Thailand is one of the world's most exciting sailing destinations. With thousands of tropical islands, miles of palm-fringed beaches, lush jungles, coral reefs and stunning limestone peaks, the country draws more than 12 million tourists each year.
The best sailing destinations in the country include the island of Phuket, the marine national park of Phang Nga Bay, the coastal town of Krabi, the Koh Lanta archipelago, Phi Phi Islands, Similan Islands, Surin Islands, and the island of Koh Samui.
Thailand has a tropical climate, with hot, humid weather throughout the year and temperatures generally staying in the range between 28°C and 35°C. The northeast monsoon season brings mostly dry and sunny weather from October to May, with winds of 5 to 20 knots. The southwest monsoon season from June to October is mostly humid and rainy, with southwestern winds blowing at the speed of 5 to 30 knots.
The best time to visit Thailand is from November to late February, when the weather is slightly cooler and it does not rain as much. From March to June, temperatures can be as high as 40°C and, from July to October, tropical monsoons bring the rainy season, with heavy showers sometimes causing flooding. Koh Samui and the south-east coast of Thailand are the exception, as they have the rainy season reversed, with frequent showers in the period from November to February and the peak season lasting from May to October.
Thailand has more than 1,000 nautical miles of mainland coastline and thousands of islands. The two main sailing regions, separated by the Malay Peninsula, are the Andaman Coast and the Gulf of Thailand. The main ports on the Andaman Coast are Phuket, Koh Lanta and Krabi, while the most popular stopping places in the Gulf of Thailand include Koh Samui, Bangkok, Pattaya and Koh Chang.
The Northern Andaman Coast, which stretches from Ranong in the north to the northern tip of Phuket in the south, offers a number of interesting ports and things to see. These include the resort region of Khao Lak, Similan Islands, Surin Islands, the island of Koh Chang, the Ao Phang Nga National Park and the Khao Lampi-Hat Thai Mueang National Park.
Phuket, Thailand's top sailing destination, has a number of attractive anchorages. The main ones are the Boat Lagoon Marina, the Yacht Haven and the Royal Phuket Marina.
The Southern Andaman Coast is ideal for island hopping tours, offering a captivating collection of islands, white sand beaches and jungles. Krabi province, Koh Lanta Island, Koh Tarutao and the Tarutao National Marine Park, the Phi Phi Islands and Trang Islands are among the most popular destinations in the region.
The main sailing destinations in the Central Gulf Coast include Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, Koh Tao, and the Ang Thong Marine Park, with the city of Surat Thani serving as the gateway to the islands. The Southern Gulf Coast is known for its idyllic beaches, but the anchorages on the southern end of the Malay Peninsula, between Surat Thani and Koh Samui in the north and Kota Bharu in the south are best avoided because of political unrest in the region.
Thailand offers a variety of stunning natural sights to explore and a number of ways to do it, including boating, hiking, diving, snorkeling and kayaking. The country’s main yacht charter region is Phuket due to its location, arresting landscape and strong tourism infrastructure, but the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea also offer a fantastic variety of destinations that can be discovered on a cruise.
Located off Thailand's west coast, Phuket is the country's most popular tourist destination. Known for its spectacular beaches and buzzing nightlife, the island offers a variety of options for water sports and other beach activities. The main landmarks include Nakkerd Hills with the Big Buddha, a 45-metre white marble statue overlooking the island, Kata Noi beach, a small bay with breathtaking scenery and view of the nearby islands, Wat Chalong, the largest of Phuket’s 29 Buddhist temples, and Tiger Kingdom, a relatively new tourist attraction that allows visitors to interact with Indochinese tigers.
Phuket is an excellent starting point for exploring a number of other dazzling destinations in the region. Phang Nga Bay, situated between Phuket Island and the Thai mainland, is a shallow bay with 42 islands, famous for its limestone cliffs with caves, rock formations, archaeological sites and mangrove forests, as well as for the coral reefs and seagrass beds that dot its waters. The village of Koh Panyi is one of the most popular stops in the area, with local restaurants offering delicious fresh fish dishes. The village is notable for being built entirely on poles in the shallow waters and known for the massive rock monolith that shields it on one side.
