Where to stay in Thailand for couples and beaches
My first trip to this beautiful country was over 25 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 experience and when to go there.
There is no much point in 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.
This guide will help you choose the right places to visit at the right time. Moreover, it will help choose your spot based on the type of vacation as a couple travelling for beaches, a city experience, a cultural trip or some trekking.
And lastly I have built 3 quick tables with possible itineraries for couples, for beaches and for families.
But let’s get deeper into it
Table of Contents
- 1 15 Best areas to stay in Thailand for couples and beaches
- 2 Stay in Bangkok for a vibrant experience
- 3 Ayutthaya – The former capital of the Siam Kingdom
- 4 Pattaya – The best place to stay in Thailand for nightlife
- 5 Stay in Krabi for Adventure and Beach life
- 6 Stay in Phuket for a luxurious experience
- 7 Phi Phi Islands – one of the most scenic places in Thailand
- 8 Stay in Koh Samui to relax
- 9 Stay in Koh Phangan for the famous Full Moon Party
- 10 Koh Tao – Best island to stay in Thailand for diving and snorkelling
- 11 Koh Chang – spectacular and still not that busy
- 12 Koh Ngai and Koh Mak – for a remote romantic getaway experience)
- 13 Stay in Chiang Mai for the best trekking
- 14 Chiang Rai – Best area for a remote experience
- 15 Isan Region – The unexplored area of Thailand
15 Best areas to stay in Thailand for couples and beaches
It’s hard, if not impossible, to identify a unique best area to stay in Thailand.
On a first-time trip, I would definitely add Bangkok, a vibrant capital that should not be missed.
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 about 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.
I have created a map (see above) with the best areas to stay based on the type of holiday you are planning to have. I circled in blue the beach destinations, in red the cities, in Green the trekking areas and in gold the cultural/historic must-visits.
Below is a table that compares the 15 best destinations in Thailand. There are so many places I would love to add but I wanted to keep this guide sort of short. I will write another with the hidden gems of Thailand. Click on the Destination for a more detailed description.
|Safety and Cleanliness
|Vibrant culture, shopping, nightlife
|Modern with historical pockets
|Ancient ruins, less crowded
|Water sports, nightlife
|Touristy with some culture
|Stunning beaches, water activities
|Can be expensive
|Natural beauty with cliffs
|Luxury resorts, beaches
|Touristy but scenic
|Phi Phi Islands
|Stunning beaches, nightlife
|Beautiful beaches, relaxed atmosphere
|Less cultural activities
|Koh Pha Ngan
|Full Moon Party
|Full moon parties, beaches
|Crowded during full moon
|Excellent diving spots, less crowded
|Limited other activities
|Jungle treks, less crowded
|Natural and less developed
|Koh Ngai & Koh Mak
|Secluded beaches, relaxation
|Secluded and natural
|Temples, mountains, culture
|Far from beaches
|Cultural and historical
|Less touristy, natural beauty
|Natural and historical
|Authentic Thai culture, less crowded
|Limited tourist facilities
|Authentic and rural
Here below are 3 quick tables for possible 2-week itineraries in Thailand for couples, beaches and families
Itinerary with the Best places to stay in Thailand for Couples
|City exploration, romantic dinners, river cruise
|Temples, cultural activities, couples spa
|Beaches, island hopping, romantic sunset
|Cliff Beach Resort
|Phi Phi Islands
|Secluded beaches, snorkeling, quality time
Itinerary with the Best places to stay in Thailand for Beaches
|Beaches, water sports
|Koh Phi Phi
|Island hopping, snorkelling
|More beaches, water activities
|Cliff Beach Resort
|Diving, secluded beaches
|Assava Dive Resort
Itinerary with the Best places to stay in Thailand for Families
|City exploration, family activities like parks and museums
|Hotel Terminal 21
|Historical sites, easy day trips
|Baan Thai House
|Elephant sanctuary, cultural activities, ziplining
|Beaches, family activities
|Banana Fan Sea Resort
Are you still wondering if Thailand or Vietnam is a better choice for you? Here is my full comparison based on 25 points.
Stay in Bangkok for a vibrant experience
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 to book at least 2 full days in the capital city 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 the best areas to stay in Bangkok that I would highly suggest reading. It compares the 6 best neighbourhoods (including the famous Khao San Road) with tips on places to visit, things to experience and hotels to stay
Here below two of my favourite hotels to stay in Bangkok
The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21 is located in the handy Sukhumvit Area (city center), steps away from the BTS Metro station and with direct access to Terminal 21, one of the biggest shopping centres in Bangkok. Great service as expected and a fabulous swimming pool with a view of the city.
The Peninsula Bangkok is one of the most amazing places to stay in Bangkok and surely the most romantic of all options. A fantastic stay close to the Chao Phraya River, you will feel like a celebrity with a view of the water and the city skyline.
Check out the 50 Best locations in Bangkok for photography
Ayutthaya – The former capital of the Siam Kingdom
I am not sure if I would define myself as a history buff, however, I do love reading and discovering the past and recent history of any country I visit, and Ayutthaya is certainly the place to visit to understand the evolution of Thailand.
