Exotic. Beauty. Beaches. Adventure.
Thailand continues to surprise visitors with its ever-expanding roll call of hidden beaches, offshore reefs, wildlife parks, mountain forests and cascading rivers that host year-round outdoors adventure – perfect for an active honeymoon holiday.
Where to go:
- Ko Samui: Thailand’s most popular honeymoon destination is Ko Samui. This large island in the Gulf of Siam has plenty of pretty beaches to choose from and the interior of the island is covered with coconut trees and soft, rolling hills. The island is part of the Angthong Marine National Park and is just a couple of hours by boat from Ko Phangan and Ko Tao, so there are ample opportunities for exploration and activities, including kayaking, snorkeling and diving. Samui used to be known as a backpacker destination but these days luxury resorts seem to dominate the available accommodations.
- Krabi: Secluded Krabi is a little less popular than Samui and Phuket but no less beautiful or romantic. The dramatic cliffs, clear water and relative peace and quiet make this mainland beach destination a great place for couples.Krabi is also very close to Phuket and the other islands in the Andanman Bay (including Phi Phi) so it’s a great place to use as a base if you want to explore the rest of the region. Railey Beach, which is only accessible by boat, might just be the perfect place for a romantic getaway.
- Phuket: Thailand’s largest island offers visitors just about any experience they could want, including romance and luxury. Although the big, popular beaches such as Patong and Kamala are fun, if you’re looking for something romantic opt for one of the smaller beaches either in the north or south of the island. Surin Beach, Kata Beach and Naj Hark Beach are all more peaceful and relaxed than the average beach.
- Chiang Mai: Ancient temples, charming boutiques and vibrant street life make the city of Chiang Mai a great romantic break for history and culture lovers and foodies. If the great outdoors is more your speed, the mountainous area surrounding Chiang Mai is lush and green and offers plenty of outdoor adventure, from elephant rides to river rafting. Visitors to the Chiang Mai region typically head out on multi-day hikes, which often involve roughing it, but there are also some exceptionally beautiful luxury resorts for those who want to indulge. Within the city of Chiang Mai there are more and more small boutique hotels and resorts opening every year. Outside of the city, there are a few very romantic, very beautiful and very expensive resorts.
- Khao Yai: Just a few hours by car from Bangkok is the Khao Yai region, a mostly rural, mountainous area with small villages, lush greenery and the country’s largest national park. If hiking and camping under the stars aren’t what you consider romantic, the region also has a number of wineries that offer tours and tastings. They’re close enough to each other that you can easily visit the three main ones – PB Valley, Village Farm and Gran Monte – in one day. You can camp at Khao Yai National Park and the park even rents tents so you don’t have to worry about bringing gear. The wineries listed above also have their own resorts which look rustic but are in fact quite comfortable.
Things to do and see:
Sway gently atop an elephant en route to a remote hill tribe village north of Chiang Mai, hike the elevated montane forests surrounding Umphang, cool off with a swim beneath the cascades of Thee Lor Su, white-water raft the rapids of Mae Khlong or cycle alongside the famed Mekong River before crossing by ferry and biking less-travelled byways in the neighbouring country of Laos. Thailand offers an amazing choice of outdoors adventure activities, including:
- Trekking – The hills of northern Thailand offer a wide range of trekking adventures that not only provide stunning mountain and rainforest vistas but also lead to close encounters with hospitable ethnic hill tribes. From Chiang Mai, the centre for trekking in northern Thailand, hike into the undulating hills and valleys northwest of the city to meet Lisu, Yao and Akha hill tribe people, witnessing their traditional way of life. The town of Nan on the border of Laos and Mae Hong Son on the border of Myanmar also offer hill tribe village treks. Stay overnight and learn some of the unique customs, traditions and lifestyle of each tribe. Combine this with a thrilling long-tail boat ride down the river or a white-water rafting experience or admire scenic panoramas from atop a swaying elephant.
