Thailand’s beaches are legendary: tall palms angle over pearlescent sand, coral gardens flourish in the shallow seas and beach parties are liberally lubricated with alcohol and fun. With two long coastlines and jungle-topped islands anchored in azure waters, Thailand is a getaway for the hedonist and the hermit, the prince and the pauper.
Scale the sheer sea cliffs of Krabi, cavort with gentle whale sharks at pinnacles off Ko Tao and Ko Pha-Ngan, toe the curling tide alongside gypsy fishermen in Trang, gorge on seafood in Hua Hin or relish perfectly practiced butler service at your luxury digs in Phuket. The adventure awaits.
Hot & Spicy
The beaches may bring you to Thailand, but it’s the food that will lure you back. Enjoyed around the world, Thai cuisine expresses fundamental aspects of Thai culture: it is generous and warm, outgoing and nuanced, refreshing and relaxed. And it is much more delicious in its native setting. Thai dishes rely on fresh and local ingredients, from pungent lemongrass and searing chilies to plump seafood and crispy fried chicken. With a tropical abundance, the varied national menu is built around the four fundamental flavors: spicy, sweet, salty, and sour.
Whether it’s the glimmering eye of the meditative wâi (palms-together Thai greeting) or the mirthful smirk of passers-by, it’s hard not to be charmed by the Land of Smiles. The moniker is not only apt but also well-earned. Thailand has long been Southeast Asia’s mama-san, inviting foreigners from near and far to indulge in the kingdom’s natural splendors. This recipe is perfected along the beaches and islands where a heady mix of seascapes, limestone towers, and equatorial sunshine provides the perfect backdrop to expertly run resorts catering to whimsy with a desire to please
You asked for this. The view may be of white sands and blue waters but as your massage therapist squeezes the stress from your back with an exceptionally strong fist, twists your body until you let out a small yelp, then cracks your finger joints, you begin to question your sanity. But, when they’re done, a smile spreads over your face, your shoulders drop and you feel more at one with the tides, the breeze wafting through the palms, and the cold Singha awaiting you.
The early morning sun casts honeylike shadows across another deep-green isle rising out of the blue. The warm wind ruffles your hair and all you can hear is the motor of the long-tail boat. The whole scene is framed by a weathered boat bow decorated in colorful bands of cloth. Your next island-hopping destination is that white beach in the distance – one of many to explore, hike, and snorkel – but the boat ride is so extraordinarily gorgeous, it’s as enjoyable as being at your destination in the Trang Islands
The divemaster’s island, Ko Tao is the cheapest and easiest spot to learn how to strap on a tank and dive into the deep. The water is warm and gentle, and the submarine spectacles are not to be missed. Just offshore, scenic rocky coves and coral reefs frequented by all sorts of fish provide a snorkeling ‘aperitif’. Ko Tao’s small size means you can explore all of its jungle nooks and crannies, and find a sandy niche to call your own.
Whether you’re a pro or have never grabbed a notch hole in your life, the rock climbing scene at Railay will get you scrambling skywards with joy. With about 500 bolted routes of limestone walls overlooking some of the world’s most spectacular scenery – think vertical grey spires decorated in greenery surrounded by crystalline sea and white beaches – even the shortest jaunt guarantees thrills. Seasoned climbers could stay for months
Known mostly for its excellent-value luxury resorts and Patong’s hedonism, there’s a lot more to Phuket than the brochures tell you. Head to Phuket Town for some gorgeous restored heritage Sino-Portuguese architecture, hike the steamy jungles of Khao Phra Thaew Royal Wildlife & Forest Reserve, take a cooking class, go diving or learn to surf during low season. For beach-side lounging away from the Phuket buzz, try the northern beaches like Hat Nai Thon or to the south at Laem Panwa. Right: Luxury accommodation, Phuket
While other visitors squeeze onto speedboats to get blurry glimpses of Ao Phang Nga National Park’s (Click here) spectacular limestone tower–studded bay, sea kayakers get to enjoy it in slow silence. Cavort with flying lizards, banded sea snakes of helmeted hornbills. Glide past rock art inside sea caves, picnic on secluded beaches, and swim in silky water. Yes, a few boats will whiz by, but for the most part, you’ll just enjoy the music of your paddle rippling through the water. At nightfall, become enchanted with the bay’s famed bioluminescence