Thailand’s beautiful Gulf Coast boasts an abundance of soft-sand beaches and picture-postcard islands, which, combined with ample luxury accommodation, fantastic food, excellent nightlife and superlative diving and snorkelling opportunities, makes it a understandably popular honeymoon choice. Though the islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan have long been on the backpacker route through southeast Asia, they’re also now well-populated with mid- and top-end accommodation, which means you don’t have to worry about sleeping in a flimsy bamboo shack because that’s the only option. Excellent air connections make getting to Koh Samui particularly easy, though if you want a bit of excitement, I can really recommend getting the train down south from Bangkok – sleeper berths and private first class compartments are remarkably good value, and make for a much more interesting journey.
Where to stay
Koh Samui is no longer quite so unadulterated as it once was, thanks to what sometimes seems like rather relentless development – that said, if you’re looking for brilliant beaches, good facilities, an excellent range of restaurants, an interior to explore, great water sports and the option of day trips, then it’s a fantastic choice, and plenty of resorts have been set up in such a way that they offer impressive amounts of privacy and tranquillity. Nearby Koh Phangan hasn’t fallen prey to development in the same way, which is great if you’re looking for a more laid-back scene. If scuba-diving is your priority, then Koh Tao makes an excellent choice, while if you don’t fancy travelling too far from Bangkok, you could head to Hua Hin, though it doesn’t quite match up to what the islands have to offer.
The luxurious Rasananda Resort & Spa on Koh Phangan (above) has gorgeously sexy rooms and a fantastic spa; from £255.
On Koh Samui, Zazen Boutique Resort & Spa has beautifully decorated bungalows, the best of which open right onto the beach; from £115.
Also on Samui, Silavadee Pool Spa Resort has a hillside position that affords absolutely stunning sea views, and the villas have the luxury of a private pool; from £131.
On Maenam Beach on Samui are the well-equipped and very pleasant chalets of Maenamburi Resort, many of which front the beach, and offering fantastic value; from £41.
On Koh Tao, Sensi Paradise offers charming suites and beach bungalows and is situated close to many of the island’s diving operators; from £41.
Aleenta Resort & Spa on Hua Hin has smart yet undeniably romantic rooms and bungalows; from £130.
What to do
Spend your days lounging on the beach, swimming in the clear, warm waters, and indulging in the occasional beach massage.
Rent a snorkel and some fins and explore the waters around the islands (or off the coast), or make the most of the outstanding diving opportunities in the region.
Hire a motorbike and explore the islands by road to seek out tucked-away bays, beautiful waterfalls and lovely look-out points.
Take a boat trip out to the absolutely stunning Ang Thong National Park, where you can sea kayak around beautiful lagoons, hike through the jungle and enjoy more excellent snorkelling opportunities.
Enjoy romantic barefoot dinners on the beach, with freshly caught and cooked seafood.
Join the infamous Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan.
The Gulf Coast as part of a wider trip
Bangkok – Thailand’s capital is a sprawling, frenetic city, with great shopping, fascinating temples and superlative food.
The Andaman Coast – if you’re travelling out of monsoon season, check out the beautiful islands off the west coast of Thailand for a few more days of beach bliss.
Angkor Wat – spend a few days exploring this ancient site in neighbouring Cambodia.
Luang Prabang – Laos’s cultural heart is a beautiful old city crammed full of temples, with a wonderfully leisurely pace and some blissful hotels.
Malaysia – head south to Penang for its old colonial shophouses and brilliant food, before spending a few days in the interesting capital, Kuala Lumpur.
When to go
The best time to visit the Gulf Coast is between December and April, during the dry season. That said, the heaviest rains fall between September and November, so you could quite happily visit during the southwest monsoon (May to August), which affects the Andaman Coast more than the Gulf Coast. It’s worth bearing in mind that you can get amazing deals during the monsoon season, and rains seldom last all day – they may come down heavily for an hour or two, but before you know it, the sun will be out and it’ll look like it had never rained.
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