Dreaming of turquoise waters and white sand? Only have 2 weeks? We put together a complete itinerary for southern Thailand that hits all the highlights in only 2 weeks! We included all the information you’ll need to plan your very own Thai island getaway!
Only have 2 weeks to spend in Thailand? You’re not alone! Though many people you’ll meet in Southeast Asia will boast about their seemingly never-ending travel plans, you can certainly get a good taste of the country in a short amount of time.
In fact, we think it’s just the right amount of time for a visit, which is why we followed this itinerary almost to the “T” with Ben’s sister, Shannon, and her now-husband (SPOILER ALERT!!! There was a proposal on this trip! Read on to see the very picturesque place they got engaged while in Thailand!) and now we’re sharing our perfect 2 week Thailand itinerary with you.
Note: If you have less than 2 weeks to spend in Thailand, we would strongly recommend choosing either the north of the country or the southern Thai islands. Visiting both can be done in a time crunch, but it’ll feel rushed and will include some long travel days.
We’ve had numerous readers and friends reach out asking where to go in Thailand and where are the best islands in Thailand. Most of them had a few things in common:
- They had 2 weeks or less
- They wanted to spend time in the Thai islands
- They wanted to see elephants
So we gave the people what they asked for! Below, you will find a detailed Thailand itinerary that includes some of the more sought-after destinations and experiences around Bangkok. And in southern Thailand, we included options for seeing the famous beach at Maya Bay, rock climbing over the ocean, partying ’til dawn at Full Moon, diving world-class sites, and yes, playing with elephants.
It’s a perfect customizable guide for anyone’s first trip to the “land of smiles”.
Tip: Before planning out your entire trip, you may want to figure out when the best time to visit Thailand is based on regional weather patterns and events you don’t want to miss!
Day 1: Fly into Bangkok
Bangkok is one of the largest hubs in all of Southeast Asia and most likely your international flight will arrive in this massive city. From the airport, take a taxi for around 400 baht straight to your hostel or hotel (if you’re traveling alone, search for other foreigners and see if they’d like to split the fare).
Tip: A cheaper option is to take the airport metro line all the way to the end at Phaya Thai station. From there you will have to get a taxi to your accommodation. The metro (or BTS Skytrain) only runs until midnight.
If you’ve flown from halfway across the world, you will most likely experience some jet lag. Take it easy the first day and get to know your new neighborhood by wandering the streets and grabbing dinner from one of the many street vendors. Or, if you’re feeling energized, you can start exploring all the things to do in Bangkok.
Where to stay in Bangkok:
Budget/Backpacker Option: D Hostel Bangkok
This modern hostel is a 15-minute walk from the Grand Palace and a 10-minute walk to Khao San Road. With soft beds, clean bathrooms, and free breakfast, this is a nice hostel to gain your footing during your first couple of days.
The atmosphere is pretty laid-back, so it’s perfect for getting your internal clock readjusted. If you’re looking for more of a party scene, check out the many hostels near Khao San Road instead.
Mid-Range/Couples Option: Navalai River Resort
Relax in this boutique hotel that overlooks the Chao Phraya River and is walking distance to the Grand Palace. Take a dip in the rooftop pool and grab a bite in the on-site restaurant. Great place for couples exploring Bangkok for the first time.
Luxury Option: InterContinental Bangkok
Sip on champagne while overlooking the skyline of Bangkok in this well-located 5-star hotel. Enjoy the on-site spa and 24-hour fitness center as well as the 5 different dining options available.
Tip: Check out our Bangkok guide for a more in-depth list of where to stay in Bangkok.
Day 2: Explore Bangkok
Get ready to explore this mammoth city! We have a full, detailed guide on unique and cheap things to do in Bangkok, but we’ve pulled out some of the highlights below.
Things to do in Bangkok:
- For culture, check out the Grand Palace. The intricate temples and abundance of Buddhas are worth a visit, as is Wat Pho (reclining Buddha). The entrance fee has increased from years past to 500 baht (about $15 USD), which is quite hefty compared to most other temples. That said, it truly is one of the best things to do in Bangkok.
Tip: Wear a shirt that covers your shoulders and pants that cover your knees. If you don’t want to walk around all day in pants in the blistering heat, bring a sarong to wrap around your waist. There are also nearby vendors that rent and sell appropriate clothing.
Scam Alert: If someone approaches you near the temple and says the grounds are closed for a Buddhist ceremony, ignore them! This is a common scam. They will try to convince you to rent a tuk-tuk and visit other temples.
- Relax in one of the many parks around Bangkok. Saranrom Park is very close to the Grand Palace area and has some nice green space. Bring a blanket, cards, some snacks (and maybe even a beer)!