Ayutthaya was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom from 1350 until it was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767.
It is located just an hour’s drive from Bangkok, so it can be visited both as a day trip from the capital or with a 2-3 night stay, which is my favourite way to really enjoy this beautiful old city.
Ayutthaya is easily accessible by train or bus. For a more romantic trip, you can also think of taking the boat along the Chao Phraya River, which takes longer but you are going to enjoy every single minute of the trip with spectacular and unique views.
The city is filled with grand ruins and temples, such as Wat Phra Si Sanphet and Wat Mahathat, where you can see the iconic Buddha head entwined in tree roots. You can visit all with a tour operator or just by renting a bike and hopping between the nearby attractions in the Historic Park.
I have actually written a full guide to Ayutthaya with 50 things to do and places to visit, including a few hidden gems.
Baan Thai House was the accommodation I choose to stay on my first trip to the Old Capital and still, my favourite place to stay in Ayutthaya. It’s located near the train station with a beautiful garden and a small lake. Friendly staff (as usual in Thailand) and quiet hotel. The small swimming pool is great for a break in the hottest part of the day.
If Ban Thai House is already booked out I would suggest Baan Luang Harn, another great accommodation in Thailand. I stayed there only for 1 night and I was really impressed. It is actually better located than the previously suggested accommodation.
Pattaya – The best place to stay in Thailand for nightlife
Let me be honest with you, Pattaya is not one of my favourite places in Thailand. The beach is not that great, especially considering the spectacular beaches all around the country.
The character of Pattaya is also not amazing, quite modern, with a chaotic town layout and not very inspiring. Far from any other place suggested in this guide.
There are however two things that may lead you here. First, Pattaya is the closest beach town to Bangkok and to its International Airport, connected by direct buses. Very easy access.
Secondly, you are just after a never-ending nightlife, till the early or late hours of the morning, between bars and clubs. There are plenty of options in Pattaya.
The Amethyst Hotel is one of the best value hotels in town, with a modern interior and a great infinity pool overlooking Pattaya where you can have a drink at sunset time.
Stay in Krabi for Adventure and Beach life
Krabi is one of my favourite destinations on the coast of Thailand. It is a very popular place to visit, therefore you will share it with many other tourists, but still, it’s so amazing.
Krabi has a great beach (some of the best in Thailand), 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).
It’s the perfect destination that caters to everyone, you either want to have a chilled-out holiday sunbathing or a trip full of action activities.
Moreover, it works for any age, you are either on a solo trip, with your partner or with family and kids.
I have written a full guide on the Krabi Province where you can read about the 7 top places and a hidden gem. A couple of spots are reachable only by boat which makes the entire trip so unique.
The Cliff Beach Resort is one of the best accommodations in Ao Nang, the most popular destination in the Krabi Province. The hotel works so well for couples (check out the infinity pool). It is right in the middle of the action however very quiet once inside, and just steps away from the beach. The service and breakfast are amazing.
The Avatar Railay Resort is one of the best value places in all of Krabi. Located on Railay Beach next to the best free climbing spots in the region. The hotel offers a private pool that you can access directly from your bedroom. It’s a boutique accommodation without the price tag.
Just a reminder that in Thailand, September and October tend to be rainy, no matter which island, coast or beach you choose. That’s usually the wettest time of the monsoon season
Stay in Phuket for a luxurious experience
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, mostly on the lux side of the budget.
Although you can find beautiful hotels in most of Thailand, Phuket is notorious for its boutique and luxurious accommodations which make the island the ultimate destination for a lavish holiday.
Phuket is the biggest island in Thailand, almost three times the size of Koh Samui, the second largest. There are a few beaches and destinations of which Patong is the main seaside town, famous for its nightlife, meanwhile, Kata Beach is more for a quieter stay with family or as a couple.
The Paresa Resort is an amazing accommodation with an infinity pool on the Andaman Sea. Most of the rooms/units have sea views as well as the gym room and the breakfast/dinner patio. This is one of the best hotels in Thailand, perfect for a unique experience.
The best time to stay in Phuket is between late November and early April.
Phi Phi Islands – one of the most scenic places in Thailand
The Phi Phi are some of the most beautiful islands in Thailand, and probably in Asia too.
Phi Phi is actually a group of islands, of which 2 big ones, Phi Phi Leh and Phi Phi Don, and six smaller ones.
Maya Bay, the popular location of the movie “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio, is on Phi Phi Leh. You can only visit it during the day, but there are no places to stay at night.
Being a popular location, the beach can get really busy, especially after 10 am. To avoid the crowd, go early in the morning by renting a private boat.
Phi Phi Don has 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.
It gets busy, but you can find quieter spots if you book your accommodation early enough. It’s a bit pricey but totally worth visiting, especially for honeymooners.
Phi Phi Don is easily reachable from either Phuket or Krabi Town.
Book your stay at the fabulous and dreamy Zeavola Resort, a secluded accommodation far from the crowd and the noise, with your lounge area, a private pool, a private beach, and the possibility of a super romantic dining experience. Perfect for a honeymoon.
The Phi Phi Islands are technically part of the Krabi Province. You can read more information in my full guide to the destination.
