Where to stay in Thailand for unique places, beaches and islands (family and couples)
My first trip to this beautiful country was over 20 years ago. This country has changed so much. Sometimes for the better, other times for the worst
This is why it is so important to understand where to stay in Thailand, what to experiences and when to go there.
There is no much point going to a beautiful island with marvellous beaches if your stay will be mostly under torrential rain, right in the middle of the wet season.
Moreover, a few areas were amazing a few years ago, but today they are well over visited, to a point they even had to shut the access to iconic beaches.
Should you still visit Thailand? Of course, no questions about it.
This guide will help you to choose the right places to visit at the right time. Moreover, It will help to choose your spot based on the type of vacation you will do, as a couple or with family and kids.
And you know the best? The information is ready for 2020, no old stuff.
But let’s get deeper into it
In this guide you will see
- 1 Best area to stay in Thailand
- 2 Where to stay in Thailand first time
- 3 Where to stay in Thailand for beaches
- 4 Best islands in Thailand to stay
- 5 Best places to stay in Thailand with family
- 6 Where to stay in Thailand for couples
- 7 Where to stay in Thailand for honeymoon
- 8 Where to stay in Thailand on a budget
- 9 Where to stay in Thailand for Full Moon Party
You can read also
- Where to stay in Bangkok – The Reference Guide
- Full Guide to Ayutthaya
- Full guide to Krabi
- Best beaches of Koh Chang
- Thailand Photo Gallery
- Best photography locations in Bangkok
- The Inner East of Thailand
Best area to stay in Thailand
It’s hard, if not impossible, to identify a unique best area to stay in Thailand.
Bangkok is a bit of a must. I visited it several times and every time I find something new to fall in love.
Phuket is a great spot for a relaxed holiday, especially if you are after a villa or a resort facing the Andaman sea. The great thing of Phuket is that it has a popular International Airport with Intercontinental flights too.
In this way, you do not need to stop in the capital, in case you already experienced it in the past.
Koh Samui has a similar infrastructure as Phuket, however, the airport is smaller and it serves only a small number of international flights.
Here below a map with the best areas to stay based on the type of holiday you are planning to have (family, couple, nightlife, beach, etc)
- Where to stay in Thailand first time: in the first trip to this amazing country, you should put in your bucket list a visit to Bangkok, followed by some beach time in either Koh Samui, Krabi or Phuket (all easily accessible with a flight or by train/boat). Finally, you should explore the north, either Chang Mai or Chang Rai. Read more on first-time to Thailand
- Where to stay in Thailand for beaches: There are so many beaches around Thailand that it is an injustice to mention only a few. There are places with more modern infrastructure, others that cater to a more budget audience, or to a scuba diver tourism. And finally, islands which are fantastic for a romantic getaway. Read below for all my favourite spots, everyone with a good reason.
- What island to stay in Thailand: This is another hard one to suggest. Phuket for easy access with a flight (national and international) or train. Kho Pha Ngan for the Fullmoon Party, Koh Tao for scuba diving, Koh Chang as not that touristy, Koh Ngai and Koh Mak for a romantic and remote getaway.
- Best places to stay in Thailand with family: Bangkok is surprisingly a good city to walk around especially if you are staying close to Sukhumvit Road. There are plenty of elevated pedestrian areas. In saying that, the capital should not be a destination for families but just a transit to the next place. Instead, go to Phuket or Koh Samui, they have both fantastic beaches for kids and at the same time, they are easily reachable with a flight.
- Where to stay in Thailand for couples: the Krabi Province offers a great mix of romantic islands and exciting activities. For trekking, travel north to Chiang Rai, in the Golden Triangle. And, if you are on a honeymoon then check out the Phi Phi Islands.
- Top city to stay in Thailand: Bangkok is without any doubt the most eclectic city to stay in Thailand, if not in the whole of Asia. There are so many things to experience and do. You may choose to stay in popular areas or more unknown gem neighbourhoods. You can even decide to stay in a stilt house right on the river and go around with the boat. So romantic, so nostalgic. Spend your time visiting the historical sites, shopping till you drop or live the crazy nightlife till the early, or late, morning. Really unlimited possibilities. True, you should not spend the entire holiday there, however, book at least 2-3 nights in this amazing city
- Best beach close to Bangkok: Pattaya City is probably not the most beautiful beach you can experience in Thailand but it’s close to the capital, you can even take a bus to Pattaya directly from the Bangkok airport. This is a place that was already (in)famous during the Vietnam War for the Americans to go and spend the salary on the local nightlife, already big back then. It is still big now. If you are after a nice beach then plan to travel a bit more till Koh Chang or further south.