- Visit a floating market. There are several around the city, but Khlong Lat Mayom is our personal favorite, as it is less touristy than most. It is just 17 km from the city center and is easy to visit during even a short stay in Bangkok.
- For a culture shock, experience the famous weekend market. If you happen to arrive on Saturday or Sunday, take the Bangkok Skytrain to Mo Chit Station for tasty food, cheap souvenirs, and great people watching. If you plan on getting souvenirs, this is the place to do it. Once you head to the southern Thai islands, these items will double in price. Have lunch at one of the many market restaurants and order green curry, papaya salad, or any other dish that calls to you for about 30-40 baht (about $1 USD). Try coconut ice cream for dessert!
- Party (or people watch) on Khao San Road! Here you will find hordes of foreigners getting smashed on buckets of liquor, street vendors selling everything from t-shirts to an array of bugs – salted and ready to eat, and clubs blasting music loud enough to compete with the neighboring bar. Talk about sensory overload. It’s like a miniature version of the Las Vegas strip. Trashy and dirty, yes, but worth a gander, even if only to gawk at all the crazy party people. If you’re feeling adventurous, try eating a scorpion (Salty and crunchy, not unlike sunflower seeds. Not bad!) and then have your toes nibbled by doctor fish! Eeeek!
Did you know Thailand is a great place to teach English? Find out how to get certified to teach English abroad.
Day 3: Erawan Seven-Layer Waterfall
How to get to Kanchanaburi from Bangkok:
Take an early morning train to the city of Kanchanaburi. Trains leave twice daily – one at 7:35 a.m. and the other at 1:35 p.m. It’s about a 3-hour ride from the Thonburi Railway station on the west side of Bangkok.
Tip: Have the staff at your guesthouse write the train station name and address in Thai. Many taxi drivers we talked to were very confused, even though it’s not a far ride from the center of town. One way to avoid the confusion of using the train is to book a bus ride from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi ahead of time.
Once you drop your bags off at your accommodation in Kanchanaburi, make the journey to the nearby Erawan Falls National Park. Buses run infrequently and take 2 hours to get to the falls, so if you’re arriving by morning train, it is a better option to hire a songthaew driver (shared taxi pickup truck with benches in the back).
The ride will take 45-60 minutes and cost 1,200 baht for a round trip. We gathered a group from our hotel so we could split the cost.
At 300 baht, the entrance fee for foreigners seems steep, but we found it to be completely worth the price.
What to do at Erawan Falls National Park:
When you enter the park, you’ll find 7-layers of crystal clear water with pools you can splash around in, and dirt paths to explore. The waterfalls furthest from the entrance close early, so hike all the way to the seventh and work your way back to the start. The best waterfalls for swimming are #2, #4, #5 and #7.
The last bus of the day leaves at 4 p.m., so if you hired a driver, you’ll be able to explore the park after the crowds leave until it closes at 6 p.m.
Once you’re done, head back to town and get dinner at Blue Rice Restaurant. Located right across the river with a stunning view, this Thai fusion restaurant will wow even the snobbiest foodie.
Where to stay in Kanchanaburi:
Budget/Backpacker Option: Blue Star Bungalows
You wouldn’t expect much from the view on the main road, but once you walk down the stilted wooden walkway you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to the jungle.
For the more adventurous, spend the night in one of the budget bungalows which sit on the walkway over the water. They are very simple, with bucket toilets, a fan, and cold showers, but you can’t beat the price of 300 baht ($9 USD). More plush rooms with A/C are available for a bit higher price.
Mid-Range/Couples Option: The Zeit River Kwai
This riverside property offers beautiful views of the Kwai River and is located just under half a mile from The Bridge. Rooms are fairly basic, but clean and modern, and the hotel has an outdoor swimming pool and onsite restaurant where they serve a daily breakfast buffet to guests.
Splurge/Luxury Option: Tara Villa
Situated in central Kanchanaburi with an infinity pool overlooking the Kwai River, this luxury villa is a great place to stay if you enjoy high-end accommodation. Each suite includes a sitting area, kitchenette and large bathroom with a soaking tub. The property also includes an onsite restaurant and fitness center.
Day 4: ElephantsWorld
It seems that most people don’t leave Thailand without seeing elephants, and it’s no wonder why. There are countless agencies that sell packages promising an unforgettable experience with these gentle giants. But beware! Many excursions that involve elephants in Thailand treat the animals incredibly cruelly.
ElephantsWorld Sanctuary is an exception. With the company motto of “They used to work for us, and now we work for them”, ElephantsWorld is a retirement community of sorts. Most of the elephants there are rescued from the trekking industry, and some even carry the scars of their past work.
