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How to Choose an “Alternative” Island in Thailand

Thailand has been a tourism hotspot for decades, which can make repeat visitors cynical: Is anywhere in Thailand truly “off the beaten path”?

The short answer is “yes,” although you need to adjust the verbiage when speaking about islands. After all, there’s no path you can follow that will lead you to the ones of the coasts of Trang and Satun provinces in the far southern reaches of the Kingdom.

What you can do is differentiate between these idylls—and that’s exactly what I’m here to help you do today. Let’s compare Koh Kradan vs Koh Mook vs Koh Lipe, shall we?

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Understanding Thailand’s Beaten (Island) Path

While there are important differences, whether you travel in Koh Kradan or Koh Mook or Koh Lipe, these islands share an important thing in common. Namely, that when you head southward from Koh Lanta (which is really the last of Thailand’s “mainstream” islands, after Phuket, Phi Phi and the mainland beaches of Krabi province), they are the three main islands you can visit.

Lipe is generally the “end of the line” for ferries and speedboats in Thailand, although you can continue from here to Malaysia’s Langkawi, if you so choose. Mook and Kradan, meanwhile, are intermediate stops heading south from Lipe, along with smaller Koh Ngai (which is similar enough to Kradan that I’m not going to cover it here; if you think Kradan sounds good, you’d probably enjoy Ngai, too).

Koh Lipe

How to Pick Between Lipe, Mook and Kradan


I used to think Koh Kradan had the best beach (Koh Kradan Beach) among these islands, but I recently find that Koh Lipe (specifically, Sunrise Beach and its North Point spur, plus the beach at Koh Adang) is the winner. Mook’s Charlie Beach is fine, but most of the rest of its beaches are forgettable. This is particularly the case when they’re totally exposed (and hideous—sorry) at low tide.


The Koh Kradan vs Koh Lipe vs Koh Mook debate becomes less competitive when you consider hotels. While Koh Kradan (for example) does have a few excellent hotels (Paradise Lost Bungalows comes to mind), Koh Mook’s Sivalai Beach Resort blows anything you find there out of the water. On the other hand, the actual beaches at Lipe’s Bulow Casa Grand View Resort are 100 times better than any on Koh Mook.

Dining and nightlife

Koh Kradan is definitely the weakest of the islands in this category; you can basically only dine at hotels, while there are no standalone bars or clubs. In Koh Mook, meanwhile, you have plenty of restaurants (Miss Island Bakery is the best), but due to a large Muslim population, alcohol isn’t served everywhere. Koh Lipe has the best balance: The restaurants along Lipe Walking Street and bars (like the excellent Nomad Bar) right on the beach.

Day trips

This is another way to contrast Koh Kradan vs Koh vs Lipe Koh Mook, though I warn you: There is some overlap. Namely, Koh Mook is often a day trip from Koh Kradan, and vice-versa. Koh Libong and Koh Ngai, conversely, can be day trips from both of these islands. Speaking of day trips, Mook’s Emerald Cave is full of jellyfish (and not friendly to photography, since you have to swim to access it); from Lipe, aforementioned Koh Adang is the main game in town (though several snorkeling day trips are available, if it’s not essential for your feet to touch land).


Koh Lipe definitely feels the most crowded of these islands, though that’s partially due to its small size. There are probably close to as many people on Koh Mook at any given time, though the island’s comparatively large footprint decreases the impact of their numbers. Koh Kradan isn’t usually very busy, though it gets that way around lunch time, when day trippers from other islands crowd its main (and only easily accessible) beach.

Koh Kradan

Alternatives to Koh Lipe, Koh Kradan and Koh Mook

Want to go off Thailand’s beaten pa…er, speedboat trail, but don’t have the desire or the ability to visit any of these islands? Here are a few alternate choices:

  • Koh Tao: Though a somewhat mainstream choice, Tao is the most beautiful (and feels the most obscure) of the three-island archipelago that also includes Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan.
  • Koh Mak: A happy medium between the largest islands of Koh Chang and Koh Kood, but with more to do than on tiny Koh Wai, this Trat treat is actually the first island I ever visited in Thailand.
  • Koh Yai Yai: Whether you stay here or on neighboring Koh Yao Noi, these islands in Phang Nga Bay just east of Phuket and west of Krabi feel much more castaway than they are.
Still can’t decide between Koh Mook or Koh Lipe or Koh Kradan? Consider hiring me to plan a custom Thailand itinerary!


Koh Mook

Other FAQ About Koh Mook, Koh Lipe and Koh Kradan

Is Koh Muk worth visiting?

Koh Mook is probably my least favorite of the Trang islands, but it still has some charming qualities. Charlie Beach is fantastic; there is a laid-back and authentic feel that’s missing elsewhere in the Andaman. On the other hand, low tide here is extremely low, and the Emerald Cave is a huge disappointment.

Is Koh Kradan worth visiting?

For many years, I considered Koh Kradan to be the best island in Thailand—at low tide, its main beach is practically like a swimming pool in the ocean. In some ways, Kradan has gotten better since then—it has more hotels, and better ones. But it’s also gotten a great deal more crowded.

How do I get from Bangkok to Koh Mook?

There are two basic ways to get from Bangkok to Koh Mook. The first is to fly from Don Mueang (DMK) to Trang (TST) airport, get a transport to Hat Yao Pier and go by speedboat or longtail the rest of the way. The second is to fly to Krabi, get a transfer to Koh Lanta and ride a speedboat from Saladan Pier to Koh Mook.

The Bottom Line

Koh Kradan vs Koh Mook vs Koh Lipe—which of these islands is right for you? It’s not necessarily a matter of declaring one as the objective “best,” even if I have a pretty clear opinion about which that is. It’s about synchronizing your Thailand destinations with your preferences. For travelers who are looking simply for a beach that’s like a swimming pool, Koh Kradan is probably best; those who need a dose of local culture may choose Koh Mook. Koh Lipe doesn’t have many locals, but has more activities than Koh Kradan, to complement its equally awesome beaches. Still can’t decide? Consider hiring me to help!


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