Island Hopping Adventures in Southern Thailand
Thailand is fondly world-renowned as the land of smiles, its creative and exotic flair, attention to detail, and exemplary service offerings. You’ll find this apparent particularly when you travel to the southern provinces.
The Gulf of Thailand boasts a year-round tropical paradise, almost daily sunshine, bright cobalt skies, and calm waters that lap onto the white sandy shores. Just off the mainland coast of Surat Thani in southern Thailand lies a small enclave of islands and Ang Thong National Marine Park. Combine these typical Thai qualities with world-class adventures and activities, and your Thailand holiday will be one that you’ll remember forever.
Thailand’s ‘Test and Go’ scheme has made travel for vaccinated travelers relatively easy and gives access to the Kingdom and various islands, including Koh Samui and party-inspired Koh Phangan. Koh Samui is the second-largest island after Phuket, and it offers a languid atmosphere perfect for a ‘toes-in-the-sand’ holiday.
Koh Samui presents the country’s largest concentration of internationally-branded luxury hotels like the Banyan Tree, Ritz-Carlton, Conrad, Four Seasons, and Intercontinental; it enjoys a myriad of exclusive boutique-centric hotels and spectacularly expansive private villas.
Koh Samui offers hotels and villas on the powder-soft sandy shores that dip into clear emerald waters as coconut palms defy gravity to provide shade from the sun. The island’s south coast has a sense of peace and tradition with pretty villages that bustle with local life as people go about their daily chores. You’ll find family-run restaurants that serve time-loved dishes such as spicy seafood soup and the nation’s favorite Pad Thai.
If you prefer an urban appeal, head to the north and explore Bophut, Bangrak, and Fisherman’s Village. Glitzy beach bars, vibrant cabaret shows, and expensive hotel bars jostle for prime position along the busy Seaview streets. For those seeking complete privacy, consider one of the cloud-piercing hill-top retreats that boast seemingly endless views over the tropical jungle scapes, across valleys, and down to the Gulf of Thailand.
Thailand is famed for its extraordinary cuisine, and there is a slew of cooking classes available on the island, though none is better than Yings Cooking Home in the south. If you have an adventurous nature, try your hand at adrenaline-pumping ziplining, mountain hiking, geocaching, 4X4 island tours, diving, waterfall climbing, and the art of eight limbs, Muay Thai. Private yachts and rickety long-tail boats are always on hand for watery quests, so you can explore tiny islands, watch pink dolphins play, or laze in remote boat-only bays. There are plenty of Instagrammable moments with mysterious statues, random dinosaurs, pretty swings, and secret gardens. You could even visit one of the two ethical sanctuaries on the island and meet some happy rescue elephants.
If your timings are right, you might even want to head to the neighboring island Koh Phangan for a full moon party. Koh Phangan is accessible by passenger or car ferry from a couple of ports in Koh Samui and can take anywhere from 30 minutes to almost two hours. The full moon parties have attracted thousands of revelers since the mid-1980s. It’s thought that a group of tourists discovered an idyllic spot on the island as the moon rose. Since then, each month, party goers have celebrated through dance and eclectic music. Koh Phangan is relatively unspoiled and only moderately developed, affording it a different vibe to Samui.
Hikers will enjoy Nam Tok Phaeng, a protected waterfall in the national park. A steep climb leads you to the Domsila viewpoint with beautiful views across the valley and the sea. Plan to go just after the rainy season when the water cascades thunderously over a series of rocky tiers to two cooling pools at the bottom. Koh Phangan is fringed with peaceful bays, inlets, coves, and beaches. If you are a nature lover, avoid the crowds of the full-moon parties, and you could be lucky and be the only person on the beach.
Legend has it that Koh Phangan perches on a considerable deposit of quartz crystals which possess unique healing properties. A spiritual neighborhood offers plenty of yoga, detox, and healing modalities and attracts soulful travelers, digital nomads, and conscious beings.
After nearly two years without any international tourists, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan are more beautiful and enchanting than ever. The islands are abundant with nature; rare mammals begin to explore again, the skies are full of magical birdsong, and turtles return to the once-busy beaches. The islands are synonymous with tropical luxury, and there is something for every pocket.