Travel Guide

Andaman Sea Islands: A Guide to Thailand’s Andaman Coast

This article explores the best islands in the Andaman Sea in Thailand. If you’re looking to island hopping in the Andaman Coast and are unsure where to go, you’re in the right place!

There’s a bit of everything when it comes to islands in Southern Thailand and plenty of great choices to finish off your itinerary in Thailand in style.

I’ve written a full blog post about island hopping in Thailand, and now I’ll be focusing on the west side of Thailand: the Andaman Coast.

The Andaman Sea Islands

Islands in the Andaman Coast 🇹🇭
Andaman Sea Islands limestone cliffs
Limestones are a common landscape feature in the Andaman Sea.

The Andaman Coast

The Andaman Sea coast is the southwest side of Thailand. It includes most of the country’s most popular destinations for travelers, like Krabi, Phuket, or the Phi Phi Islands. Nevertheless, its 450km of extension means the coast has plenty of other more secluded islands for you to explore.

If you’re still confused about the Southern Islands in Thailand, particularly whether to visit islands on the Gulf of Thailand vs Andaman Coast, give this island hopping guide a read.

Thailand Island Hopping Twitter

 
Island Hopping in Thailand
 
A full island hopping guide to both sides of Thailand’s southern islands.

The islands of Andaman Sea on a map

To make things more visual, I’ve put all the islands and places of the Andaman Sea on a map, divided into two groups:

  • Main islands in yellow: to stay over at least for a few nights
  • Other more off the beate track islands in red: if you seek more remote and less crowded places or to visit as a daytrip

Koh Mai Phai (Bamboo island)

andaman sea islands thailand andaman coast bamboo island
The effects of the 2004 tsunami are still visible in Bamboo island.

Koh Mai Phai is better known as Bamboo island and technically belongs to the Phi Phi archipelago, albeit it has little in common with its sisters. We visited it while doing a hyped Phi Phi tour so our stop time was very limited.

The island seems like a Survivor island. An amazingly small island with an even smaller beach of pearl-white sand and clear sea waters. There’s hardly anything else than a small bar serving drinks and snacks.

We got to explore a bit of the east coast of the island, where I was surprised to find out some debris of the 2004 tsunami are still (!) visible.

Keep in mind Bamboo Island is one of the stops of the Phi Phi tour and MANY boats are arriving and leaving in short intervals. At certain times, the speedboat traffic started to get really crazy and the beach suddenly became even smaller.

If you are visiting Bamboo Island by yourself, I’d suggest to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon to escape the crowds.

Bamboo Island review

Good for swimming and a taste of what a real tropical Thailand feels like.

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How to get to Bamboo Island

You either should book one of the organized island tours that include Bamboo Island or just arrange a private longtail to take you there. In either case, you’ll have to add the Natural Park daily fee (400 baht).

How long to stay in Bamboo Island

1-2 hours are enough, maybe more. Accommodation is not available in the island, but I’ve been told camping tents can be rented on the beach. While you may find the island too small for an entire day, it’s definitely a possibility for remote seekers.

Booking.com

Koh Lanta

andaman sea islands thailand andaman coast koh lanta sunset

Hard to believe Koh Lanta only obtained reliable electricity in 1996 (!). Since then, the island has risen slowly but steadily in popularity and today you find can decent restaurants, fast WiFi and top-notch resorts.

Koh Lanta is actually made up of several islands, the most well known of which is Koh Lanta Yai. Even the main island can be considered developed so it makes a great tropical getaway.

Although there are many world-class diving and snorkeling spots nearby, there’s not a much to do in Koh Lanta. The largest beach on the island – appropriately called Long Beach – is the perfect place to catch some rays, read a book, or just chill.

Check my guide of Koh Lanta for more tips and advice.

Koh Lanta review

It’s one of those islands hitting the sweet spot between remoteness and accessibility. Great for families and romantic getaways.

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How to get to Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta is easily accessible by ferry from Ao Nang/Railay, Phuket, Krabi Town and Ko Phi Phi. Note however this service is available during November to March only. From Ao Nang the journey takes about 2:30 hours.

When arriving Saladan pier , don’t succumb to people offering you to take you to your hotel. Just walk a few steps and you’ll find little tuk-tuk taxis for a third of the price.

