s largest island. The island has a number of long, sandy beaches, resorts from cheap to world class, some of the finest restaurants in the country, excellent golf courses, lots of things to do for kids, endless spa and massage options and a large international airport, making it a very attractive destination.
Easily reached by boat from Phuket is the very beautiful and busy, but still magnificent Phi Phi islands, known from the move “The beach” with Leonardo di Caprio.
The two islands that can be reached by boat from Phuket or Krabi are dotted with limestone mountains. The 2004 tsunami caused a lot of damage to the islands, since then the islands have completely recovered.
Krabi and Phang Nga
East of Phuket and the Phi Phi islands is Krabi. This province is mainly known for a number of magnificent beaches like Ao Nang beach and Railay beach, its impressive limestone cliffs and its large number of islands. Many outdoor activities like rock climbing, kayaking, sailing, snorkeling and diving can be done here. Krabi has a domestic airport, and can also be reached by boat from Phuket or Phi Phi.
North of Phuket lies Phang Nga province, that was hard hit by the 2004 tsunami. Since then, the resorts have been completely rebuild. A popular day trip in this province is to James Bond island in Phang Nga bay, where some stunning views can be seen. This island became well known from the James Bond movie “The man with the golden gun”. The province has no airport, and is easiest reached via Phuket.
How to get to Southern Thailand
Southern Thailand is well connected to the country’s capital Bangkok. A number of regional airports like Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui offer the quickest and most comfortable way to the South.
If you prefer to see some of the country during your journey, there is a rail connection from Bangkok all the way to the Malaysian border, which stops at among others Hua Hin, Chumphon (for the ferry to Samui and Phangan) and Hat Yai. There is no train connection to Phuket. A train timetable can be viewed at the State railway of Thailand website.
An alternative is to take a bus. A bus ride leaving from Bangkok’s southern bus terminal to Phuket would take around 14 hours, with a choice of air conditioned and non air conditioned busses available.
The islands Koh Phangan and Koh Tao can only be reached by boat, either from Samui or from mainland Chumphon. Check the Lomphrayah site for details.
Southern Thailand climate
Southern Thailand only has two seasons, the wet and the dry, while the North has three. The west coast on the Andaman sea and the eastern Gulf coast are affected by different monsoons, making it possible to find a spot with good weather almost all year round. The west coast with Phuket sees most of its rain during May to October, while in Koh Samui November is the wettest month of the year. From January to May both islands receive little rain.