On your visit, you’ll feed the elephants, make food for them, help with other projects around the grounds, and help bathe them in a nearby river. You’ll also learn about the many ways these animals have been – and continue to be – mistreated and exploited from tourism throughout the country.
Sidenote: Do some of your own research on the subject, and learn more about the benefits of visiting an elephant sanctuary instead of participating in a trek. If you are in the north of the country, Elephant Nature Park located near Chiang Mai also has a great reputation.
Once you’ve had your fun with the elephants head back to the bus station in Kanchanaburi. You can buy your tickets back to Bangkok at the station, or you can book them ahead of time online here.
Day 5: Travel to Railay Beach
This will be one of your longest travel days, but you won’t be disappointed with the destination (and if you get started as early as we did, you’ll be lying on the beach by noon!).
How to get to Railay from Bangkok:
Take a morning flight from Bangkok to Krabi. The cheapest way is usually to fly out of Don Mueang Airport (DMK) in northern Bangkok. We booked a couple of weeks ahead and scored a flight through Thai Lion Airways for $22 USD per person (back in 2015).
Tip: As the cheapest flights are usually very early, stay near the airport the night before you so don’t have to wake up at an insane hour.
We chose to fly to Krabi instead of the more popular Phuket because the ticket to Krabi was nearly half the price – plus, some parts of Phuket can get pretty overcrowded, but there are some nice luxury hotels in Phuket that are worth checking out if you have the time.
Once you arrive at the Krabi Airport, take a taxi or a van to Ao Nang.
This ride is exponentially more expensive than similar distances in Bangkok, costing 150 baht per person. This is not negotiable, and taxis or shuttle buses can only be booked from one stand at the airport.
At the port in Ao Nang, board a longboat (100 baht per person) to West Railay Beach. Typically you will have to wait until there are enough people to fill the boat. Once at West Railay, simply walk to your accommodation, as there are no vehicles and everything is relatively close.
What to do in Railay:
Drop your bag off at your hotel and explore all the island’s beaches! West Beach is beautiful, but don’t spend too long there because you’ll definitely want to make it to Phranang Beach.
Once you arrive, the first thing to do is pick your jaw up from the sand, rub your eyes, and gaze at the natural wonder that is before you. Swim through the turquoise waters in the massive cave and rock face that lurks over the waters.
Stay for sunset and when you’re ready for dinner, walk down East Beach for your pick of restaurants. We enjoyed The Last Bar (literally the last bar on the east beach strip) for their happy hour dinner deals, live music, and fire dance show around 10 p.m.
Where to stay in Railay:
Here’s a breakdown of the many areas to choose from:
- Ao Nang or Krabi Town: There’s plenty of accommodation in both towns, but nothing special about either. In fact, the latter is quite seedy. You’ll have to take a boat to reach the best beaches, so instead, we recommend booking accommodation in one of the three locations below:
- East Railay: Here, you’ll find budget accommodation and lots of bars and restaurants. Note that the east beach is not one you’ll want to swim in, as it has many delivery boats and mangrove trees. But don’t worry; it’s just a short walk to the other more swimmable beaches.
- West Railay: This beach is nice for swimming, but the accommodation tends to be more expensive in this area.
- Tonsai: This beach is a short walk from the other areas, and has a hippy vibe. Electricity runs for limited hours during the day, and accommodation isn’t as plentiful as some of the other areas.
Backpacker/Budget Option: Blanco Hideout Railay Youth Hostel
This hostel boasts a sun terrace with sea views, swimming pool, onsite restaurant and 2 bars. All dorm rooms and private bungalows are air-conditioned and dorm beds are equipped with power outlets and reading lights. The hostel also throws regular pool and boat parties for guests.
Our Hotel Pick: Railay Phutawan Resort in East Railay
With clean rooms, stone-titled showers, and a spacious balcony with views of the jungle and ocean, we fell in love with this place. Oh, and did I mention the huge infinity pool overlooking a 300-foot rock face that blends into the sea?!
How much, you ask? Around $40 a night! Yes, welcome to Thai heaven.
We stayed here, and while it requires a bit of an uphill walk to reach, we really enjoyed our budget-with-a-hint-of-luxury stay.
Splurge/Luxury Option: Rayavadee
Offering luxurious beach-front accommodation, this is the only 5-star hotel in Railay Beach. The beautifully decorated hotel has a full-service spa, 4 dining options and a large outdoor pool. You can even book a private multi-bedroom beachfront villa with your own swimming pool if you are willing to shell out top dollar.
Day 6: Explore Railay
You have two options to choose from on your first full day in Railay…
Option 1: Rock climbing above the ocean
The region surrounding Krabi is known worldwide for rock climbing and is popular with novices and experts alike. There are tons of shops to choose from around town, so do a little looking around before deciding on a company.
