It isn’t fair, really – there are over 200 countries around the globe and Thailand has managed to snag a disproportionate amount of the world’s top beaches.
These aren’t your average stretches of sand; you’re about to uncover perfect powder-soft dunes and dramatic limestone crags that pop straight out of the impossibly clear waters. Robinson Crusoe, eat your heart out!
Hat Phra Nang, Railay
This beauty will shock and awe. Perfect sand, limestone cliffs and caves, emerald water and colourful long-tail boats make this photographic bliss. It’s little more than a cosy nook, and tends to get crowded in high season.
On this seemingly endless swath of golden, boulder-studded beach, expect outrageous sunsets and lazy days. The Surin and Similan Islands as well as inland jungle parks are an easy boat or road trip away.
Trying to decide between a slice of lively sand and hermitic retreat? Ko Tao offers plenty of both. Hit the island’s west side for tiki-torched beach bars, and escape to the eastern shores to re-enact your favourite scenes from TV’s Lost.
Ko Mak & Ko Kut
Take your pick on quiet Ko Mak: sling your hammock up on a desolate beach or the next one over, which is just as perfect and pristine. Jungle-ier Ko Kut next door has an excellent spread of flaxen sand as well.
Cook on the slender, powder-white beach, dip in the sandy-bottomed shallows then slip over the reef for clear water, healthy corals and fish aplenty. Knobby karst islands fill the horizon towards the Krabi mainland in the distance.
With 8km of white sand, expect calm seas in the high season and surfable waves during the low season. Don’t let the posh Laguna Complex scare you; this laid-back yet lively beach has something for everyone.
Every month, on the night of the full moon, pilgrims pay tribute to the party gods with trancelike dancing and neon body paint. Join the legions of bucket-sippers on the infamous Sunrise Beach for the ultimate gathering that eclipses all other celebrations around the world.
This article was updated in February 2012.