Thailand has it all; rich culture, stunning landscapes, rustic beaches and some of the most delicious cuisine in the world. But what makes Thailand truly magical is its hospitality, with warm and friendly people who will share stories about their culture and plenty of advice on the best places to visit while you’re in their corner of the world.

The Thai islands each offer a slice of Asian paradise, each with its own individual personality, whether you want to learn how to dive, explore jungle terrain, party until dawn or enjoy a wellness retreat. With dozens to choose from, picking the right one can be a little daunting. These are our expert-approved tips on finding the right Thai island for you – take it from someone who’s returned to the region time and time again.

Koh Tao

For laid-back beach vibes head to unspoiled Koh Tao. A diver’s paradise, the opportunities for scuba diving around the island are unmatched in Thailand.

Koh Tao also has a great party scene – though not quite as raucous as neighbouring Koh Phangan. Experience the famous Fishbowl Bar that sits right on the beach looking out to sea, with nightly singers and bands and a lively crowd any day of the week, or wander along the beachfront to dip into chilled bars playing laid-back tunes as the sun sets.

Expert tip: Fisherman Koh Tao is a beautiful hideaway hotel on one of the most beautiful parts on the island with friendly bar staff, great cocktails and perhaps the most delicious pineapple fried rice on the island.

Koh Phangan

Don’t be fooled by Koh Phangan’s party reputation, there’s much more to this paradise island. Over on the north side of the island, you’ll find beautiful beaches with quiet coves and serene resorts, usually with on-site massage centres and wellness boltholes to experience some zen – particularly useful if you have braved one of the island’s full-moon parties in Hat Rin.

For some Thai luxury, head to the Anantara Rasandana Spa where you can experience relaxing treatments, world-class restaurants and an authentic Thai cookery school.

Expert tip: Bring your hiking boots – unspoiled tropical forest makes up over 90% of the island and makes for some spectacular trails.

Koh Samui

Koh Samui is often dismissed as the resort-heavy ‘Brits-abroad’ Thai destination, with a lively strip peppered with karaoke bars, dance shows and open-air clubs lined with fire-breathing acts, tacky tunes playing loud. But while this (in my opinion actually rather charming) party scene is part of Samui’s identity, this vibrant Thai island has plenty more to offer.

Fishing village Bohput has a bustling night market where you can listen to live music with a beer and sample simple – but delicious – Thai dishes cooked in front of customers in minutes, as well as street food bites washed down with bottles of refreshing Chang. Just moments away on the seafront you’ll see a mix of more upmarket Ibiza-style beach bars and traditional Thai restaurants if an evening of luxury is on the agenda. The beach comes alive at night, with fire pits and various acts, with spectators sipping cocktails on comfy beanbags.

Expert tip: Head to Treetop – an incredible treetop restaurant overlooking the stunning Samui coast in Chaweng.

Koh Phi Phi

One of the most talked about of the Thai islands by tourists and backpackers alike is the beautiful Koh Phi Phi, famed for its laid-back ambience and warm, friendly atmosphere. The beach bars here are legendary – making it the perfect place to visit if you’re travelling solo or with friends.

There are plenty of activities on offer, from diving and snorkelling to jungle hikes and authentic Thai cooking classes, but we wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t leave the beach bar…

Expert tip: Take a boat trip out to Koh Phi Phi Leh, a small cluster of uninhibited islands off the coast of Koh Phi Phi to experience its raw natural beauty.

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