Stay in Koh Samui to relax
I made my first trip to this island over 20 years ago when I was wondering if Phuket or Koh Samui was a better choice for my first trip to Thailand. I remember the streets in Chaweng Beach, the top destination on the island, still unsealed, in fact, most of the roads on 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 that 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 with direct flights).
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, at this time of the year, Koh Samui is still the island in Thailand with the best weather (or least rain), on average.
Chaweng Beach is the main destination on the island, with plenty of bars and late-night places, great if you are looking also for some nightlife.
The rest of the island is very quiet, perfect for a chilled-out and relaxed holiday. Lamai is the second most famous beach on the island, also so amazing and dreamy. The village is very peaceful, perfect for couples looking for a romantic time.
Lipa Noi Beach, on the west coast, is the perfect place if you are travelling with kids thanks to its shallow water. Bophut is another lovely relaxed beach with plenty of options for food and coffee.
The Banana Fan Sea Resort is the perfect place to be close to the action but still far enough to have a quiet night. The outdoor swimming pool is great and the breakfast is complimentary which is a great bonus.
The Summer Inn is a great clean budget hotel that works so well on a backpacker trip. Location is just perfect, right in front of Lamai Beach
Stay in Koh Phangan for the famous Full Moon Party
Koh Pha Ngan is today world famous for its Full Moon Party, which runs for three nights during the full moon in Haad Rin Town.
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 your accommodation well in advance because Haad Rin Town is usually 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 party is.
The Neptune’s Resort is a great place to stay, within 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
Koh Tao – Best island to stay in Thailand 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 the point that Koh Tao gets almost empty once the boats are all out in the early morning.
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 is my favourite.
The Assava Dive Resort is one of the best places to stay in Koh Tao for scuba diving. Located in a boutique bay, in the south of the island, has a connected diving centre which is so handy, besides having lovely people working there. I actually want to go back with my little kid who is now turning 10 and he can take the exam for Open Water.
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 visitors in Koh Chang, far from that, but still, it’s not that super busy.
To arrive on 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 effort, well worthy I may add.
There are many beaches to book your accommodation in, however, my favourite is Lonely Beach, right on the southwest coast.
The island has a good amount of restaurants, cool cafes, and live music venues, but it has not much of a crazy nightlife or partying till the early hours of the morning.
Here are 2 of the best accommodations by Lonely Beach:
Paradise Cottage ($): A bit of a hostel, a bit of a hotel. Central location, cozy rooms, friendly staff, and delightful breakfast.
Nest Sense Resort ($$-$$$): Picturesque views, attentive staff, and comfortable rooms. Dining options may be a bit pricey, but overall, a delightful stay with breathtaking surroundings
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 a 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 reachable from Koh Chang with a boat trip from the fishing village of Bang Bao.
Koh Ngai is instead in the Krabi Province, in the southern part and it’s more easily accessible, either from the mainland (Pakmeng Town), from Koh Lanta or even from Phuket.
Stay in Chiang Mai for the best trekking
Chiang Mai is one of the best places to stay in Thailand for trekking. There are so many options around. Surely you will not get bored.
Book (well in advance) a 2 or 3-day trek for a stay in the jungle where you will have the possibility to explore a different Thailand, sleeping in the remote villages. I had a fantastic time on my trip, so close to nature and so close to the locals for such a genuine experience.
Water rafting, mostly done on bamboo boats, is also good fun. You will be offered also elephant riding, which I personally discourage. It’s heartbreaking to see sometimes how they treat these animals. Of course, there are good and bad operators, like in any job.
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 Fahtara Coffee, a 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.
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 to the day.
Chiang Rai – Best area for a remote experience
I love Chang Mai, I personally had such a great time, however, if you are looking for a more local experience then I suggest a trip to Chiang Rai instead.
Nestled in northern Thailand, this city is a gateway to the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar share the border. In Chiang Rai, you will find a more tranquil atmosphere for a genuine Thai experience
The city is home to some of Thailand’s most unique Buddhist temples, like the ethereal White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) and the contrasting Black House (Baan Dam).
Similarly to Chiang Mai, also in Chiang Rai, you will find plenty of opportunities for trekking, visiting hill tribes, and even exploring tea plantations. The Mekong River adds a touch of adventure, offering boat trips and stunning views.
Isan Region – The unexplored area of Thailand
If you’re looking to step off the beaten path, the Isan region in northeastern Thailand is your go-to destination. This area is often overlooked by travellers, which makes it a hidden gem for those who want to see a different, more traditional side of Thailand.
A few years ago, before the pandemic, I rented a car in Bangkok with the idea of driving to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. My itinerary went through the Isan Region and in true honesty it ended up as one of my best trips to Thailand.
It’s such a genuine region. Sure, you won’t find many fancy restaurants or big shopping malls, but the local food is a must-try. Think ultra spicy salads, grilled meats, and sticky rice.
You can read more about this trip in my post on driving from Thailand to Cambodia, a true adventure through the Monkey Temple in Lopburi, the Prasat Muang Tam Sanctuary, the Phimai Historical Park and the secret Ta Moan temple in the Thailand-Cambodia border