5 hidden Thai Islands you’ll want to keep all to yourself

Long-term sailors Liz Cleere and Jamie Furlong reveal the hidden island gems they discovered sailing around Thailand

8 mins

1: Ko Jum

Ko Jum island (Liz Cleere/Jamie Furlong)

Ko Jum island (Liz Cleere/Jamie Furlong)

Not far from highly developed Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lanta, the tiny island of Ko Jum (aka Ko Pu) has the same soft, sandy beaches without the crowds or noise.

Most of the bungalows are basic, catering to backpackers and families, but there are now many with 24-hour electricity.

The more expensive ‘resorts’ are hidden away under coconut groves. A great place to relax.


2: Ko Ha

Swimming off Ko Ha (Liz Cleere/Jamie Furlong)

Swimming off Ko Ha (Liz Cleere/Jamie Furlong)

Only accessible by dive boat in the high season, these five limestone stacks (“ha” is five in Thai) provide some of the best diving and snorkelling in the area. There is a plethora of coral beds, caves and cliffs to explore underwater.

Twice a day a small white beach is revealed at low tide on the eastern side of the isthmus running between the second largest island.

Visit in the off-season and you’ll have the island pretty much to yourself.

3: Ko Hin Ya

Swimming off Ko Ha (Liz Cleere/Jamie Furlong)

The spit on Ko Hin Ya (Liz Cleere/Jamie Furlong)

The Laem Son group is a small group of uninhabited islands in the Andaman Sea, just off the coast of Laem Son National Park, accessible only by private boat.

Ko Hin Ya has pristine white sand on the east, a lagoon on the west and a small hillside rain forest to the north. It is also home to a small ranger station. 

We anchored in the shallows between the islands twice, alongside a few longtail fishing boats who were sheltering from the swell brought in from the Indian Ocean. We were the only foreigners there.

4. Ko Phayam

The Hippie Bar on Ko Phayam (Liz Cleere/Jamie Furlong)

The Hippy Bar on Ko Phayam (Liz Cleere/Jamie Furlong)

Ko Phayam is what Koh Samui used to be thirty years ago. Long Beach has most of the bungalows and resorts on the island, but we preferred to anchor in slower Buffalo Bay where there are just a few places to eat and stay, and where sunset from the Hippy Bar is not to be missed.

There are no cars on the island, so most people move through the lanes lined with cashew trees by scooter. On foot you can get close up to hornbills shrieking from branches and butterflies flitting across sun-drenched meadows.

There is also a small settlement of Moken (sea gypsy) people who are happy for you to visit them.

5: Ko Chang

The beach at Ko Chang (Liz Cleere/Jamie Furlong)

The beach at Ko Chang (Liz Cleere/Jamie Furlong)

This elephant island (“chang” is elephant in Thai) is not the well-known party destination in the Gulf of Thailand or the deserted rock in Phang Nga bay. Rather, it is Thailand’s northernmost island in the Andaman Sea.

An extension of Myanmar’s Mergui Archepelago, this Ko Chang is the most tranquil inhabited island we found in three years of sailing around Thailand. It attracts the kind of visitors who want a day in a hammock, perhaps with an evening stroll and a candle-lit dinner on the beach (electricity is precious and scarce).

It’s the perfect place to finish writing that book, spend the day in meditation or just catch up on your reading.

Writer Liz Cleere and photographer Jamie Furlong are travellers first, sailors second. Their blog, Followtheboat, is a travelogue about two people and their cat Millie sailing around the world in a non-specific zig-zag. They also publish video diary updates on Patreon and YouTube every week.

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