An Overview of the Major Thailand Hot Spots to Help You Plan Your Trip

Sawadee kah! Greetings from Thailand! 

I can’t believe I’ve been here for 2 and a half months already. 

WHAT! 

Feels like I was just gearing up to leave Bali and shedding all of my emotional tears about closing the door on my transformative covid Bali chapter. 

Also feels like just yesterday that I was stressing way too hard about what to do with my heavy suitcase. 

This ain’t like Bali.

Traveling with a suitcase while trying to explore numerous cities in Thailand is a true test of your patience. 

While I hobbled down the cobbled streets of Bangkok and walked 20 minutes in the heat to bring my suitcase on the public train, it hit me that I had to figure out some sort of plan. 

The universe agreed with me.

After it had its laugh watching me struggle down the busy Bangkok streets, it introduced me to the kindest soul at my lovely guest house in Krabi. 

The local lady there told me to leave my suitcase in the closet cabinet for a few weeks….

I obliged. 

It’s been 8 weeks now hahahaha. 

Hopefully my good ole suitcase is doing well on its own vacation. 

Thank goodness.

Because if you’re trying to travel Thailand as much as you can on a budget, extra baggage can be a hindrance.

Physically and emotionally hahaha. 

But ya girl is free with a backpack on her back and has been slow-ish traveling all of Thailand. 

The Chinese Santichon Village in Northern Thailand, Pai

When I thought about planning my travels to Thailand, I was completely overwhelmed.

I had no idea which parts to travel to and explore, so instead, I planned a few things and then left it very open ended.

I’m so glad I did because it allowed me to swing to new places whenever I wanted without having to stress about already set travel plans. 

So, if you’re looking to travel to Thailand, yet have no idea where to start, let me help give you a brief overview of all of the Thailand Hot Spots.

I’ll also give you some insight on a travel itinerary if you have 2 weeks to travel or longer.

Remember to allow room for spontaneity! In the low season, you can book things last minute cheap and easily, so no need to stress too hard. 

At the top of the Bottle Beach Viewpoint after a hike in Koh Phangan -- an island in the Southeast of Thailand

Here’s the Thailand Hot Spot Overview: 

Krabi 

Recommended length of stay: 2 nights with a day trip to Railay Beach (add more if you want to stay at Railay beach)

I flew to Krabi in the early AM and bused on over to Ao Nang. I heard that this is the spot to be, and it is. 

Ao Nang is very touristy with people outside every restaurant heckling you to come inside, so very quickly, even walking the streets became frustrating. 

BUT, the reason why Ao Nang is so popular is because it’s a hub to all of the boat trips. 

Railay Beach

You can easily get to Railay Beach – breathtaking scenery with tons of tourist resorts & restaurants selling mushroom shakes everywhere.

It is quite the tourist scene. You can stay overnight here and explore or take a day trip from Ao Nang for 100 baht on the boat.

I stationed myself in Ao Nang (since I had my horribly heavy and large suitcase) and simply spent the day at Railay, but I’ve heard of many people who stayed a few nights here and said it was the highlight of their trip.  

You can also stay near Krabi Town, which has kept its local charm despite the infiltration of all of the tourists.

There are a few nice night markets that cater to the locals – cheap prices and authentic Thai food and snacks. 

If you’re looking for something to do in Krabi instead of laying on a beach or taking a boat tour, you can trek up 1,280 steps to the infamous Tiger Cave Temple, which boasts insanely beautiful 360 views of the glorious Thailand limestone rocks, but phew, this is quite the climb. Bring water, sunscreen and perseverance. 

Your legs will be jelly by the end of it, but you’ll have a tale to tell that’s for sure. 

(Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of it because my phone broke the night before :( )

Koh Phi Phi 

Recommended length of stay: day trip or stay 1 night

Another showstopping day trip I did was going to the well-known islands of Koh Phi Phi. 

When people think of islands in Thailand off the top of their heads, most often you will hear about Koh Phi Phi. 

It’s become a bit commercialized due to the popularity and Leonardo Di Caprio starring in the movie “The Beach” featuring the beautiful Maya Bay. 

Even through the congested tourism, the Koh Phi Phi islands are stunning. 

Yes, okay, all of the tourists ruin the magnificence a bit, but it would be selfish of me to want to keep the splendor of these islands all to myself. 

From Ao Nang, you can book a day trip that will take you around the islands by boat.

There are 5 different stops (specifically with the boat tour that I did – there are some different ones out there). 

The popular and famous Maya Bay

Stop 1: Maya Bay 

All of the tourists stop at this bay and take photos.

