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Thailand Guide: 5 Must-Visit Beaches

thailand's beaches

On a visit to Thailand, you can’t miss these five beaches (trust me):

In This Thailand Article You Will Discover:

  • Top 5 Beaches in Thailand
  • Google Map Location of Each Beach
  • What To Expect When You Arrive

I wasn’t until I set foot on the white sand of Long Beach, on the island of Koh Chang, that the Thailand of my imagination finally met the Thailand of reality. Oh, sure, Bangkok is as Thai as Pad Thai, but with their seemingly endless miles of soft sand, bathtub-warm seawater and gorgeous rock formations, it’s Thailand’s beaches that brought me there, and Thailand’s beaches that will take me back, again and again.

I could fill an encyclopedia with that country’s wonderful stretches of sand, but if you can only visit five, you must visit these:

hat rin

It’s party central at Hat Rin, Koh Phangan.

Hat Rin (Sunset Beach), Koh Phangan

It’s loud. It’s hot and sweaty. And at a certain time of the month, it can be more than you might be able to stand. Hat Rin, on Koh Phangan is arguably the most famous of all Thailand’s beaches, as it is the epicentre for the famous Full Moon Party. Swarms of partygoers descend on this island as the full moon approaches, ready to tear off their shirts, adorn themselves with neon body paint, fire-dance, guzzle the infamous Buckets – a potent potion of Red Bull, Sangsom (Thai rum) and Coke — and party on the beach until the full moon is replaced by blazing sun.

Even if hard-core partying is not your cup of tea, the sheer spectacle of the Full Moon Party is a must-see, if only once.

Even if you miss the actual lunar event, you can see Half Moon, Rin Moon, Black Moon… heck, there’s always a party at Hat Rin. Oh yeah, and the crescent-shaped beach itself is actually quite nice, if not a little crowded, and named for its wondrous sunsets. If you require some hangover-healing solitude, Longtail Boats parked on shore will transport you to more mellow sands elsewhere on the island for a small fee. (Try Coral Beach.)

Long Beach, Koh Chang

long beach

Long Beach, on Koh Chang, is the most relaxing place in the world.

The absolute antithesis of Hat Rin, Long Beach is a dreamlike stretch of white sand that even some Koh Chang regulars have never visited. Located on the southeast side of Koh Chang, you’ll need to rent a motorcycle or hire a taxi to take you down the rocky road into Long Beach. Marked by a rustic bungalow operation, which has a casual eatery, you may only find a couple other wayward souls roaming the area.

My friend and I had the beach to ourselves, the only such time this happened during our entire exploration of Thailand.

Quiet, peaceful the waves lap gently against the sand, the water is as warm as the air — you can lose yourself in a place like this.

railay beach

Railay Beach is a rock climber’s paradise.

Railay Beach, Railay

Characterized by the alien-like rock formations of the Andaman Coast, Railay Beach is a rock climber’s paradise. Tall, jagged cliffs encircle this isolated holiday hotspot, and where climbers and backpackers congregate. Not experienced on the rocks? No worries — newbie climbers can hire a guide to literally show them the ropes.
Even if you don’t climb cliffs, Railay is a must-visit. A tad more expensive to stay and eat than other locales (those on a budget should seek out the ‘backpacker’s beach’ at Railay), Railay offers long days of sunbathing, self-guided tours up through the jungle or into the famous Diamond Cave (look for the giant bats on the roof)… or, well, it’s your beach vacation. Do whatever you want.

For the best swimming, source out the well-marked “Swimming Beach,” as the main beach at Railay is endlessly shallow. (Although on the mainland, Railay Beach is accessed only by boat.)

Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Le

maya bay

Maya Bay is Thailand’s most spectacular beach. (Andaman Leisure Phuket Photo)

Another of Thailand’s famous beaches — made so by the film The Beach, which was shot at this location — Maya Bay is Thailand’s Andaman Coast at its finest. The beach is characterized by massive limestone cliffs, which hide a bay of emerald seawater and white sand. When the weather is a tad “off,” you may just find yourself alone on this beach, but generally you can expect a few crowds, and even some yachts, at this sought-after jewel of the coast. When I visited, we were surprised to find a 200 baht entrance fee to the park-island, so stash some cash. There were no facilities, other than a small government office, on this park, so come prepared.

Unless you have your own boat, you’ll need to hire a tour to reach this beach from Koh Phi Phi Don.

Maya Bay was actually “refreshed” when the catastrophic tsunami struck in 2004, washing away years of damage and litter left from careless tourism. Let’s do our best to keep it pristine, this time around, shall we?

White Sand Beach, Koh Chang

whitesand beach

Koh Chang’s White Sand Beach is offers the best mix of action and relaxation.

Yes, Koh Chang is such a transcendent place it gets two beaches in this list of five. The talc-like White Sand Beach is obviously named to anyone who has set foot there… it’s like Long Beach, but with development — and twice the size. Stay at a bungalow or a luxury resort, the choice is yours, but make sure you dine on the al fresco. Green curry tastes better with a bit of sand in it anyway.

For me, it was the water at White Sand Beach that I will never forget — so warm and salty it was like a mineral spa.

After dinner and a swim, the beach gets a bit louder as sandy nightclubs pop up along the waterfront, serving Chang and Singha, as well as the infamous Buckets… complete with the brain-melting cocktail of urban lore known as Sangsom. White Sand Beach is easy to get to from the Koh Chang ferry. Hop a Songthaew and you’re there in just a few minutes.

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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

8 comments… add one
  • What I loved the most in Thailand is Thai food. It is simply delicious and mouth-watering.

  • amran Sep 30, 2014

    Phi phi island is amazing i was there even we have many white sandy beaches at Indonesia.
    hey guys, come visit Indonesia, many hidden paradise you can explorer

  • Coco Marie Oct 20, 2012

    I absolutely adore Thailand. I wish I had a lifetime to explore the wonderful beaches. Thanks for the post! Made me miss Thailand so much!!

  • Nita Sep 12, 2010

    Maya Bay is amazing WHAT’S GREAT:* so we are planning for next trip!

  • jess Jul 22, 2010

    Wow, those pictures are amazing. I’d love to go to Maya Bay some day! Here’s another travel video of what Thailand has to offer: http://bit.ly/bZ4xJi

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