- Most interesting coast to visit in Thailand: Koh Chang and east coast down to the Cambodian border is one of the most interesting part of Thailand to explore. It’s much less touristy if compared to the islands in the South of Thailand and you can still find some hidden gems and beaches where you will be mostly on your own. The catch is that there are no airports to any of these islands so just budget in more travelling time.
- Where to stay in South Thailand November to April: this is the time of the year when you will find the best weather on the south-west coast. Destinations as Phuket and the Krabi Province have the best weather with peak temperatures around 30-32C degrees, mostly sunny days, with fresh nights.
- Where to stay in South Thailand January to August: the dry season starts a bit later on the south-east coast, from late December/January. However, it also ends a bit later too, till May, sometimes even June. Great destinations on this side of Thailand are Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao. June to August tends to be much warmer and with a few storms here and there, but still, a great time to be there.
- Most spectacular place to stay in Thailand: the Krabi Province has really all you have dreamed of on a Thailand trip. Amazing beaches, lovely and quiet villages as well as towns or islands with great nightlife. If you are looking for a romantic time then spend a few days in one of the dreamy islands along the coast where you will share the beach with a bunch of other couples.
- Easiest island to access in Thailand: Phuket is the biggest island in Thailand, it has a well established international airport, it offers some of the best resorts in the country as well as budget options. If you are after a beach breakaway, and avoid Bangkok all together, then Phuket is a great destination. From there you can always take a quick boat to the spectacular Krabi Province
- Where to stay in Thailand for history: Ayutthaya is such an amazing destination if you want to learn more about the history of Thailand and the Siam region. Ayutthaya was the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Siam. The beauty of it is that you can take a train there (or a boat trip along the river), spend a couple of nights and rent a bike to discover the whole historical park at your own pace.
- Best place to stay in Thailand without tourists: the Inner East and the Isaan region is definitely a part of Thailand that not many tourists visit. And that’s a pity because you will have the possibility to visit some amazing Historical Parks that were once part of the ancient Khmer Highway (connecting today’s Thailand to Angkor Wat in Cambodia). You will discover the temple of the monkeys in Lopburi, the amazing Khmer Temple in Phimai, the Muang Tam Sanctuary and so much more till the Ta Moan Temple, in an area still under dispute by the Thai and the Cambodian government.
- Where to stay in North Thailand: Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are the two destinations in the north, both great places for nature, trekking and rafting. Chiang Mai is more popular, touristy and appealing to digital nomads. Chiang Rai is much quieter, with more of a local presence and in this respect probably more genuine, you get more of a Thai feeling.
Where to stay in Thailand first time
Being the first time you visit Thailand, you may want to split your stay between history/culture and beach time.
This is the best way to not only see the country but also experience the life in this tropical place.
Here below 3 destinations that I would definitely suggest putting in your bucket list.
Bangkok (the most amazing city in Asia)
I know, saying “the most amazing” is a very bold statement.
Probably I should say one of the most amazing capitals in Asia. I myself love so much Hanoi in Vietnam, although so different.
It’s difficult not to love Bangkok, doesn’t matter which season you are going to visit it.
So many historical places to visit, of which the Grand Palace is the most magnificent one.
So many local interesting markets of which the Flower Market is my favourite.
So many temples and pagodas like the iconic Wat Arun Ratchavararam.
And I could keep going on and on. Plan at least 2 full days and ideally 4 nights (also to recover from the jet leg in case you travel across many time zones)
I have written a full post about Where to stay in Bangkok that I would highly suggest reading. It explains all the areas of the city and how to choose the one that fits better your type of trip.
Check Where To Stay in Bangkok
If you just want the most unique place to stay in Bangkok then you should book at Loy La Long Hotel, a stilt house on the Chao Phraya river. It’s like suddenly stepping back to the Indochina Empire.