You can’t go in the water because they are trying to save the coral, so it’s literally everyone fully clothed standing ankle-deep in the ocean taking photos and videos. It’s quite the spectacle. 

After you’ve gotten enough photos to alert Instagram you’re alive and well, it’s time to go take a dip in Pi Leh Bay. 

My favorite photo from Maya Bay (luckily, with no other tourists in view!)

Stop 2: Pi Leh Bay

This is the renowned cove with the bright green waters and notorious rock structures.

You can jump off the boat for a dip or, my favorite activity – floating! 

To float and be surrounded by all of the marvelous rocks was a fairytale sight.

Something that will always be ingrained in my head as an unforgettable magnificent memory. 

There isn’t much ocean life to see in Pi Leh Bay, it’s mostly to float, swim and take in the incredible views.

You’ll save snorkeling for Viking Cave. 

The perfect waters for floating!

Stop 3: Viking Cave

After taking a dip, it’s time to actually snorkel!

The boat takes you to Viking Cave and gives you a snorkel mask to take in the amazing underwater life. 

This area is FILLED with coral, fish, sea urchins, and other interesting creatures.

My friend saw sea cucumbers! Basically, large, soft, turd-like cucumbers hanging out in the sand. 

Stop 4: Walk Around Phi Phi Don

You can stay on Koh Phi Phi.

It doesn’t have to just be a day trip.

If you are going to stay, you would stay on Phi Phi Don, which has all of the resorts, shops, bars and restaurants.

It’s cool to walk around and enjoy even if you’re only there for the day. 

Personally, I felt like the day trip was enough to soak in all of the vibes of Koh Phi Phi.

But you can definitely opt to stay longer on Phi Phi Don to continue to explore. 

Phi Phi Don -- the island on Koh Phi Phi you can stay the night at!

Stop 5: Bamboo Island 

This was a hilarious and terrifying stop of the trip.

Not because of the island, but because my friend and I decided to try to trek the whole circumference of the small island. 

Yet, we definitely thought it was smaller than it was, and way less rocky. 

We had 70 minutes to go snorkeling around the island.

Instead, my friend and I took the time to catch up and walk around without our phones or anything.

To our surprise, we kept walking and walking with no sight of our boat anywhere.

We were nervous the 70 minutes would run out and we’d be stranded on the island, so we literally started sprinting over rocks to get back. 

There came a point where there were no more rocks or sand and we had to strip off our clothes and swim in the ocean to get back to the sandy shore. 

We were huffing and puffing and freaking out juuuuust a little bit.

Okay, correction– freaking out a lot.

We had no idea how many minutes had passed, nor how far we were from our boat. 

Luckily, we got to shore and found 2 men who told us the time indicating we had 20 minutes left. 

A HUGE SIGH OF RELIEF. 

We made it back with 5 minutes to spare. 

Our guide was appalled that we walked, ran, and swam around the whole island. 

“You did what?! Why didn’t you just snorkel?”

IDK man, great question.

We like to test our limits. 

So, if you’re interested in hiking around Bamboo Island, just note it takes 70 minutes while climbing over rocks and swimming part of the way hahahaha. 

But I would just recommend going snorkeling. :)

In general, Koh Phi Phi is an incredible trip. Know that it will be touristy, but it is indeed worth it for the incredible views and experiences.

Phuket

Recommended length of stay: 2-3 days and stay on a Sunday so you can go to the night market

Phuket is your typical beach destination.

Lots of beaches to choose from starting with the touristy Patong Beach. 

Patong Beach has tons of chairs set up for the tourists and also tons of people ready to sell you massages, jewelry, t-shirts, all of the works. Be ready. 

This is close to the chaotic street of Bangla Road.

This is the notorious road with all of the nightlife, vendors and shops. 

You can find this sign at Patong Beach

I preferred to stay closer to the quiet area of Kata beach.

Way less nightlife, vendors and chaos, but still able to take in all of the beauty and fun of Phuket. 

I rented a bike and went to the Big Buddha, which I graciously enjoyed – a must see if you’re in Phuket.

You get a fabulously breathtaking view of the whole city. 

This big buddha is stunning in Phuket -- a must see! 

Another great area to check out is Rawai – I drove here every day to hangout at all of the fun cafes.

It’s got a great vibe and some awesome healthy vegan cafes. 

The Sunday night market in Phuket Old Town was a huge highlight.

I loved seeing this quaint area with all of the colorful shops. Again, another must see for sure if you're in Phuket on a Sunday evening.

The colorful store fronts in Old Town Phuket

One last thing to see, I enjoyed meditating and hanging out at Promthep Cape.

It's gorgeous to be at the edge of Phuket overlooking the ocean from all sides.

