Southern Thailand is famous for its stunning beaches and world class resorts. It has coasts on both the west side along the Andaman Sea and the east side along the Gulf of Thailand. The character and climate of both coasts vary significantly. The east coast is a haven for backpackers, full moon parties, and laid back vacations. The west coast has high end resorts and popular dive sights, but also has its share of backpackers and hostels.
There are rainy seasons and dry seasons in Southern Thailand. The two coasts have slightly different rainy seasons. Along the west coast the monsoon season, with heavy rains, is from April to October. The east coast is rainier between September and December. This means that, regardless of when you visit Thailand, there is likely to be a sunny beach somewhere.
Southern Thailand is all about the beaches. From the dramatic beauty of the west coast to the beach party atmosphere of the east coast, visitors to Thailand will not be disappointed in the region's beaches. Specific sights and attractions may be found in each city, but to truly experience Southern Thailand, you should maximize your time at the beach and on the water.
Southern Thailand can be divided into six regions: the Central Gulf Coast, the Northern Andaman Coast, Phuket, Krabi Province, the Southern Andaman Coast, and the Southern Gulf Coast.
The Central Gulf Coast is where you'll find Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, and Ko Tao. These islands are each unique with there own personality and appeal. The Northern Andaman Coast is where you'll find Khao Lak, Similan Island, Surin island, the southern Ko Chang, and Ranong. Phuket is probably the most recognized destination in Thailand, but it is now overdeveloped and less appealing to most travelers. Krabi Province has dramatic beaches and excellent rock climbing. The Southern Andaman Coast has the stunning Ko Tarutao and the Trang Islands. The Southern Gulf Coast is popular with Malaysian tourists and has nice beaches and interesting nature.
There is no shortage of activities available in Southern Thailand. Scuba diving and snorkeling are the most obvious activity in the area. Many of the reefs have been damaged by overuse, but the reefs around Ko Lipe are largely intact as they are protected by one of the country's oldest national marine parks.
If you're interested in a party, head to Ko Pha Ngan on the east coast. This island regularly hosts the world famous Full Moon Party on Haad Rin beach. It occurs once a month and can attract almost 20,000 visitors who party well into the morning hours.
Ko Tao is one of the most popular diving destinations on the east coast. Diving in the area is very affordable and it's a good place to get scuba certified, but the quality of the diving is not high.
Food and Dining
Seafood is prevalent on most menus in Southern Thailand. Curry dishes are common and many are made with coconut milk. There are also dry curries such as Panang curry and Massaman curry. Dishes are usually prepared spicy, but most restaurants that cater to tourist will make a mild version if you request it.
Southern Thailand's economy thrives on tourism. As such, many of the restaurants are established specifically for travelers. The food quality can vary and the prices are significantly higher than they are in Northern Thailand. Even so, it is possible to get excellent food at a reasonable price if you know where to go.
International restaurants are readily available in most resort towns. It's possible to find European, American, or other Asian cuisines in many towns if you find yourself tired of Thai food.
It's relatively easy to access most places in Southern Thailand. There are international airports in Phuket, Krabi, Hat Yai, and Ko Samui, but most people fly to Bangkok and catch connecting domestic flights there. Buses travel between most cities and boats connect the major islands to the mainland. There are also ferries that connect Phuket to many of the islands in route to Malaysia or Indonesia. These ferries run from November to May.
The train also runs from Bangkok to parts of Southern Thailand. The southern railway connects Bangkok to Hat Yai before continuing on to Sungai Kolok. There are several smaller branches to the railway as well.
Partying in Chiang Mai
or other parts of Thailand
Going to the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan
Hitting the beach in Koh Samui