Thirteen Thai beaches have been awarded five-star status following a study by Thailand’s Pollution Control Department, which evaluated the quality of the coastal and marine environment at beaches throughout the country.
The department evaluated beaches according to the following four criteria:
- Plastic and oil pollution and residue;
- Coastal and beach trash management;
- Condition of reefs and national park resources;
- Environmental control, and tourism management.
Not surprisingly, none of these beaches are lined with the five-star resorts that Thailand is famous for. Does the lack of well-developed tourism infrastructure have anything to do with their high rankings?
Many of these beaches are, in fact located in national parks, which are well-managed and closed off during the off season, which allows for natural rejuvenation of the environment.
Visiting these pristine beaches is not for the faint of heart. Some of them can be reached by car or bus, but a lengthy trek from the road or the bus stop might follow.
Other beaches can only be reached by the occasional ferry. You might even have to rent or charter boats to reach some of them.
Accommodation ranges from simple hotels to guest houses to campgrounds to home stays. At some of them, there are a few bungalows with bathrooms, air conditioning, hot water, and televisions.
Will you be able to stay on line and post selfies?
Generally speaking, don't expect infinity swimming pools, lavish buffet breakfasts, and cocktails on the veranda at sunset.
For the intrepid ecotourist, however, exotic flora and fauna, stunning scenery, fantastic snorkeling, amazing treks, and a chance to reconnect with nature - far off the well-beaten tourism track - awaits.
The following 13 beaches are listed in alphabetical order.
- Ao Ka Beach in Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park, Surat Thani – one of the many beaches that dot the 30 plus islands of the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park, which is situated off the Central Gulf Coast of Southern Thailand, northwest of Koh Samui.
- Ao Kuek Beach in Mu Ko Similan National Park, Phang-nga - an archipelago of 11 islands in Phang Nga Province with rich marine life. With clear waters, it is considered one of the world’s best dive sites.
- Ao Manao in Prachuap Khiri Khan - a bay on the western side of the Gulf of Thailand. With a good beach, Ao Manao is a popular tourist destination under the supervision of the 5th Aviation Division.
- Bileh Beach in Than Bok Khorani National Park, Krabi - there are mangrove forests and caves. Activities include trekking, snorkeling, and canoeing.
- Ko Rok Beach in Mu Ko Lanta National Park, Krabi – a marine park comprising several islands covered with rugged hills and rain forests. There are white sand beaches and excellent trails. Activities include snorkeling and scuba diving. Sea gypsies set boats a drift during the full moon of June and November to drive out evil and bring good luck.
- Laem Tanot Beach in Mu Ko Lanta National Park, Krabi – see Ko Rok Beach.
- Laem Sala Beach in Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, Prachuap Khiri Khan – Thailand’s first national park, it has a series of limestone hills, the tallest of which soars 605 metres above the Andaman Sea. Attractions include several caves, including Phraya Nakhon Cave, with its royal pavilion and huge chambers.
- Li Di Beach in Mu Ko Phetra National Park, Satun – this sampan shaped island has a long coastline with several off-shore islands. There are steep mountains, valleys, plains, beaches, and coral.
- Mai Ngam Beach in Mo Ko Surin National Park, Phang-nga – the park is divided into two sections: one has a mountain range and the other has a beach. The park is famous for its water falls, the largest of which is 40 metres, or 130 feet, high.
- Sam Sao Beach in Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park, Surat Thani – see Ao Ka Beach.
- Thai Mueang Beach in Khao Lampi – Hat Thai Mueang National Park, Phang-nga - one of the primary goals of the park is to protect the nesting sites of two species of turtles. Other activities include long boat trips into the mangrove forests.
- Tham Rang Beach in Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park, Surat Thani – See Ao Ka Beach.
- Toei Ngam Beach in Sattahip - with a tranquil beach as well as a naval museum and monument, the beach is under the supervision of the Royal Thai Navy, Chon Buri.
The project was launched in 2002, and 390 Thai beaches have been evaluated so far.
Best Beaches for Tourists
Interestingly, none of these beaches in the Pollution Control Department's cleanest beaches in Thailand list made the TripAdvisor list of top beaches in Asia.
All but the most hard-core ecotourists with a genuine commitment to responsible travel might prefer to stay at a hotel or a resort overlooking a beach that is a bit more accessible with some of the requisite facilities and comforts that most travelers expect.
These five beaches made the top 25 list of Asia's best beaches according to TripAdvisor.com users, offering, perhaps, the best of both worlds:
- Nai Harn Beach, Patong, Phuket (4th) – Nai Harn has six hotels, 15 bed and breakfasts, 12 specialty lodgings, and 248 vacation rentals. Get more information at TripAdvisor/Nai Harn
- Phra Nang Cave Beach, Krabi (7th) – Get more information at TripAdvisor/Phra Nang Cave Beach
- Kata Noi Beach, Patong, Phuket (8th) – Kata Noi Beach has one hotel, one bed and breakfast, two specialty lodgings, and 295 vacation rentals. Get more information at TripAdvisor/Kata Noi Beach
- Freedom Beach, Patong, Phuket (11th) – Get more information at TripAdvisor/Freedom Beach
- Railay Beach, Krabi (14th) – Railay Beach has 13 hotels, two bed and breakfasts, and six specialty lodgings. Get more information at TripAdvisor/Railay Beach
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