We went through Real Rocks Climbing based on their good reviews. We were really happy with our experience, but it looked like the other companies in town were quite similar.
We did a full-day tour and began the morning with some simple instructions and climbs that increased in difficulty. After lunch, we embarked on the best part of the day.
Our guide lit a kerosene-soaked torch and led us through a secret cave, up a series of hidden wooden ladders, until we emerged out of a hole in the rock face about 300 feet above the ground. We then repelled out of the cave with the beach in the background. We each had one last difficult climb before stumbling down to the beach to watch the sunset.
Option 2: Beach lounging/exploring
If rock climbing isn’t your thing, don’t worry! You can still find ways to fully appreciate Railay Beach with both feet planted firmly on the ground (or boat…).
Here are some more fun things to do in Railay:
- Hang back at the beach and soak up some rays
- Go on an island-hopping boat tour (You can find plenty of island-hopping tours from Krabi and Railay here or just walk along the beach to find a tour company.)
- Take a ride in one of Thailand’s iconic longboats
- Hike up to Railay Beach Viewpoint & Lagoon
- This is really more of a climb than a hike, so if heights are a concern, it may not be for you
- Rent kayaks or SUP boards
- Learn how to cook some Thai food at Railay Cooking Class on Walking Street
Day 7: Head to Koh Phi Phi
Yes, Phi Phi is touristy.
But it’s also beautiful and worth a short visit, especially if you want to visit the famous Maya Beach.
If that’s not on your priority list, don’t worry we’ve got you covered! You can skip ahead to see what our alternative suggestion to visiting Phi Phi.
How to get to Koh Phi Phi
Take a ferry from Railay to Phi Phi, which you can arrange at any tour agency or book it ahead online so you know for sure you’ll have a seat.
We paid 450 baht per person (about $13.50 USD). It should take around 2 hours and only leaves once per day at 9:45 a.m. (There are also ferries that depart from Krabi and Ao Nang. See the ferry schedule with respective prices and times here.)
Tip: If you arrive on a Friday, head to Princess Diamond Resort for a free pool party.
Things to do on Koh Phi Phi
There are lots of fun things to do on Phi Phi Island – from relaxing with a drink in hand to adventurous day trips, here are some of our
Hike to Phi Phi Island Viewpoint
If you’re feeling up to it, hike up to the famous viewpoint that overlooks the Thai beach and turquoise waters.
Good to know: The entrance fee is 30 baht per person (about $0.80 USD) and you have to navigate through a park with rather corny statues (think giant fruit), but the views at the top are worthwhile. Even though we were there on a hazy day, it was stunning.
Phi Phi has some incredible beaches for snorkeling. Plus, you can take a day trip on a boat where you can cruise around nearby islands and swim in some of the clearest water of your life.
Pop on your mask and snorkel and swim with the fishies!
Party on the beach
Come sundown, eat at any one of the many restaurants or street stands, and then jump right into the party on the beach. Sip on a bucket as you watch a fire show – just walk along the beach and you’ll see several happening simultaneously.
With flaming jump ropes, human pyramids, and blazing tightrope acts, the fire shows on Phi Phi were some of the best we’ve seen.
Where to eat on Koh Phi Phi:
- We stumbled upon Grand PP Arcade because it looked so darn cute. Luckily for us, the food was just as good as the atmosphere.
- We found the best and cheapest Pad Thai (the other menu items we tried were fabulous too!) at a tiny hole in the wall place that I can’t for the life of me find online. I don’t think it even had a name – but its distinguishing feature is writing all over the walls proclaiming how good the food is. Only Noodles is supposed to have some good Pad Thai as well.
- Phi Phi Bakery has some damn good pastries. Peanut butter filled donut. Holy sh*t.
Where to stay on Koh Phi Phi:
When finding a place to stay on the Phi Phi islands you should consider both your budget and travel style.
If you want to be close to the nightlife, book a place on the small strip of land connecting the two larger parts of the island. Most of the parties happen close to Tonsai Pier, Nice Beach or Loh Dalum Beach. Ibiza House Phi Phi (hostel) and PP Princess Resort (4-star accommodation) are known for throwing the best pool parties in Phi Phi.
If you’re more like us and like to participate in the parties, but be able to retreat to your hotel away from the chaos, we suggest one of the options below for every budget range.
Budget Option: Sabai House
We hunted around a bit to find a place to stay and we stumbled upon this nice and simple place. There was nothing too special about the room (clean, strong A/C, hot shower), but the location is pretty good – just a 3-minute walk to the best beach, but far enough away that we didn’t hear music when we wanted to sleep.
