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Spotlight on Thailand's islands

If you're in the midst of planning a trip to Thailand's stunning tropical islands, you'll probably be overwhelmed by the possibilities the region presents. While many feature similarities such as palm-fringed, white sand beaches, colourful culture and luxurious resorts, they also differ in substantial ways. Read on for profiles on three of Thailand's major island destinations to decide which one is right for your vacation.


Let's get one thing right out of the way; this famous island's name is pronounced with a silent 'h', so the silly puns can officially end there. On a more informational note, Phuket is Thailand's largest island, at 49 kilometres long and is located on Thailand's south-west coast in the Andaman sea. Along with being a major tourist destination, the island is also a major commercial port and has a population of just over 230,000.

So what exactly can you expect from a vacation to Phuket Island? Because of its size, it all depends on where on the island you'll be based. In Patong City, you'll find a bustling tourist destination with a busy beach and thumping nightlife perfect for party animals.

South of Patong, you'll find the quieter Karon which is home to Phuket's third longest beach. For those after more than just a relaxing beach vacation, Phuket Town on the island's south-east coast is a vibrant city that tells the tale of Phuket's Sino-Portuguese history through its colourful old buildings and thriving cultural scene.

What draws visitors to Phuket? For many, its the easy access the island provides to luxury resorts where you can relax on pristine white beaches while indulging in delicious food and rejuvenating spa treatments. With its own international airport, visitors can skip busy Bangkok entirely and fly straight into Phuket to fast-track their much anticipated beach holiday.

On the other hand, Phuket has much to offer in the way of nature and adventure. The island's national parks boast lush jungle and impressive waterfalls while its oceans provide prime opportunities for diving and snorkelling with over 100 different species of coral fish. Whatever you're looking for in a vacation to Thailand's tropical south, you can bet that Phuket will have it.

Koh Samui

Like Phuket, Koh Samui is an incredibly popular destination for tourists and is easily accessible from the mainland. Located east of the Thai peninsula, the island is less than an hour's flight from Bangkok and an under 45-minute flight from Phuket and Pattaya. The island is home to a plethora of resorts and is also a primary destination for backpackers.

Chaweng Beach is the island's busiest and most popular spot, with a great nightlife scene. On Samui's northern coast, quieter Maenam offers good low-budget options in the way of budget beach bungalows as well as a few luxury resorts. Choeng Mon on the island's north-eastern tip is an upmarket spot, dominated by resorts which line its quiet sandy bays.

This beautiful island has plenty to offer in the way of activities should you tire of spending time on your resort's picturesque beach. Bolstering Thailand's reputation for being a great place to dive and snorkel, Samui's many dive shops provide plenty of opportunities to learn how to dive through cascades of tropical fish and vibrant coral. For an unforgettable adventure, consider visiting the nearby Mu Koh Ang Thong National Marine Park, which is made up of an assortment of picture-perfect islands and was one of the locations for 1994's "The Beach" starring Leonardo Dicaprio.

Back on Koh Samui, popular adventures include taking a Thai cooking class, visiting the colourful temple of Wat Plai Laem or quad biking through the lush jungle. Whether it's adventure or relaxation you're looking for, Koh Samui is bound to suit your fancy.

Koh Phi Phi Islands

When you picture Thailand's tropical islands, do you see a beach with spotless white sand and beyond the shore, towering limestone karsts rising from a turquoise sea? If so, what you're probably thinking of are the idyllic Ko Phi Phi Islands, located smack-dab in the middle of the Andaman Sea.

The larger of the two islands, Koh Phi Phi Don is almost two islands, connected by a narrow string of land on which you'll find Ao Ton Sai, the main port for boats ferrying in visitors from Krabi and Phuket. The area around Ao Ton Sai is characterised by bustling beaches and bumping nightlife while the east coast is a bit quieter, featuring luxury resorts as well as beach bungalows. A must see on Phi Phi Don, be sure to hike to the top of the famous viewpoint, where you'll be rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding area.

Koh Phi Phi's smaller island, Phi Phi Leh is most famous for the truly spectacular beach at Maya Bay, which is probably that postcard-perfect image you've got in your head. For travellers looking for scenery, the islands of Phi Phi are hard to beat.

To see Thailand's jaw-dropping islands for yourself, check out Hoot Holidays' Thai packages.