Go to Thailand to unwind and relax on some of the most jaw-dropping beaches in the world. Likewise, head to Thailand for marathon parties and debauchery the likes of which you’ll never find anywhere else in the world. Relax and meditate in a hammock as you rock in a gentle Indian Ocean breeze. Similarly, you can opt to lose your mind in a mass of bodies moving to the rhythm of pounding EDM. Whatever your style, Thailand’s beaches have something to bring a smile to your face.
Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. According to VOA News, a record 32.5 million tourists visited the country in 2016, making it the number one country in the world for tourism. That sure is a lot of tourists, yet for those seeking tranquil white sand beaches and relaxation, Thailand has more than enough room to accommodate everyone. From the unrushed lifestyle of Bottle Beach to the absolute isolation of Tubkaak Beach, you can find a place to relax and clear your mind.
If you’re looking for something a little more exciting than a hammock and a bowl of Pad Thai, then Thailand has everything you need. The beaches of both the Pacific and Indian Ocean coasts are home to world-famous parties. Revel with 30,000 other partiers at the monthly Full Moon Party in Haadrin or indulge in complete hedonism in Pattaya. Millions of partiers swarm to Thailand every year, and for better or worse, Thailand has awesome parties.
Here are 10 beaches in Thailand where you can relax, and 10 where you can party!
Koh Phangan is notorious for the Full Moon Parties which take place in Haadrin but hitch a ride to the north of the island and get a water taxi to secluded Bottle Beach. This beach was once a pirate hideaway, but today the pirates have been replaced by four or five laid-back and affordable resorts consisting of thatch-roofed bungalows, open-walled restaurants and plenty of hammocks swaying in the palm trees along the beach.
Life on Bottle Beach is completely chilled, and it's not unusual to order food at the restaurant and then see the kitchen staff smoking a joint on the beach while you wait to eat!
Once you’ve had your fill of relaxing on Bottle Beach, head back south to Haad Rin for the world-famous Full Moon Party, which takes place every month on the full moon. Famous DJs blast music while 30,000 partiers dance, drink, cajole and grind along the length of the beach. Every restaurant and bar is packed at this time, and thousands of people from all over the world are here. The music is loud and hard-pounding, while the dancing goes on for hours and hours. Once morning comes around, the beach resembles the aftermath of the D-Day landings, with debris and garbage and passed-out partiers everywhere.
Tubkaak Beach is located on the northern tip of Krabi. A dozen four and five-star resorts line the long white sandy beach where crystal blue water gently laps the shore. The entire beach is extremely quiet, with most guests staying to themselves. Several hiking trails veer off into the jungle, so you can go exploring the rainforest where a couple of waterfalls are hiding. One of the trails takes you to the top of the small mountain overlooking the beach, giving you a jaw-dropping view of the beach, the lagoon, and the surrounding islands!
Phuket is a large city on Thailand’s west coast which is famous for its resorts and nightlife. Patong is Phuket’s most famous party beach. Bangla Road leads through Patong right to the beach, and most of the partying happens along this stretch of the city. From bars to dance clubs to ladyboys, Bangla Road is full of distractions. Once on the beach, you’ll find numerous bars and nightclubs, and revelers party out on the sand all night long.
For those seeking more corporeal entertainment, there are a dozen Go-Go Bars along the road and the beach, giving Patong its sleazy reputation.
If Patong itself is the center of debauchery in Phuket, then Sunset Beach is the complete opposite. This stretch of white sand right next to Patong is served by several quiet resorts, the most famous being Sunset Beach Resort. Here you can sunbathe in complete peace or sip on a cocktail on a breezy patio while you watch the waves on the ocean.
The best part about Sunset Beach is that when you tire of relaxing, Patong’s main drag is a short ten-minute walk away, and you can party until you’re ready to relax again!
Pattaya has built up a reputation as Asia’s party central, and for good reason. This resort town is home to the largest red-light district outside of Amsterdam and has more bars per square mile than any other beach in Thailand! If booze and illicit encounters aren’t enough, there’s non-stop partying at many of the beachfront clubs, where hard electronic music pounds day and night.
Pattaya is trying to shed its wild image and attempting to bring in more families to its resorts, but time will tell if Pattaya can ever be anything but a party beach.
Golden Buddha Island is a gentle mainly-uninhabited spit of land separated from the mainland by a wide canal. It gets its name from a legend of a golden Buddha statue stolen by pirates and buried somewhere on the island, but you’ll want to forget about treasure hunting once you see its pristine 8-mile-long white sand beach.
Koh Phra Thong is blissfully quiet no matter where you stay. There are several resorts you can choose to relax at, all of which have decent reviews. If you want to spend your days in a hammock or walking thoughtfully along the beach, this is the place for you.
There’s something about the island of Phuket and partying. It may because of those 35 million tourists to Thailand every year, most of them head to Phuket, where many of those will eventually make it to the northern part of the island and Sai Kaew Beach. The parties here aren’t as epic as the Full Moon parties in Haadrin or the debauchery of Pattaya, but they still go hard and loud and you definitely won’t want to bring your children or newlywed spouse here.
The beach itself is filled covered with resorts and usually filled with people.
“Koh” is the Thai word for “island”, so you’ll hear a lot of places called “Koh-this” or “Koh-that”. One such island is Koh Lao Liang, which is a short ferry ride from the tropical paradise of Koh Phi Phi. Koh Lao Liang is a mostly-deserted island that’s part of a Thai national park. Only 50 people are allowed on the beach at a time and you must camp on the beach as there are no resorts or restaurants here. This enforced tranquility is in place to protect the sensitive ecosystem of the island, but you can use it to camp on a tropical beach.
