Escape Crowds at these 5 Lesser-Known Thai Islands

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Escape the crowds and travel to five of Thailand’s lesser-known islands. Visit these top-secret, unspoiled paradises before it’s too late.

hut off the beach in thailand

If you’ve been dreaming of a trip to famous islands like Koh Phi Phi or Koh Samui, maybe we can convince you to add a lesser-known Thai island to your itinerary.

Places become popular for a reason; we understand that. There’s obviously something special about it. However, not all the phenomenal places have been discovered. There are many more waiting to be explored. And the best part is that you won’t have to share the experience with other rowdy tourists or tour groups trying to get the perfect picture. 

Visiting a less popular island in Thailand can almost feel like you’ve landed on your own private island. Now, who doesn’t like the sound of that? 

Keep reading to find out the best secret islands, how to get there and what to do when you arrive. 

Why should you visit a lesser-known island in Thailand?

wooden pier over clear water leading to shore in Thailand

In case we haven’t convinced you yet to explore a less popular island, here are a few reasons why you should escape the crowds: 

  • You get a unique experience. Visiting a less-known Thai island is likely to be more of an adventure.
  • Entire beaches to yourself! Enough said.
  • Mass tourism is having harmful effects on famous islands. For example, Maya Beach, where The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was filmed, had to be closed for four years after 80% of the bay’s coral reefs were destroyed by tourism. 
  • More interactions with locals and a more authentic experience. 

Ok, let’s dive in…

Koh Lipe

Koh Lipe Thai Island sunset with boats near the shore

Let’s start with the most well-known island on this list: Koh Lipe. It is located in the Andaman Sea, not too far from Malaysia’s famous island, Langkawi

Since it’s further away from Thailand’s popular clusters of islands, it’s often left off a traveler’s Thailand itinerary…and that’s precisely why it should be on yours. 

A bonus — it’s a great jumping-off point if you’re heading to Malaysia afterward. 

What is there to do on Koh Lipe?

Koh Lipe kayaker between cliffs

Being just 3.5 km (2.2 miles) long and 2.5 km (1.5 miles) wide, it’s true that good things come in small packages. Although walking the length of the island will only take you around an hour, there are plenty of things to keep you occupied. 

Or you can choose to do nothing. That’s completely fine too!

Koh Lipe is known for its pristine beaches, unbelievable sunsets, and underwater world. It’s the perfect balance between remote island vibes and amenities. 

Head to the Walking Street, which has ATMs, 7-11s, restaurants, bars, shops, and, of course, massage parlors. 

There’s even a pretty lively nightlife on the island. Don’t worry, it’s nowhere near Koh Phangan levels! At night, there’s live music and beach bars offering happy hour as the sun sets. 

Koh Lipe is part of Tarutao National Park, so it would be rude not to spend a day exploring this underwater paradise. Boat trips can take you to some of the bigger idyllic islands and the best snorkeling spots. 

How to get to Koh Lipe

The easiest way to get to Koh Lipe is actually from Malaysia. It’s only a 1.5-hour ferry from Langkawi. 

If you’ve just arrived in Thailand and are coming from Bangkok, the best way to get to Koh Lipe is to take a domestic flight to Trang or Hat Yai. You’ll then need to take a 1.5-hour minibus from either of these airports to Pakbara Pier, where speedboats run to Koh Lipe.

To make the journey a little easier, you can book combined bus and boat tickets from both Trang and Hat Yai to Koh Lipe online. 

Another route is to head there after visiting some of the other popular Andaman Islands. You can take a direct boat from Koh LantaPhuketKrabi and Koh Phi Phi.

Koh Kood

couple under a bent palm on Koh Kood Island, Thailand

Now, we’re getting onto Thai islands you’ve probably never heard of!

Koh Kood, located in the Gulf of Thailand, is actually not too far from Cambodia. Most visitors in the area opt for Koh Chang, a slightly larger island north of Koh Kood.

