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Thailand boasts some of the best beaches in the world, from mainland havens to island getaways. With hundreds of sun-drenched hot spots to choose from, it’s no wonder that Thailand remains a firm favourite for independent travellers and families looking for a winter sun paradise.
Outside of the sandy coves, lagoons and tucked away retreats is a side to Thailand for those wanting more of an adventure. From day trips to natural wonders and vast landscapes, to sporting and more daring activities, Thailand provides an ideal mix of recreation and relaxation without having to stray too far from the shoreline. Here I list just a few of my favourites, for your next winter escape to Thailand.
Rebecca Enright's top spots for sun, scenery and adventure
Ao Nang / Krabi
Ao Nang may be the most popular beach spot on the mainland coastline of Krabi, but it’s also the main gateway to Thailand’s Andaman Coast islands and the more tranquil, neighbouring Railay Beach. Railay’s spectacular peninsula can only be accessed by long-tail boat – encased by limestone cliffs, its separation from the mainland gives it a distinct island feel. Here you can leisurely explore the many caves and take a scenic stroll between the two enticing beaches – one more tucked away than the other. For those more daring, try your hand at rock climbing or the cliff hike down to the hidden lagoon via the many jungle valleys.
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An island of white sandy beaches and coconut trees juxtaposed with a central landmass of uninhabitable jungle, Samui offers a bit of everything. Embark on a jeep safari or attempt the zip line to get you right into the deepest depths of the tropical landscape surrounding the island’s largest mountain, Khao Pom – or take a kayaking tour around Angthong National Park to discover the coves, tunnels and stunning coral reefs. Day trips can be easily booked via your guesthouse or the many local operators on the island, so shop around for the best deals.
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An easily navigable island with a younger, more vibrant atmosphere, Koh Tao is an explorer’s paradise, known primarily for its fantastic scuba diving training and top dive sites where you can spot turtles and reef sharks, alongside swimming through the incredible crowds of fusilier fish. Here you can step it up a notch and try Freediving or head away from the water world and explore the island via a long hike or a four-wheel ATV drive around the island.
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Prachuap Khiri Khan
The most central point of the Thailand peninsula, Prachuap Khiri Khan sits on the narrowest section of the mainland, where golden beaches are surrounded by luscious highlands. Take a leisurely walk or trek through the limestone hills and freshwater marshes of Khao Sam Roi Yot, the dense forest lands of Kui Buri and the mountainous plains of Huai Yang and its incredible five-layer waterfall. All three National Parks are within easy reach by car or moto.
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Thailand’s largest island has enough to keep anyone occupied, but it’s easy to escape the busy Patong, Kata and Karon beaches for the day and get off the beaten track. Hire a boat and head out to azure waters and marine heavens of Koh Racha and Koh Hae islands, or the stunning Similan islands to the north. On land, quieter Phuket Town is full of local neighbourhoods and is known for its rich Chinese heritage and Sino-Portugese architecture, with many of its historical gems still standing. The likes of Provincial Hall, Shrine of the Serene Light Temple and the old Phra Phitak Chyn Pracha Mansion are all worth visiting.
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