The Koh Lanta bridge opened in 2016 and connects the island to the mainland to there are buses from several places too – the journey takes considerably longer.

Stay in Koh Lanta

I recommend staying at least 3 full days to have the chance to fully unwind. I stayed 4 days in the beautiful place below and could easily stay a few more.


thailand island itinerary guide

Long Beach Chalet
 
High-quality comfortable Thai-style bungalows just a 5-min walk from the best beach in Lanta. Yap, I could LIVE here. Book now

Or… find your own resort in Koh Lanta:



Booking.com

Phi Phi Lee

island hopping in thailand koh phi phi lee
One of the many longtail boats in Maya Bay.
⚠Maya Bay closed for tourists
In October 2018, Thailand’s government decided to close Maya Bay for tourists until mid-2021.

Once a hidden tropical paradise, Phi Phi Lee has jumped to the bucket list of travellers all around the world after the movie The Beach was filmed there in 1999.

The featured Maya Bay has been widely tourist spot since then. An awe-inspiring bay sheltered by 100-meter high cliffs on three sides, looking like a giant reef. While there are several tiny beaches inside – most of them don’t exist at high tide – the main one has silky soft sand and exceptionally clear water.

Now the bad news. You will probably now what’s coming. SO. MANY. PEOPLE. On peak hours, even the harmless act of taking a picture proves to be a hard task given the number of people in the background.

Phi Phi Lee review

Stunning scenery that looks to come out straight out of a movie (wonder why?).

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How to get to Phi Phi Lee

Book a Phi Phi Island tour or just arrange a private longtail to take you there. In any case, the Natural Park daily fee is not included (400 baht).

You can also book an overnight tour that arrives the island on sunset and leaves the next morning. It costs a rather expensive 1500 baht but swimming with bioluminescent plankton is included!

How long to stay in Phi Phi Lee

1-2 hours is enough to explore Maya Bay, snorkel on the surroundings (although this is not of the best spots by any means) and make you tired of the crowds.

Phi Phi Don

andaman sea islands thailand andaman coast koh phi phi don
A less crowded perspective on Phi Phi island.

For me, the Phi Phi Islands represents everything that has gone bad in tourism worldwide lately. And just arriving to Tonsai Bay, the main transport hub of Phi Phi Don is… intense.

There were so many speedboats we couldn’t even see the beach. There was no physical space to park the boat so we had to force our way between two other boats. A strong smell of diesel everywhere. Not a promising start.

After a tasteless lunch buffet next to the beach with 500 thousand other people, we got to explore the surroundings a bit and try to take in the scenery past the touristy stuff. Failed miserably.

Amongst overpriced hotels and resorts, Phi Phi Don attract a young and energetic crowd ready to party, offering a lot to do, from snorkeling boat trips to booze parties. It’s a great place to make new friends – if you know what I mean.

Maybe my experience could have been better if I wasn’t on a tour. Maybe I should have hiked to the Phi Phi viewpoint. Or maybe it’s not just my kind of place.

In any case, this was my least favorite place in Thailand and unless you have a party spirit, this place can be skipped entirely.

Phi Phi Don review

Beautiful scenery, if you can overlook the massive crowds around you. Perfect to go solo or with a crazy group of friends.

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How to get to Phi Phi Don

Book one Phi Phi Island tour or hop on one of the ferries from Ao Nang, Phuket or Krabi Town that arrives to Tonsai pier. You can check schedules and other information here, but DON’T book your tickets in advance as they are usually much more expensive.

Stay in Phi Phi Don

2-3 days at most. I didn’t stay in the island and to be honest, glad I didn’t. Accommodation is widely available but it’s considerably more expensive than other places in Thailand. Quality standards are also lower. I’d stay away from the frantic Ton Sai Bay.

In case you’re set on staying on Phi Phi, check this selection of the best resorts or input your dates below.

Booking.com

Railay

andaman sea islands thailand andaman coast railay beach
Walking on West Railay beach on a quiet morning.

Railay is not technically an island, but it sure feels like one. It’s actually a small peninsula between Ao Nang and Krabi Town.

Accommodation is also quite more expensive here compared to other places in the Andaman coast. The hotel we stayed in – Railay Princess – was located on East Railay tucked away from the popular spots but was great value.

