The only thing getting me through the last month of school was the image of a tropical island in my head. The days flew by and before I knew it, there I was, on a sandy beach with crashing indigo waves in front of me.
Before I started planning my backpacking trip I asked my friends which islands in Thailand they had been to and loved. Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, Koh Lanta, and Koh Phi Phi all made the list. When my Lonely Planet book, Southeast Asia on a Shoestring, arrived on my doorstep, I opened it up and compared the islands listed in the book to the list my friends had help me create. They were eerily similar which made my job a lot easier when I was bouncing back and forth between islands.
I made it to almost all of the islands during my stint in Thailand and some left me breathless while others left me sorely disappointed. Each island has it’s own personality and draws in like minded island hoppers. For me, I was going for the pristine beaches where I could eat fresh food, drinks crisp cocktails, and potentially participate in a yoga session or two. I had to search and take a few taxi boats, but I eventually found the chilled and laid back islands. For you partiers out there do not fear! I definitely stumbled across some fun party islands on my journey.
Koh Phi Phi —> Party Island
Let’s just say, being on Koh Phi Phi island made me feel like someone has transported me back in time to college. The beaches were trashed much like my college campus Saturday morning and the age of the tourists seemed to range from 18-25. They all seemed like they were on a mission… Party. Hard.
If you are itching to do a booze cruise this is the island for you! I went on Bob’s Booze Cruise and it was everything it advertised. A sailboat full of people wanting to party on the water. The music was pumping and the drinks were flowing as we sailed by islands scattered off the coast of Koh Phi Phi.
This island is also for you if you are a PYRO. I blame my dad for my love of fire, so the fire shows that took over the beaches every night…well, they blew my mind. The shows are choreographed and since each bar seems to have their own show right next to their competitors, you can bet that each show is a little bit more intense than the neighboring show in order to draw in more thirsty pyro customers. I don’t know if I will ever see another fire show that can rival the ones that took over the congested fuel soaked beaches of Koh Phi Phi.
Koh Lanta —> High Season Island
This island was like a ghost town when we arrived. I could tell that it is normally packed and bustling with life during Thailand’s high season, but in the middle of June it was deserted. After my party girl moment on Koh Phi Phi, I warmly embraced the emptiness of Koh Lanta and reveled in it’s quietness.
If you are interested in taking a cooking class or exploring an island on scooter, Koh Lanta is for you! Be sure to check out Why Not Bar located somewhere on the beach. If you mention it to a local they will point you in the right direction.
Koh Phangan —> Versatile Island
I can’t label Koh Phangan as a party island or a yoga paradise because it can really be both. I arrived the night of the infamous Full Moon party. Imagine my description of Koh Phi Phi and amplify it by hmmmm a thousand! I hurried my booty over to a water taxi and got out of there as fast as I could explain where I wanted to go: Haad Yuan.
Even though it is a 20 minute boat ride away from the chaos of Hat Rin, where the full moon party wrecks havoc, it is a completely different world. Haad Yuan is a Yogi paradise. Pristine water. Delicious healthy food. Happy hippies all over the freakin place. This was hands down my favorite island.
Koh Samui —> Classy Island
An island where you can let your imagination run wild. You want to sleep in a colorful cheap bungalow on the beach? Done. Want to dress up and waltz around a 5 star resort? After you sir..mam. Wander through the jungle on an elephant? Giddy up. I think you get the point. This island has something for everyone and with an international airport located on the island, traveling to and from is a piece of cake!
Koh Tao —> Divers Paradise
Unfortunately, this is the one island I did not make it to and the one that I am keeping on my bucket list. It almost sounds like something out of a mythical story. Pure water and coral reefs. Powder beaches bordered by drunk palm trees. A place where you can get your diving license and then never leave.
Realistically no matter which island you choose, I am almost positive that you will find something that pleases you. Thailand is a gorgeous country full of color, spunk, and spirit. The food will make your home cooking taste bland and the weather will make you green with envy when you have to depart. The only way you will know which island is best for you, is for you to stop reading this and book your ticket! You deserve it. You know you do.