Mid-Range/Couples Option: Phi Phi Arboreal Resort
This unique property is situated up on a hill with beautiful sea views. Each room is air-conditioned with an ensuite bathroom and private balcony. It’s also just a 10-minute walk to Loh DaLum Beach, you’ll be out of earshot from the parties, but close enough to get there on foot.
Splurge/Luxury Option: Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort
This beautiful property is located in the north part of the island in Phi Phi Don, so you won’t have to worry about being kept up at night from the party noise in the south. The resort boasts a large infinity pool overlooking their own private stretch of beach.
Tip: There are plenty of hostels and bungalows on this Thai island, so do a little searching around. However, during high season, you may want to book in advance if you want to stay far away from the bass-bumping party on Ton Sai beach.
Day 8: Phi Phi Island Tours
There are a few tours we’d recommend choosing from while visiting Phi Phi Island.
Option 1: Maya Bay Sleep Aboard Tour
Maya Bay is arguably the most iconic beach in Thailand. Yes, it’s the one you’re thinking of – with screensaver-perfect turquoise waters and towering oceanside cliffs.
It earned its fame from the Leonardo DiCaprio movie aptly titled, “The Beach”, and has had tourists flocking to it ever since.
With masses of people traveling to Maya Bay each day, a trip there can be quite disappointing. Instead of being transported to the serene waters you find in a quick Google search, you’ll be amidst hundreds of other travelers all fighting for the same picture. Not really our thing.
A few years ago while traveling in South America, we heard about the Maya Bay Sleep Aboard Tour from a fellow traveler. It’s been on our minds ever since.
Although it is quite expensive (about $90 USD), we knew we had to splurge on it. And like the person who told us about the tour, we are spreading the word. If you want to see Maya Bay, this is the way to do it.
Option 2: Phi Phi Island Snorkeling
With Crystal-clear water, lots of colorful fish and one of the world’s most abundant reef systems, the Phi Phi islands are arguably one of the best places to go snorkeling in Thailand. You can book a snorkeling tour or rent equipment from a dive shop to head out on your own.
If you do choose to make your own way, on foot or by hiring a longtail boat for the day, here are some of the best spots for snorkeling around Phi Phi:
- Monkey Bay: When the tide is right, the snorkeling here is about as accessible as you can get with brightly colored coral laying just below the surface.
- Phi Phi Lee: Maya Bay and Sama Bay on the opposite side are both excellent snorkeling locations.
- Bamboo Island: This tiny island is surrounded by an extensive and shallow reef system.
- Hin Klang: This is an underwater reef system located about 1.25 miles offshore from Laem Tong Beach, between Phi Phi and Bamboo Island. You won’t know what’s coming until you’re directly above it, but it’s notably one of the best places for snorkeling in all of Thailand.
- Long Beach & Sharks Point: You don’t have to go far from the beach to see some colorful fish in their natural habitat here. Also, about 200 meters from shore is Sharks Point — a rock that barely breaks the surface of the ocean and you can imagine what lies beneath. Don’t worry, it’s just black-tipped reef sharks, which are harmless when observed respectfully.
Day 7 & 8 Alternative: Visit Koh Lanta
If each Thai island was given a specialty, Koh Lanta would be the catch-all. Part relaxing beach destination, part adventure activity hub, with a side of digital nomad base and party-scene . This is the great thing about Koh Lanta, you can experience all the Thai island draws in one place!
How to get there
Take a ferry from Railay to Koh Lanta, which you can arrange at any tour agency or book it ahead online so you know for sure you’ll have a seat.
You can expect to pay around 450 baht per person (about $13.50 USD). The entire journey will take around 2 hours, but it should be noted that it may take longer depending on the ferry timing.
You can also take a shuttle/ferry from Krabi for a similar cost and timing.
Things to do in Koh Lanta
There is plenty to explore on the island from seemingly deserted white sand beaches to tree houses in the jungle. Here are some of our top recommendations for things to do:
- Go sea kayaking and explore caves with Talabeng Kayaking
- Hike the loop in Mu Ko Lanta National Park and climb the hill to the lighthouse for spectacular views
- Take a Thai cooking class
- Go beach-hopping and participate in an organized beach cleanup with Trash Hero
For more details on the above activities, our thoughts and an extensive list, check out our article on things to do in Koh Lanta.
Where to stay on Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta is a larger island that is pretty spread out, and there are plenty of areas to choose from depending on what type of vibe you’re looking for.
After spending a few days exploring the island, our recommendation on the best place to stay on Koh Lanta would be around Klong Nin Beach.
