Top 10 most beautiful Thai beaches in the Gulf of Thailand

Top 10 Gulf beaches that offer beachfront accommodation

The beaches here in the Gulf of Thailand are radically different from those in the Andaman Sea, where Thailand also has another long, island-studded coast. And the number of amazing Thai beaches in each of these two oceans is so great that we have separated them into two Top 10 pages, one for Thailand’s top 10 most beautiful Andaman Sea Beaches , and this for beaches of the Gulf.

The lack of mainland beaches in this list (just one) may be noticed, particularly beaches high in the Gulf of Thailand, which are missing completely. This reflects some sad realities here: the most beautiful beaches are those on islands, where clearer water from the deep washes them with each tide; the beaches high in the Gulf are protected from monsoon waves, and are often narrow and not well formed. And critically, the upper regions of the Gulf of Thailand are laden with from the pollution carried down from the north and centre of the country by rivers.

The predominance of beaches on islands in the country's south is thus not surprising – though we have stretched our criteria hard to bring the widest possible variety to the list.

In view of the increasing presence of dangerous box jellyfish around the islands in the Gulf of Thailand, and the deaths of two tourists there in 2015, visitors to all Gulf beaches should learn of the potential dangers. Our page on the subject of deadly chironex box jellyfish in Thailand gives a full rundown on the dangers these nearly invisible jellyfish pose for swimmers.

Silavadee Beach, stunning but hidden beauty on Lamai point, Koh Samui

The most beautiful things in life can also be the most elusive. It's especially true about beautiful beaches on Koh Samui, where most visitors to the island never get to see so many of the finest beaches. Feast your eyes on this dazzling stretch of Samui sand, for your chances of ever seeing it in person are slim.

This snippet of tropical perfection is locked away at the end of the headland in north Lamai, where Silavadee Pool Spa Resort holds a commanding position. Guests of the resort have a delightful wooden stairway winding among the granite boulders down to the sand, plus an infinity pool that gazes right out over it.

The ends of the beach are dominated by huge granite boulders and the back of the beach by thick lines of coconut palms. The granite boulders in the middle are natural water features for swimmers to climb and dive from. With few people using the beach, it is surely one of the most striking and romantic spots on the island.

Remote Koh Kood’s remotest, unspoiled Ao Phrao Beach

Koh Kood is surely the remotest of all Thailand islands with true beachfront accommodations, and this beautiful, unspoiled beach at the far south end of the island is the farthest of its beaches to get to. Those who take the trouble to get here won’t be disappointed, if looking for tranquil beach perfection. The beach is set into a bay, called Ao Phrao , or Coconut Bay, that shelters it from all but the southwest monsoon wind and waves. The water is clear and reasonably deep, with a delightful sandy bottom stretching far out. It’s thus a great spot for fun in the water, and quite safe for children. There are three accommodation choices on this beach, all quite comfortable and pleasant. The two resorts right at the beachfront have spacious, grassy lawns and pleasant coconut groves that are delightful for relaxing in when the beach gets too hot.

Alternatively, those staying on other beaches on Koh Kood can easily reach this end of the island by motor scooter, the standard form of transport on this island of few cars and no public transport. The road is narrow, but sealed, and is a delightful drive through a mix of rubber plantations and primary forest.

Lamai Beach, famous beach that helped open Koh Samui is still beautiful

In the 1980s Lamai Beach was one of the most famous backpacker and hippie drop-out beaches in the world, drawing anti-establishment youth from around the world. The aroma of Thai Buddha sticks permeated the small bamboo and thatch huts and the surrounding coconut plantations. For many, Lamai's dazzling stretch of sand peppered with huge granite boulders and backed by a towering green mountain was close to heaven.

Happily for Lamai and its new breed of visitor, the beauty that seduced former generations has survived relatively intact – at least down on the beach. Every visitor here should climb the little hill of granite at Lamai's south end (by Grandfather & Grandmother rocks) to relax and absorb the grand vista of this beach; curving yellowish sand shadowed by coconut palms, turquoise water sloping into the deep; a towering mountain of green behind. The main difference in the view today is the number of people on the beach. The sand, water, overhanging coconuts and mountain backdrop remain almost unchanged. If we venture beyond the beach, however, into Lamai's new string of resorts, then into the tourism village behind that, the similarities with the old days end abruptly. There are no beautiful photos behind the beach.

A few small bungalows have survived in the north, but Lamai's south end has a string of modern 3-star resorts, with a couple looking very boutique, while one or two aspire for 4-star status. Progress has not spared Lamai, but it has been much kinder to this beach than it has to Lamai's northern sister, Chaweng, where tourist crowds and those who follow them are having a much greater impact.

Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach, Koh Phangan's quiet getaway with luxury resorts

Until a few years ago, the only way to get to Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach was by boat – and then bad weather might give you an enforced, extended holiday on a truly stunning, tropical beach. A trickle of people came. But now that a rough-cut road has been forced through the thick forest over Koh Phangan's huge mountain, it's a steady flow of visitors into the half dozen beachfront resorts here.

Happily, the view of this beach-in-a-bay has not changed radically, with the resorts building into the forest, and even enhancing that forest significantly with new plantings and regular watering. The photos here show that the foliage along and behind the beach has grown thicker in the years since the first photo was taken in 1994.

Thong Nai Phan Noi (and its sister beach, Thong Nai Phan Yai) has significant advantages over other beaches on this island. Because it faces northeast, it is subject to the brute force of the annual monsoon's beach-building waves. These have carved bay and beach deep into the mountain, giving it lots of fine sand and relatively deep water. Also, since the slopes of the mountain behind are too steep for agriculture, most of the forest has remained uncut, giving the beach its lush green background and lost-paradise look.

The beauty of Thong Nai Phan Noi has attracted three of Koh Phangan's most beautiful, up-market resorts; Panviman Koh Phangan , the first real resort in this area, Santhiya Resort (on the list of Top 10 romantic resorts in Thailand), and the trendy, beautifully designed Anantara Rasananda .

Srikantang Beach, peaceful hideaway near Koh Phangan's Full Moon Party

Going to the Full Moon Party? Trying to escape the noise of the Full Moon Party? Or just looking for a beautiful tropical beach when there's no party at all? This secretive little beach is just a short, 240 metre stroll from the sands of Koh Phangan's main party arena, but critically, a little hill between them creates a striking contrast; when Haad Rin is booming to the Full Moon, nearby Srikantang is a tranquil hideaway.

Srikantang Beach has two rather comfortable, upmarket resorts, not the typical party flophouses that young party revellers seek on nearby beaches. It is also within walking distance of the Haad Rin jetty and its quick connections to Koh Samui. With a flight Bangkok-Samui flight followed by a speedboat ride (leaving from Big Buddha Beach near the airport), this could become a delightful, quick beach escape.

As the photos show, this beach is natural and attractive, with the only negative being the same shallow water at low tide that is common to so many tropical beaches. An offshore reef backs the sand up to the low tide mark, and swimming is only good on high tide. The two comfortable accommodations here, Cocohut Beach Resort and Sarikantang Resort , are both 3-star with nice design, lots of space and greenery and relaxing beachfront areas.

Jansom Bay, tropical perfection secreted away on remote Koh Tao

Koh Tao has several beautiful little bays with beaches worthy of Top 10 listing, making it quite difficult to place one above the other. But the photos here, we think, show why Jansom Bay has an edge. The beach is small, and the water quite shallow, but with giant granite boulders and coconut palms framing the beach the result is a scene of postcard perfection.

At high tide this is a great swimming spot, while visitors find enough water to play around in at low water. Kayaking along the dramatic rocky shore is a favourite with many. Diving is also popular, and a pro dive shop operates from the beach.

One of the charms of this beach is the access – virtually everyone walks in along the beautiful walkway running at the back of Charm Churee resort, bobbing over granite and ducking below the thick, low canopy.

The beach is dominated by this one resort, Charm Churee Village , which wraps right around the beach and little headlands each side. Happily, it has kept most of its larger buildings like restaurant and reception well back in the forest and out of sight from the water. One restaurant and its hill-hugging rooms hang out over rocks and water, catching fabulous views. Built in wood, with thatch roofs, they blend in as well as one could hope for.

Thanote Bay, secretive beach, budget accommodation hiding on Koh Tao east

Thanote calls itself a Bay, however the sandy beach in the shallow coastal indentation is most prominent, and indeed quite outstanding. Two rocky headlands and the steep mountain behind lock the beach into a tight little world of its own, one that is quite difficult to come and go from. The rough track over the mountain requires a 4-wheel drive and lots of hanging on.

Thanote's 200 metre beach is the longest on Koh Tao's east coast, and among the widest and sandiest on this island. The water is deeper than that off most others, though the bottom is rather rocky too, and care must be taken at low tide. At high tide the island of rocks that protrudes in front is something of an invitation, drawing people to swim around and climb on.

Shade is a little lacking at the top of the beach, so the clump of trees growing right out of the sand at Diamond Resort's restaurant is a natural catchment area for overheated beach-lovers seeking cold drinks in the middle of the day. The friendliest atmosphere on the beach is found in family-run, Family Tanote Bungalows , which sits on the northern headland and enjoys great views of beach and rocky coast.

