Phuket and Ko Samui are Thailand’s most popular resort islands, and for good reason. The azure water and soft sand are the stuff of legends. Palm trees, lush green rainforests, paddy fields, and mountain ranges are never far away.

You’ll also find reasonably priced accommodations, a good variety of places to eat, drink, and shop, and plenty of outdoor activities that take advantage of the stunning natural landscape. Here you can sleep in a thatched roof bungalow, hike through the lush forests of a national park, or snorkel in the clear blue waters of the Andaman Sea, all in the same day.

Snorkeling at Ko Phi Phi along the Andaman Coast.

Snorkeling at Ko Phi Phi along the Andaman Coast. Photo © olos/123rf.

Though Thai is a tough language to master on vacation, and the script looks completely undecipherable to most Westerners, you will find at least a little English spoken in almost every corner of Phuket and Ko Samui (as well as Russian and Chinese). With so many tourists visiting, you’ll never be far from someone who can help you find what you need or where you’re going.

More than anything else, you’ll find paradise. With a little bit of effort, you can discover that tranquil patch of sand under a coconut tree that you’ve been dreaming about.

Where to Go

Phuket

Phuket is Thailand’s number one beach destination, and for good reason. The country’s largest island has almost a dozen beautiful beaches covered with soft sand and backed by swaying palm trees. The Andaman Sea, with its warm, turquoise waters, is beautiful and inviting. But if you look past the beaches for a moment it becomes clear why Phuket is so popular. There are hundreds of restaurants to eat at, over a thousand hotels, resorts, and guesthouses to choose from, and plenty of shops to peruse.

The Andaman Coast

The peninsula’s west coast is undoubtedly the most beautiful region in the country, with postcard-perfect islands and lush rainforests and mountain ranges. The warm, clear waters offer excellent opportunities to snorkel and scuba dive, with stunning limestone rock formations, waterfalls, and caves to explore. Travel north or south from Phuket and you’ll find some of the best beaches in the world. The rest of the region is still supported by agriculture and a thriving fishing industry, and it remains relatively undeveloped.

Ko Samui and the Samui Archipelago

Ko Samui, Ko Pha-Ngan, and Ko Tao, once a group of barely inhabited islands known better for coconut trees than anything else, now provide visitors with everything from luxury resorts to thatched beach bungalows. But despite their conveniences, even Samui still feels like a laid-back beach destination. If you want a relaxing beach vacation where you can enjoy good food and great accommodations, head to Samui. Party animals will enjoy Ko Pha-Ngan’s famous full-moon raves. And if you’re a diver, or aspire to be one, head to Ko Tao for some of the best diving in the region.

Southern Gulf of Thailand

Coconut groves, rubber plantations, and forested mountains characterize Thailand’s lower southern gulf. Once a bustling entrepôt, this region is still a significant commercial center for southern Thailand. The largest province, Nakhon Si Thammarat, offers a tutorial of the region’s cultural history. The remains of the ancient walled city of Ligor, Buddhist temples, Hindu shrines, and Muslim mosques are all easily accessible here.

Travel map of the Phuket and Ko Samui region of Thailand

Travel map of the Phuket and Ko Samui region of Thailand


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Phuket & Ko Samui.