woman on swing on thailand vacation

Start dreaming up your Thailand vacation plans. (Photo: © Marco Bottigelli / Moment)

Beach Travel

Looking to Disconnect? These Thailand Vacation Ideas Will Do the Trick

Elizabeth Gilbert may have opted to visit the rice paddies of Bali in “Eat, Pray, Love,” but these days, travelers seeking solace are just as likely to book a trip to Thailand to escape the hum of everyday life. From hiking through dense jungles to swimming in crystalline waters, there are all sorts of ways to unwind in the Kingdom of Smiles. Here are three places to switch your phone off, slow down and recharge.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Koh Samui

Koh Samui’s popularity over the years has led to heavy development in certain areas, but there are still plenty of idyllic corners on this sun-kissed island for those who know where to look. Chaweng Beach on the eastern coast remains beloved for its vast swath of powdery sand.

For something on the somnolent side, Silavadee Beach, a secluded cove, feels worlds away from all of the bustle. While most travelers are content to spend their days here by the ocean, Koh Samui’s natural splendor extends beyond its coastline.

To experience something truly special, head inland and embark on a short trek to the Na Muang Waterfalls, a series of two stunning cascades in the jungle. It’s the perfect spot for a laid-back picnic lunch and an afternoon swim.

lantern festival in thailand
Plan to visit during the Buddhist festival of Loy Krathong. (Photo: Manachai / Moment)

Although Koh Samui is always magical, the island takes on an air of almost otherworldly enchantment during the traditional Buddhist festival of Loy Krathong. On this hallowed occasion each autumn, locals release thousands of floating lanterns into the sky. Celebrations take place all over the country, but none are more spectacular than the one on Chaweng Beach.


Nicknamed “the Pearl of the Andaman,” Thailand’s largest island offers an incredible array of diversions for travelers looking to get away from it all. Phuket is a study in contrasts, with a well-deserved reputation both for hedonism and blissful serenity. A mere 10-minute drive from Patong, the epicenter of the island’s wild nocturnal scene, lies the tranquil Kamala Bay.

underwater scuba divers on thailand vacation
See the wonders underwater. (Photo: © RAZVAN CIUCA / Moment)

Even in high season, it’s possible to escape the hordes of sunbathers by seeking out Phuket’s less famous beaches. Sai Kaew Beach, in the north of the island, has stayed relatively sleepy all these years. Freedom Beach is a stunner, but the price of the long-tail boat ride to it keeps most tourists at bay.

In addition to boasting some of the best places for sunning and snorkeling, Phuket has an incredibly rich cultural history to explore. Phuket Town was once one of the wealthiest trading ports in the region. Spend an afternoon admiring the distinctive Sino-Portuguese architecture or dining on Peranakan dishes popularized by the Straits Chinese merchants who once settled here.

Khao Lak

front of longtail boat at Khao Sok National Park
Find a slice of heaven at Khao Sok. (Photo: Abraham / Moment)

Despite its dazzlingly white sands and turquoise waters, Khao Lak managed to remain comparatively under the global tourism radar for decades. Though savvy travelers have started to catch on in recent years, this expanse of coastline remains one of the best places in Thailand to get off the grid.

Nature-lovers should make sure to visit nearby Khao Sok National Park, a lush rainforest studded with waterfalls and limestone karst formations. Trekking tours through the heart of this emerald oasis are available for all levels. Another protected natural haven lies just offshore.

Since the Thai government has never allowed development of any sort on the Similan Islands, this biodiverse archipelago has remained largely unchanged for centuries. Charter a boat out to the surrounding coral reefs for some of the best snorkeling in all of Southeast Asia.