We all want different things from a beach holiday. In Thailand, you can find it all, writes Jane Jurgens.

BEST FOR SWITCHING OFF

Koh Lao Liang, just offshore from Trang province, is mostly frequented by Thais on weekend getaways from Bangkok and still relatively off the tourist trail. Daytrippers aren't allowed and the only place to stay is in an eco campsite - 20 tents on the beach, facing the sea - between October to April. Get there via Trang airport, then a longtail boat ride just 45 minutes from shore. The island has great snorkelling with colourful reefs, but there is no Wi-Fi and the power is switched on only at 4pm every day.

BEST FOR PARTYING

Made famous thanks to being the main star - other than Leonardo DiCaprio - in The Beach, Phi Phi Don on Ko Phi Phi is still popular with backpackers and tourists, nearly 20 years on. While you're there, take a day trip to Maya Bay - it's surrounded by cliffs on three sides and has incredible, colourful marine life.

Koh Phangan, Thailand.
Koh Phangan, Thailand.

For a night to remember - or probably not - go to Haad Rin on the southern tip of Koh Pha Ngan for its Full Moon Parties which attract tens of thousands of tourists every month.

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BEST FOR LUXURY

Koh Kood is just an hour flight from Bangkok but feels a world away. It's Thailand's fourth largest island, but remains its least populated and its clear seas, pristine beaches and wild jungle have been likened to the Maldives. Soneva Kiri Resort and Residences is an award-winning luxury resort, surrounded by lush rainforest and white beaches. Villas have their own infinity pools and personal golf carts, the resort has a spa, an outdoor cinema and its own observatory.

Or head to Ani Villas on Koh Yao Noi - there are only 10 bedrooms, all on the beachfront, so you and a group of friends or family can book out the whole resort.

BEST FOR PRIVACY

At just 35sq km, Koh Libong is Trang's largest island but still little known. There are few resorts and its governor wants to keep it that way, with plans in place to encourage only sustainable tourism. The main attraction is a population of dugongs in a narrow channel of water between the island and the mainland, who spend their time grazing in the shallows.

Or try Koh Kradan, south of Koh Lanta - small enough to kayak around in three hours, its 2km main beach has views to stunning limestone outcrops and a coral reef just offshore.

BEST FOR ACTIVITY

Krabi's Railay Beach is popular with rock climbers thanks to its abundance of limestone cliffs bolted with climbing routes. The beach is accessible only by boat and the bay is full of hidden coves, ideal for kayaking and snorkelling. At West Railay Beach you'll find a handful of shops and restaurants, and from here you can get a ferry to Ko Phi Phi and Phuket.

Ko Phi Phi, Thailand. Photo / 123RF
Ko Phi Phi, Thailand. Photo / 123RF

For a variety of watersports, bike trails and the chance to try Muay Thai boxing lessons, head to Six Senses Yao Noi, on Koh Yao Noi.

Scuba divers will love Koh Nang Yuan in the Surat Thani Province, a private island with a resort offering personalised diving excursions. You can even zipline between islands.

BEST FOR VARIETY

To get a good look at a number of Thai islands and beaches, a cruise is a good option so you can visit one or two islands each day. Star Clippers have an 8-night Northern Thailand itinerary, a return journey by tall ship from Patong Bay in Phuket, calling at Ko Surin, Similan Island, Hin Daeng, Ko Rok Nok, Ko Kradan, Phang Nga Bay, Ko Hong and the Malaysian island of Langkawi. The Star Clipper tall ship has four masts, is 100m long and has capacity for 170 guests.

BEST FOR FAMILIES

Koh Lanta in the Krabi province is a good choice for families - especially at Long Beach where you'll find clear waters and safe swimming, ideal for kids.

Phuket is a popular spot for tourists, so can feel overcrowded, but there's a reason it's so popular.

The accommodation options are great, it's easily accessible from Bangkok, and there are great beaches - some private as part of resorts, like those on Mai Khao and Kata Noi.
Try the JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa - four pools, a kids' club and a range of dining options.

The Four Seasons Koh Samui has family villas on Lamai Beach and Krabi's Anantara Si Kao is an idyllic waterfront resort with family pool terrace rooms and a range of experiences available to keep all ages happy.

CHECKLIST
Getting there
helloworld have a seven-night Northern Thailand cruise onboard Star Clipper, from $3759pp.