That means Koh Kood has remained relatively untouched. Beaches are still pristine, locals aren’t tired of tourists, and the jungle interior feels like an unexplored new world. 

What is there to do on Koh Kood?

wooden pier and hut on Koh Kood island in Thailand

The best activity on Koh Kood is to relax!

Have the Maldives been on your travel list for a while? The three main beaches on the island, Khlong Chao, Ao Noi and Bang Bao, don’t feel a world away from the dreamy beaches in the Maldives. The water is unbelievably clear, and the sand is so soft that every footstep feels like a little hug from nature. 

Spend your days here swimming, snorkeling, hiking to Khlong Chao Waterfall and watching the glorious sunsets.

There aren’t a ton of accommodation choices, but there’s just enough to keep the untouched vibe of the island going and to match all budgets. There are simple beachfront bungalows for those on a budget and comfortable resorts if you can splash the cash a bit.  

It’s all about embracing the simple things in life here!

How to get to Koh Kood

The journey from Bangkok takes between 7.5 and 9 hours. You’ll need to take a bus to Trat and then a ferry to Koh Kood. Luckily, you can book a combined ticket online, which makes the journey much simpler. 

Another option is to visit the more well-known island of Koh Chang first. From there, it’s only a 1.5-hour ferry.

Koh Yao Noi

two long tail boats in Koh Yao Noi

Who would think a hidden paradise could exist sandwiched between Krabi and Phuket, two major hotspots in Thailand? 

Well, it does, and it’s only a matter of time before it becomes just as famous as its neighbors. If you’re thinking of visiting Koh Yao Noi, do it soon. 

If you’re interested in experiencing an episode of Survivor, this paradise island is the perfect balance between being secluded and comfortable. 

What is there to do in Koh Yao Noi?

Koh Yao Noi islands and sandbar

One of the best ways to explore Koh Yao Noi is to hire a scooter and drive around the island for the day. It’s not too big, so you can easily go around the entire island, stopping at its idyllic beaches as you go. 

Some stunning beaches to include in your DIY tour of the island include Potsai Beach, Long Beach, and Luild Beach. Pasai Beach is the most popular beach on the island, where you’ll find many bars and restaurants. 

Several boat trips run from here, taking you to iconic places such as James Bond Island and Monkey Island.

How to get to Koh Yao Noi

If you’re coming from Bangkok, you must first get to Krabi or Phuket. From here, the journey is short and simple. 

From Phuket to Koh Yao Noi, a ferry can take as little as 30 minutes. It’s only slightly longer from Krabi, taking just under an hour. 

Koh Phayam

rock arch in Koh Phayam Island Thailand

Koh Phayam, another island in the Andaman Sea, is kind of a local secret. You won’t find many tourists here, mainly locals enjoying their vacation and potentially escaping the tourists, too!

Staying here is an experience like no other Thai island. 

Beach bungalows only recently got 24-hour electricity, and Wi-Fi is still a bit spotty. It feels like Thailand 10-20 years ago!

What is there to do in Koh Phayam?

kayakers in green water near hut in a lesser known Thai island

You’re on an island, so the best thing to do is relax on the beach, become a water baby and sip coconuts.

You could easily spend your whole day in Koh Phayam’s waters. Kite surfing, surfing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, snorkeling, and diving are available. 

Make sure to have a drink at Happy Bar around sunset. It will definitely be one of the most unique bars you’ve ever been to.

There’s a range of accommodation on the island. You’ll find three high-end resorts and plenty of backpacker-friendly beach bungalows. 

How to get to Koh Phayam

The jumping-off point from mainland Thailand to Koh Phayam is via Ranong. It’s a 9-hour bus or a 1.5-hour flight from Bangkok to Ranong. Otherwise, Krabi to Ranong is a 6-hour bus ride.

Once you reach Ranong, simply hop on a 45-minute ferry to the island.

