In many ways, Koh Nang Yuan is the paradisiacal location most people imagine when they think of Thailand. Consisting of three tree-topped islands adjoined by a tan-colored sandbar beach, Koh Nang Yuan is one of the most sought after destinations in all of Thailand. The best part? Unlike nearby Koh Samui or Koh Tao, accommodation options are extremely limited on the island, meaning the crowds remain relatively sparse as well.
Most people come to Koh Nang Yuan on day trips from other nearby islands and snorkeling excursions as well as scuba dives are extremely popular. And although the quick day visits are available, you'd be doing yourself a great favor by coming to the island and spending a night or two. In the evenings and early mornings, you can almost have the entire beach to yourself. During the heart of the day, activities such as snorkeling, zip-lining, and hiking are available.
In stark contrast to its famed northerly neighbor, tiny and sleepy Koh Tan tempts visitors with empty beaches and vehicle-less roads just three miles and a 15-minute boat ride south of Koh Samui’s southern tip. Koh Tan (also spelled Koh Taen) is sometimes also called Coral Island for its diversity of colorful hard and soft corals, and it often serves as a popular day-long escape for snorkel or kayak excursions through its clear inshore waters. Though the island doesn’t have quite the aquatic diversity of other more remote locations, it still affords excellent snorkeling, relatively empty beaches and navigable mangrove swamps all very close to a major tourist hub. Longboats make the crossing daily and usually stop at several unique coral spots around the island.
On land, Koh Tan spans only three square miles, and its population barely tops 30 people; their rustic lifestyle with limited electricity affords a glimpse of what much of Thai Island-living was like decades ago.
Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks - or Hin Yai/Hin Ta - are rocky outcrops on Lamai Beach. Often photographed and commented on, the rocks bear an uncanny resemblance to male and female genitalia.
The rocks are set on a lovely stretch of beach, and create tranquil rock pools when the tide is in.
The cool sound of water tumbling down a rocky cliff face and into a pool greets you at Na Muang Falls.
Nestled amongst the island's central mountains, the falls have two tiers: a lower stretch easily reached by foot and a higher tier that’s best reached by hiking or riding on elephant back. The lower tier of falls is suitable for swimming.
The road to the lower falls is lined with food stalls and souvenir vendors, and elephant handlers offer their animals for rides to the top tier.
Coral Island, or Koh Larn, is a picture-postcard island off the coast of Pattaya. The popular day-trip destination is set up for underwater diving in the surrounding coral, glass-bottom boat tours and beachfront relaxing at one of several beaches on the island.
Activities like sea-kayaking and parasailing are also catered for, and buffet lunches are served on the sand.
Traditional market buildings perched on stilts over the water offer a refreshingly different place to shop at the Pattaya Floating Market. The thatched huts are filled with stalls selling Thai handicrafts, delicious street food, and souvenirs.
The Mud House Village and Old Market have joined the attractions here, along with a woodcarving museum, flower fair, and agricultural demonstrations. Dance troupes dressed in traditional finery regularly perform at the floating market, along with shell dancers and sea boxers.
Traditional boats ferry visitors around the market’s canals, past boat vendors selling Thai food from around the country. It’s an especially picturesque sight at dusk.
Chaweng Beach - or Hat Chaweng - is Koh Samui’s most popular, longest and perhaps most lovely beach.
Clear blue-green sea, palm trees, coral reefs and lively nightlife come together to create a laid-back party atmosphere at Chaweng, the second biggest resort hub on the island.
Drinks are sold on the beach by passing vendors and there are water sports for every taste, from windsurfing to water skiing.
Dive operators run tours from Chaweng Beach, and this is where you’ll find most of the island’s nightclubs and bars. At beachfront restaurants you can dine right on the sand as the sun sets over the sea.
Lamai Beach vies with Chaweng for title of Koh Samui’s prettiest beach, especially along its less coral-strewn southern stretches. Less developed than Chaweng, and therefore more tranquil and relaxed, Lamai offers year-round swimming and the interesting formations of the granite Grandmother and Grandfather rocks. It’s a good spot to look for resort accommodation and tasty restaurants on Koh Samui.
Occupying 10 acres (40,000 square meters) fifteen minutes outside of Hua Hin, Black Mountain Water Park opened in 2011 and has already become one of the most popular regional attractions. Large, clean and staffed with professionally trained lifeguards, the waterpark features all the crowdpleasers, including Thailand’s biggest wave pool, lazy river, zero entry pool, children’s pool and a 56-foot (17-meter) tall tower with 9 water slides. Changing rooms and lockers are offered free of charge. An on-site restaurant serves a variety of Thai and international dishes, and park-goers will also find snack and ice cream kiosks located throughout the waterpark.