I enjoyed Phuket more than I thought I would, but it wasn’t necessarily my favorite.

Still a great place to visit though to enjoy the beaches and sites. 

I'd recommend 2-3 days here if you do want to come visit.

Promthep Cape is the tip of Phuket for a panoramic view of the ocean

Koh Phangan 

Recommended length of stay: at least 2-3 days...more if you have the chance...you may fall in love with it :) 

I met a woman in Bali who told me to carve out time to settle into Koh Phangan. 

I obliged, and I’m so glad I did. 

I settled into a cozy small room at Secret Place overlooking the ocean that I absolutely loved. There was a coworking space and an amazing restaurant all in one. 

Immediately, I fell in love with the energy, the people, the restaurants, and the ambiance of Koh Phangan. 

It’s an island that packs a punch balancing nature, nightlife, social activities and delicious restaurants. 

Had Yaao Beach

And of course, it’s known for its notorious Full Moon Party. 

But for me, the island is much more than that. 

The cafes here were super digital nomad friendly and I found it extremely easy to meet new people with the endless social calendar – salsa bachata dance lessons, open mic nights, comedy nights, and chill hangout nights at specific bars. 

Guan Yin Mother Shrine

I stayed a month and it wasn’t long enough. I’m itching to go back. 

Of course, everyone is different and depending on your interests and perspective, you may think differently of Koh Phangan. 

I spoke to people who didn’t really like the island. 

If you’re only going for the Full Moon Party rave on the beach, then you’re doing Koh Phangan a disservice. 

Full Moon Party with newfound friends

Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast at the Full Moon Party (because I had incredibly low expectations), but Koh Phangan is much more than a rager on a beach. 


I personally loved Sri Thanu area, hitting up all the different cafes and attending as many social events as I could. 

My heart was completely happy and full, so when I made the decision to leave to experience Koh Tao, it wasn’t an easy goodbye. 

Top Sights to See: 

  • Saturday Night Market
  • Full Moon Party
  • Sri Thanu Area
  • Phaeng Waterfall
  • Paradise Waterfall
  • Secret Beach at Sunset
  • Peyote Cafe
  • Deli Devi for Cacao

I stayed here a month, but if you plan to come, stay at least 2-3 days and be sure to check when the Full Moon Party is because that impacts how crowded the island is.

Koh Tao 

Recommended length of stay: 3-4 days (depending on if you are doing a dive course)

This smaller island, known as Turtle Island, can be reached by a 1 hour ferry from either Koh Phangan or Koh Samui.

Or you can go straight there from Surat Thani and take a longer ferry or even a night ferry.

The night ferry is only for those that do not mind sleeping next to strangers on a tiny mattress. 

I did it from Koh Tao back to Surat Thani, and truthfully, I didn't mind it.

I found the Koh Tao night ferry quite an amusing experience.

Again, all about perspective.

I slept on one of the tiny mattresses on the bottom bed. Let's hope you get the top bunk! 

Even though this is a small island, there is SO much to do it’s hard to be bored.

Typically, Koh Tao is the diving spot in Thailand. You can see whale sharks (if you’re lucky), turtles and tons of fish. 
But if you don’t like diving, they have epic snorkel tours for 500 baht (around $14 USD).

Or you can try freediving. This island truly has it all. 

You can dive or hangout at the beach during the day and party at night. 

All the tourists conjure together at some of the bars on the walking street in the evening.

Since it’s small, you can walk up and down the street and find fun hostels to hangout at and bars having happy hour. 

My favorite place to hangout was Baby Rasta, a chill bar with a pool table, and HAMMOCKS.

Many a nights I hungout with my friends in hammocks and chilled, talked, and laughed the night away.

They do sell joints and weed brownies if you’re into that, but I simply enjoyed just being in the treehouse hammock vibe. 

Mango Bay Viewpoint


Be sure to check out Shark Bay and Tanote Bay…. Tanote Bay has better snorkeling, but both are nice beaches to hangout at. 

Sairee beach is nice to take long beach walks on and see people kite surfing (maybe you’ll be one of them – again so much to do!) 

Also, the FOOD. *chef's kiss*

For a small island, Koh Tao has incredible places to eat…some of the best Thai food I’ve had in all of Thailand at Mama Tam’s (the chicken cashew dish is incredible along with all of their shakes and their banana pancake omg) and Chu Chu’s – get the Burmese Salad or the Red Curry Peanut Sauce!

One of the best dishes I had in Thailand.... Chicken Cashew at Mama Tam's

Seriously still dreaming about these dishes.