Koh Wai

drone view of blue waters of koh wai island

Are you up for a real adventure?

Koh Wai is the least developed island on this list. There is no electricity, ATMs, or proper shops, and the only restaurants are run by the accommodations on the island. 

Oh, and there are only five of them to choose from. Two are more expensive resort-style accommodations with electricity 24 hours a day run by generators. The other three are more basic places to stay with electricity for only a few hours daily. 

If you’re looking for a really unique experience, to live a simple life and have a break from the hustle and bustle of the world, then Koh Wai is perfect!

What is there to do in Koh Wai?

crystal waters and trees in koh wai island in thailand

There isn’t a lot in terms of amenities. Nature will be your biggest entertainer while on the island. 

Start with the incredible coral reef that runs along the north coast, only 40 meters (130 ft) from the shore. Grab your snorkeling gear and discover the magnificent underwater world with no one else around. That’s rare to find nowadays!

Your stay on Koh Wai is the perfect time to catch up on some reading while lounging on the deserted beaches or swinging on your hammock. 

If you get a bit antsy and need something to do, consider hiking to the sunset viewpoint. Or ignore that urge and just chill.

How to get to Koh Wai

The best way to get to Koh Wai is to head to Koh Chang first. From here, you can take the 1.5-hour ferry that runs only once a day. 

Weather in Thailand

guy in hammock over the ocean

The best time to visit Thailand is between November and April. It’s the dry season, when there’s little rain and temperatures range from 29°C (84°F) to 34°C (93°F). 

May and June are still great months. Rainfall is quite minimal and usually happens in short bursts. Plus, it’s the shoulder season, so prices are lower, and you’ll see fewer tourists. 

The rainy season goes from July through October, with September and October experiencing the heaviest rainfall. However, don’t exclude Thailand entirely during the rainy season. The Gulf Coast has pretty good weather between July and September. 

Packing list essentials for Thailand’s hidden islands

boats off the coast of an island in Thailand

As long as you’ve got your swimsuit and beach towel, you’re good to go!

Ok, maybe there are a few more things you should take to one of Thailand’s paradise islands, but you really don’t need much. Some things to consider bringing: 

  • Swimsuit
  • Towel 
  • Hat
  • Mosquito repellent 
  • Sunglasses
  • Reef-friendly sunscreen 
  • A book 
  • Enough cash just in case there’s not an ATM
  • GoPro 

Map of Thailand’s islands

Thailand’s islands are split across two areas, the Gulf of Thailand to the east of the mainland and the Andaman Sea to the west. Both are home to some of the most popular islands, as well as the lesser-known islands we’ve mentioned in this guide. 

Koh Lipe, Koh Yao Noi, and Koh Phayam are in the Andaman Sea, while Koh Kood and Koh Wai are in the Gulf of Thailand.

Ready to visit one of Thailand’s lesser-known islands? 

drone view of a couple in the clear waters of a cove

Hopefully, after reading this guide, you’ve decided to escape the crowds and visit a less popular island in Thailand. The idea of pristine beaches and turquoise waters all to yourself is too much to resist! 

Ready for more unique experiences? Check out our off-the-beaten-path route guide in northern Thailand.


What is the least touristy island in Thailand?

The islands in our guide, Koh Wai, Koh Lipe, Koh Yao Noi, Koh Phayam and Koh Khood, are among the least touristy islands in Thailand.

What is the most touristy island in Thailand?

Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Phuket, and Koh Phi Phi are pretty touristy now. 

What is the most beautiful island in Thailand?

Is it even possible to choose? 

Posted March 6, 2024
Kate Woodley
After a 2-year career break travelling the world, Kate quit her job as a Management Consultant and went all in on digital nomad life. She continues to travel, working as a freelance writer and inspiring others to travel through her Instagram, Maskedtravelsx. Kate also shares her love of travel by running group trips to unique destinations — Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan etc. Where life will take her next? She has no idea!