Khao Lak is a traditional fishing village located about an hour’s drive north of Phuket along the Andaman seaboard. One of the most tranquil resort destinations in Thailand, it provides a rare oasis for relaxation with a fabulous combination of tropical forest, expansive white sandy beaches and three national parks nestled in the hills that sweep down to the coast. Its gorgeous stretches of beach are scattered with seashells and framed by intense blue waters. From here, you can also hop aboard the Lady Sarojinyacht and sail around the Similan Islands. If you’re a diver, these islands are consistently named among the world’s top dive sites for their vibrant coral and marine life.
Khao Lak, or South Beach, is an approximately 1.25-mile-long stretch nestled between the mountains and a national park, providing a perfect spot to toss down a towel and enjoy quiet contemplation. While you’re here you won’t want to miss Khao Sok National Park, southern Thailand’s largest swath of tropical forest, home to lots of orchids, karst scenery, birds and mammals, including deer and elephants. Visitors can hike scenic trails, mountain bike well-maintained tracks and kayak through mangroves.
The best time to visit Khao Lak is between November and February, a period that experiences little rain and more comfortable temperatures.
Along the east coast and the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui offers that quintessential tropical island getaway with its nearly untouched palm-lined beaches, coconut groves and mountainous rain forests. To reach it, you’ll hop on a propeller plane from Phuket or Bangkok, with the airport basically a simple wooden hut. From above, it looks like it’s completely covered with trees, with encircled by gorgeous white sands. The busiest stretches are on the east side, with lots of international food and hotel chains. The north coast offers more secluded stretches, like Choeng Mon on the northeastern tip of the island with a wide sandy beach and a rock formation on one side providing great snorkeling.
From Koh Samui, you can take a day trip to Angthong National Marine Park, home to dolphins, green turtles and macaques. The best time to visit this island is between February and September, ideally outside of Easter and summer breaks when you’ll be able to enjoy a more tranquil stay and lower prices.