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In 2012, TripAdvisor members voted for the top 10 best beaches in Thailand. While TA published some nice photos of these beaches and some hotel links, they didn’t (in my opinion) offer enough information to help travellers make a real decision about which beaches to include on their itineraries. So we’re happy to do it for them. Here’s our take on the 10 best beaches in Thailand … and then some! We’ve also tried to include some hotel and guest house suggestions where we can to help you plan your visit to these beaches.

Here’s the Top 10 best beaches in Thailand as voted by TripAdvisor members:

Here’s the Top 10 best beaches in Thailand on a map:

10 – Nai Yang Beach, Phuket

Na Yang Beach, Phuket
At Number 10, Nai Yang Beach, Phuket

At #10 on the Top 10 beaches in Thailand is Nai Yang Beach, located in Sirinat National Park just 5 minutes south of Phuket Airport in Southern Thailand. Nai Yang’s white sand beaches do accumulate a bit of rubbish from the tides, but the calm waters make it a great place to have a quiet swim or sun bake on the beach. Just above Nai Yang Beach you’ll find possibly the best Pad Thai in Thailand! What’s really nice about Nai Yang Beach is that it’s so close to one of Thailand’s most popular resort locations (Phuket) but it seems like it’s in the middle of nowhere without a high-rise hotel in sight. But watch out for the sea lice which will give you a nip at certain times of the year.

Check out the best hotels close to Nai Yang Beach, Phuket.

9 – Salad Beach, Ko Phang’an

Salad Beach, Koh Phangan
At Number 9, Salad Beach on Koh Phang’an Island

At #9 on the Top 10 beaches in Thailand is Had Salaad, or Salad Beach. If you’re not familiar with Koh Phang’an, you’re probably over 40! This is the party island of Thailand, famous for the Full Moon Party that attracts young travellers every month. Koh Phang’an is located just north of Koh Samui island on the opposite side of the peninsula from Phuket. Salad Beach, or Had Salad, is famous for its crystal clear water and its fabulous soft white sand. Salad Beach is contained inside a sweeping bay that makes it a great sheltered swimming and snorkelling spot. There are a few laid back bars and cosy restaurants nearby, but no so many as to spoil this pristine location. Try the local lemon shakes for a refreshing swim after visiting Salad Beach.

Check out the best hotels near Salad Beach on Koh Phang’an.

8 – Freedom Beach, Patong

Freedom Beach, Patong
At Number 8, Freedom Beach in Patong, Phuket

At #8 on the Top 10 beaches in Thailand is Freedom Beach, a 10 minute ride from Patong Beach in Phuket by long-tail boat and a whole world away from the madness of Phuket. Freedom Beach is generally only accessible from the sea which makes it a pretty isolated and exclusive place to swim, snorkel and work on your sun tan. The long-tail boat ride from Patong takes about 30 minutes and costs 1000-1500 Bt (after haggling). You still have to pay a beach fee of 100 Bt per person on arrival or 150 Bt if you want a towel, a beach mat and some shade.

If you happen to have hired a scooter in Phuket, you can also ride to Freedom Beach from the southern end of Patong past the Avista Hideaway Resort, then up a dirt track to the beach. It’s not an easy ride, but it’s worthwhile. At the end of the track you’ll find a hand-painted sign and a 100 Bt entry fee. It’s still a 10 minute walk to the beach from here so be prepared and take some water to drink!

The scenery around Freedom Beach is just breath-taking and there are some amazing coral reefs quite close to the beach that make it a delight for snorkelling. There’s pretty much nothing on Freedom Beach – no bars or restaurants, no-one pestering you for massages or postcards, no beach lounges to rent, just a beach, some sun and the amazing views. There is a small shack where you can buy a cold drink and a snack, but not much more.

Check out the best hotels near Freedom Beach in Patong, Phuket.

7 – Kamala Beach, Phuket

Kamala Beach, Phuket
At Number 7, Kamala Beach in Phuket

At #7 on the Top 10 beaches in Thailand, Kamala Beach is situated between Phuket and Patong and is just 15 minutes north of Patong Beach but a world away. Unlike Patong, Kamala Beach is clean and neat and fairly quiet, but still has all the facilities that make it a great beach destination in its own right. There are lots of great little bars and restaurants close to the beach and you can hire a jet ski or go para-sailing right on the beach. You can hire a sun bed on Kamala Beach for abour 400 Bt and just soak up the amazing views or have breakfast on the beach. The best part of the beach is up near the older German guest house where the water in much cleaner.