Or hit the Western restaurants for a great meal and space to cowork & be a digital nomad....Coconut Monkey and Milk & Honey were my favorites! 

I spent a month on this little oasis of Koh Tao, and I can’t wait to go back. 

Top Things to Do in Koh Tao: 

  • Tanote Bay
  • Shark Bay
  • Go Scuba Diving
  • Free Diving
  • Party at Fishbowl
  • Hang at Baby Rasta
  • Snorkel Tour
  • Eat at Coconut Monkey
  • Eat at Mama Tam's
  • Cowork at Milk & Honey
  • Enjoy the Queen's Cabaret Show
  • Mango Bay Viewpoint
  • John Suwan VIewpoint
John Suwan Viewpoint

Khao Sok

Recommended length of stay: 2-3 days with 1 night at the lake in the floating bungalow

Khao Sok is a small, cozy town with a few restaurants, hotels and hostels all situated along the same major road leading to the entrance of the National Park (which costs 200 baht for foreigners to enter). 

Typically, this town is filled with families and tourists. 

There is a whole guide book of activities you can do here – kayaking, river tubing, camping, and hiking. 

The most popular thing to do is to take the overnight trip to the floating bungalows.

This will cost 2,500 baht and you can book the tour at your respective hotel or hostel. 

You drive around 45 minutes to a boat that will take you another 45 minutes to your bungalows.

This was definitely a HUGE highlight of my trip. 

The epic scenery from the boat! 

All of the scenery was quintessential Thailand with the limestone rocks and the strikingly stunning blue-green water. 

Simply taking in the views was worth it, but then on top of it, you get to hike up a waterfall, kayak/swim in the water, and get 3 buffets of delicious food. 

There’s no reception down by the lake, but my goodness, it is the ultimate recharge. 

Relaxing & Recharging at the floating bungalows in Khao Sok

The bungalows themselves are simple, yet clean.

I wanted to stay for more than 1 night. 

This sometimes doesn’t make people’s Thailand lists, but I highly urge you to consider making this overnight trip to the lake a top priority.

It was extraordinarily delightful. 

You can spend 2 days here with one night at the lake.

You can take 2 steps out of your bungalow and kayak or swim in the lake! 

Chiang Mai

Recommended length of stay: 3-4 days...there are a lot of day trip options to explore the surrounding areas and soaking up the energy of Chiang Mai is lovely too

Personally, I think Chiang Mai is a must. A lot of people disagree with me because they prefer to only do the south of Thailand.

I get it. For a 2 week trip, that's easiest to just stick to the south.

However, Chiang Mai is up there on my favorite spots in Thailand.

Immediately, when I arrived, you feel a completely different energy and vibe.

It's basically completely separate from the south.

The people are so friendly, the northern food is amazing, the energy is cozy.

Try the local dish of Khao Soi when you are in Chiang Mai! 

Overall, it's just a lovely, beautiful place that I want to spend a lot of time.

Not only is it a great digital nomad hub with tons of expats roaming around and settling down here...there are lots of activities to do as well.

You can roam around the old city and find temples galore.

Or, you can cafe hop at some of the cute places to eat in this town.

Also, if you venture a little outside of the city, you can explore Doi Suthep, Doi Ithanon and Sticky Waterfall.

All of these are cool day trips! 

Basically, if you have time, head to the north of Thailand and enjoy the enticing Chiang Mai.

What to do & see in Chiang Mai: 

  • Doi Suthep
  • Doi Ithanon
  • Elephant Sanctuary
  • Trek in the Northern Jungle
  • Sticky Waterfall
  • Temple Hop
  • Cafe Hop
  • Visit the Night Markets

Pai

Recommended length of stay: 2-3 days

It's quite the trek to get to Pai....a 3-4 hour ride from Chiang Mai on very swervy and curvy roads. In order to make the most of the journey, it's best to settle down some roots here.

I personally loved giving myself time here to hit up the night market every night and explore the surrounding areas.

It's a super small town and you can hit up all of the tourist attractions in 2 days. It's nice to add the extra day to simply soak up Pai.

The Memorial Bridge in Pai

Tons of hostels, great cafes, and ability to ride around on a motorbike and explore or take a tour to adventure around.

The top sights to see:

  • Pai Canyon
  • Love Strawberry
  • Memorial Bridge
  • Cave Lod (an hour away)
  • Santichon Village
  • Yun Lai Viewpoint
  • Mae Yen Waterfall
  • Hot Springs
  • White Buddha
  • Earth Tone Cafe
The view at Love Strawberry in Pai

Hi! I'm Nikki. A traveling mindset mentor on a mission to help you optimize your travels and mindset in order to live a super satisfying and joyous life.

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