THE BLOG
11/13/2013 08:58 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

10 Islands for a Perfect Trip to Thailand

After Bangkok edged out London as 2013's most-visited city, Thailand has finally gained global recognition for what seasoned travelers have known all along: it's one of the most magical and affordable destinations on Earth. While the mountains, temples, and incomparable markets of the mainland shouldn't be missed, no trip to Thailand would be complete without spending a few sunny days in the Thai islands sipping coconut milk in the sand and strapping on the snorkel gear.

Thailand, however, has literally hundreds of islands, many of which are off the beaten path or overrun by sun-and-fun tourist complexes. To help out, we've gone through the recommendations of over 900,000 real travelers on minube to find the most essential islands for your next vacation in Thailand. From rowdy resorts to pristine natural parks, here are the top 10 islands for a perfect trip to Thailand.

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Ko Poda - The dreamy island of Ko Poda is roundly considered to be the best day-trip from Krabi, the starting point for many travelers visiting the Thai islands. The journey begins with a one-hour longtail boat trip across clear blue waters dotted with the Thailand's trademark karsts jutting into the sky. Once you arrive, you'll be greeted with reefs full of fish beckoning you to dive on in and untouched white-sand beaches for warming up in the sun. In short, Ko Poda is the perfect place to disconnect from the tourist trail in Krabi. (Photo by Naxos)

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Mu Ko Ang Thong Natural Park - This marine park is made up over 40 islands and has some of the best landscapes and snorkeling to be found anywhere in Thailand. While there are a few scattered hotels and restaurants in the park, your best bet is to find cheap lodging in nearby Ko Samui and explore the park during a day-trip. How better to send the morning than kayaking through hidden lagoons, munching on barbecue on a desert island, and sprawling out on a virgin beach miles from civilization? (Photo by Jean-Louis Gericke)

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Ko Tao - Ko Tao is probably best known for Ko Nangyuan, a very popular and picture-perfect group of islands 15 min. from Ko Tao that are connected by strips of powdery white sand. While Nangyuan definitely merits a visit, many travelers suggest renting a scooter and heading to the unexplored eastern side of the island where intrepid travelers can rent a humble bungalow on an empty paradisaical beach for as little as $20 a night. (Photo by Anthony Fau)

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Phi Phi Lee - Ah...the Phi Phi Islands, a name synonymous with honeymoon trips and a classic Thai destinations for everyone from college backpackers to jet-setting celebrities. While most of the action happens on the large island, Phi Phi Don, many travelers recommend heading to the smaller sibling, Phi Phi Lee, whose unique circle of jagged green karsts conceals the calm turquoise Pileh Lagoon made famous in the movie The Beach. (Photo by Miguel A. Cartagena)

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Ko Chang - As one traveler put it, "Ko Chang has a split personality." The island's western half is a busy nest of tours, shops, and nightclubs, but travelers seeking a get away from it all will undoubtedly be drawn to the virgin beaches to the east. Case in point: Zion Beach. This idyllic beach requires a scooter trip and a somewhat lengthy hike, but once you arrive you'll find a tropical paradise where entire days can be spent collecting sea shells, kayaking in the shallow blue water, and perhaps taking a snooze in one of the few bungalows hidden in the shade of the coconut trees. (Photo by Chiara Basso)

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Ko Kai - Ko Kai ("Chicken Island," in reference to the island's trademark rock formation) is part of the Poda Islands near Krabi, and is another top day-trip destination. It's connected to Ko Poda via a narrow sand bar and while its thick jungles and imposing cliffs might not offer the most welcoming face, rest assured that it's home to some of the cleanest virgin beaches in the area and has vibrant marine life which has attracted divers the world over. (Photo by Naxos)

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Ko Pha Ngan - If all the virgin beaches and quiet bungalows have you feeling restless, Ko Pha Ngan might be right up your alley. Ko Pha Ngan is most famous for hosting the legendary Full Moon Parties, massive alcohol-fuelled beach parties that have become a thing of backpacker revelry lore. Debauchery aside, Ko Pha Ngan does have its fair share of quiet, peaceful corners ranging from isolated beaches to surprisingly affordable luxury resorts (50$ a night!) with private beaches and infinity pools. (Photo by ViagensLacoste)

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Ko Kut - Ko Kut is one of the lesser-known Thai islands and is a place to consider if you're looking to really escape from the world for a few days. The island is only accessible via a ferry from Trat and is home to a few scattered and quiet resorts which travelers say are absolutely empty during summertime. While visiting Thailand in August might mean a few extra hours of rain during your stay, there'll still be plenty of sun for lounging on the beach and you'll be able to have picture-perfect beaches like Bang Bao Bay (pictured above) practically to yourself. (Photo by Miguel A. Cartagena)

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Ko Samui - Ko Samui is the biggest player on Thailand's beach-tourism scene with over 1.5 million visitors a year, outstripping even Phuket as the undisputed king of the Thai islands. Ko Samui owes its fame to a mix of affordable family-friendly resorts, clean white-sand beaches, jungle waterfalls, and a generally laid-back island vibe that offers visitors a taste of everything. If you're into sipping cold Mai Tais to the thump of reggae, you'll find plenty of accommodating beach bars, but if you're looking for your own secluded island paradise, numerous hidden coves and undeveloped beaches are only a breezy bike ride away (Photo by ViagensLacoste)

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Ko Phayam - Finally, many travelers recommend the small, quiet island Ko Phayam if you're looking to experience "the good life." You know what we mean: munching on freshly-grilled fish or pad thai in a sand-floored beach hut before sprawling out on a sunny bay or resting up in a wooden bungalow to the sound of the palm trees rustling in the breeze. There are also several villages belonging to the famous sea-gypsies of southern Thailand which you can visit after a hike through a landscape of jungles, waterfalls, and hot springs. (Photo by ViagensLacoste)

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