The Ultimate Guide to Surfing in Thailand

by Joe

Surfing in Thailand is never going to match what Bali or the Ments can throw at you, but there’s a nascent scene in the Land of Smiles, and it’s a downright lovely place to be.

An introduction to surfing in Thailand

Surfing in Thailand

We’re not going to beat around the bush…Thailand is hardly up there with the surf meccas of Asia. It’s no Bali. The spot is no Indo. This ain’t Sri Lanka. But there are waves in the loveable Land of Smiles and we don’t think they can legitimately be ignored much longer by the global surf community. That’s not for the quality – there’s nothing epic or barreling in these parts. It’s mainly for what you get on the side.

To put it another way, you don’t go surfing in Thailand for the ride of your life. You go surfing in Thailand because it’s an enthralling corner of the world where mystical Buddhist temples loom up against shimmering beaches, where you can eat pad Thai till you look like a balloon and stop by wondrous sites like the Grand Palace of Bangkok.

The surf scene here is really focused on two destinations: Koh Phayam in the north Andaman Sea, and Phuket in the middle of the Andaman Sea. They are among the most-exposed spots to the Indian Ocean, meaning they are much more likely to hoover up the SW swells that can pulse through during the monsoon time than just about anywhere else in the country.

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

This guide is a part of our larger ultimate guide to surfing in Asia

Surfing in Thailand at a glance

The good:

  • Waves are very beginner friendly
  • You’re in for the trip of your life when you’re not surfing!

The bad:

  • Small waves
  • Very inconsistent
  • Not much surf infrastructure (rentals, surf camps, etc.)

What will I find in this guide to surfing in Thailand

The top surf spots in Thailand

There aren’t many places where you can hit the waves in Thailand. That should hardly come as a surprise, since the country is best known for its white-sand beaches lapped by light waves. ALL of the surf destinations of note in the Land of Smiles are over on the western shoreline, known as the Andaman coast. They, occasionally, can get a hit of good SW swell coming up from the Indian Ocean and come to life…

Koh Phayam

Koh…where? A long-held secret among fans of the Andaman islands, Koh Phayam is one of the northernmost of the chain. It’s about a two-hour ferry from the mainland port but connections are infrequent because it draws just a fraction of the crowds of the Phi Phis and Koh Lanta.

That said, it’s home to probably the best surfing in Thailand as a whole. The star of the show is Aow Yai, or Big Bay, which opens like a crab’s claws to look straight south west into the heart of the Indian Ocean. Bigger waves come in the monsoon season and mellow conditions (often flat) prevail in the dry months.

Tempted by Koh Phayam? Check out our complete guide.

Khao Lak

The long, open stretches of sand in Khao Lak have long been a tourist mecca. They were thrust into the limelight back in 2004 when they took the brunt of the destructive Indian Ocean tsunami. However, things have recovered well, and there’s now even a surf school/surf shop making the most of the monsoon-season waves to teach beginners wave craft. It’s very much wet season stuff, and the waves are generally small and crumbly. Still, a great addition to a stay at one of the beachside hotels, no?

Check out our complete guide to surfing in Khao Lak

Koh Lanta

A dogleg-shaped island in the eastern Andaman Sea, Koh Lanta is a real stunner. We’ve been back here and back again since we first visited in 2016. Not to surf, mind you, but to chill, sip cocktails, and explore the jungles inland. Wave wise, there’s one spot on the northern shore of the island that does work. We tried it once but to no avail – though we were carrying a 5″8 out of Sri Lanka and it’s definitely a longboard wave or SUP spot, nothing more.

Learn more about surfing in Koh Lanta in our full guide

Phuket

Phuket is the only place that can rival Koh Phayam when it comes to the top places for surfing in Thailand. There’s an argument to say it’s superior because it’s WAY easier to get to (Phuket even has its own airport and a road connection to the Thai mainland) and has multiple surf spots that can work both wet season and dry. The downsides are the crowds and the vibe, which we can’t help but say is a little gaudy for our liking.

Check out our full guide to the surf in Phuket right now

Top places to stay if you’re going surfing in Thailand

Given that Thailand isn’t really set up for surfing, it should hardly be a surprise that you don’t find too much in the way of dedicated surf hotels in the Land of Smiles. However, there’s no shortage of stays close to the beaches where surf is on offer. We’ve focussed on those below…

Lazy Hut

Surf-hotel-top-pick

A rainy-season stay in the Lazy Hut of Koh Phayam will put you literally steps from the breaks on this northern Andaman Island. But, even if there’s no swell, you still get that tropical cabana vibe, with a bamboo-built deck space and steps leading straight to the sand.

Hilton Garden Inn Phuket Bang Tao

Just 800 meters from the white sands of Bang Tao, the best beginner surf beach in Phuket, this Hilton hotel is a real slice of island luxury. You get modern rooms that are spacious and a pool that sits just meters from where the waves roll in.

Twinpalms Phuket

Twinpalms Phuket is a couple of steps off Surin Beach, where the Phuket waves can have a bit more power and offer rides for intermediates and beginners. It’s also a lovely hotel, with villa suites that have private pools, an on-site gym, and gardens lined with coconut palms

When to surf in Thailand

A wave in Thailand

The wet season in southwest Thailand (known as the Southwest Monsoon) is the best time to surf here. It lasts from April to the autumn and sees the Andaman get much rougher with wind swells that can help bulk up the waves into something rideable. The real joy is the chance of distant groundswells coming up past the Malacca Strait from the Indian Ocean, which give the cleaner waves of the season in Phuket and Phayam. Things tail off towards October, but we won’t go as far as to say there are NO waves in Thailand during the dry season (November-March) because it does happen. It’s just rare.

What to do when you aren’t surfing in Thailand

Things to see in Thailand

For us, one of the best things about planning a surf trip to Thailand is that you get to explore Thailand itself. Yes, the waves themselves aren’t going to be on the covers of Stab mag anytime soon, but this is the fabled Land of Smiles, where you can back up dawn patrols with trips to the Big Buddha or island hop through some of the most fantastic tropical sands on the planet.

Head to Koh Jum to chill out

We list Koh Jum as a place to head to chill out but please don’t tell all your buddies! It hides in the Andaman Sea just north of Koh Lanta and about three hours west of Phuket by boat (though they never run to schedule), so it’s a great place to escape to once you’re done surfing in Thailand. Totally untouched and largely undeveloped, it’s a little like the larger isles were 20 years back. We’ll reiterate: Please don’t tell everyone!

See Bangkok

Bangkok is a bloody awesome city. Anyone who says otherwise just isn’t thinking straight. Don’t take our word for it – a whopping 22 million people come this way every year (at least before COVID, they did!), making it the single most visited metropolis on Earth. What’s on offer? How about the gold-plated Grand Palace of the Thai Kings? How about buzzy Khaosan Road (you know, from The Beach)? How about night markets and street food and floating bazaars? It’s endless.

Go north

The north of Thailand is a whole different place to the south. Shrouded by misty karst mountains that run the whole length of the Burmese border, it gives towns like little Pai (a hippy-filled enclave of reggae bars in the jungle) and Chiang Mai (the digital nomad mecca of Asia before Canggu came into being). After or before you head to the waves, we think this part of the country is a must. It’s a place to bathe in hot springs, see elephants in the national parks, and sample traditional Lanna food.


We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

This guide to surfing in Thailand is just one part of our bigger guide to surfing in Asia