A Guide to West Coast Thailand Island Hopping
Are you interested in doing some Thailand Island Hopping and need some help? Hopefully I can help you out by giving a break down of the Islands I visited down the West Coast of Thailand whilst backpacking.
West Coast Thailand Island Hopping
Thailand Island Hopping is as easy as 1,2,3 if you ask me. The difficult part is knowing which Islands in Thailand to visit, as there are a fair few. My decision was made easier by the fact that the East Coast of Thailand was flooded at the time I was prepared to visit. This meant that Islands such as Koh Tao, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui were unfortunately off limits. However, the Islands on the West Coast of Thailand were still accessible but not without the possibility of some rain. Below is a guide of the Islands that I visited during my Thailand Island Hopping Stint.
Now although Krabi isn’t an island, I feel that some of its beach areas are worth a mention here. They are only accessible by boat and it would be a terrible shame if they were missed out.
You will likely arrive at the Pier of Railay East Beach but don’t let first impressions fill you with doubt. Railay East Beach isn’t a picture perfect spot for sunbathing. However, it is the cheaper side of the Area, so if you’re looking for a budget place to stay, then you’re going to find it on this side of Railay. Accommodation is sparse here, the majority being more costly than your usual backpacker budget picks. Have a wander around (since the area isn’t particularly vast) and find an option that suits you best.
The real beauty lies on Railay’s other beaches Railay West and Phra Nang Cave Beach.
Railay West can be quite crowded but that is with good reason. Surrounded by beautiful Karst scenery, blue waters and fine sands it’s the perfect place to lay out a towel and enjoy some sun and swimming. If you’re an avid climber, base jumper or simply want to try it out, then this is the place to do that too.
From the east side of the island there is a path that winds it’s way through the karst scenery and through to Phra Nang Cave Beach. It’s not hard to miss, just follow the steady flow of people heading through the caves with their towels in hand. You’ll pass a cave entrance (that you might want to explore) and possibly a few monkey’s on the way. Eventually you’ll find Phra Nang Cave beach and boy is it beautiful. In fact I would argue the most beautiful beach in Railay. This is a lovely place to swim and chill or if you’re feeling brave enough you can take a climb up to the view point and princess lagoon which is located in the centre of the mountainous area that runs between Phra Nang and Railway East.
The climb up to the view point is tricky but fairly accessible for a novice and 100% worth it for the breathtaking view from the top. The climb down to the lagoon is not as easy. I found it physically and mentally challenging (but we won’t go too much into that at this point – maybe I’ll share that experience with you in another post) so do this one with caution. This whole area is simply beautiful and no visit to Railay would be the same without experiencing Phra Nang Cave beach.
Tonsai Beach is where me and my partner stayed during our visit to this area of Krabi, mainly because it was a lot kinder to our budget. You are likely to find accommodation here much cheaper than Railay which is why many people choose to stay here. It has a very laid back hippy vibe to it with places to eat healthy food, wall art, cushioned seating areas, slack lining and fire breathing. Tonsai Beach is a very popular place for climbers so be prepared to be surrounded by jaw dropingly fit climbers munching on a huge bowl of granola whilst having your breakfast. If you can’t beat em join em. There is only a small selection of bars and restaurants and very limited wifi, but that’s what makes Tonsai a friendly place to be.
Places to eat: Mama’s Chicken
Budget Accommodation: Tiew Khao Bungalows – 400 THB per Bungalow
Koh Phi Phi is one of the most popular Islands for Thailand Island Hopping. If you want to party on the East Coast Islands of Thailand then this is the place to do it – believe me. Streets crammed with bars, restaurants and hostels and ferries hauling in Tourists by the hundreds (maybe even thousands) – Koh Phi Phi obviously has a certain charm that lures in the party animals. In some respects this is a shame, since Koh Phi Phi can occasionally feel more like Magaluf than a Thai Island – which is fine if that is what you want but if not, can you escape it?
