Travel notes

Paradise Found: The 5 Most Beautiful Beaches to Visit When in Thailand

Apr 01, 2018

Thailand is a country of raw natural beauty, but if you’re planning a trip to Thailand with visions of empty, white beaches lined with palm trees, thenyou’re going to have to follow the advice of poet Robert Frost and "take the road less traveled.” In 2014, 24.7 million international tourists visited Thailand. It has one of the most developed hospitality industries in Asia. While popular Thai destinations such as Phuketand KohSamui are beautiful, they’re lessrawandnaturalthan they once were because ofdevelopment. Mega-hotels, greasy approximations of Westernfood,and hawkers sellingEnglish-sloganedT-shirts are the norm. Still, there are pockets of coastal Thailand relatively untouched by tourism. At the same time, if you prefer the Miami Beach-like hedonism and naughty nightlife of a glitzy premier beach resort, there’s no better place in Thailand to pull up a chair than on the tear-drop-shaped island ofPhuket. Paradise is in the eye of the beholder.


KohKradan,Sunset Beach

KohKradanis the most popular beach in theTrangarchipelago, but 90% of the land is protected by Hat Chao Mai national park, which meanshotelierscan’t develop there.KradanBeach (nicknamed Sunset Beach) is a skinny, one-mile palm-fringed strip of sand, but at lowtidetheAndamanSea recedes to reveal numerous wide, whitesandbars; bathers can wade far out to sea, and pick their own private sandbar where they can catch some rays. KohKradanis a secluded and romantic place; there are no bucket bars or beach parties. The numerous cashew trees in the area give the air a sweet fragrance.


RailayBeach,Krabi

Accessible only by boat (and located 45-minutes fromPhuket),Krabifeels like a private island, a Swiss Family Robinson-like retreat complete with hidden coves and inlets. The beach is surrounded by towering limestone cliffs, and don’t be surprised to see locals practicing some free-form divingoff of these CGI-lookingmarvels. Rock climbing, snorkeling, kayaking, and windsurfing are popular recreationactivities in the area. WestRailayBeach is home to a small promenade with shops and restaurants. There are more than 130 islands surroundingKrabi, and a longboat can take you out for a day of exploring.


Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi isa beautiful,can’t missisland. It has beaches that cater to every taste; thereare secluded coves for afternoon sunbathing, enough high-octane water activities to keep Richard Branson happy, and late-nigh beach parties for the international backpacker set. However, people flock to Koh Phi Phi because Maya Bay is only a quick boat ride away. For thosewho aren’t in the know, Maya Bay is where Leonardo DiCaprio’sThe Beachwas filmed, and it’s one of the most dramatic stretches of sandin Thailand. The powdery, crescent-shaped beach is ringed by mangroves and limestone cliffs, and the water is so crystal-clear, you can see colorful marine life swimming by your feet.


RailayBeach,Krabi

Accessible only by boat (and located 45-minutes fromPhuket),Krabifeels like a private island, a Swiss Family Robinson-like retreat complete with hidden coves and inlets. The beach is surrounded by towering limestone cliffs, and don’t be surprised to see locals practicing some free-form divingoff of these CGI-lookingmarvels. Rock climbing, snorkeling, kayaking, and windsurfing are popular recreationactivities in the area. WestRailayBeach is home to a small promenade with shops and restaurants. There are more than 130 islands surroundingKrabi, and a longboat can take you out for a day of exploring.


HaadSai Yao, Koh Muk

NicknamedHaadFarang(farangis Thai for foreigner), this striking bay is framed by jungle foliageand limestonekarsts. And while foreigners frequent this secluded andserene swath of sand –it’s popular with families because the water is free of dangerous riptides, and backpackers like the area because it’soffthe beatenpath–theafter-hoursscene is mellow, there are small bungalows instead of mega-resorts, and the crowds are thin in comparison to Thailand's most popular beaches.Accessible by sea kayak, the highlight ofHaadFarangisThamMorakot–the "Emerald Cave." Like a scene out of anIndiana Jonesfilm,a winding stalactite cavern opens into acovewalled with jungle foliage, where monkeys can beseen swinging andfrolickingabout.


KohLanta

Described as the bestall-roundisland in Thailand, KohLantais like a greatest hits version of what the countryhas to offer. Perhaps that’s because KohLantais actually comprised of several little islands, KohLantaYai being the largest and most visited.Free from bright neon lights and big hotels, KohLantahas a colorful, laid-back vibe. There are fringes of sand where you won’t see another soul, dramaticrockery, nature reserves, friendly fishing villages, and gin-clear water. It’s unspoiled, but not untouched; accommodations run from spare to swanky, and there are funky beach bars made of driftwood and palmfronds,world-class diving, and excellent restaurants.