Railay peninsula has two main points of interest. First, West Railay beach. This is where the longtails from Ao Nang all drop off their passengers, so I was expecting a lot of traffic. Water can get diesel-dirty on low tide. But I was shocked by how noisy the beach can be. During peak hours, it’s even hard to maintain a conversation while sitting on the sand. That’s ridiculous!

The southern tip of the peninsula, where Phra Nang beach is located, is MUCH better. Don’t get me wrong – it can get really busy too – but it’s quieter, the water much clearer and the surrounding scenery of limestone cliffs is stunning.

Also, some boats sell street (or beach?) food which added to a more convincing tropical vibe. This spot is by far the best Railay has to offer. Skip everything else in the peninsula and spend as much of your time as you can around Phra Nang.

There are many activities you can do in Railay, the most popular being kayaking and especially rock climbing – did you know it is one of the top spots in the world for this sport?

Railay review

An interesting mix of secludedness and busy young crowds within stunning tropical scenery. Great for water sports and rock climbing, albeit might feel a bit overpriced for some who aren’t into it.

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How to get to Railay

Despite being a peninsula, Railay is NOT accessible by land.

There are numerous longtails connecting Railay peninsula to Krabi Town and to Ao Nang. Ferries coming from Phi Phi and Koh Lanta also make a stop here (they’ll make you switch to a longtail to arrive land, as big boats aren’t allowed).

Hotels here may arrange all-inclusive transfers for you to and from the airport for instance. Unless it’s already included for free, I recommend booking all transfers on a spot as they’re cheaper.

Stay in Railay Beach

Railay peninsula is small and everything is at walking distance. Can get a bit boring after a couple of days. This is where I stayed:

andaman sea islands thailand andaman coast railay beach hotel
Railay Princess Resort & Spa
 
This resort is in a quiet location, has 2 amazing swimming pools and a memorable breakfast. Looking back, I think this was GREAT value. Make sure you keep the windows closed, as monkeys can steal your stuff!
Book now

As an alternative, start searching using my shortlist of the best resorts in the Railay peninsula.

Koh Poda

andaman sea islands thailand andaman coast koh poda snorkeling
Quite frankly, I haven’t seen more than sand in Poda island.

Do you know those places you love so much you almost feel tempted not to share with anyone else? Well, this is it.

Koh Poda is part of the so-called 4 island tour but you can skip it and dedicate a full-day trip on our own.

Not that it’s a remote island – in fact is completely the opposite, it’s one of the first ones off the coast of Ao Nang – but it feels a lot more secluded. It’s possible to spend a night in a bungalow in the interior.

While the northern area of the island can be very busy with many longtails and speedboats, the east coast to find out an almost deserted pearly white sand beach. An amazing sight.

The only thing that went slightly off was our return journey. Upon arrival, we had to agree on a time to our driver to pick us up. 3 pm. He didn’t show up and we had to wait for 40+ minutes on the beach for another longtail boat that would take us back.

Getting stuck on a beautiful tropical island, what a first-world problem.

Koh Poda review

The real Thailand tropical beach experience. Surprisingly you can get a lot of beach for yourself!

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How to get to Poda Island

You either should book one of the organized island tours that include Poda Island (4-island tour), buy a ticket in the ticket booth (300 baht) next to Ao Nang “port” or just arrange a private longtail (more expensive). In any case, the Natural Park daily fee is not included (400 baht).

How long to stay in Koh Poda

Full-day. You’ll realize the 30-min tour stop on the 4 Island tour is too little for Koh Poda. Go on your own and take a full day of relaxing on the beach.

Koh Lipe

andaman sea islands thailand andaman coast koh lipe sunset beach
Sunrise moment @ Koh Lipe, Thailand.

The best way to describe Koh Lipe was that I felt I was in a dream the whole time. I had high expectations and I still got amazed. The white soft sand beaches, the turquoise waters, the smile of the people and the amazing food. Not to mention the super cheap massage places!

It’s the perfect place to unwind and live tropical life for a few days.

There are many things to keep you busy here. Top-notch diving, snorkeling day trips within the Tarutao Marine Park or even sea kayaking. But overall, life is slow-paced here, everyone is friendly and everything is within walking distance.

Have a read at my Koh Lipe travel guide, with everything you need to know to plan your trip.

Koh Lipe review

Still authentic and secluded, Koh Lipe is simply put, my favorite Thai island of them all.