A lot of people recommended we stay near Long Beach (Phra Ae Beach), but to be honest, we were a bit disappointed with the Long Beach area. The main street is dusty and busy, and was lacking the quaint island vibes we were imagining. Long Beach itself is nice, but so are all the other beaches on the west coast of Koh Lanta.
However, it’s a good location if you want to be near cafes, restaurants, the co-working space and nightlife. We were very happy with our budget-friendly hotel in Long Beach, so if you do want to stay in this area, we’d definitely recommend Lanta Baan Nok Resort.
A note about getting around:
Regardless of where you choose to stay, we recommend renting a motorbike to get around the island. This will give you the freedom to explore every corner of this island paradise on your own schedule.
However, if motorbikes aren’t your thing, there are a handful of motorbike taxis and songthaews (shared taxi pick up trucks with bench seats) available to escort you around the island. Each little neighborhood is also pretty walkable, as long as you’re staying near the main road and not in a remote part of the jungle.
Days 9 – 12: Choose Your Own Adventure
This is where your itinerary can vary based on your interests and travel preferences. With just 5 days left in your Thailand 2-week itinerary, you have a few different options for how to spend your final days.
Option 1: Stay on the west side of Thailand
There is plenty more to see on Thailand’s west coast that can easily occupy the rest of your Thailand itinerary. Islands like Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe are definitely worth a few days if you’re into the relaxing island vibe. You can go snorkeling or scuba diving, explore National Parks, and even find some parties if that’s what you’re looking for.
How to get there: You can travel to either island by ferry from Koh Phi Phi.
If untouched nature and a bit of adventure is what you’re seeking, Khao Sok National Park is where you should head. Known for its ancient rainforests and diverse wildlife, the park is located in the south of Thailand just about equal distance from Krabi or Surat Thani.
Option 2: Diving in Koh Tao
If you came to Thailand to do some diving, you’re going to want to head to Koh Tao. Known as one of the cheapest places in the world to get PADI certified, Koh Tao is a great spot for divers of all levels. It’s a good place to base yourself as it’s nearest to some of the best diving in Thailand.
What to do in Koh Tao
If you decide to spend your final days in Thailand diving from Koh Tao, you will have plenty to keep you busy. If you’re looking to get scuba certified or just participate in some fun dives, the first thing you’re going to want to do is figure out the best diving school for your needs.
Aside from diving, Koh Tao has lots more going on from water sports to hiking to beach bumming and a wild nightlife scene. Here are some of our recommendations:
- Explore the island on a motorbike
- Snorkel with sea turtles
- Drop by Eco Koh Tao to learn about marine conservation
- Refuel at a beachside seafood BBQ, one of Koh Tao’s best restaurants
- Get your zen on at Shambhala on Sairee Beach
- Knock out 18-holes of mini golf at Koh Tao Leisure Park
- Hike to John Suwan Viewpoint or Fraggle Rock
- Take a Muay Thai class
Related Reading: Have you ever wanted to go on a multi-day liveaboard diving trip? Check out our round up of the best Liveaboards in Thailand for every budget.
Option 3: Relax on Koh Samui
Probably one of the best islands in Thailand for honeymooners and families, Koh Samui is sort of the most “grown-up” of all the Thai islands. And with good reason, as it’s seen the most development over the years. Shedding its reputation as a hotspot for backpackers and partiers (a label which has been passed on to its neighbor, Phangan), it has since become a much more sophisticated resort destination.
What to do on Koh Samui
As Thailand’s second largest island, you’ll find plenty of things to do on Koh Samui while enjoying some of the big city amenities you won’t find on smaller islands. Here are some of our recommendations:
- Lounge on Koh Samui’s best beaches
- Explore the island on a motorbike
- Visit the Big Buddha at Wat Phra Yai temple
- Try out some water sports like diving, snorkeling, kiteboarding, SUP boarding, kayaking, sailing and more!
- Eat street food at one of the famous night markets (Mae Nam on Thursdays, Bophut on Fridays, and Lamai on Sundays)
- Hike to a view point like Maenam Viewpoint or Nathon Mountain Ridge Trail
- Go chasing waterfalls – be sure to check out the Na Muang falls
Tip: Whether you decide to spend a few days on Koh Phangan, Koh Tao or Koh Samui, one of the best things to do in this area is check out Ang Thong National Marine Park. You’ll find that just about every tour operator on all three islands will offer trips to the National Park, so it’s just a matter of fitting it into your schedule if you are interested.
Option 4: Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan
If you’re looking to take part in the once in a lifetime Full Moon party experience, it’s time to cross the country and head for Koh Phangan. If this is a priority for you, we’d encourage you to plan your Thailand itinerary around the dates that fit the full moon.
However, we know that can be a challenge. The good news is, Koh Phangan has your back! There are similar parties called the Half Moon Festival, held twice a month at — you guessed it — the half-moon.
