secret-islands-thailand

Heading to Thailand but want to avoid the chaos of Bangkok and madness of full moon parties? If you know where to look, there are still a handful of unspoilt islands where thatched bungalows overlook wild beaches, fringed by a never-ending expanse of aquamarine – without a puking teenager in sight.

These are the places that no one else knows about. Don’t tell them.

1. Ko Kradan

This tiny island has just a few resorts strewn along one main stretch of powdery beach. Most of the land on remote Ko Kradan is protected by Hat Chao Mai National Park, ensuring that development is kept to a minimum. Those wanting to party until dawn will have to look elsewhere – there are no convenience stores or ATMs, let alone bucket bars or DJs. In fact, most of the island is asleep by 10PM.

What to do

With its rich marine life and a coral reef just off the shore, Ko Kradan is a great spot for snorkelling. In the afternoon, take a 20-minute walk through the tropical jungle to enjoy the sunset from aptly named Sunset Beach. Adventurous visitors can rent a long-tail boat which takes you to nearby Ko Mook and its famous emerald cave. Swim through a dark, narrow 80-metre long tunnel before emerging into the bright light and a sparkling turquoise lagoon.

Where to stay

Italiano Coral Garden Resort has comfortable, air-conditioned bungalows, hammocks strung between beneath shady trees and some of the best coffee in Thailand thanks to its Italian heritage.

Where to eat

Gastronomy is not Ko Kradan’s strong point, as all the restaurants are connected to resorts. If you’ve had enough Thai, Coral Garden serves up hearty plates of pasta and delicious pizza. Alternatively, enjoy some modest local fare at either Kalume Kradan Village or Kradan Beach Resort.

2. Ko Libong

Although Ko Libong is significantly larger than many of its neighbours, it remains one of the sleepiest and least exploited islands off the coast of Trang. With just four resorts situated on the west-coast beach of Haad Lang Kao, the grainy yellow sand may not be as perfect as Ko Kradan nor the views as impressive, but the island more than makes up for it with its incredibly laid-back vibe. This is one to watch.

What to do

Explore the mangrove forests, hike through the jungle and hope for a rare glimpse of an endangered dugong, a timid sea mammal that lives off Ko Libong and can occasionally be spotted feeding on the plentiful sea grasses just offshore.

Where to stay

The fabulous Andalay Beach Resort features stylish Balinese-style beachfront bungalows and an impressive infinity pool right on Haad Lang Kao beach. Watch the sunset from your private patio, indulge in a Thai massage and have dinner under the stars with sand between your toes.

Where to eat

Like most islands in these parts, the resort food on offer on Ko Libong isn’t something to write home about. The exception is the tiny Rimlay Restaurant in Baan Lang Kao village. This shack is perched on stilts on the beach and has just three tables, serving a small selection of humble Thai dishes each costing about £1.

3. Ko Surin

Not an island per se, but an archipelago just south of the Thai-Burmese border that consists of a series of small, mostly uninhabited islets. The largest are Ko Surin Nua and Ko Surin Tai, which are both within national parks and offer some of the best snorkelling and scuba diving in Thailand. These remote islands can be reached by ferry from Khao Lak, some 60km away. Electricity is only available 6-10PM and Ko Surin closes down completely between May and October.

What to do

People tend to visit the Surin Archipelago for its exceptional diving and snorkelling. Top spots include Richelieu Rock and Turtle Ridge, where manta rays, whale sharks and sea turtles can be spotted.

Where to stay

The only accommodation is provided through the national park and comes in the form of cheap tents on the beach with sleeping bags available for an extra charge, or more expensive bungalows. As Ko Surin is often full during high season, book in advance through the national park website.

Where to eat

There are two unassuming open-air local restaurants and a couple of shops, all operated by the park. Food is served from 8AM until 1PM and again from 5PM to 8PMm. Lights go out at 10PM.

4. Ko Kood (or Ko Kut)

With its pristine beaches and emerald waters, Ko Kood is often compared to the Maldives. Situated off the east coast of Thailand close to the Cambodian border, the island was inaccessible to tourists until quite recently so retains an untouched allure. Complete with mountains, waterfalls and secret coves, it’s arguably one of the most beautiful islands in the country.

What to do

If you get bored of whiling away the hours on the beach, take a hike to discover one of the island’s hidden waterfalls or secluded coves. Alternatively, visit Ko Kood’s sleepy but friendly fishing villages where you’ll meet locals, or simply admire the view with a cocktail at Sunset Bar.

Where to stay

Ko Kood is home to one of the most spectacular resorts in Thailand, Soneva Kiri, which comprises of 36 vast pool villas on beach level, hillsides and cliff tops. The resort is complete with an open-air cinema, its own ice cream parlour and a spectacular treetop dining offering. But with room rates starting at £700 in low season, travellers on a budget are advised to look elsewhere. Less extravagant bungalows can be found at the still delightful Natural Resort Koh Kood, located in the middle of crescent shaped Bang Bao Bay.

Where to eat

Unlike many other islands, Ko Kood offers a solid selection of independent restaurants. Top picks include Chonthicha Seafood in a port on the southern tip of the island and the cheap, cheerful and exceptionally friendly Chiang Mai.

5. Ko Lanta Yai

Seasoned travellers are probably wondering why Ko Lanta, a favourite among backpackers since the 90s, is on this list. But while the north of the island may have lost much of the chilled-out charm for which it was once known, the south only recently became accessible by road and therefore remains largely undiscovered.

What to do

Watch monkeys in the national park (keep an eye on your belongings, they are notorious thieves), trek the Khlong Jak jungle waterfall, take a Thai cookery course in one of the villages or go shopping in the charming old town.

Where to stay

Escape the crowds and experience Thai hospitality at La Laanta Hideaway Resort. Located on secluded Bamboo Beach, it’s the last resort before the national park. Don’t be surprised if staff invite you to join them for a game of sunset beach volleyball or if you end up having a lock-in with the owners.

Where to eat

Spend a morning in old town then go for lunch at Apsara Café & Tavern, a tiny, inconspicuous restaurant serving some of the best food on the island on a cosy terrace overlooking the sea. While most places are reluctant to serve authentic levels of spice to pharang (foreigners), these guys will make your laab gai (Thai chicken salad) “Thai spicy” if you ask them to. Just don’t be surprised if the chef comes out afterwards to check if you’re all right.

 

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