|Photo by Freeimages.com/Alessandro Marchetti|
by The Daily Telegraph, March 24, 2016
Whether you’re seeking blissful solitude or a party atmosphere, island life or family fun, Thailand has the perfect stretch of sand to dig your toes into.
Picture a tropical paradise with azure ocean waves tickling soft white sand and palm tree fronds rearranging their little shady spots and you have just conjured up one of Thailand’s superb beaches.
Whether your idea of heaven is blissfully quiet relaxation, somewhere with plenty of adventure and fun for the family or a more lively location with a party vibe, the beautiful setting will be the same – miles of meandering coast, a lush rainforest backdrop, sun-dappled sea and a welcome so warm you might never want to take your toes out of the sand.
Thailand has 2,000 miles of coastline and hundreds of islands so choosing your idyllic beach location can be overwhelming. Here are some of Audley Travel’s favourite spots.
Probably Thailand’s best-known destination, parts of Phuket are frenetic but there are also some fabulous locations still largely undiscovered by developers and tourists including the picturesque Pansea Beach.
Only two resort hotels (Surin and Amanpuri) share this beach so it’s exclusively quiet and unspoiled. The shore is long and wide and there is a little shack for snacks and drinks and a place to get a surfside massage.
Look out for these dotted around Thai beaches: they will cost a fraction of a spa treatment and can be just as relaxing or invigorating.
Next to Pansea is Surin Beach, a half-mile stretch of fine white sand known as Millionaires’ Row because of its top-end celebrity haunts and expensive homes overlooking the Andaman Sea.
Surin has a coastal village feel and has excellent restaurants, a few stalls selling barbecued chicken or tropical fruits and a good balance of things to do.
Jet-skis and speedboats are rare so the tranquillity isn’t disturbed by the roar of engines. Snorkel around rocky outcrops at either end of the beach or hire a kayak to paddle around to pretty Pansea.
You can also take a boat trip to the incredible Phang Nga bay with its unique limestone towers jutting out of the emerald-green water.
Hongs (hidden rooms) that lie inside some of the towers have a natural microcosm of unspoiled plant and animal life and are breathtakingly beautiful.
Visit Wat Chalong Temple decorated with hundreds of tiny pieces of glass and the most important of Phuket’s 29 Buddhist temples, or head to the top of the Nakkerd Hills to see Big Buddha, a 45m recent arrival to Phuket, and the amazing landscape he watches over.
Head north across the Sarosin Bridge from Phuket and you will discover a magnificent gem. Completely rebuilt after the devastation caused by the 2004 tsunami, everything here – from its cottages and bungalows to its impressive resorts – is low-rise and discreet so that the area’s natural beauty isn’t compromised.
It’s my favourite place in Thailand and I have treasured memories of watching sunsets with my daughter from a beach hammock at the Surin and later sending our giant paper lanterns into the night sky after a beach barbecue.
Hat Khao Lak is a long, pretty beach dotted with casuarina pines and, at the northern end, there is a network of sandy beach trails to explore. Some lead to completely deserted little shorelines for a real Robinson Crusoe experience.
White Sand and Pak Weep beaches have a more rugged, rustic charm but are both lined with small, Thai-run restaurants where the welcome will be typically warm and the food delicious. With the Surin and Similan Islands only one to two hours offshore, diving and snorkelling at world-class sites are a main attraction here.
There’s also much to explore at Khao Sok National Park, the world’s oldest evergreen rainforest, which is bursting with natural wonders of waterfalls, caves and lakes and teeming with wildlife.
On the other side of the bay in southern Thailand is Krabi and the peninsula of Railay Beach, with its craggy karsts providing dramatically stunning scenery.
Sign up for a climbing lesson if you haven’t tried it before or rent a kayak or snorkel to potter around in the sea.
For the serenity of postcard sunsets Tubkaak Beach is a romantic hideaway with few shops or restaurants other than in the luxury resorts but their beachfront dining under the twinkly mood lighting and the stars is a must.
Only 20 minutes away is Ao Nang with a good choice of eateries and shops to keep you busy when the joys of luxuriating on a beach lounger begin to wane.
There are also more boat trips than you can shake an oar at with vessels ready to propel you around some of the 83 islands liberally sprinkled throughout the bay. Take a picnic and find a remote sandy island inlet for lunch.
Travel east into the Gulf of Thailand to reach one of the kingdom’s largest islands with dense jungle, coconut groves and miles of palm-fringed beaches.
While Chaweng is party central and can become crowded in peak season, Lamai Beach is smaller and quieter but with all the same comforts of good places to eat and drink and a broad choice of activities for seasoned travellers.
Bo Phut would be my preference as its where Koh Samui’s heritage and traditions are still thriving alongside the modern accoutrements required on a dream trip.
The fishermen’s village has wooden shop-houses lining the shore and, at night, fairy lights and lanterns set the scene for a family-friendly seafront hub of chic restaurants, traditional shops and a vibrant atmosphere.
There is a weekly street market when the roads are closed for stalls to set up selling food, gifts and souvenirs and a stage is rigged for live musicians and local entertainers. Do sample the local Koh Samui rum – the coconut-flavoured one hits the spot!
To the north of the beach is Coral Cove which is great for snorkelling – not too much coral but teeming with marine life – or try SUP (stand-up paddling on a surfboard) which is the island’s big trend right now. Further afield you can sea- kayak at Ang Thong National Marine Park or take a look at the island’s landmark Big Buddha, a golden, 12m monument.
Divers flock to this kidney bean- shaped little island but you don’t need to have tanks and a mask strapped on to appreciate the beauty of Koh Tao.
Known as turtle island it has unspoiled mountain ridges and a tropical jungle backdrop for its rugged beaches and secluded little bays.
Sairee Beach on the west side has plenty of shops, restaurants and bars but most of the boat traffic comprises longtail vessels rather than speed boats.
Lots of dive centres compete for your baht which means lessons and equipment hire are reasonably priced but if underwater adventures don’t float your boat there are also cookery, yoga and massage courses for the chance to try something new.
The island was first discovered by city folk escaping Bangkok for the weekend as it’s only a two-hour road journey and a 10-minute boat trip into the Gulf from the capital.
But its soft white sand, high-end resorts and budget-conscious guesthouses now attract visitors from all over the world. After a long-haul journey it’s an excellent place to recharge your batteries before heading off to other parts of Thailand.
There aren’t too many distractions aside from Thailand’s rich menu of water sports but you could visit a well once used to conceal pirate booty or see a casting of the Buddha’s footprint.
Hat Sai Kaew (Diamond Beach) is the most popular on the north-east coast but the further south you go the fewer tourists you will see so Ao Kiew is a beautifully isolated spot to unfurl flight- weary limbs, sip a cocktail or two and float away with the sun warming your face.
Wherever you unpack your flip-flops, you will discover that the Land of Smiles is contagiously friendly and you really will fall in love with Thailand’s people and the beauty of the country. And as for those hidden beaches... Paradise Found.
Discover moreEnjoy an unforgettable holiday in ThailandPlay!01:49
This article was from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.