Check the dates for all of the Full Moon, Half Moon and other parties on Koh Phangan here.
Where to stay on Koh Phangan
The Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan takes place on Haad Rin Beach on the southern tip of the island. However, the Half Moon Festival is located in the jungle closer to the center of the island. You’ll want to keep these locations in mind when booking your accommodation.
Backpacker/Party Option: Slumber Party Hostel
If you’re looking for the best backpacker hostel with a social atmosphere good for partying around Full Moon, this is your spot. This highly-rated hostel is located just steps from Haad Rin Beach and offers both dorm and private rooms as well as a swimming pool and bar.
Mid-Range/Couples Option: Sunrise Resort
Located at the north end of Haad Rin beach, this grouping of bungalows is close enough to walk to the nightly parties, but far enough that the pulsing music won’t affect your sleep (too much). The onsite bar and restaurant is great and the staff is incredibly accommodating.
Sidenote: One thing to be aware of when planning your trip is that most accommodations on Koh Phangan require that you stay a minimum of 5 nights during Full Moon. An alternative is to stay in the north part of the island or on neighboring Koh Tao or Koh Samui and take the ferry over for the party and back again in the morning.
Note: This is the exact itinerary we took on our original route through Thailand back in 2016, however, we understand that travel priorities can vary and not everyone will be interested in attending a full moon party in Thailand. This is why we’ve included alternative options for your Thailand itinerary above.
We’ll share with you the remainder of our itinerary and our experience/recommendations for the full moon party below.
How to get to the east side islands
Whether you decide to spend the remainder of your Thailand itinerary on Koh Tao, Koh Samui or Koh Phangan, you’ll have a similar journey traveling to that side of the country from Koh Phi Phi…
Arrange a joint trip (Ferry – Bus – Ferry) by booking online ahead of time. Your journey will begin with a 1.5-hour ferry from Phi Phi to Krabi (sometimes it takes longer than expected). Then, you’ll hop aboard a bus for a 3-hour trip to Surat Thani (a major port city on the East Coast) and finally board another ferry to the island of your choice.
After you arrive, take a songthaew (shared taxi pick up truck with seats) to your hostel and pass out. You’ll deserve it after a loooooong day of travel!
If you have room in your budget, you can take a short flight directly from Krabi to Koh Samui Airport. You’ll still need to take a ferry from Phi Phi to Krabi and again from Samui to Koh Tao or Phangan if you aren’t staying there. However, it’s a faster (and more comfortable for some) mode of transportation than the bus.
Once you land at Koh Samui Airport, follow the walkway just past the baggage claim area to the transportation desk. There you can book your ferry to Koh Tao or Koh Phangan* with transportation to the ferry port included.
*Just be sure you let them know which ferry port in Koh Phangan is closest to your accommodations. Thong Sala Pier is in the middle of the island and the Haad Rin Pier is at the southernmost tip.
Day 10: Discover Koh Phangan
This is how our Thailand itinerary worked out for our trip to Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party. If you’ve chosen to stay on one of the other islands we recommended, skip ahead to Day 13 to learn how to travel back to Bangkok.
What to do on Koh Phangan
Treat yourself to a relaxing Thai beach day. Get bent over backward and cracked in half with an hour-long traditional Thai massage for 250 Baht ($7 USD). Use this to unwind and get ready for the full moon festivities. Browse the countless shops selling neon clothing and headbands if you want to go all out for the celebration.
One of the most popular places on Koh Phangan is Amsterdam Bar. This is the best place to be to catch the sunset, but be warned, it will be crowded. It is also a good 30-minute drive north from Haad Rin Beach, so if you do plan to make the sunset, be sure to go early.
You can easily catch a songthaew (shared taxi truck), but if you have your own scooter, just know that cops are particularly suspicious of anyone leaving the bar after sunset and you are likely to run into a checkpoint where you could be searched for drugs (not worth it!) and given a sobriety test. It’s really better to just take a taxi if you plan on doing any drinking at all.
Tip: Aside from the Full Moon festivities, Koh Phangan is also known for having an impressive collection of vegan restaurants. Most of which are located in the northern part of the island closer to Amsterdam Bar, so it’s a good area to have a post-sunset healthy dinner.
If you’re up for it, many bars have themed parties before the full moon celebration. Ask around to find a jungle party, foam party, waterfall party, or toga party.
Day 11: Full Moon Party
Okay, let’s just put this out there: Full Moon Party is NOT a must-see for everyone. There is no culture to be observed on Haad Rin, and although it would be a decent beach, the constant parties leave it littered with trash. It is a crazy party, and while we had a blast, we realize that it’s not everybody’s ideal vacation, which is why we provided alternative options in this itinerary.