Check out the best hotels near Kamala Beach in Phuket.

6 – Long Beach, Ko Lanta

Long Beach Koh Lanta
At Number 6, Long Beach on Koh Lanta Island

At #6 on the Top 10 beaches in Thailand is Long Beach on the north-west side of Koh Lanta island, near Sala Dan. Facing out into the Andaman Sea, Long Beach has about 3 km of soft white sand that sometimes gets spoiled by rubbish washing up on the high tide. The beach is lined with pine trees that provide nice shade in the heat of the day and you’ll even find the locals coming down for a swim in the afternoon. There’s no water sports to disturb your peace on Long Beach but there are plenty of good local bars and restaurants nearby as well as a couple of places that serve food right on the beach.

Check out the best hotels near Long Beach on Koh Lanta.

5 – Lamai Beach, Ko Samui

Lamai Beach, Koh Samui
At Number 5, Lamai Beach on Koh Samui Island

At #5 on the Top 10 beaches in Thailand is Lamai Beach on the south-eastern side of beautiful Koh Samui island and south of the more popular Chaweng Beach area. Just getting to Lamai from Chaweng is a beautiful ride down winding beach-side roads with stunning views. The beach itself is a bit steeper than Chaweng but that gives the water a much deeper blue hue that makes it a great beach for snorkelling and diving. The deeper water itself is also a bit cooler than other beaches on Koh Samui, so more refreshing for swimming. But Lamai Beach is a popular place for water skiing, jet skis and other water sports, so it can get a bit noisy. The hawkers operating on the beach can also be a little annoying when you first arrive.

Check out the best hotels near Lamai Beach on Koh Samui.

4 – Kata Beach, Phuket

Kata Beach, Phuket
At Number 4, Kata Beach in Phuket

At #4 on the Top 10 beaches in Thailand, Kata Beach is really two beaches for the price of one – Kata Yai and Kata Noi and they are situated about 10 minutes walk from each other near Patong, but a world away from the usual crowded beaches of Patong and Phuket.

Check out the best hotels near Kata Beach in Phuket.

3 – Nai Harn Beach, Karon

Nai Harn Beach, Karon
At Number 3, Nai Harn Beach in Karon, Phuket

At #3 on the Top 10 beaches in Thailand, Nai Harn Beach near Phuket is not only popular with foreign tourists – the Thai locals also love it and are frequent visitors. For this reason it’s often a lot busier on the weekends when the Thais can get away from work. The major attractions on Nai Harn are the crystal clear water, sparkling white sand and the small stream that flows from a freshwater lagoon in the neck of the peninsular across the beach and into the sea, which is a favourite spot for Thai children to play.

Access to Nai Harn Beach is from Patong Beach, about 20 minutes away by taxi or tuk-tuk. The water here is a very balmy 29 degrees C all year round and the water is very calm from November through to May (at other times you may find swells and rips that make the beach a little less pleasant).

There are only a handful of places to stay that are really close to Nai Harn Beach. The most luxurious (and grand sounding) of these is the Royal Phuket Yacht Club, a five star hotel located right on the beach and with rooms from around $100 a night. The hotel has a very nice private beach and a popular restaurant, but there are also lots of eating places within a five minute walk. It’s designed so that the rooms and facilities blend right into the landscape for a perfect indoor-outdoor experience. You’d hardly know you were in frantic Phuket.

Check out the best hotels near Nai Harn Beach in Karon, Phuket.

2 – Phra Nang Beach, Ao Nang

Phra Nang Beach, Ao Nang
At Number 2, Phra Nang Beach near Ao Nang, Krabi

It’s a tight race between our final two contenders, with Phra Nang Beach being pipped for first place by a very narrow margin. If you prefer soft sand and crystal clear water, either Phran Nang Beach or Railay Beach next door will tick all your boxes, but if you also like some spectacular limestone caves to explore and shallow blue water to snorkel in, Phra Nang is the place to be.