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How to get to Koh Lipe

Located about 60km from mainland, Koh Lipe is the southern-most island in the Adang archipelago and in the whole Thailand.

In low season, the only way to get there is by ferry from Pak Bara pier. During the high season, there are connections from other places in Thailand and from Langkawi in Malaysia.

How long to stay in Koh Lipe

A lifetime? No, seriously, this island will quickly win you over to its laid-back lifestyle, so you can stay here for weeks. Since it’s not easy to get to, I’d say to stay a minimum of 3 full days to make your journey worth it.

Where to stay in Koh Lipe

koh lipe guide zanom sunrise resort
This is all I need!

Make sure you stay along Sunrise Beach. Close to bars, the main street, and with a chance of witnessing gorgeous sunrises every day.

Booking.com
andaman sea islands thailand andaman coast backpacking
 
The Ultimate Guide to the dreamy Koh Lipe island
 
Continue reading on my full Koh Lipe guide.

Phuket

andaman sea islands thailand andaman coast phuket sunset
Sunset in Phuket.

Yes, the infamous Phuket! As the largest and busiest island in Thailand and the main tourist hub, it is infected with a collection of the best hotels and resorts in the country. There’s a lot of activities, a lot of restaurants and a lot of people everywhere. A lot of a lot, exactly what I usually don’t look for.

Apart from the pretty cool giant Buddha statue in Chalong, personally the biggest appeal I see in Phuket is its accessibility. There are tours and boat connections to virtually everywhere in Thailand. The proximity to other more laid-back islands like the Similan and the Hong Islands is also a big plus!

How to get to Phuket from Bangkok?

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Koh Hong

andaman sea islands thailand andaman coast koh hong
Koh Hong island.

Despite being a popular day trip from Phuket, I have never heard of Hong Islands until a tour flyer grabbed my attention. An inception picture of a gorgeous island with an enclosed lagoon INSIDE. Turns out it’s Koh Hong, the main island of the archipelago. I was immediately sold.

Except for the birds, gibbons, and lizards, Koh Hong is completely uninhabited and best accessible by kayak.

The other islands are as exciting. Koh Lahding is another beautiful island with a sheltered cove. And both Koh Rai and Koh Kakbiahave top-notch beaches in low-tide. This place looks paradise on earth and I can’t wait to visit!

Similan Islands

andaman sea islands thailand andaman coast similan islands
IS THIS REAL LIFE?!

Similan is a group of islands considered a true slice of paradise off the coast of the Phang Nga province.

The rich underwater life attracts snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts seeking encounters with tropical fishes, whale sharks, and even manta rays. This small archipelago also boasts pristine beaches, reefs, and coves.

The fastest way to get there is by boat from Khao Lak (2-hour trip). Many choose to do Similan on a day trip, but diving enthusiasts might want to spend more time there.

What to Pack Southeast Asia Twitter

 
Having trouble figuring out what to pack for your trip?
 

Koh Muk

andaman sea islands thailand andaman coast similan islands
The entrance to Emerald Cave in Koh Muk.

This is a more off-the-radar island destination in southern Thailand but definitely worth to look into. No big tourism infrastructure, just a couple of restaurants and hotels. Who needs more anyway?

Apart from chilling on the beach and top-notch snorkeling, the main highlight is Morakot Cave (Emerald Cave). It’s just a short boat ride from the main section of the island, and cannot be missed!

Koh Muk is close enough to do on a day trip from Koh Lanta, but I imagine the best experience to spend a few days in this remote paradise.

Where to stay in the Andaman Coast

I usually use Booking.com to find accommodations.

I’ve used Agoda before in Asia, but my experience was not the best so can’t recommend it.

Always make sure you check for a room with A/C or fan. It can get crazy hot and humid in Thailand. Also in the most remote tropical islands, a mosquito net is gold!

Booking.com

Andaman Sea Islands Krabi

Best time to go to the islands in the Andaman Coast

Usually, the best time to hit the west coast beaches is between December and March. High temperatures hit about 28C in December and rise to 30C in March. Naturally, this is also peak season so expect more crowds and higher prices. That said, the Andaman coast has had many more rainstorms through the high season months than the normal in the past few years.