Yes, I believe you can. There are still a few quieter areas further away from the central hustle and bustle surrounded by pristine beaches, chilled out beach bars, lush jungle and fewer tourists. You just have to be willing to find them. Personally I couldn’t keep up with the pace of Koh Phi Phi so we didn’t stick around for long but there are some beautiful areas if you’re willing to explore.
Places to Eat: Pirates House (they make a mean curry)
Thailand Island Hopping wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Koh Lanta. Within the sights of Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta has a completely different vibe. It’s calm, beautiful, culturally rich and much quieter than it’s neighbour with it’s night life being much more tasteful. Koh Lanta is laced with good roads and plenty of miles long beaches and attractions meaning that it’s the perfect island to explore by motorbike. Furthermore it has an incredibile selection of accomodation from dorm rooms and budget bungalows to luxury spa resorts.
Places worth a visit in Koh Lanta
Mu Koh Lanta National Park – This place is beautifully kept and it’s beaches are perfect for swimming or relaxing with a good book (just watch out for the cheeky monkey’s). It has a very reasonably priced restaurant/cafe where you can buy a good pad Thai or fried rice dish as well as some nice nature walks and sight seeing spots. There is a fee of approixmately 200THB per person to enter this national park but if you’re happy to lounge here all day and enjoy all it has to give, then it’s 100% worth the price.
Lanta Animal Welfare – I visited Lanta Animal Welfare on two occasions. The first to have a tour of it’s facilities and meet some of the animals and the second was to volunteer my time to walk a dog. I strongly recommend you visit Lanta Animal Welfare if you are on Koh Lanta as they are doing some fantastic work in supporting the health of stray cats and dogs on the Island. They appreciate your time just as much as money so a donation doesn’t necessarily need to be cash but instead 20 minutes to go and walk a dog or play with the kittens. I urge you to visit!
Places to eat: Somewhere else
Somewhere Else Bungalows
Hello me me Bungalow
The Funky Fish Bungalows
(All located in the Pra Ae beach area)
Koh Lipe is still a fairly undiscovered gem and I just hope that tourism doesn’t damage it’s beauty any time soon. It is the southernmost Island on the West Coast of Thailand, making it a little harder to reach but absolutely worth it if you do. Of all the Islands in Thailand this is the one I would most strongly recommend for your Thailand Island Hopping.
The island is small enough to walk around and hosts three beautiful main beaches and many smaller beaches worth exploring. There is a main walking street straight from the pier with cute beach style shops selling clothes, flip flops, jewellery and some lovely gifts. Although Koh Lipe may seem expensive in comparison to other Islands in Thailand, there are budget options if you know where to look. If you’re happy enough renting a canoe, swimming, chilling and generally wandering around – on some of the softest sand I have ever felt – then your budget will be safe on Koh Lipe. It’s almost hard to believe that you can stay on such a beautiful island without breaking the bank. The whole vibe on Koh Lipe is just perfect, laid back and it has some of the cutest accommodation I’ve seen. If you’re looking for class, this place has it!
Please note that since Koh Lipe is part of a National Park there is a small entry fee (clean up fee) that must be paid upon arrival. This isn’t a scam, everyone is required to pay for it to maintain Koh Lipe and it’s surrounding islands.
Places to Eat: Banana Tree (I think I ate noodle soup here everyday as it was cheap and the portions were very generous)
That concludes my Thailand Island Hopping Guide. The idea of this guide wasn’t to tell you which islands you should or should not visit which is why I’ve refrained from being too opinionated. Instead I hope that I’ve given quite a generalised outlook of each Island I visited in order for you to form your own opinion on whether you’d like to visit. We are individuals after all and one persons idea of heaven might be another persons idea of hell.
Would you like me to do a more in depth guide of any Islands mentioned in my Thailand Island Hopping Guide? If so then please let me know below in the comments.
*This post features affiliate links. I haven’t been paid to add these links, they are all places that I chose to stay whilst travelling and my opinions are 100% honest. I may receive commission for bookings made through these links but rest assured this commission only goes into expanding KatieLewLa so that I can provide consistently good content for my readers.