Check availability at the Loy La Long
In Bangkok, you can easily organise day trips and activities in and around the capital
One of the best destinations, that is not too far, is Ayutthaya, the old capital of Siam. It deserves at least a night, however, if you are on a rush, you can also do it as a day trip, with a very early wake-up call.
You can read more on Ayutthaya on my post here.
Following Bangkok, you have two possibilities:
- go north for some trekking in the mountains
- move south to some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet
Chiang Mai (trekking and water rafting)
Surely you will not get bored in this big town.
Book (in advance) a 2 or 3-days trekking into the jungle where you will have the possibility to explore a different Thailand, sleeping in the remote villages.
Water rafting, mostly done on bamboo boats, is also good fun.
Chiang Mai is also one of the favourite places for Digital Nomads. The city is a great cultural mix of the eastern and western world.
Once there check out the Graph Cafe for the most unique coffee in town, with plenty of unusual flavours.
The Fahtara Coffee is also another cozy cafe great for breakfast or a late lunch.
Coconut Shell is instead a great option for some easy, quick and super cheap lunch or dinner. Did I forget to say that the food is so tasty?!
The V Lodge is a great simple family-run lodge in the perfect position to enjoy the city. They also provide a lovely breakfast, for an awesome start of the day.
Koh Samui (beautiful beaches, good nightlife)
I did my first trip to Koh Samui over 20 years ago.
I still remember the streets in Chaweng Beach, the top destination on the island, still unsealed, in fact, most of the roads in the island were unsealed.
The airport lacked any sort of security, you could literally walk inside the airport (basically a painted shed)
Koh Samui is today a more modern island which caters to a much wider audience, still very young but with a more demanding hype.
The beaches all around the island are so lovely and dreamy. Really the perfect place to sit, relax, enjoy the sun and have a few drinks at sunset time with some chill-out music.
Koh Samui has everything to please anyone staying for the first time in Thailand, besides being easily accessible from both Bangkok and Chiang Mai (even direct flight with Bangkok Airways).
Koh Samui has usually fantastic weather from late December/January to April (almost every day sunny and dry).
If you are planning your trip from April to August be aware that the weather gets a bit warmer and you may experience some storms, usually in the late afternoon.
In saying that, in this time of the year, Koh Samui is still the island in Thailand with the best weather (or least rain), on average.
The Banana Fan Sea Resort is the perfect place to be close to the action but still far enough to have a quiet night. Breakfast is complimentary which is a great bonus.
Check availability at the Banana Fan Sea
Chaweng Beach is the main destination on the island, with plenty of bars and late-night place, great if you are looking also for some nightlife. The Green Mango is a club with great music that opened decades ago and still running strong.
Otherwise, book your accommodation in one of the many other villages for a quieter time.
Where to stay in Thailand for beaches
It’s always hard to make a choice and Thailand has so many amazing beaches around.
Here below my choices based on the weather and the time of the year you are planning your trip
Koh Samui (between April and August)
Between April and August, the weather in Thailand is not the best with a few islands, like Koh Chang on the east coast close to Cambodia, with usually non-stop rain.
Krabi and Phuket also have quite a bit of rain.
The places with the best weather are Koh Samui and the nearby islands (Koh Tao and Koh Pha Ngan).
This is where you will have most probably sunny or cloudy days with possibly some rain in the late afternoon.
The best beaches to stay are:
- Chaweng: fantastic beach and turquoise sea. The town is very busy and with plenty of nightlife
- Lamai: the second most famous beach on the island, also so amazing and dreamy. The village is very relaxed and quiet, perfect for couples looking for a romantic time.
- Lipa Noi Beach: on the west coast, low key and quiet, perfect for kids with its shallow water
- Bophut: a lovely relaxed beach with plenty of options for food and coffee. Although Koh Samui is a very popular destination, still this beach is quite and often empty, especially in the early morning
Again, Koh Samui best weather is between January and March, dry and usually sunny, however, April to August is still a great time to book your stay.
Krabi Province (between November and April)
Krabi is one of my favourite destinations in Thailand. It is a very popular place to visit, therefore you will share it with many other tourists, but still, it’s so amazing.
I have written a full guide on the Krabi Province which I suggest to read.
It highlights all the spots where you can spend your holiday with great activities such as rock climbing, besides snorkelling and diving.