The rainy or monsoon season is between July and November. Prices are the lowest of the year – up to 50% less! – and crowds are minimal, but the weather can be rough and transportation choices (speedboats, longtails, and ferries) are more limited.

Read more about the weather and seasons in Thai islands.

Island Hopping in Andaman Sea Islands

I understand it’s easy to fall in the mental trap of trying to justify a rather expensive flight with as many places as possible. I know people who visited the Thailand islands and didn’t stay for more than 1 night in the same place.

Don’t make that mistake of trying to squeeze in everything, that’s absolutely crazy. Plus, you’ll end up seeing just bits and bobs and spending most of the time going around on buses, planes, and longtail boats with your backpack or luggage.

Just like any other country – Thailand is NOT suited to be explored on a rally course and 2 weeks is the bare minimum.

ℹ Tips for Island Hopping in the Andaman Sea islands: A DYI One-Week Itinerary

Here are 3 simple steps to make the most out of an entire week in the islands of the western coast of Thailand. It will allow you to combine a bit of island hopping with a well-deserved relaxation time!

1. Pick a hub

This should be a well-connected place with lots of tours and day trips opportunities. If possible book a hotel close to the main pier.

Krabi Town, Phuket and Ao Nang are good places to establish yourself as a base to explore some islands.

We’ve gone with the latter. Krabi Town seemed a bit too far away for where we wanted to go and were afraid Phuket seemed too crowded in January. Ao Nang is NOT a dream of a place, but it had everything we needed to base ourselves. Decent restaurants, cheap street food and LOADS of tour agencies all in walking distance.

2. Plan day trips

Take advantage of your accessibility to fill your days with trips to small islands, especially the ones with more exclusive resorts or no accommodation at all. Plan at least 2 different days out.

Also, every minute matters when you are on a longtail being hit with waves of salted water so pick islands closer to where you are based. The Hong Islands are good choices if you are based in Phuket, while places like Bamboo Island are better options for Krabi/Ao Nang. Check my initial island map for help.

3. Choose a “relax-island”

Time for a well-deserved breather. Pick somewhere with nice beaches and as remote as possible for a more real tropical experience. Koh Lanta is a good candidate. Stay there for around 3 nights and just relax!

Adjust this route to the time you are staying. If you have two weeks available, pick two hub-islands or two “relax-islands” and/or add in some more juicy day trips.

How to get to the Andaman Sea Islands

Flights

The most direct way to get to the islands in Thailand’s Andaman Coast is by plane. Phuket and Krabi airports have several direct national and international flights.

There are also several low-cost companies operating in Thailand with flights at laughable prices. Note some of them are NOT listed in flight search engines like Kiwi, so always take a look at their own websites.
 
Low-cost airlines operating in Thailand islands

 
An interesting feature some of these companies offer are combined tickets.

For instance, you can buy a Fly’n’Ferry ticket with Nok Air from Bangkok to Koh Lipe. Even though the island has no airport, the ticket includes flying to a nearby Trang airport, bus to the near pier and then a passenger ferry to Koh Lipe.

Buses and ferries

You can also get to the main islands in the Andaman Sea from Bangkok by a combination or bus or train + ferry.
The tickets are much cheaper, but journey times can be a total bitch. Getting from Bangkok to the islands can take 12 hours or more.

Booking.com

Andaman Sea Islands: A review

Prior to my trip, I was already expecting to come back with mixed feelings.

The beauty of the islands is undeniable. The clear turquoise waters. The backdrop with limestone cliffs. All tied in nicely with delicious food, the amazing value in shopping items and extremely nice local people. A true piece of tropical paradise.

andaman sea islands thailand andaman coast sunset
Sunsets. A highlight of Thailand islands.

The negative side is obvious and can’t be overlooked. Crowds, boats, noise, pollution. Hard to say what to do as regards to the future of the islands.

It breaks my heart to say some of the places I’ve seen are lost forever to tourism. Especially Phi Phi Islands. What will be of Maya Bay?

While I think the Thailand government did well in taking the first steps in regulating/forbidding visitors in some places, it’s still a bit depressing to think about. In the end, it’s a small price to pay to maintain their long-term integrity and sustainability.

What to Pack Southeast Asia Twitter

 
Having trouble figuring out what to pack for your trip?
 

Have you been to the Andaman Sea islands in Thailand? Which islands have you visited? Let me know your favorite spots below!

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