If you do go, be prepared to witness some drunken debauchery and take precautions to stay safe. Lock your valuables away. Duh. Don’t do drugs. (But really, don’t.)
You’ll have no problem finding people or establishments selling the notorious mushroom shakes. Before you buy, know this: Some of the people selling them have a deal with the cops to turn in a certain percent of tourists in exchange for turning their heads.
Fines for being caught with drugs are extravagant and if you can’t pay, you face jail in a Thai prison. We heard several horror stories, so just don’t do it. Rant over.
If you are prepared for the craziness that is Full Moon, and are cautious, you’ll have a great time. We sure did!
Preparing for Full Moon on Koh Phangan:
Prepare your mind and body for a crazy night. Spend the day beaching it or exploring Koh Phangan. Take a taxi and swim in the waterfalls that speckle the Thai island, or take a boat taxi and hop around the island’s best beaches. There truly is more to Koh Phangan than the party scene.
Once the sun sets, Haad Rin beach changes into a colorful, fiery, party mecca. Stages are constructed and stands selling buckets (yes, buckets) of alcohol line the water. After dinner, take turns painting your friends with festive neon paints while sharing Sangsom (traditional Thai rum) buckets.
Dance down the beach to any of the bars blasting booty-shaking tunes and snag some cheap street food throughout the night. It seems each bar has its own fire show that tries to outdo the others. Rave until the sun comes up over Haad Rin beach and then call it a night…err… morning and get some well-deserved sleep.
Day 12: Recover on Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan post full moon is all about recovery and detoxing. Order numerous tropical fruit shakes and seek out your hangover cure, whatever it may be. Try to avoid the beach because it’s a sad sight with plastic neon straws, chunks of Styrofoam, and stray sandals floating in the water.
Alternative: Recover from diving on Koh Tao
If you’ve spent the last few days diving in Koh Tao, you’ll know that you should never go diving within 24 hours before a flight. Play it safe and use this day as a detox day to recover from diving, hang out at the beach or explore more of the island. You could also take a ferry to Koh Phangan or Koh Samui and spend your last evening somewhere new.
Day 13: Travel back to Bangkok
This is where the “Choose Your Own Adventure” part of our itinerary once more converges…
No matter which of the Thai islands you’ve decided to stay on, you’ll need to head back to Bangkok eventually to catch your flight home.
How to get there:
If you don’t mind spending a bit more, you can fly from Koh Samui airport back to Bangkok. But if you want to save some baht, take the ferry and bus to Surat Thani Airport and fly from there. It might take a bit more time, but it will save you anywhere between $50-100 USD per person.
If you stayed on the Andaman Sea side, you’ll want to make your way back to Krabi or Phuket and get a flight to Bangkok from either one of those airports.
Where to stay in Bangkok:
Since you’ll be flying out the next day, you’ll want to find a place to stay in the Siam area in Bangkok, which is right on the Skytrain line with plenty of cute restaurants and pubs to be explored.
Tip: Check out how to use the Skytrain in Bangkok to find out the cheapest and easiest way to get back to the Bangkok Airport on your way out of town.
Budget/Backpacker Option: Bodega Bangkok Hostel – Tucked down a side street in the Sukhumvit neighborhood, Bodega Bangkok has a great social atmosphere with comfy beds and a quaint patio. About a 10 minute walk from Asok Station where you can catch the Skytrain to the airport, Bodega is a great spot for your last night in Thailand.
Mid-range/ Couples Stay: Siam @ Siam Design Hotel Bangkok – Stylish and trendy, this designer hotel is located within walking distance to the Siam BTS Skytrain. Great for those who are looking to do some shopping while visiting Bangkok.
Luxury Hotel: InterContinental Bangkok – Sip on champagne while overlooking the skyline of Bangkok in this well-located 5-star hotel. Enjoy the on-site spa and 24-hour fitness center as well as the 5 different dining options available.
Sidenote: If your flight is early in the morning, you may want to choose a hotel closer to the airport instead.
Day 14: Leaving on a Jet Plane
If you have time in the morning, wander the streets one last time before heading to the airport by Skytrain or taxi and heading home (or to your next destination!).
Are you planning a trip to Thailand?
We have TONS of resources on travel in Thailand and destinations throughout the country. Check out our Ultimate Thailand Travel Guide for all the answers to your most burning questions, or read some of our favorite articles below.
- How to Travel Sustainably in Thailand and Why You Should Care
- Best Time to Visit Thailand: When to Go & When to Avoid
- 17 Amazing Things To Do in Koh Lanta, Thailand
- 16 Epic Things to Do in Koh Lipe: Thailand’s Island Paradise
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