With dozens of choices, deciding on the best islands to live in Thailand is not easy. Every island has its own unique characteristics with its own pros and cons.

From hard-to-reach island paradises with no roads to massive islands with their own international airports, you are spoiled for choice.

We have been lucky enough to explore many of Thailand’s incredible islands ourselves and think we’ve learned a bit along the way.

If you want to get a better idea of what Thailand has to offer, keep reading, we hope we can make the decision a little easier for you.

Living in Koh Phangan, Thailand
Koh Phangan is the most well-rounded island to live.

Living in Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan (Koh Pha Ngan) is one of the most well-known islands in Thailand. Best known for its full moon parties, the island has become a hub for travelers, backpackers, and partygoers.

While you can still find plenty of parties throughout the week, Koh Phangan is much more than just that.

There is a wide range of activities available from diving and snorkeling to yoga and wellness retreats. To us, Koh Phangan embodies ‘island vibes’; palm trees, beautiful vistas, and luxury on a budget.

There is a decent digital nomad community on Koh Phangan and the northern end of the island is more conducive to work than the southern areas around Haad Rin.

We would recommend Koh Phangan to people who want island vibes and plenty to do but still want a bit of local culture and nature.

Koh Tao has some of the most beautiful beaches and views in the world
Koh Tao has some of the most beautiful beaches and views in the world

Living in Koh Tao

Koh Tao is a true island paradise. This backpacking and diving mecca is a haven for solo travelers and ocean lovers.

Koh Tao is renowned for its beautiful beaches, SCUBA diving, and energetic nightlife. The island has some of the best diving in Thailand, with a plethora of marine life to explore.

The cost of living on Koh Tao can be higher than on other islands as accommodation prices are often inflated due to high demand.

The island is small and busy, so if you’re looking for a more remote and laid-back experience then this may not be the place. The island mainly attracts young people.

We recommend Koh Tao to those who want to scuba dive or be part of a tight-knit community of travelers.

One of Koh Lanta's famous sunsets
One of Koh Lanta’s famous sunsets

Living in Koh Lanta

Full disclosure, we’re yet to visit Koh Lanta. However, much of Chiang Mai’s nomad community makes the pilgrimage every burning season (March to May) to escape the smoke up North, and they sing its praises.

Koh Lanta is across the Kra Isthmus from the aforementioned islands. Located in the Andaman Sea, Koh Lanta is known for its crystal clear waters and slow pace of life.

The majority of the island’s population is Malay and they bring their religion, Islam, with them. The cost of living is a bit lower than many of the more commercial islands.

People who’ve visited tell us the island is quiet, full of natural beauty, and there isn’t much going on.

We’d recommend Koh Lanta to those who are looking for a more quiet island getaway and want to relax on a beach in peace.

Koh Samui is a beautiful and convenient place to live.
Koh Samui is a beautiful and convenient place to live.

Living in Koh Samui

Some of you reading this may disagree, but Koh Samui is one of the best islands in Thailand. Here’s why:

Koh Samui has an international airport, with frequent connecting flights to Singapore, therefore the world.

The island is well developed making it a convenient place if you want all the luxuries that you can otherwise only get on the mainland.

If you’re looking for resorts, spas, and natural beauty, Koh Samui is a great place. The island is very similar to Phuket, just a bit cleaner, less busy, and more beautiful.

We recommend Koh Samui to anyone looking for island life with all the comforts that are otherwise hard to find. If you find Phuket too busy, and the other islands too quiet, Samui is a happy middle ground.

Koh Chang is the archetype of an 'Island Paradise'
Koh Chang is the archetype of an ‘Island Paradise’

Living in Koh Chang

Last, but not least. Koh Chang is my personal favorite.

Located in Trat Province, Koh Chang is not far from Cambodia and is very different from the other islands on this list.

Koh Chang is the least developed island, having only one road that doesn’t even make the full way around the island. Koh Chang is one of the cheaper places to live in Thailand.

Almost the entirety of the island is forested, with green mountains plunging down into the stunning beaches. We found the people here are lovely.

The island has a few settlements, our favorite being Lonely Beach, Bang Bao, and Klong Koi. There are several hikes to waterfalls in the interior and not a whole lot to do besides diving, swimming, and chilling out.

The island is about a six-hour trip from Bangkok if you choose to take a bus then a ferry.

To us, Koh Chang is about as close to a tropical island paradise as it gets. We’d recommend this to anyone who wants pristine beaches, lush tropical rainforests, and not too many tourists.

So Where To?

We hope that this has helped you to see some of the different options that are available to you when it comes to choosing an island to live on in Thailand.

Each island has its own unique charm and there is sure to be one that is perfect for you.

If you need help making a decision or want to relocate to a Thai island, get in touch with us and we will be happy to assist you.

Want to move to Thailand?

If you’re interested in moving to Thailand but are unsure about a few things – visas, banking, safety, scams, dating, accommodation and more.

Check out our comprehensive Thailand guide: The Need to Know of Moving to Thailand

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