In a nutshell, the best beaches in the province are:
- Railay: one of the most beautiful sceneries on the Andaman coast. The Avatar Railay Resort is one of the greatest value for money hotels in Thailand I believe, with a private pool too.
- Phi Phi Don: again another magnificent place to get lost. The village can be quite busy at night. Better book the accommodation outside the centre. The Papaya Resort, facing the Loh Dalum beach has one of the best views on the island.
- Kantiang Bay in Koh Lanta: more remote, more isolated, with a few accommodations options of which the Baan Puteri Lanta is absolutely a fantastic choice.
- Koh Ngai: the remotest beach of all, the perfect place if you are looking for a beach to spend a romantic time with your partner. The CoCo cottage is a lovely place even with air-con (rare in this island). The restaurant is a must-try.
Just a reminder that in Thailand, September and October tend to be rainy, does not matter which island, coast or beach you choose. That’s usually the wettest time of the monsoon season
Best islands in Thailand to stay
On this blog, I have a fair amount of content on Thailand, I love this country. You know what is the most common question I receive?
What is the best island to stay in Thailand?
Hard choice, also because there are 1430 islands in Thailand. My answer is that there is at least one for any type of holiday.
Phuket (because so well connected)
Phuket has the third biggest International Airport in Thailand, ranking just after the two main airports in Bangkok.
You will be very likely to have a direct flight from your country to Phuket. You can check on Wikipedia the list of the Airlines flying directly there.
If you do not want to have a stop-over in Bangkok then Phuket is the place to fly to.
Being easily accessible means that it’s a popular destination. Still, you can find remote coves and beautiful isolated hotels and villas, if you are after that.
You can find everything on this island. From shopping centres to a zoo and even an International Primary and Secondary School.
The best time to stay in Phuket is between late November and early April.
Patong is the seaside town to go for the nightlife, meanwhile, Kata Beach is more for a quieter stay with family or as a couple.
And why not booking your private villa with pool in Bang Tao Beach at the Pumeria Resort. Such great value for money.
Check the private pool deal at Pumeria
Koh Samui (for beaches and easy access)
We have already talked about Koh Samui in the best beaches of Thailand section.
It’s well connected with several flights to Bangkok and a few other cities outside Thailand of which Singapore is probably the most popular one.
The best time to visit it is between January and April, however, also between May and August the weather is good, sunny or cloudy with possibly a storm late in the afternoon.
Lamai is my favourite spot to stay, lovely beach (one of the best in Thailand), quiet but still a short taxi or scooter ride to Chaweng for a crazy night out. The Summer Inn is a great cheap clean place to base yourself, right in front of the beach.
Check availability at Summer Inn
Koh Chang (spectacular and still not that busy)
Koh Chang does not have an airport on the island. At least till now, and this probably helps this island to be not as touristy as other places in Thailand.
I am not saying there are no tourists in Koh Chang, far from that, but still, it’s not that super busy.
To arrive to this island you would need to fly or take a bus to Trat, get another bus to the pier, take the ferry to Koh Chang and then another small van to your destination. It requires some efforts, well worthy I may add.
I wrote more about this island on the best beaches of Koh Chang to visit and the top photography locations. I enjoyed my time so much.
There are many beaches to book your accommodation, however, my favourite is Lonely Beach, the last one on the south-west coast.
It may not be the best if you are after a crazy nightlife but it has still a good amount of restaurants, cool cafes, live music venues, just not till the early morning.
My favourite place to stay is the Elephant Bay Resort. This is a super cool spot where you can relax, have a fabulous coffee or brunch facing the sea, have a swim at the beach and so much more.
Check availability at Elephant Bay
Koh Tao (for diving and snorkelling)
If you are looking for a great scuba diving location or you just want to have a PADI course, from open water to more specialized ones, then Koh Tao is the place to be.
The diving sites are not only amazing but also close to the island, which means not many hours on the boat.
The whole island is involved in scuba diving, to a point that it almost gets empty once the boats are all out.
I had personally a great time there, with amazing days in the sea and lovely cosy nights at the beach restaurants.
It’s a tiny island but still, you have a few beach options around of which the little cove Chalok baan kao was my favourite.
Koh Ngai and Koh Mak (for a remote romantic getaway experience)
Both these islands are small and remote which means you will be very likely to share them with tiny number of people.