Klong Kloi Beach; Koh Chang's remotest, most romantic beach with resorts

Wish to escape the crowds? Travel further, head to the far south end of Koh Chang to find the little-known, tropical beauty that is Klong Kloi Beach . This adds nearly an hour to the five or six hour road trip from Bangkok to the island – and cuts down the crowds by many times too. The reward at the very end of the island's west coast road is one of its most beautiful beaches, the one with the finest 'tropical paradise' look, complete with coconut palms shading a soft sand beach.

The water is especially calm here, sheltered in a deep bay. Shallow water is the only drawback, as it is on so many tropical beaches in Thailand and worldwide. But the eastern end of Klong Kloi, at Aunchaleena Resort, offers some of the deepest water and best swimming conditions on Koh Chang.

Not surprisingly, this is an especially tranquil zone of the island. The little fishing port of Bang Bao is the only local community in the area, and is both within view and walking distance. This stilted, over-water community is a tourist attraction itself, and has several dive operators along jetty. Boats can be hired here for an island tour or snorkelling trip.

What else to do in Klong Kloi? Relax on the beach or in the water, take a massage in the shade and enjoy sunset in the few simple beach bars under the trees at the west end. Despite its relative remoteness, Klong Kloi has two interesting beachfront resorts. The stylish Chivapuri Resort offers Thai-style chalets in the forest behind the beach, and a nice swimming pool at the beachfront. But the surprise of Klong Kloi is the sprawling Aunchaleena Beachfront Resort , looking like a theme park with its huge ship-shape accommodation building plus wooden barges converted to over-water villas. Guests are offered bicycles just to move about the resort's vast grounds.

Ao Phrao Beach; alone, watching the sunset on Koh Samet's west coast

Including Ao Prao Beach in a Top 10 beauty contest is a little controversial at the time of writing, November 2013. Just four months ago the beach was black, with labels like 'paradise lost' appearing in the press and Thais across the country lamenting the loss of one of their most beautiful stretches of sand. The beach had literally been turned black by an oil spill from a ruptured undersea pipeline.

The national outrage brought thousands of volunteers to Ao Prao. White protective suits swarmed over the beach, with volunteers eventually fine-combing the beach with teaspoons, removing even the tiniest specks of black from the sand. By September a Bangkok Post reporter on a press inspection trip reported seeing no trace of oil on the beach, and no tiny specks of black till they began serious hunting along rocky shores.

Ao Prao is the only Koh Samet beach facing the sunset, and the three resorts here capitalizes on this by setting up beach bars in the sand for guests to relax and watch the daily event. It's a great family beach, and the three resorts here, are so well hidden in the forest that they are hardly visible from a boat. Ao Prao Resort , at the far end of the beach, has a beachside restaurant completely integrated with the trees. Lima Coco Resort looks as funky as its name, and runs up the side of the hill Le Vimarn Cottages is perhaps the classiest-looking resort here, with fine design, nice gardens and a boutique feel to it.

More than one of Koh Samet's most beautiful beaches, Ao Prao now stands as a proud success story for the country. It created a milestone in rallying a massive public defence of the environment, and, perhaps for the first time ever in Thailand, wide recognition that their beaches are valuable national treasures.

Khao Takiab Beach South, hiding behind Hua Hin's famous temple mountain

Not soft white sand, and not the dazzling black, volcanic stuff from Bali, Khao Takiab Beach South has fine brown sand, and it's mostly hard. And yet we add it to the list of most beautiful beaches in the Gulf of Thailand. For variety, yes, but also because this beach has a unique appeal of its own that many visitors appreciate. Further, this is one of the very few beaches high in the Gulf of Thailand and closer to Bangkok that can be considered for the 'most beautiful' list.

Khao Takiab is a perfect example of how neatly Mother Nature arranges her house. On the other side of the rocky headland called Khao Takiab (chopstick mountain) she keeps all of her soft white sand. On this side it's all her harder, brown stuff. The beaches on either side of the monster beach rock that marks the southern end of Hua Hin could hardly be more different.

The fine brown sand is sufficiently hard-packed to allow bicycling and sand sailing, while running is also easier than on a soft-sand beach. But brown sand is in limited supply, and runs out quite abruptly after about a kilometre. Thereafter, the sand quickly changes colour, returning to the classic white. Foreign visitors can be seen bicycling, jogging and sand sailing here.

There is one attractive beachfront resort here, Anantasila by the Sea , and a cheaper high-rise hotel that does little for the aesthetics of the beach.

by John Everingham

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