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4 Gorgeous, Green Thai Islands

Off the western coast of Thailand, there is a cluster of islands that you've likely never heard about. Simon N. Ostheimer lets the manatee out of the bag.

Published on Sep 14, 2015


The crystal-clear water lapping around the islands of Trang is one of the kingdom's last refuges of the dugong. Perhaps the gentle giants come here for the privacy, for though it is only a few kilometers south of the Andaman tourist trail headlined by Lanta, Phi Phi and Phuket, the crowds have missed this stretch of sub-rosa sea. The islands of this sleepy southwestern province remain under the radar—and are all the more magical for it. If you're looking for a low-key throwback to the early days of travel, Trang rocks the perfect vibe.


Rent a Thai-style sidecar and cruise along the small road network on Trang's biggest island. The beaches are rocky but empty; you'll find yourself sharing the sands with a handful of local families and an astonishing number of hermit crabs.

Where to stay: There are not any five-stars on the island, but the basic air-con rooms at Libong Relax Beach Resort are quite comfortable. Ask the front desk to arrange a longtail boat to the shallow waters off Libong where the elusive manatees gather, and surface to breathe.

Libong Relax Beach Resort
Beach front bungalows, positioned between the sea and mangrove. Courtesy of Libong Relax Beach Resort.


What's an adventure without a challenge? Inhale deep, dive in and power through the 80-meter-long swim across the pitch-dark Emerald Cave. You can make it, matey, for beyond awaits an idyllic beach cove that was once a hideaway of pirates. It’s the definition of secret booty.

Where to stay: Book a seaview villa at Sivalai Beach Resort, on a powdery stretch of the eastern cape.

Sivalai Beach Resort
Beach villa at Sivalai Beach Resort. Courtesy of Sivalai Beach Resort.


The most famous of the Trang cluster, Kradan is being heralded as the next must-see island, one of those paradoxical paradises that you can't stop raving about yet don’t want anyone else to discover. It's got top beaches, coral reefs brimming with fish, and some high-end getaways.

Where to stay: Of the slew of resorts that occupy the east coast of this slender island, our favorites are The Sevenseas Resort, with its boutique Robinson Crusoe charm; and Anantara Si Kao, for its private beach club.

Anantara Si Kao
Karst-studded views at Anantara Si Kao. Courtesy of Anantara Si Kao.


Koh Ngai (or Koh Hai) is technically part of the neighboring Krabi Province, but is most easily accessed by the piers on the Trang mainland. It's the wildest island in the archipelago, so get back to nature among roving monitor lizards, crabeating monkeys, and blacktip sharks that circle just offshore.

Where to stay: Boasting the best restaurant on the island, Thanya Resort has smartly appointed beachside bungalows. +

You'll find the best snorkeling near Koh Ngai, surrounding the small outcrops of Koh Chuak and Koh Wan. You can't go ashore on these karst islets jutting out of the sea, but the marine life is simply stunning, with reef fish, abundant coral and the occasional shark or two. Long-tail boats can be hired from any island for around Bt3,000 for a half-day trip, with a local lunch and snorkeling equipment included.

Koh Kradan
Snorkeling by Koh Kradan, Courtesy of Anantara Si Kao.


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Emerald Cave, Koh Mook. By Rachada Srepaotong.
  • A sunbathing hermit crab. ©Disrapornyat/
  • Snorkeling by Koh Kradan, Courtesy of Anantara Si Kao.
  • Hammock chill at Anantara Si Kao beach. Courtesy of Anantara Si Kao.
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