Phra Nang Beach is only accessible by boat. You can’t walk here from the nearby resorts or get in by road from Krabi. This makes it a very private beach and rarely troubled by crowds. You can get in by speedboat from Krabi or you can stay at the nearby Rayavadee Hotel and use their shuttle boat. Explore the gorgeous Princess Cave (Phra Nang Nok) which is sometimes an overnight camp site for local fishermen.

Access to Phra Nang Beach is via Krabi Town which has its own small domestic and international airport.

The absolute closest hotel to Phra Nang Beach is the Rayavadee Resort, a five-star luxury resort that sits in the centre of a triangle of coastline featuring the three most scenic beaches in Krabi. It’s not cheap, at over $550 per room, but it is a memorable place to stay. It’s location is just 200 metres from the spectacular Phra Nang Beach and Phra Nang Cave and just 700 metres from Railay Beach. The location on Phra Nang Peninsula is just stunning and the scenery here is something you won’t forget in a hurry.

Check out the best hotels near Phra Nang Beach in Ao Nang, Krabi.

1 – Railay Beach, Ao Nang

Railay Beach, Ao Nang
At Number 1, Railay Beach near Ao Nang, Krabi

There are really no superlatives that do Railay Beach real justice. The beach properly known as East Railay (sometimes called East Rai Le) is one of the most beautiful scenic spots in the entire world and also one of the most inaccessible, at least by road. If you happen to end up at West Railay by mistake, you might find the mosquito infested mangroves and mudflats something of a disappointment.

If you happen to be able to get over the awesome spectacle of the soft sandy beaches and jungle-clad limestone outcrops, there’s actually some good snorkelling and diving to be had off Railay Beach as well as some interesting kayak tours and speed boat tours. Nearby Koh Poda gets a lot of very positive comments from visitors.

Access to Railay Beach is via Krabi Town which has its own small domestic and international airport. Although Railay is close to Krabi and Ao Nang beach on the mainland, you can really only get to Railay Bay by boat because it’s on a narrow neck of land and both ends of the beach are cut off by huge limestone cliffs. There are a few humble guest houses here but not much in the way of resort hotels, so if you like to stay in luxury you may only get to do it as a day trip.

The closest hotel is the Railay Bay Resort and Spa, a four-star resort that straddles the neck of the Phra Nang Peninsula and runs down almost onto Railay Beach itself and the beach views are pretty spectacular if you get the right room. With rooms from around $100 a night it’s a lot more affordable and accessible to ordinary humans. It also has better access to the local restaurants and cafes so you’re not locked into eating in the resort itself.

Check out the best hotels near Railay Beach in Ao Nang, Krabi.

Other great beaches in Thailand

Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi Lei

This was the location for Leonardo DiCaprio’s blockbuster movie, The Beach, and it’s every bit as stunning in real life as it appears in the movie. Because it’s sheltered by a ring of limestone mountains, Maya Bay is incredibly still most of the time and great for snorkelling or diving, but it is crowded most of the time. The white sand beach is very picturesque and also very popular with day-trippers who just have to have their picture taken where Leonardo once stood. There are some good hotels and resorts close to Maya Bay.

Hua Hin Beach, Hua Hin

A low, flat beach that slopes into the Gulf of Thailand, Hua Hin is just two hours away from Bangkok and is one of the easiest, most accessible beaches to get to if you’re on a Bangkok stop-over. Hua Hin is a great beach for families with children. See our Hua Hin destination guide for more information.

Patong Beach, Phuket

Although I am not a big fan of Patong or Phuket, Patong Beach is one of those places you have to see if you want to be able to say you’ve “done Thailand” and you can’t ignore the fact that 4 of the Top 10 best beaches in Thailand are close to Patong and Phuket! At 3.5 kilometres long, it’s one of the longest beaches in Thailand and also one of the most well catered with heaps of nightclubs, beach bars, massage stations, go go bars and anything else you could possibly want while soaking up the sun and the sand. See our Phuket destination guide for more information.

Sunrise Beach, Ko Lipe

One of two stunning beaches on Ko Lipe island (the other being Pattaya Beach) which was itself named “the perfect beach” and one of the world’s top beach locations by National Geographic in 2012. The coral reefs off Sunrise Beach are part of Tarutao National Park and a great place to snorkel or dive, with 25% of the world’s tropical fish species represented here. There are some very nice resorts and hotels on Ko Lipe.

Have you recently visited a beach in Thailand? What did you think? Was it as good as you expected? Please let us know in the comments below.