Chiang Mai is the cultural heart of Thailand, where Buddhist temples are dotted around misty mountains and Thai villagers eke out a traditional life selling plastic trinkets to tourists.
Chiang Mai is the only location on this list that isn’t found on an island, and although it doesn’t have an ocean beach like the others, it does have a riverside beach where people drink and dance and party all through the night. Because it is a famous tourist destination in Thailand, and because it does have a sort-of beach, you may want to check it out if you’re the partying type.
Ao Yai is the type of beach the adventurous backpacker will head to in order to unwind and relax. Bungalow rentals are cheap, if spartan, but the Tiger beer is cold and the beach itself is absolutely stunning. Surfers have been coming to Ao Yai for two decades as the morning surf during high tide is spectacular. During the afternoon the waters recede, giving you a large beach to sunbathe on.
This hippy haven is laid back and parties are rare. Most people are here to relax. Because this beach is located close to Cambodia, you’ll find all sorts of Asia-trekkers coming through here!
Chaweng Beach, on Koh Samui, is another of Thailand’s famous nightlife spots. Bars and pubs and patios line the beach, and several large nightclubs give you options for dancing. There are plenty of restaurants along the main road, catering to all tastes. Plan your trip for New Year’s Eve and you will have a blast partying on the beach, lighting fireworks and releasing lanterns into the sky!
Because Chaweng has most of the accommodations on Koh Samui, you won’t have a problem finding a bed to sleep in. If you plan your trip right, you can catch the morning ferry to Koh Phangan and Haadrin’s Full Moon Party!
Also called Rai Leh, is a pristine and quiet beach near Krabi. Although it can get touristy during the high season (February to June), the autumn and winter months generally provide fewer people and more peace and quiet for the traveler who enjoys relaxing on vacation. Railay is famous for several large rock formations jutting out of the water, which give it that cliched Thailand look.
You’ll find all the conveniences you need here, from clean resorts to fresh and tasty food. Beach chairs and patio-hammocks allow you to truly relax in comfort.
Koh Tao is famous for its scuba diving and its golden beaches that stretch on forever. Meaning “Turtle Island”, Koh Tao has a rich abundance of wildlife, and this includes the partiers who flock here every month for a Full Moon party similar to the one in Haadrin. Koh Tao is very close to Koh Phangan, so the party culture of the king of all party islands has definitely seeped over.
You’ll find Turtle Island packed during the busy tourist months, so if you’re a party animal you’ll probably love the opportunity to meet new people and dance to sick beats spun by serious DJs.
If Chaweng is the busy hub of Koh Samui, then Lamai is the polar opposite. South of the busy party central. Lamai is generally geared more towards older people, families, and couples. Food and accommodations are a little cheaper, but more importantly, the entire gold-sand beach is quieter.
For the relaxing traveler who doesn’t want to go out of the way or spend a bunch of money, Lamai might be the spot for you. There are plenty of resorts here and the evenings are calm. Sit on the beach at night with a friend or two or take your spouse out for a nice dinner at a patio restaurant.
Thailand’s third largest island after Phuket and Samui is part of a national park, but that doesn’t stop anyone from living it up while here. The island is generally packed all year long, and there is a wide variety of resorts available for all budgets. Scooter rentals are very popular, and it can feel like there are more scooters zipping around than sunbathers!
At night Koh Chang lights up as thousands of tourists start drinking, clubbing, hollering and doing all those things that partiers do. If you’re a traveler with a family but you still like to party now and again, Koh Chang is the place for you!
Officially called Koh Lipe, Sunrise Beach gets its name from the astounding views of, you guessed it, the sunrise over the beach every morning. This beach is never too crowded, even with all the cocktail bars and middle-aged tourists trying to rekindle the romance in their marriage.
There are plenty of accommodations available on Koh Lipe, although you’ll want to book in advance to make sure you have somewhere to stay. If you’ve been married for a long time or you’re looking for a new romance in your life, Sunrise Beach is where you need to go.
Electro-house music. Laser lights. Go-go dancers. Foam. What else do you need from a beach resort that advertises itself as the number one place on Koh Phangan to party? This club is not only a nightclub and restaurant but an entire beach resort that aims to make partying exclusive for its guests. While tens of thousands of people jostle each other at the nearby Full Moon Party in Haadrin, guests at the Merkaba can party in style and comfort without being bothered by all the other revelers. The Merkaba sometimes even pulls in major DJs, like Tiesto!
Sairee Beach is another Koh Tao paradise, although this one is less a party spot and more of a relax on the beach kind of place. Volleyball, frisbee, parasailing and jungle hiking are all on offer, so if your idea of relaxing is to be active, then Sairee Beach is the place for you.
Sairee Beach is the most popular beach on Koh Tao, so you’ll want to avoid the busiest season, which is spring and summer. If you like fishing and diving, then bring your gear because the water here is world-class. This is relaxation for the active lifestyle!
Phuket has enough space for multiple party beaches, and Paradise Beach is the cream of the party crop for Phuket. While the hordes of drunken revelers stomp all over Paton, the more discerning partiers head to Paradise Beach for the Full Moon Festival. Here the party is better organized and more upscale than on Koh Phangan, and the drinks and food more expensive.
This is full-tilt partying for the young and affluent who venture to Thailand. If you have some money to burn, enjoy partying but don’t want all the fighting, drugs and sleaze that comes with many of Thailand’s other party spots, then Paradise Beach is the place for you.