The perfect places to have some romantic time with your partner.
Do not expect many activities, sunbathing and swimming of course, and possibly some snorkelling, but that’s really it.
These are islands to get disconnected from the busy world.
Koh Mak is south of Koh Chang, from where you will need to take a boat trip (from the Bang Bao village).
Koh Ngai is instead in the Krabi Province, in the southern part and it’s more easily accessible, either from the mainland (Pakmeng), from Koh Lanta and even from Phuket.
The CoCo cottage is one of the most romantic places to stay in Koh Ngai.
Phi Phi Islands (for honeymoon)
These islands are covered in a more exhaustive way in the honeymoon section. Read more there.
Here, I just want to say that Phi Phi is the perfect place to stay because it has that mix of remoteness but still with western facilities.
The town is actually quite busy, but once out it’s such a peaceful place to be.
It’s also easily reachable either from Phuket or Krabi.
Best places to stay in Thailand with family
Thailand is an ideal place for families looking to have a relaxed time at the beach.
There are so many great places around.
If you have a stopover in Bangkok, try to book your place close to Sukhumvit Road. Here you will find elevated pedestrian areas that connect all the shopping centres to the Metro station as well.
It’s a safe area to walk around, even with small kids. You can read more extensively about where to stay in Bangkok with kids here.
The Mayfair – Marriott Executive Apartments is a great serviced accommodation to stay in a fantastic location, steps away from Sukhumvit and Lumphini Park. It has a great shaded pool on the rooftop and a perfect breakfast to start the holiday.
Check the Mayfair Bangkok availability
If you stay in Bangkok then I suggest exhausting here the visits to the historical places and then move to an island or a sea resort for some beach time.
Koh Samui or Phuket (with toddlers or small kids)
Koh Samui and Phuket are both easily reachable islands with plenty of beaches to enjoy some family time, either within a resort or with a simple Hotel accommodation.
Koh Samui has two great beaches, Lipa Noi Beach with shallow water, super quiet, and Lamai Beach, closer to the airport.
The Saree Lagoon Villa in Lipa Noi is one of the best value accommodations on the island for families, perfect location and plenty of space and privacy. They include also a free breakfast and you can take a complimentary bike too.
In Phuket go to Karon Beach, it’s the second biggest town in Phuket but without a crazy nightlife. It’s quieter, but still with restaurants and shops to have a nice walk around.
The beach is, of course, fabulous and perfect for small kids.
The Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort is a great place to stay with families. They offer Family Fun Junior Suites with toys and other things to entertain the small kids. The pool is amazing and including also a water slide.
Check availability at the Novotel Karon Resort
Krabi (with grown-up kids)
Krabi Province has everything for everyone.
It has a great beach, awesome day excursions for all ages (with snorkelling included), access to waterfalls and lagoons and great cliffs for free-climbing (for the most demanding kids).
I have written a dedicated post to Krabi with a family section here.
In short, the Holiday Inn is a great resort in Nopparat Thara with a fantastic beach with shallow water. From there you can organise all sorts of activities or just enjoy the pool.
Check availability at the Holiday Inn
Where to stay in Thailand for couples
Besides Bangkok (read here the best place to stay in the city for couples) I would suggest
- Chiang Mai (first-time) or Chiang Rai in the north
- Krabi for beaches and variety
Chiang Rai (trekking and local experiences)
I have already talked previously about Chiang Mai in the North for trekking and jungle excursions.
If you are looking for a more local experience then I suggest a trip to Chiang Rai instead.
I love Chiang Mai, however, it’s also true that sometimes you find yourself with more Western people than Thai people around. Yes, it’s so popular, besides being one of the Digital Nomads capitals.
Take a bus to Chang Rai and you will be immersed in a more local experience, as Chiang Mai used to be many many years ago.
From there organise your excursions besides enjoying lovely and genuine meals and coffees. Go to the Cat Cafe for a different experience and the Crêpe Corner for local food as well as a French treat.
Krabi (beaches and variety of things to do)
I have already mentioned Krabi a few times in this guide, and it’s again back. You can imagine how beautiful is this Province of Thailand and how much I love it.
For a lovely time with your partner, I suggest two areas close to Krabi town and a remote island for some romantic time. You can read also more on my guide to Krabi here.