- Scuba diving – Head to the Andaman Sea for exceptional diving opportunities around Phuket Island, including nearby Racha Yai and Racha Noi islands, the distant Similan Islands and the Burma Banks. Further south in Krabi Province lie numerous dive sites located around Rai Leh, Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lanta, which include Hin Daeng (Red Rock) – Thailand’s deepest wall dive at more than 60m. Dive centres are located in Phuket’s Chalong Bay, Ko Phi Phi and Krabi’s Ao Nang Bay. For beginners, Phuket offers great dive training areas right off the beach in Kata, while those at Patong Bay, Freedom Beach, Paradise Beach and Bang Tao Beach offer easy diving in shallow 5m-deep water close to shore. Across the Thai Peninsula, Koh Tao is one of the best dive spots in the Gulf of Thailand, followed by Ko Lak Ngam; both islands are located within the Chumphon Marine National Park.
- Elephant trekking – Discover the jungles of northern Thailand from atop a swaying elephant or explore the countryside around Phuket on a half-day elephant safari – great fun for the whole family!
- White-water rafting – Head to the northern Thai town of Pai for some of the country’s best white-water rafting adventures. Shoot rapids, paddle nature reserves and glide past canyon walls encrusted with fossils. Or try the Mae Khlong and Umphang rivers in central Thailand for serious rafting thrills.
- Snorkelling – The waters around the islands of the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand are perfect for snorkelling. Almost every beach resort can give advice on the best local snorkelling spots and many dive centres allow snorkellers to tag along for a fraction of the cost of scuba diving.
- Sea kayaking – Paddle a kayak around Krabi’s Phang Nga Bay, exploring jagged isles riddled with caves, limestone cliffs and stunning beaches. Head over to Ko Phi Phi and the east side of Ko Lanta for more sea kayak adventures.
- Game fishing – Hook up a charter from Phuket, available year round, and chase marlin, sailfish, queenfish, sea bass, barracuda, giant trevally and mangrove jack. Local charter boat captains are familiar with the best waters for catching migratory species and can also help you land king mackerel, yellowfin tuna and wahoo. Or head across the peninsula to the island of Koh Tao and fish the Gulf of Thailand.
- Rock climbing – The limestone karsts that lie scattered along southern Thailand’s Andaman Coast are ideal for rock climbers. Head to east Rai Leh and Ton Sai beaches in the Krabi Province for the most challenging climbs. Local climbing schools offer tuition for beginners and provide all the necessary gear. Ko Phi Phi and Ko Yao Noi also offer interesting climbs.
- Mountain biking – Northern Thailand offers biking adventures from Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son, where you can explore the surrounding hills and forest, bike to isolated hilltop villages and meet friendly hill tribe people.
- Eco-hiking tour – Experience the wild side of Thailand’s interior with a guided trek through some of the country’s finest national parks. Look out for Brahminy kites and white-bellied sea eagles on a hike through the pristine landscape of Phuket’s Sirinat National Park or try to spot some of the more than 184 bird species and 48 species of animal that live in the evergreen forests and grassland of Khao Yai National Park.
- Hot-air ballooning – Lift off for a pre-dawn flight over emerald rice paddies and spy distant, mist-covered mountain ranges on a ballooning adventure from Chiang Mai.
- Thai cooking classes – You too can discover the art of Thai cooking – just choose your favourite region and spend an afternoon or a week learning to cook some of Thailand’s tastiest dishes. Chiang Mai is especially renowned for its choice of excellent Thai cooking schools.
- Thai long-tail speedboat – Discover unspoiled coves, pristine beaches and soaring limestone cliffs from a long-tail speedboat on a day trip from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi. Don’t miss Maya Bay – the snorkelling here is excellent. Or head to the klongs (canals) of Thonburi in Bangkok to get a different perspective of Thai life.
- Shopping – Best buys include Thai silk in lengths or ready made clothes, imitation designer fashion, silver, bronze, nielloware, jewellery, plates, bowls, ornaments, temple bells, wood carvings and antiques (but beware of exquisitely-made fakes).
When to go:
The best time to visit Thailand is between November and February, when the country is mainly dry and not too hot typically averaging 83°F. Rafting is best between July and October when most rivers are swollen with monsoon rain. Both biking and trekking are best in the dry season from November to early March – but bring a sweater, as nights in northern Thailand can get pretty chilly.