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Most of this limestone island is a protected marine reserve… which means you’ll enjoy unspoiled beaches, as well as fantastic diving and snorkeling. Several local dive shops get great reviews from our travelers. When you’re back on dry land, chill out even more with a session of yoga on the beach.
The southern Thailand town of Krabi serves as base camp for exploring the province of the same name, a lush region of jungles, limestone cliffs and idyllic isles floating just offshore in the Andaman Sea. Buddhist shrines still used by local monks are tucked into the chambers of the town's top attraction, Tiger Cave. The riverside pier links travelers with ferries and longboats to the best scuba diving, rock climbing and white sand beaches on the coast.
Packed with all the amenities—and unsightly development—of a modern Thai harbor town, Ao Nang is a popular base camp for exploring Krabi’s karst islands. A long arc of sand is shared by long-tailed boats delivering day-trippers to resorts and rowdy beach bars.
Thailand’s largest island is an international magnet for beach lovers and serious divers, who enthusiastically submerge themselves in the Andaman Sea. Blue lagoons and salmon sunsets make for a dream-like atmosphere, and indeed, a vacation here can feel a bit surreal. Watersports are the most popular activities, though once you’ve had enough sun there’s still plenty to explore at the island’s aquariums, gardens, and Buddhist temples.
Party-hoppers flock to the wide and whimsical sands of Patong Beach. Mere minutes from the glittery chaos of Patong's many nightclubs, bars and discos, the golden beach is ideal for sunbathing, jet skiing, kayaking and parasailing. Lovers of leisure can spend the day relaxing on a sunbed under a colorful umbrella, lingering over treats from one of the vendors who stroll the sands.
Just 80 kilometers north of Phuket, Khao Lak was essentially erased by the 2004 tsunami. But the town, and the tourist industry it relies on, has rebounded. It remains quieter than other coastal destinations, offering secluded beaches, tranquil nights and family-oriented activities. You want full moon parties and besotted nights? You’re out of luck. But if you’re looking for unparalleled scuba diving in the Similan Islands, you’ve hit the jackpot.
Langkawi is a serene archipelago of 140 islands – only a few of which are inhabited. The largest of these is the eponymous Langkawi Island, which has UNESCO World Geopark status because of its richly populated (by wildlife, that is) conservation areas. The best way to experience these ecological wonders is from high above, on the Langkawi Sky Bridge that stretches above the rainforest. Cheekily-named Pregnant Maiden freshwater lake is a great place to take a dip or play keep-away with the kleptomaniac monkeys.
Koh Samui was once a Thai fishing community, and that charming sensibility is still present today. Spending time in Bophut is a wonderful way to soak up local culture; the beachy village restaurants and pubs are perfect spots to experience the sunset. There aren’t many other places where you can bask in the camp of a cabaret show and the solemnity of a Buddhist temple. As far as the latter goes, Wat Plai Laem is a magnificent vision of gilded red rooftops and a massive spindly-armed statue of Guanyin.
Palawan is a slice of heaven, a sliver of an island that teems with exotic wildlife, quaint fishing villages, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Wave hello to endangered animals at the Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary or explore the Japanese shipwrecks of Coron Island, regarded as one of the best dive sites in the world. A guided boat tour of the Puerto Princesa Underground River will take your breath away.
Sprawling tea plantations surround the serene hills of Munnar, which attract adventure travelers hungry for paragliding, treks to Anaimudi (South India's highest peak) and hikes originating at the confluence of three mountain streams. The stone Christ Church, built by the British in 1910, is adorned with renowned works of stained glass, and Eravikulam National Park, about 10 miles away, is home to equally colorful wildlife, including the endangered Nilgiri Tahr (ibex), ruddy mongoose and 120 bird species.
Bali is a living postcard, an Indonesian paradise that feels like a fantasy. Soak up the sun on a stretch of fine white sand, or commune with the tropical creatures as you dive along coral ridges or the colorful wreck of a WWII war ship. On shore, the lush jungle shelters stone temples and mischievous monkeys. The “artistic capital” of Ubud is the perfect place to see a cultural dance performance, take a batik or silver-smithing workshop, or invigorate your mind and body in a yoga class.
The village cluster of Ubud is the ideal place to try a famed Balinese massage and soak up the ambiance of one of Asia’s top spa destinations. Acupressure, reflexology, stretching and aromatherapy star in the island's distinctively firm massage treatments. Ubud is also the vivacious center of Bali’s arts scene, home to a small treasure trove of museums and galleries. Monkey around at nearby nature reserve Monkey Forest Park, home to hundreds of mischievous long-tailed macaques. Don’t miss the valley of tomb cloisters at Gunung Kawi.