Klong Muang is a small village on a 2km long quiet beach. This is a great location if you are after some easy time but still with a few restaurants to enjoy the night. The Bliss is a lovely boutique resort at a bargain price. Difficult to resist.
Check the price at the Bliss Resort
Ao Nang is a more lively spot where you will find a good nightlife, cafes, restaurants and plenty of action.
It can be noisy at night. I highly suggest booking your stay not to close to the town centre. The Cliff Beach Resort has all you need for a quiet stay, still close to the action. They cater particularly for adults.
Check availability at the Aonang Cliff
And if you want more isolation then take a boat to Koh Ngai, a paradise far away from the busy world. Book at the CoCo cottage for the most memorable time of your life.
Where to stay in Thailand for honeymoon
There are so many spectacular places to spend the honeymoon in Thailand.
I would personally suggest spending 2/3 nights in Bangkok and then head down to the Phi Phi Islands and more precisely to Phi Phi Don.
Phi Phi Islands (one of the most scenic places on earth)
As I already mentioned before, Phi Phi Don is an amazing place to see and experience.
There is enough nightlife to have a great meal, including sophisticated restaurants with more of a fusion cuisine style. Also plenty of cocktail bars and late-night places with live music.
Book your stay at the fabulous and dreamy Zeavola Resort, a secluded accommodation far from the crowd and the noise, with your private pool and beach, including also a romantic dining experience. Perfect for a honeymoon.
Check availability at the Zeavola
Organise an early bird boat trip to Phi Phi Leh island to visit the world-famous Maya Bay (“The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio) before the crowd arrives.
You will remember your days in Phi Phi forever, as it should be.
Where to stay in Thailand on a budget
One thing that you will notice straight away is that Thailand is so budget-friendly.
And it’s not just the price of the accommodation, but also the price for food, for travelling, for moving around locally and for drinks.
With $100/night you can stay in amazing resorts, sometimes you can have even your own villa with a private pool.
As a rule of thumb, the more famous is the destination the more expensive will be everything, sleeping and eating.
What is the cheapest area to travel to Thailand?
If you are on a very tight budget I would travel on the Inner East and the Isaan region. This is where I personally found the most economical prices.
I could live with $20-30/day, including sleeping, eating and drinking.
There are not many tourists around and sometimes the menus are only in the Thai language. Back to hands signal.
Moreover, the Inner East is one of the most interesting areas of Thailand, full of history, temples, ancient towns, unusual places and best of all, so genuine.
I followed the ancient Khmer Highway connecting Thailand to Angkor Wat in Cambodia and I was absolutely blown away.
Most budget-friendly island?
Koh Chang is probably one of the most economical islands to stay, together with Koh Lanta.
Rent a scooter and book a room 3-5km from town. Usually, you save quite a bit of money in that way.
What is the best area of Bangkok for the budget-conscious?
The Khao San neighbourhood usually offers the best price options in the capital.
My suggestion here is to avoid the hotels/hostels close to the main street; it’s very noisy.
The Canal Hostel is a great place to base yourself, close enough to the action but still in a very quiet part of the neighbourhood, right in front of a canal. Read more here for a backpackers stay in Bangkok.
Latest deal at the Canal Hostel
Where to stay in Thailand for Full Moon Party
The Full Moon Part runs for three nights during the full moon in Haad Rin on Koh Pha Ngan. You can see the future schedule on this Wiki page.
I loved my time in Koh Pha Ngan however it has to be said that precautions need to be taken.
Unfortunately, once people drink too much they start doing stupid things like smashing bottles on the beach, so walk with your shoes, just to be safe.
Do not buy drugs, including magic mushrooms. It’s not allowed in Thailand, not even cannabis. There is plenty of undercover police and you can be in jail in no time.
If you are there for dancing, having fun and a few drinks then it will be a fantastic experience. Just pure fun.
Book well in advance your stay as Haad Rin is fully packed during the Full Moon Party as well as NYE.
If you want to have a quiet sleep then stay far from the main beach where the main party is.
The Neptune’s Resort is a great place to stay, walking distance to the Fool Moon Party but still far enough to have a quiet sleep. It’s located on the other side of the little peninsula, with a lovely pool and facing the beach, which is a great plus. They offer also a complimentary breakfast