Most of the Phang Nga Bay is protected as the Ao Phang Nga National Park, an area studded with limestone tower karst islands and home to a number of rare animal species. The islands in the bay include Khao Phing Kan with the islet of Koh Tapu, nicknamed the James Bond Island after being featured in the 1974 Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, and Koh Phanak Island, known for its scenic lagoons and caves.
To the southeast of Phang Nga Bay, the town and province of Krabi offer a more relaxed alternative to the tourist bustle of Phuket. With a stunning coastal and mountain landscape, the extraordinary beaches of Ao Nang and Hat Rai Le, a number of caves, waterfalls and coral-ringed islands to explore, Krabi is one of Thailand's most scenic destinations. Railay Beach, a small peninsula between Krabi and Ao Nang, is a spectacular showcase of the dramatic limestone formations the region is known for. Surrounded by a lush jungle, the beach is only accessible by boat.
Koh Lanta, an archipelago in the Krabi Province consisting of about 70 islands, draws visitors with its white sandy beaches and excellent diving sites at Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, a pair of huge deep water rocks notable for frequent sightings of whale sharks and manta rays, as well as with the stunning coral reef at Koh Rok. The sites are part of the Mu Koh Lanta Marine National Park.
The Phi Phi Islands are among southern Thailand's top tourist destinations, with a number of scenic anchorages, charming villages and a rich marine life. Many of the islands are surrounded by coral reefs and make an excellent place to go diving or snorkeling.
Trang Islands are an excellent destination for anyone looking for tranquil, unspoiled beaches for a romantic getaway. The islands are road-free, with jungle-covered hills and striking limestone karsts rising from the waters. They make an idyllic destination for honeymooners.
Khao Lak on the Northern Andaman Coast is a 20 km stretch of coastal resorts perfect for a quiet family holiday. The area is a favourite among nature lovers, with large expanses of scenic parks and unspoiled landscapes, as well as excellent diving opportunities.
The Similan Islands impress with their dramatic granite boulders and rich underwater world which makes for a superb diving experience. Three islands in the group are protected as turtle nesting sites. The nearby Surin Islands are a group of five uninhabited islands protected as the Mu Koh Surin National Park. Richelieu Rock, a horseshoe-shaped reef in the park, is a famous dive site, known for its purple corals, diverse marine life, and sightings of the whale shark, barracuda, manta ray and grouper.
Koh Chang, or Elephant Island, is the largest in a group of about 50 islands that are part of the Koh Chang National Park. The island is covered with rainforests and mountainous landscapes with hidden waterfalls, all surrounded by coral reefs and sandy beaches.
The Khao Lampi–Hat Thai Mueang National Park is famous for its waterfalls, including the Ton Phrai Waterfall, which is 40 metres high. The waterfalls are located in the Lampi mountain range, while Hat Thai Mueang, the park’s beach section, consists of a 13 km long white sand beach set against a backdrop of a mangrove forest. The beach is a turtle nesting area and hosts an annual festival in March to mark the occasion of baby turtles making their first trip to the sea.
Koh Samui, the largest in a group of more than 80 islands, is an excellent base for exploring the Gulf of Thailand. The island is a cosmopolitan destination known for its laid back atmosphere, luxury villas and simple bungalows, fishing villages, and amazing beaches that include the busy Chaweng Beach and the more relaxed Lamai Beach.
Koh Pha Ngan, the region’s party island, is known for its coconut trees and full Moon parties that attract tens of thousands of visitors every New Year’s Eve. The granite island has a tropical jungle interior and countless white sand beaches with a number of popular dive sites. The Ao Nai Wok beach is one of the best areas for sailing and windsurfing.
Koh Tao, also known as Turtle Island, is the best destination for diving and snorkeling in the Gulf of Thailand. The island is also known for its diverse culinary offering, with specialties from more than a dozen countries offered on local menus.
The Ang Thong Marine Park consists of 40 islands and hundreds of limestone monoliths that provide a unique sailing experience. The park is home to countless hidden coves, exotic beaches and the famous Thale Nai lagoon, enveloped by lush vegetation and commanding cliffs.
Thailand has countless other destinations that make for a memorable sailing holiday. The country’s coastal cities and islands also make excellent starting points for trips to other attractive places in the region. These include Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, the Philippines and other majestic, infinitely diverse locations.